In this one, I actually combine a couple of ideas having to do with the messy bed: A dream and a dog. Read on.
Tina woke from a sound sleep, shaking with sweat, the specter of her dream fading quickly but still hanging in her mind. Suddenly, she heard a strange noise out in the hallway; a kind of heavy breathing and clicking sound. Her breath coming quickly, Tina got out of bed and grabbed her flashlight, the sturdy one Daddy had bought her for next week’s camping trip. Flicking it on, Tina slid her feet into her slippers and began to walk to the door. There was a funny scratching sound on it. Tina’s heart was in her throat. What if it was a monster, like the one in her dream? Tina gulped, trying to slow her breathing. She had to hope, whatever it was, she could frighten it with the flashlight.
Carefully, she reached for the cold, metal doorknob, twisted it and pulled. There was a joyous bark and something large and heavy landed on her young chest, knocking her to the floor. Tina laughed in relief, wondering as she dropped the flashlight how she could ever have mistaken Carmen, her dog, for a monster. Her imagination must have run away with her again, like Mom was always saying.
Carmen, a beautiful, creamy-haired Samoyed, had been in the family almost before Tina herself. As a result, there were some things, such as knocking Tina to the ground, that Carmen could do that no other dog would be allowed to do. Sometimes, the girl could have sworn that Carmen thought of Tina as her own child. Tina stroked the dog’s long, white fur, remembering what Daddy had said about how the dog’s name had been chosen.
“You see, when Carmen was still just a pup,” said Daddy, with Tina sitting on one leg and Carmen seated sedately by the other, “she used to howl a lot.”
“Was she lonely,” Tina had asked, wide-eyed.
“Well,” said Dad, reaching to stroke Carmen’s silky fur, “we thought she was singing. So we named her Carmen, which is the name of a big-time opera.”
Tina had been about four when they had that conversation. Now, Tina was eight and Carmen was an almost constant companion. Normally, she slept in the laundry-room by the back door. Sometimes, however, the dog seemed to know, in an almost supernatural way, when Tina was having a bad dream. At times like that, the dog would come to her, lick her face and, more often than not, sleep in her bed. Tina smiled as her dog whined softly, licking her face like a tender kiss.
“Okay, Carmen,” she said, stroking the dog, “I’ll go back to bed. I just thought you were a monster, for a minute there.” Carmen licked Tina’s face one more time and began panting, her doggy grin comforting in the all-encompassing gloom. Picking up the discarded flashlight, Tina put it back in her bedside table and climbed back into her bed, pulling the twist of sheets and covers straight again and then covering herself with them. Quietly, Carmen jumped up on the bed beside Tina and, giving her face a final quick lick, settled down beside her. “Thanks, girl,” mumbled Tina as she sank back into sleep again. “Good dog.”
For a while, it felt like Tina was falling through warm water, though, strangely, she could still breathe. Then, she found herself standing in a grassy park, the same one she and Carmen came to every weekend to play Frisbee and watch the kite-fliers with their kites. This time, though, she seemed to be alone and still wearing her pajamas. How funny!
Just then, a familiar figure came around a corner. It was Carmen, her creamy fur gleaming in the mid-afternoon sunlight.
“There you are,” Tina was startled to hear the dog say in a slightly impatient voice. “Playing hide and seek, were you?”
“How long have you been able to talk?” Tina asked.
“Always,” the dog replied, sounding just as startled as Tina, “you?”
“The same,” said Tina, crouching down to look the dog in the eyes.
“Well, it doesn’t matter,” Carmen said, turning to walk away. “We need to get going.”
“Where are we going,” Tina asked, following curiously.
They walked for a while until it became obvious that they were headed into town. Tina wanted to ask where they were going again. Before she could, though, she noticed that the town was full of dogs, some with humans but most of them alone. What’s more, all the buildings seemed to be dog-sized rather than people-sized. As they walked, Tina was started to see a man run past with a large German shepherd chasing after him. Carmen made a sad kind of noise as they watched.
“It’s sad, really,” she said, “so many humans are without proper homes or dogs to take care of them.”
“You mean, like you take care of me?” Tina asked, suddenly understanding. The dog was, strange as it sounded, a people catcher.
Just then, they walked up to what looked like a really swanky restaurant, as Mom called them. Carmen nosed the door open and stood by it while Tina walked in.
“Excuse me, miss,” said a large great Dane. “You can’t bring your pet into the restaurant.”
“She’s well-trained,” Carmen protested, “watch this.” Turning to Tina, she said, “Sit down, please.” Tina looked for a chair but, finding none, sat carefully, cross-legged, on the floor.
“See?” said Tina.
“Good girl,” Carmen replied, giving her a quick lick on the cheek.
“I’m sorry, miss,” said the Dane, “it’s restaurant policy. No humans allowed. They’re unsanitary. I’m sorry.”
“Hey!” said Tina, not understanding why she suddenly felt hurt, “I’m not unsanitary!”
“If you can’t keep your animal quiet, it’ll have to wait outside,” said the Dane impatiently.
“Maybe you don’t know who I am,” said Carmen, the hint of a growl in her voice.
The great Dane looked at Carmen and his eyes widened as he seemed to recognize her. “Miss Carmen,” he whined bowing slightly, “I apologize.”
“Now,” growled Carmen, “Either you let me and my human into the restaurant, or we take our business elsewhere.”
“Just one moment, please,” gasped the great Dane, who turned and quickly trotted away.
“What was that all about,” Tina asked, worried now.
“Don’t you fret, darling,” said Carmen, licking Tina’s face reassuringly. “Everything’s going to be all right.”
A minute later, the Great Dane returned, “I have a seat for you out on the terrace. I don’t know what I was thinking,” he added, “I have a human at home, myself. I leave him with my sister during the day so he won’t be lonely.”
Together, they walked through the restaurant and several dogs made disgusted sounds as they passed. At last, however, they went outside and the Dane brought them to a low table with a little candle in the middle. Here, too, there were no chairs. At the other tables, the dogs seated around them were staring. Tina sat down carefully on the floor by the little table.
“Amazing,” someone whispered. “She’s so dog-like.”
“Can I go pet her, mother?” a golden retriever puppy asked from his plastic box. “Please?”
“Well, ask her owner, first,” said his mother kindly.
The puppy grinned, hopping down from his box and trotted over to Carmen. “Can I pet your human, please?” he asked.
“Of course,” said Carmen, smiling. “Just be gentle.”
Tina held very still as the little dog climbed into her lap and began licking her face. Then, without thinking, she reached out and stroked the puppy’s short fur. The puppy giggled.
“What’s she doing?” he asked.
“It’s all right,” said Carmen. “It just means that she likes you.”
Just then, a poodle wearing a pink hat walked up. “Ready to order?”
“Yes, I’ll have the steak and eggs, please,” said Carmen, glancing at the menu around the poodle’s neck, “and, can you bring some steak for my human. Make sure it’s cooked well.”
“Why does the human’s steak have to be cooked?” asked the puppy eagerly.
“Well, raw meat is very bad for humans,” Carmen replied, “like chocolate is for dogs. It could make her sick.”
“Oh,” the puppy said in a solemn voice.
“Tina can do a trick,” said Carmen, when the poodle returned with the tray of food, which hung around her neck by plastic-coated wire attached to one side and the middle and bent in such a way that she could easily put her head under it. “Would you like to see?”
“Can I?” said the puppy, its little tail waggling for all it was worth.
“Tina, eat your dinner,” said Carmen. A trick, thought Tina. What would be considered a trick in a dog’s world? Then, it struck her. Bending over, Tina grabbed her piece of steak in her teeth, pulled it into her mouth and began to chew it.
“She eats like a dog!” squealed the puppy.
“Come, Nicky,” said his mother, then. “It’s time to leave.”
“Aw,” said the puppy, climbing reluctantly from Tina’s lap.
“It’s okay,” said Carmen kindly. “We’re usually in the park just after lunch. Come visit us, then.”
“Great!” the puppy said, giving Tina one last lick before joyfully leaving in his mother’s wake.
Suddenly, Tina realized that there was something bright shining in her eyes. Turning, she squinted. It was the sun. It seemed to be shining through a window of the restaurant. She brought an arm up to cover her eyes and, abruptly, found herself in bed again. She blinked, then giggled as Carmen licked her face in the usual morning greeting.
“Get dressed, Tina,” said her mother from the door. “We’re going to a restaurant this afternoon.”
“Can we bring Carmen?” Tina asked.
“Of course,” Mom said, smiling. “After all, she’s family and I wouldn’t take you anywhere that you couldn’t bring Carmen, too.”