2nd Place – June 2020

Latte and Brutus

By

Rox Burkey & Charles Breakfield

Latte jumped near the window to get a better view of the outside. Barren land and bare trees foreshadowed a blustery winter.
She liked to curl up in her bed by the fire most of the winter. When it was extra chilly in the middle of the night, Brutus would curl up next to her. It didn’t matter that Latte was a cat and Brutus a dog. They’d been best buddies forever.
“Can you see Mercedes, Latte?” Brutus asked. His paws braced against the cabinet doors trying to see too. As a Basenji, Brutus didn’t shed or bark, but when agitated, he howled.
“Not yet. All I see is snow and the sun heading down for the night.
“After she received the phone call, she grabbed her keys and coat on the way out the door. It must be something important, or she would have remembered to feed us.”
“In her rush to leave, did she leave something out from her earlier baking? The house smelled great all day. It makes me wonder if this is a big holiday or some party.”
“You’re right! The air was spicy, and she was singing along with the radio. Nothing that I can see, though.” Latte walked around every available space in the kitchen to be sure she hadn’t missed something.
A flash from outside had Latte rushing back to the window. Her sharp eyes identified a vehicle parked at the edge of the property with lights on. “Brutus, there’s a vehicle at the property edge, but it’s not Mercedes’ car. I see a human silhouette, but I don’t recognize the vehicle. The light is fading, too. The headlights winked off.”
“I wonder who it is. Maybe someone to feed us.”
“The vehicle isn’t parked by the front like other visitors. I doubt they’re here to visit. I don’t have a good feeling about this.”
Brutus offered, “Mercedes locks the doors and turns out the lights when she’s nervous.”
Latte considered, “It sure would be easier to see if the lights in here were off. Do you think we can manage to shut them off? There are two switches: one at the end of the counter and another by the doorway.
“Brutus, nothing is on in the other rooms, right?”
Brutus hurried to search the house. Latte padded over to the closest switch. She studied it, recalling how Mercedes moved it. Latte tested it with her paw, but it slipped off the edge of the switch end.  It was at her eye level. She decided if she braced on the wall and pressed down on the switch, it might work. After three tries, she achieved her goal. Brutus’s nails announced his return.
“No other lights on in any of the rooms, Latte. Say, you did get one off in here. Well done!”
“Thanks, but we gotta work together on the other one. It’s too far for me to reach. You might try standing on your hind legs to see if your paw can get to it.”
Brutus went to the wall and stretched up. He wasn’t tall enough. Trying to jump was a total waste of time. They watched the object of their attention for a minute but were unable to think of a solution.  Latte sauntered back to the window and looked out. The person was out of the vehicle and leaning on the side.
“We need to reach that switch, Brutus!”
“Okay, what if I nudge the stool over to the wall. Would that help?”
“It might if you can do it. How would you move it?”
“When I was a puppy, Mercedes complained that I bumped and moved it while playing. She said not to bump into the furniture again, because it might fall on me.  I’ll try if you stay out of the way.”
“I’ll keep watch out the window. You try.”
Latte kept an eye on the stranger but glanced as Brutus approached the task.
Brutus went to one side of the four-legged stool. Using his head, he nudged it. It moved an inch. He kept this up, moving from one side to the other, gaining an inch or so at a time. He put up a paw and tried pushing, but it wobbled.
“Don’t knock it over!”
Brutus renewed his efforts with no wobbling. They both heard the clock ticking as he inched the stool toward the doorway. Latte craned her head against the window as the figure pushed off from the car. With stealthy moves, it vanished toward the far side of the house.
“Hurry, the person is moving toward our house. Even if the person saw my form, cats don’t scare anyone.”
Brutus pushed a little harder on the stool. It stopped as it was jammed precariously between the wall and the underside of the cabinet. It rocked a bit but stopped at an angle. Latte leaped off the counter, heading to the front door. She heard noises outside with someone trying the handle and pushing on the door. Latte knew it was locked with the deadbolt as that was Mercedes’ routine. She raced back to the kitchen.
Someone is trying to get in. Let me see if I can reach the switch.”
Latte went back onto the counter then walked toward the stool. It was an easy leap to the stool, but it rocked as she landed. Startled, she jumped to the floor, grateful the stool remained in place.
“Latte, that was a good attempt. I’ll stand on this side of the stool to keep it from toppling over.”
Brutus braced the stool, and Latte worked up her nerve and went up on the counter to try again. She gingerly landed on top, sinking her claws into the edge while it settled. Looking up toward the switch, Latte gauged that the distance needed her full reach.
She planted her back legs and claws and crept up the rough surface of the wall. She couldn’t be above it, so she would need a different approach to succeed. Straining to get the nails of one paw on the switch, she pulled. It refused. Her repeated attempts also failed. Frustrated, she paused.
“Brutus, can you get up on your hind legs, still braced?”
Brutus complied. He positioned his front paws on the seat of the stool. It stopped rocking and was more stable.
“Now what?”
“I’m going to climb on your head to see if I can get higher.”
“Please, no nails, Latte!”
“Of course not,” Latte purred.
She climbed onto Brutus. He moaned but kept still. Latte reached high, latching both paws onto the switch and pulled with all her might. Darkness descended on the kitchen. Moments later, the backdoor rattled, indicating someone was trying to get in.
Brutus opened his muzzle to howl, and Latte shushed him. “No one knows you’re in here. They only saw me! Come on!”
Latte led Brutus out of the kitchen. Peeking through the doorway, she saw a man’s face at the window. Pressing his nose against the window, the man looked from side to side. Not seeing them on the floor, he vanished from the window.  Then the back door rattled.
“This can’t be good. People usually knock. You stay here, Brutus. I’m going to jump up on the counter. He can’t see in here now. We might have the advantage.”
“Okay. Be careful, Latte.”
Silently they positioned themselves and waited. Moments later, the splitting of wood sounded, followed by a crashing noise as the door banged against the wall. The man moved a few steps into the room then stopped and listened. Silence encouraged him to continue. Latte waited until he was almost to the doorway and launched onto his back. She dug her claws in as deep as possible and began loudly caterwauling.
The man screamed and grabbed for his back, trying to escape. His foot caught on the leg of the jammed stool, and he landed on the floor in a heap. Brutus recognized a gun in his hand and sunk his teeth into the man’s hand. The man screamed in agony.
Latte and Brutus heard the front door open but remained firm in their positions. The lights went on. The sight of the two animals restraining the man struck the newest members to the party as hysterical.
Mercedes pointed her service weapon at the intruder. “Brutus, Latte,” Mercedes called after she calmed her giggles. “We’ve got him now!”
Entering behind Mercedes, Jim carefully picked up Latte and stroked her. “Good girl. Such a good girl. Brutus, let go, boy. I need to grab the weapon. Then you can chew some more.”
“Keep them animals away,” the man moaned and added, “Shoot them! They’re vicious.”
“Jim, I’ve seen this guy before on the wanted list at the bureau!”
“Okay. I’ll call the cops, Mercedes.”
“Thanks, honey. I’ll feed our two guards. They’ve earned gourmet tonight!”

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