“What was that all about?” Cedric began.
He had overheard a bit of a conversation between THE MOMMY and THE GRANNY, and the snippets he heard confused him more than a little. He found himself blinking his eyes and shaking head, as he ran down the hall to see if he could rustle up Fluffy, his sister-dog, for some answers.
When push came to shove, Fluffy was usually the person who knew how it all got started. And she loved to talk.
But not to him.
“You’re too rough with me, Cedric!” she had sniffed on more than one occasion. “Why should I spend time with someone who shows me so little respect? As the matriarch of this household, one would think that I would be given a little more respect. Not to mention, gentle treatment.”
After that, Cedric had begun going out of his way to make sure that Fluffy got to the water dish and the food dishes first, even though it went against his grain to do so. Wasn’t the biggest, strongest dog supposed to get the lion’s share of the food and respect?
Regardless of his uneasy feelings about deferring to one who was both fussy and intolerant of others’ failings, Cedric started seeing some small changes in Fluffy, who only had to be asked favors two or three times before she responded. Instead of the dozen he used to have to work his way through.
No matter. Today, Cedric wanted answers. And Fluffy was his only resource. He might as well be nice to her. Whenever he was, she would always end up telling him the truth.
Because as much as she loved her people and tried to protect them, Fluffy was a gossip at heart. And she had a very beautiful, sweet, soothing voice. Which, apparently, she was very fond of listening to.
“All right, Cedric,” Fluffy sniffed, haughtily. “You might as well just tell me what you want. If I like the way you ask me, I just might be willing to help you out.”
Cedric cringed inside at this rude beginning, but tried not to show it. Instead, he slid over a large piece of his mint-flavored tooth-cleaning treat. “I saved you something,” he said.
Fluffy straightened her shoulders and allowed a small smile to spread over her face. “Really?” she panted. Everyone knew how much Fluffy liked her minty treats. Over the course of the last month and a half, she had stashed a few of them in key places under or behind the furniture in every room of the house. She shoved them just far enough away that Cedric could never reach them, even with the spoons he kept stealing (and forgetting to replace) from the kitchen. Somehow, though, Fluffy was able to retrieve her treats whenever she wanted them. Cedric wanted to ask how she did this. But the conversation would have shut down instantly, instead of heading the direction he was planning for it to go.
Carefully, and trying to plaster a generous expression of his own on his face, Cedric pushed the minty-treat toward Fluffy, who instantly covered it with her paw, before hugging it to her chest. He knew that as soon as he quit talking and left the room, she would devour it, all the while pretending to her people that she was still waiting for her treat for the day. It was a con game that she seemed to always win. Why was that??
“Life is full of unanswered questions, I supposed,” he found himself sighing.
“What?” snapped Fluffy.
“Oh,” he jumped. “Did I say that out loud?”
“You did,” she returned, sniffing the minty treat eagerly. “Of course, what you said was true.”
“I never said it wasn’t,” he huffed.
“I never said YOU never said it wasn’t!” Fluffy was starting to turn away from him. This was clearly not starting off very well. If Cedric wasn’t careful, Fluffy would shut him down, then freeze him out for several cold, silent days. And who knew when he could get his questions answered if that happened?
“This is not starting out well, Fluffy, and it is all my fault. Definitely all my fault!” he was nodding. “I want to apologize here and now and ask if we might start over. Please. And I’ll even save the best part of my next treat for you if you want it.”
Fluffy’s eyes widened, while she snapped her smiling mouth shut just in time to stop a large drop of saliva from falling onto the floor. “Well,” she sniffed, smiling. “I might just be able to help you out,” she began slowly.
Cedric couldn’t help gasping out, “Good! That’s just great!”
“If,” continued Fluffy, “I know anything.”
“What do you mean ‘IF’? Of course, you know all about it. I heard THE MOMMY talking about it. And before that I heard THE MOMMY saying something about it to THE SISTER. Then to THE DADDY.”
Fluffy was shaking her head at this. “After all that, you still didn’t get your questions answered?”
Cedric shook his head slowly, sighing.
“Well, it has been a long time since we talked. I have a bunch of saved conversations all built up ready to be released soon, and I’m feeling generous today, my friend.”
He found himself almost relaxing, before he realized that this was Fluffy he was dealing with. Achy, sleep-deprived, weary Fluffy, whose bones ached almost constantly, and whose moods could change at the drop of a hat. He would have to tread softly.
Carefully, he cleared his throat, glancing cautiously at the other dog, before he began: “I heard THE MOMMY say something to THE GRANNY about screaming while she trusted God.”
“What in the world are you talking about? This sounds perfectly ridiculous!! Are you sure we’re talking about someone I actually know? Although, that did sound intriguing. But are you sure you heard right? What else did you hear?”
He sighed again. “Try not to laugh. I mean, try not to laugh at me. I thought I heard something about meeting up with some sort of scary something in the bathroom.”
“You mean THE MUMMY?” Fluffy asked. “It’s drying now. You wouldn’t believe what it looked like when it was fully hydrated.”
“You wanna see it or not, Buster?”
“Buster”??? By now, didn’t Fluffy know how much he longed for her to call him by his actual name? It wasn’t Buster! This was likely just one of many opportunities he would have to humble himself before Fluffy was through with him. Nevertheless, Cedric rose to his feet to slowly trail behind Fluffy, as she guided him down the long hallway, through the kitchen, into the laundry room, across the sunroom, then into the office bathroom. She sniffed, then pointed with her nose to a stiff carcass shrinking next to the shower stall. “Is that what they were talking about?”
“I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “I’m a bit surprised. It really doesn’t seem all that impressive now.”
“Well,” Fluffy looked deeply into his eyes as she continued, “THAT was then, and THIS is now.”
“Of course,” Cedric choked out a tiny cough, “You can laugh about it now.”
Fluffy just stared at him. “What in the world do you mean? It’s only been a couple of days, and I am STILL NOT LAUGHING. I was so frightened when I saw it the first time that I nearly pottied my pants. But THE MOMMY and I were already so stressed out that I just had to hold myself together until we decided how to deal with it. Anyway, no matter how much time passes, I could never laugh at THE MOMMY! Especially after she put her life on the line for me.”
“Her life on the line?”
“Yes. Her life on the line,” she continued, sniffing. “LAUGHING ABOUT IT would dishonor THE MOMMY and the sacrifice she made to protect me and you and the rest of the family. And that just wouldn’t be right!”
Cedric found himself stepping a bit closer to the now-dead-intruder that had caused so much drama. If he played his cards right, he could hear the whole story in one short sitting. If only he had thought to bring his glasses so that he could see the thing better. No matter. Fluffy, having an excellent imagination combined with amazing story-telling skills, would be able to bring the creature back to life with her words. “What did it look like BEFORE?”
“It wasn’t much, even at first. Until we got close to it. I heard THE MOMMY telling me that while everyone was away, she wanted to go into this bathroom to see how clean it was. Her plan was to swish the toilet bowl with a little cleaner and carry out the trash while she had a chance.
“We walked in together, minding our own business, so to speak. Suddenly, THE MOMMY screamed. I have never heard her scream so loud in her life. You know how she usually gets very quiet when something upsets her? Well, not this time. I was actually afraid she was going to wake up some of the neighbors. The ones on the left go to bed early, you know, and wouldn’t you know it, THE MOMMY screamed like she was watching someone about to kill her.
“I ran over to her to see what was happening, when I nearly ran into THE THING myself. Really, if we’re honest among ourselves, the body was only about the size of my paws. But when you considered those eight long legs. And those scary, angry red eyes. I just shudder when I think about it.”
Just thinking about this scary adventure was causing Fluffy to breathe hard. Cedric decided to give her a moment to calm herself down. The best way to do this, he thought, was to make the appropriate “I understand you, and I sympathize!” noises and comments he had heard others make: “Hmmm. Wow. How awful for you, Fluffy! Where was I when all this awfulness was happening? Why didn’t anyone just call me to come help?”
“You? Don’t make me laugh! You were sacked out on THE SISTER’s bed, which you know you love to steal every time she spends the night with one of her friends. We could almost hear you snoring all the way over here. Where were you, indeed!”
Derailed! Derailing!! Recovery was still possible if he could back-pedal fast enough. But since Fluffy’s stories were better entertainment – and often more reliable – than television, Cedric humbled himself once more. This was definitely GROVEL-TIME. He’d have to dig up a good one. Fast.
Ah, and he found it: “You are right, Fluffy! You are completely right! I was wrong. But YOU were right. YOU were right. And I was wrong. So wrong. I completely let you down. How can I make it up to you?”
“In the first place, you can volunteer for the first bath, when everyone has more energy for DETANGLING. You know how much I hate that. And the first victim always has to endure the longer brushing. Why do I even bother telling you this? You know this, you sneaky thing! Otherwise, you wouldn’t always be disappearing behind the piano at bath time. So, promise me now that this will be the end of that. And, in the second place –”
“There’s more?” he gasped.
She glared at him. Were her eyes actually turning red, or had he been watching too many late-night movies when he should have been on patrol?
“No, there’s not more. Just go first at bath time, and we’ll call it even!”
“Do you hear me?”
“Yes, I hear you.” A shudder he couldn’t control was working its way slowly down his back.
“Do you want to hear the rest or don’t you?”
“I want to, Fluffy! I really want to hear it. I promise to go first at bath time from now on.”
“Then, stop interrupting!” she snapped.
“Okay. All right. I get it.” He sighed to himself, careful not to show his aggravation to Fluffy, who would use it for leverage indefinitely, if he wasn’t careful. This story was costing him more than he expected already. But he was too committed to quit now. He had to hear the rest. Even if that meant meeting Fluffy’s impossible demands.
“Well, THE MOMMY saw THE SPIDER and they both jumped back a little. Then THE SPIDER started moving its front legs together. It looked just like it was rubbing evil hands together while working out its evil plans. I could have sworn I saw the creature take a decisive step forward.
“And then THE MOMMY was screaming and screaming. She was jumping up and down and yelling for shoes.”
“What was wrong with the shoes she was wearing?” Cedric blurted.
Apparently, Fluffy wasn’t interested in putting Cedric in his place as she continued, “That’s what I wanted to know! Then I looked at her shoes: flimsy canvass things with knobby soles that couldn’t kill a thing. Not decisively. She spent several long seconds just screaming and searching for shoes before she noticed a pair of dress shoes THE DADDY had forgotten back here. They were great! You know, they have these wonderful flat soles.
“Well, THE MOMMY just grabbed onto one of those for dear life, started waving it around, and she was screaming, and praying for God to save us all from this deadly intruder, which still hadn’t left the bathroom. I wondered why she didn’t just spray the thing with hair spray before she smashed it because that would have clogged its pores and immobilized it. But there wasn’t any hair spray in this bathroom, and there wasn’t time to look for it elsewhere.”
“So, what did y’all end up doing?” He was flattering her, he knew. Fluffy always froze in a crisis, leaving THE MOMMY and other family members to solve their problems on their own, which was a crying shame, and even Fluffy knew this. But how else was he going to get the rest of the story? THE MOMMY didn’t exactly call him on the phone just to chat. Having no guarantee that THE MOMMY would eventually confide in him, Fluffy really was his only option.
“You know how THE MOMMY keeps old dish detergent in the bathroom to clean the sink and the outside of the toilet? Well, she just added some water to that detergent, told me to get out of the way” [I would have done that first! Cedric thought, but wisely kept it to himself.] Fluffy was in her element now, beaming and smiling as she went on, “And then she just started sloshing that dish cleaner all over the bathroom floor, while she screamed, ‘DIE, BUGGY, DIE!!! YOU HORRIB LE, DANGEROUS ARACHNID, YOU HAVE NO PLACE IN MY HOUSE! YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE VERY SORRY! PLEASE, JESUS, HELP ME KILL THIS DANGEROUS CREATURE!”
Cedric jumped back, amazed, as he heard this. “You know,” he said, “I almost wish I could have seen that.”
She shook her head. “No,” she said. “Be glad you didn’t. You’re highly excitable, you know. It might have bitten you. Then where would we be?”
He waved that statement away, dismissively with a front paw, conjecturing,“I’m guessing she finally smashed it.”
“You guessed right.”
“But the carcass is still here. Why didn’t she just flush the old yucky thing down the toilet once she had killed it?”
“You don’t know? You really don’t know, do you? THE MOMMY has this horrible fear that bugs will miraculously come back to life after she kills them. If she had flushed it down the toilet, and the dish cleaner was washed away, THE SPIDER might have had a chance to RECOVER. After she thoroughly smashed it, she left it there, first of all, as a monument to our bravery [Cedric was again wisely quiet here], and second to watch it shrink and deteriorate. Now when she flushes it away, she won’t have to worry about it coming back to bite her. Or the rest of us.”
“Okay. So, what’s all this business about trusting God while she was screaming?”
“It’s coming back to me. I remember her telling THE GRANNY all about it yesterday. THE GRANNY was saying, ‘Why were you screaming? I thought you were supposed to be trusting God!’ And THE MOMMY answered, ‘I WAS trusting God. I was just screaming while I was doing it.’”
Cedric found himself shaking his head again, as he blurted, “This was her trusting God? What does she look like when she’s not trusting God?”
Fluffy actually shuddered. “Believe me, Buster,” she said, “That is NOT something you want to see!
October 2, 2013