In Loving Memory Of Vito Valachi Taylor

Written by Consta Jenkins

Reprinted by permission of the author

The stream glistened in the sunlight like a clear, blue jewel. Eatbugs looked at his reflection in it's smooth surface and licked a paw to groom a stray whisker back into place. He studied the face there for a moment, the eyes as blue as the stream itself, the amber mask and cream colored ruff. He smiled as he remembered Mommy Consta kissing his amber nose. Eatbugs bent and took a long drink of the cold, fresh water. When he lifted his head he saw another reflection beside his.

"Good Morrow, Little One," Virginia said. Her wise eyes held a touch of sadness in them, but a smile played at the corners of her mouth.

Eatbugs sat quietly for a moment. He'd felt it, too, something strange in the air. Another would come, he was sure of it, but there was something different this time. The winds sweeping gently through the willow branches sounded like faint laughter. Eatbugs looked into Virginia's eyes in silent questioning.

"Yes, Little One, another will come today." She took a sip of the clear water, then daintily tidied her whiskers. "A very special kidden comes today."

"Why does the wind sound happy? There is so much sadness in the Welcoming." Eatbugs listened again and heard the merriment rustling around him.

"There will be sadness, Little One, there cannot help but be sorrow when one of our kind must leave their family, but--well, the kidden that comes?" The faint smile spread across her face. "The one that comes is quite a character, my little friend. The Bridge may never be the same."

Eatbugs raised an eye whisker.

Virginia laughed. "You shall see for yourself. First, though, we must attend to the Welcoming. We must not forget those that must stay behind, nor let our pleasure at seeing our old friend again overshadow his passing. Come, let us prepare."

Eatbugs listened to Virginia's instructions, then turned and padded quickly to the clearing. He found Gypsy and Picnic chatting in the tall grass. He bent and whispered to them.

"Of course, I can!" said Gypsy, "I'll have it in two flicks of a peeper's tail." She trotted off in search of Pris for help.

Picnic looked at Eatbugs. "We've never had a Welcoming quite like this one before."

"I know, but it is what Virginia asked for. Can you speak with your friends?"

"Of course," said Picnic, "but it's going to take a LOT of explaining." He waved his tail at Eatbugs and trotted off.

Eatbugs found Noki and AJ wrestling in the nip patch. He tried not to laugh as Noki listened intently to his request-- a leaf of nip dangling from his whiskers.

"Well, of course we can, but are you SURE this is what the Elders want?" Noki looked at AJ with wide eyes.

"Very sure." Eatbugs shrugged slightly. "Virginia said this was a special Welcome."

"I'll say." AJ flicked the catnip off Noki's whisker. "Come on, brother, you heard the boy." They padded off shoulder to shoulder.

Eatbugs found Beethoven, Grace and Jasmine playing with the peepers. They listened to Eatbugs' instructions, looked at each other incredulously, then nodded. They gathered up the peepers and trotted off to their assignments.

In the clearing beneath the willows, Virginia found Dino. He sat, head on paw, with sorrow in his eyes. Virginia settled in beside him, wrapping her tail around him for comfort. "Yes, my little friend, it is a time for sorrow, too."

Dino raised his head. "My human," he said and sighed.

Virginia nodded, her deep eyes somber. "Yes, I am afraid there is much sorrow there." She looked into Dino's eyes and smiled gently. "You have an important role today, Dino. Remember the Great Promise."

Dino nodded. "Do you think she'll hear?"

"Of course she will. She will hear in her heart and in time she will understand." Virginia curled her tail tighter around Dino and sat with him to wait.

In the clearing, Eatbugs ticked off on his claws all the things he'd done. He wiped his whiskers and hoped he hadn't forgotten anything. Around him kiddens scurried to carry out the Elders' plans. Rocky and Boots trotted past, carrying supplies and talking hurriedly among themselves. Boots waved his tail to Eatbugs and hollered over his shoulder, "It's almost done!".

Eatbugs trotted back and forth across the Rainbow Fields, checking on each kidden's progress. Just as the flurry of activity slowed and the kiddens labor was complete, he felt the now too familiar tingling in his whiskers. "It is time," he said to the Company.

In pairs they solemnly made their way to the Gate. Beethoven walked with Spunkie, Tinky with Max. Isolde and Virginia walked on either side of Dino. Phillip la Phair walked with Grace and Jasmine. From all corners of the Bridge they came to form their circle.

Eatbugs looked around, there were kiddens as far as the eye could see. To a kidden they bowed their heads and lifted their purrs into the wind. Mixed with the sad, sweet refrains of the Welcoming song, their message drifted towards the human hearts below, "he will be whole," "he will be home," "he will be here." Eatbugs lifted his voice to join them and purred with all of his might.

The blue flash danced across the Gate, and in it's wake sat a large handsome tom. He raised his square jaw and looked out over the Company and sighed. "Mom," he whispered.

Virginia and Isolde led Dino forward. Dino gave Vito a headbutt and purred into his ear. "It's all right now. You are safe and you are home."

Vito smiled sadly at his furind. "Yes, but mom and the big guy?"

Dino took Vito's paw and led him to the edge of the Rainbow. "Now concentrate real hard," he said, "and I'll help. You can ell them you are here."

Vito screwed up his ace in concentration. He felt Dino's mind touch his and together they turned their thoughts to their humans below. "It's okay, Mom. I'm home. I'm whole and I will wait."

When they were sure their message had touched the hearts they held so dear, the kiddens turned back to the Company. AJ came forward and slapped Vito warmly on the back. "Welcome home, good buddy, do we have a surprise for you."

Vito arched an eye whisker and looked at the crowd of kiddens. Gypsy and Pris came forward and handed him the finest Elvis suit he'd ever seen. The fabric was the softest silk and the sequins all real, pure gold. Vito laughed.

"Come on," said Gypsy, "put it on. We're waiting."

Vito hurried into his costume and took a laughing bow to the crowd. The kiddens parted and Vito stood stunned. Before him was a complete ampitheatre. AJ took him by the paw and led him to the stage. As Vito reached for the mike, Noki nodded to the trees and the peepers began bickering as to who got to hit the switch.

"Just hit it, would you??" Noki hollered up.

"Ohs okay"

A single spot-light caught Vito at center stage. He laughed and said, "Thank you very much" in his best Elvis. The music wafted behind him and he gyrated (to many swooning kiddens) and sang, "You ain't nothing but hound dog dog".

The most incredible din went up behind and Vito nearly jumped out of his fur. He turned and from the top of the hill, and for as far as he could see, hundreds of hound dogs lifted their voices to join the chorus. Vito slapped his knee with laughter.

"Oh, Freddie my man," he sighed, "if you could only see this gig!"

And they rocked well into the night.

GOODBYE VITO, YOU WILL BE MISSED, Auntie Consta

© Copyright 1996 Constance Jenkins. All Rights Reserved. The author retains all copyright and intellectual rights to this work. It may not be printed in whole or in part without express written permission.
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