Heroes and Rewards
© By Jack Bogut
Rain hung on the naked trees like 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.
She’d heard the snap in the kitchen when the automatic switch on the coffee pot started the brew but didn’t move until the aroma grabbed her by the nose, pulled her into her rump sprung old bathrobe and down the stairs. Now, the house creaked and groaned as the furnace kicked on and started pumping warm air around her ankles as the stood at the sink.
Pouring the first cup by fresh brew by Braille, she looked through the window into the yard for the newspaper. 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 what she thought was the red reflector on the paper boy’s bicycle disappearing into the morning mist so she knew it was out there, but where?
They lived in a house with a big, raised porch on the front, hollow underneath with lattice work around the sides to keep out kids and animals. There was, however, one hole in the barrier and the neighbor dog used 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, panting, pleased with himself.
She leaned close to the glass and still couldn’t see the newspaper, so she slipped a raincoat over her pajamas and went out to look for it, padding across the porch in her bare feet, down the steps and onto the lawn, her toes curling up against the wet grass.
She searched the yard for a few moments and then stopped, bent over, peeked under the porch and looked squarely into shining eyes and panting. Of course, the canine commando, 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. She stood up and looked around to make sure she was alone, and talked baby talk to the point of embarrassment, got on her hands and knees and barked (this had worked once when he was pup). She even tried insulting him with comments about his intelligence and ancestry, but still he wouldn't come out.
He did wag his tail a few times, dropped the paper once, stuck out his tongue and breathed fast and loud a few times while he drooled on the front page. She didn't know what to do. And then it came to her!
She stood abruptly, spun on one wet heel, took a few long strides up the steps, across the porch, through the door, made a few blurred, wet tracks on the kitchen floor and smiled as she gently picked up and stroked the family feline.
When she walked outside, only a breath of air was moving, but it was enough. She took a few steps upwind of the porch and stopped. Rudy, the cat, stiffened in her arms but didn't stop purring until she put him down. Then, as he picked up the sound and the scent of his old instinctive nemesis, he turned rigid, chiseled in stone except for his claws buried deep in the wet turf. The world hung motionless for just as the dog stopped breathing. Then he dropped the paper as he re-focused his eyes and sniffed.
“Cat!” exploded in his brain. A low pitched growl rattled from the dark space.
Rudy dropped the gauntlet with a loud “Meouw!” Even in the dim light she could see his hind paws dig in as he got ready.
“Help me out, Sweetie,” She said, and the cat took off.
There was a blur from under the porch. The essence of "Dog" hung in the air as the distracted dog lost the race once again and tried in vain to scratch an eighty year old oak tree to the ground. Rudy, perched on a high branch, looked down and yawned.
She walked over, reached under the porch, got the paper and chased the neighbor dog home. Then she walked to the tree, extended one arm, the cat jumped on her shoulder and they walked back inside.
She put Rudy on the floor and whispered a “thank you” as he arched his back and stroked her ankle with his tail. And then it came to her:
“Come on, Rudy, I have something special for you.”
He followed her to the refrigerator and stretched as she opened the door, reached inside and grabbed something.
Some Caviar, about a tablespoon of it, was left over from a party three days before and she and her husband had been savoring it, carefully, al little at a time. She took the small piece of clear plastic wrap off the dish and sat it down in front of the cat. They looked at each other as the delicate aroma tickled his senses. He ate and purred and she smiled. This was special, and just between the two of them. There'd be questions later about the missing Caviar, and she'd say that it called out to her in the middle of the night and she had no choice.
There are many kinds of heroes in life, and different kinds of rewards.
They all count.
And it's the little wins that keep us going, day after day.