The nice strong man had spent his time since dinner puttering around the house collecting paper products. He would pick up a magazine or a newspaper and hold it up. The Pretty Lady would look up from her book and nod or shake her head. The Nice Strong Man would then put the paper back in its place or in a big pile in the middle of the room.
Bandit sniffed the pile of papers but learned little. He followed the Nice Strong Man around the house. Bandit always followed everybody who walked around the house. Usually this ended on a sour note as the person in question would often go into a room and close the door, or even worse just flat-out leave the house with Bandit in it. Sometimes Bandit couldn't figure out why the people were walking around like they were. "Sit on the couch," Bandit would think.
This time Bandit knew his following would end in a grand fashion. When the Nice Strong Man collected papers it meant he was going to spend the night sitting in the garage. Awesome!
The door bell rang! This is one of Bandit's triggers so he got super excited. In Bandit's experience, only the best people come through doors. Bandit couldn't even walk straight cause his tail was wagging so hard. He blacked-out.
Cold air poured in the house and in came Brad with twigs! Bandit bounced and pranced and introduced five toys into the proceedings. He finally settled down enough to greet Brad properly. Bandit said his hello then gave Brad's pants a sniff.
Bandit sniffed again to be sure he had sniffed correctly. He had! This was too much for Bandit to deal with at the moment. He knew that between the doorbell and the garage he was already over-stimulated. He'd have to deal with Russel's message once he'd settled down a skosh.
Brad's pant's smelled like this:
"I must leave home on a perilous investigative journey. Though I intend on returning, fate and circumstance will likely bar this. I'll swing by and get you. Yours, Russel."
Bandit's head was swimming. He didn't even feel like playing, and when Brad and the Nice Strong Man walked to the garage Bandit just followed but really wasn't paying any attention. He wasn't responsive. Bandit stood in the garage and just looked forward. His eyes were unfocused. His tail was not moving. He felt like he had eaten a bad crab apple. Maybe a bunch of them one after the other.
The Nice Strong Man put the papers and twigs in the stove and made a fire. It was still cold and snowy and dark out. Everybody's feet were wet. The men put their feet by the fire. They wondered why Bandit was not joining them. They wondered what Dogs think about then they stare off. Bandit snapped out of it a bit and came up to the men and got his head petted then stared at the middle chair by the fire until the Nice Strong Man patted it and Bandit jumped up on it and licked the Nice Strong Man then curled up tight and closed his eyes.
"I can't go," thought Bandit. "I can't leave the Nice Strong Man and the Pretty Lady. They would be too worried about me."
Bandit knew this was the only right decision. He had no choice. He loved his friend's much too much to bring a sadness to them.
Still, he could not stop thinking about Russel out there in the cold. There was snow everywhere and it would get in his paws. Bandit had never seen Russel, but he had seen other cats. They were small. How would Russel be able to see where he was going?
"I have to tell Russel to stay home," thought Bandit. "If he shows up here I will reason with him through the window if possible."
Bandit's mind was made up. He would stay here and put all this out of his mind. Maybe he could loosen up a bit and enjoy the fire. He picked his head up and looked at the Nice Strong man and gave his tail a thump. This was a trigger for the Nice Strong Man and he started petting Bandit without realizing it.
"Russel's adventure sounds dangerous," Bandit thought. "It must be very important to him to risk so much".
It got darker and colder but the fire was good when the Nice Strong Man and Brad took Bandit for a walk around the block. Bandit loved his last walk of the night but it was also often a bittersweet experience.
It was snowy and cold and the streetlights made oily looking light balls in the sky. Snow fell through them and right down the men's collars and it would melt on their backs. That was fine though because the fire had given everybody plenty of internal warmth. Nothing except steps made sound. Bandit's collar went chick chick chick.
Bandit's nose moved a bit and he knew that he might get to say "Hi" to his friend Hapkido in a couple blocks. That would be nice. He liked Hapkido a lot even though Hapkido was a bit introverted and maybe something of a worrywart. Hapkido was honest though, and often generous with his empathy, so Bandit enjoyed his company and had a respect for him. Hapkido and a smiley lady walked up.
Bandit and Hapkido rubbed and smelled out notes to one another. Bandit gave Hapkido the bullet points on the Russel affair. As expected, Hapkido was worried about Russel, but certainly understood Bandit's position on staying home. He also made an interesting point; if this mission was so important to Russel that he was willing to risk so much, he would probably not be able to heed Bandit's advice and go back home. He would probably have to go it alone.
The dogs caught up on general interest around-the-block news. As they were parting Hapkido rubbed a final note:
"I'm worried about Russel."
As the men walked back in the house Bandit knew he only had a couple seconds or his whole plan was ruined. He got in the door first, as always, and immediately turned around. There were a bunch of shoes in the foyer because everybody changed footwear when they entered the house due to the snow.
Bandit put his paw on a thick boot lace near the door and tried to flick it to the open door. It didn't go very far. He flicked it again and the lace laid over the doorjamb just as The Nice Strong man closed the door. The men took off their shoes and walked to the kitchen. They were speaking quietly.
The door hadn't clicked!