In Loving Memory Of Mandy Reinhart

Written by Consta Jenkins

Reprinted by permission of the author

The soft scent of flowers and fresh grass wafted in the breeze. Eatbugs took a deep breath and slowly let it out, savoring the cool sweetness of it. Just waking from his afternoon nap, he rolled onto his back and stretched his paws. It was glorious to open your eyes and see a world so beautiful.

"Well hello lazy bones," said Spunkie, "Ready to join the world?"

"Mmmmm...."

"Well you'd better get moving. Pouncequick is practically beside himself. It is a matter of honor, you know."

Eatbugs laughed. "Well, let's not leave him waiting. The 'Tail Wrestling Champeenship of the Whole Entire Worlds' must not be delayed".

"Certainly not....at least not if the rest of us plan on any peace. You know Pris caught them practicing at yesterday's ear washing session. She was not amused."

"I can imagine." Eatbugs grinned. "Pris takes her ear washing duties verrry seriously." He pulled his whiskers forward in a solemn impression of his great-auntkidden.

Spunkie laughed. "Well, have YOU ever tried to wash squirming peeper ears?"

The furiends padded softly through the tall grass to the willow clearing. They danced their tails in greeting as the passed their companions. Max and Picnic were trading "the mouse that got away" stories. Gina and Vito were showing Donald where the best nip could be found. Gypsy and Pyewacket played hide and swipe in the tall grass.

All across the Rainbow Fields, the Company of Kiddens enjoyed the simple pleasures of furriendship. Boots and Katze lounged together in the cool grass. Jasmine and Mister enjoyed a kibble snack.

As Eatbugs and Spunkie approached the clearing, they stopped to chuckle. The peepers pranced around the clearing 'preparing' their tails for battle. Little Dots flicked his tail from side to side, limbering up for his turn. Tigger groomed his tail, working, Eatbugs assumed, on the theory that if cleanliness were next to godliness he'd have someone on his side. Pouncequick chased his tail in mad circles. Eatbugs had no idea what strategy lay behind such antics, but Pounce was certainly enjoying it. Nikkie, his face a mask of earnest concentration, carefully hooked his tail into a perfect question mark, then straightened into a perfect line.

Atomic Bob caught sight of the judges. "They're here! They're here!! Let the games begins!!!"

Spunkie and Eatbugs trotted forward, bowed solemnly to the contestants (and suppressed their giggles), then settled down to do their sworn duty. Eatbugs signaled for the first contestants to take the field.

Little Dots and Tigger approached the center of the clearing. They circled each other, sizing up their opponent, then turned to entwine their tails. "Begin!" hollered Eatbugs. Tigger made his first move, pulling LittleDots' tail sharply to the left, but Dots countered with a feint to the left. The battle was on.

Eatbugs suddenly cocked his head to the left. A funny feeling crept into his stomach. He stood up, unsteady on his paws. Something was wrong. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.

"Eatbugs! Are you okay?" Spunkie leaned against her furriend to steady him. "What's the matter?"

Eatbugs couldn't answer. He felt dizzy and ill. He tried to take a step forward, the knot in his stomach tightening. Then he heard it, the voice of the Elders in his mind. "Come at once, Little One."

Their presence soothed him, and Eatbugs ran with all his might to the Circle of the Elders. Isolde and Virginia stood in the center. Their faces grim, they signaled him to join the circle. "Hurry, Little One, we are needed."

Eatbugs took his place and bowed his head. He felt it, terror, creeping up his throat and suddenly he understood. A tear trickled down his cheek as he felt the fear of the kidden below. Journeys were never easy, but the ones that came by violence broke Eatbugs' heart.

Isolde lifted her head and started the song. She sang words of strength and comfort to the kidden below. Her soft voice sent gentle relief to the frightened heart below. Boots raised his voice and sang of peace and cleansing, gently washing away the pain from the one below. Virginia lifted her words into the song, singing love and acceptance, easing the way for the one below. Eatbugs sadly lifted his head, drew a deep breath and lifted his voice into the chorus. He sang of the Great Promise and the eternal nature of love. He sang of meetings to come and joyful reunions, easing the sorrow of the one who comes.

The Elders continued their song as they felt the spirit below fading. They redoubled their song, wrapping their love around the fragile life below, holding it near and waiting to guide it to its new home. At last, Virginia raised her head and whispered, "It is time."

The Elders rose to make their way to the Gate. Eatbugs lingered, his head still bowed, tears flowing down his face. "Come, Little One," said Isolde in a gentle voice, "It is time to Welcome her home."

"Why?" His word came out in a husky whisper. "Why does it have to be like this?"

"I have no answer for you, Little One. The ways of the Creator are not always known. Why did your life end as it did? Why do some have long marches in the sun, and some only a precious few days?" She nuzzled her young nephew. "The world goes as it will, Eatbugs. Perhaps the Creator gave us sorrow to make our joys so much sweeter. Perhaps we are given the hard things to make us stronger. I have no answer for you, Little One. I can only tell you this, no kidden suffers alone. We that have gone before walk with them and the love of the Creator surrounds all of her kind. Now come, would you have her arrive without welcome?"

Eatbugs wiped the tears from his face and rose to join the Elders. As they started their trek to the Gate, the Welcoming Song began its bittersweet refrain in the wind. Its song tore at Eatbugs' heart. He ached for the ones left below, but beneath the sorrow of the refrain, the counterpoint edged its way into his heart. The gentle melody of love, of bonds that last forever, of meetings to come. His spirit lifted as the Creator's Promise danced in the wind around him.

They came to the Gate, the Company of Kiddens already forming their circle, as the Welcoming Song reached its crescendo. A bright blue light flashed across the Gate, and its wake sat a beautiful tortie girl. She stared wild eyed at the group before her, the last vestige of her earthly fear raising the fur on her back. Eatbugs took a step forward to comfort her, but felt a paw restrain him. "A moment, Little One," said Virginia.

"But she needs...." He did not get the words out before he saw it. The air around Mandy shimmered. The colors of the Rainbow swirled and flickered. A flash of pure white light appeared. Eatbugs blinked at its brightness, then gasped. The image of the Creator sat before Mandy, her fur glimmering with every color, her face so beautiful that Eatbugs wept to look on it. The Creator stepped forward and wrapped her paws around Mandy. She held her daughter close, purring softly. She whispered words of love into the ears of her daughter. When Mandy's fear melted and her heart rejoiced in the words she heard, the Creator licked her forehead softly, then quietly shimmered away.

Mandy stood for a moment, her eyes wide in awe now, not in terror. She turn at length to face the Company. One by one they came forward to offer their noses in greeting. No words were spoken. None were needed. One by one they silently welcomed her home.

When the last of the Company touched noses, Mandy looked to the Rainbow's Edge. She sighed for the life she left behind, for the love that would now have to wait. She padded softly to the edge and looked down on the world below. She pursed her whiskers and gathered her thoughts. She lifted her purr into the wind and sent her message to the ones below. 'Mom? Mom I am here. I am waiting. I wanted to stay, Mom. I tried...but ..." She paused as the faint memory of an ache touched her heart, "but I couldn't Mom. I am here now. There is no pain. And I am waiting."

Then she turned and made her way home.

© Copyright 1998 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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