Heroes And Rewards
© By Jack Bogut
Rain hung on the naked trees like a jewels, each drop glistening in the street light before falling to the leaves on the ground. She watched through the window, seeing everything and nothing at the same time. She was only half awake.
The house creaked and groaned as the furnace kicked on and started pumping warm air around her ankles as the stood at the sink. She’d heard a snap in the kitchen when the automatic switch on the coffee pot started the brew and lay there until the aroma grabbed her by the nose pulled her into a rump sprung old bathrobe and down the stairs.
Now she looked into the yard for the morning paper. That was part of the routine for her — a cup of hot coffee, the morning paper and then the daily task of trying to awaken those people feigning death under the covers. She saw the red reflector on a bicycle disappearing into the morning mist so she knew the paper had been delivered.
They lived in a house with a big, raised porch on the front, hollow underneath with lattice work around the sides to keep “hiders” and “smokers” out and weeds in. There was, however, one hole in the barrier and the neighbor dog liked to crawl through it and wait. He’d sneak out silently, belly on the ground, and try to bite a hole in your socks when you walked by. Then he'd run back through the opening and lie there in the dark space under the porch, panting, pleased with himself.
She looked for the paper and couldn’t see it, so she slipped a raincoat over her pajamas and padded across the porch in her bare feet down the steps and onto the lawn, her toes curling up against the wet grass.
She stopped, bent over, peeked under the porch and looked into the shining eyes of the next door dog, and under one paw was the paper; he was preparing it for breakfast.
She did everything she could to entice that dog out of there, including a quick look around to make sure she was alone and talking baby talk to the point of embarrassment. No response.
She even got on her hands and knees and barked (this had worked once when he was pup).
Then she tried insulting him with comments about his intelligence and ancestry, but still he wouldn't come out. He wagged his tail, dropped the paper once, stuck his tongue out and breathed fast and loud a few times while he drooled on the front page. She didn't know what to do. She wanted that paper! And then it came to her!
She spun on one wet heel, took long strides up the steps, across the porch, through the door, made a few blurred, wet tracks on the kitchen floor and grabbed the family cat.
The dog hated that cat!
When she walked outside it stiffened in her arms but didn't stop purring until she put it down. Then the family feline turned rigid, chiseled in stone except for his claws buried deep in the wet turf. The world hung motionless for just a moment until the dog stopped breathing, re-focused his eyes and dropped the paper. The cat took off like a shot. There was a blur from under the porch. Wind whipped around her ankles and "essence of dog" hung in her nostrils as she watched him try to scratch an eighty year old oak tree to the ground. The cat, perched on a high branch, looked down and yawned.
Then she reached under the porch, got the paper and chased the neighbor dog home. On the way back she stopped at the tree, extended her arms, the cat jumped on her shoulder and together, they walked back inside.
Still holding the cat, she opened the refrigerator door, reached inside and grabbed a tiny container.
Some Caviar was left over from a party three days before and she and her husband had been savoring it, carefully, a little at a time. She removed the clear plastic wrap and set the dish down in front of the cat. They watched each other as he ate and purred and she smiled and scratched his back. There'd be questions about the Caviar later…but she'd say that she ate it. This was just between the two of them.
In life, there are different kinds of heroes and different kinds of rewards. They all count.
And it's the little victories that keep us going.