The soft, sleepy glow of the night spread like sun-warmed honey around the room. From their cozy beds, (Vadie in the top bunk and Natie in the bottom) they could look out through the large picture windows and see the millions of stars that were just beginning to blink themselves awake.
It looked to Vadie as if the whole sky was filled with lightning bugs. It looked to Natie as if millions of candles flickered on a giant birthday cake. For even though Vadie and Natie were sisters (and only fourteen months apart in age) they never saw things in quite the same way.
Just a few minutes earlier, Mama had read them a good night story and tucked them up all snuggly warm in their beds. She had kissed them good night and tiptoed quietly out of the room. Now, as they lay waiting for sleep to settle over them soft as the kiss of a butterfly’s wing, a small strange sound caused their eyes to pop open wide.
“Did you hear that?” asked Vadie, “that small squeaky sound? It sounds like a mouse is creeping around.”
“I heard it,” said Natie. “I heard it quite clear and it sounds like the hooves of a small spotted deer.”
The room grew very quiet again as Vadie and Natie listened and listened just as hard as they could. Suddenly, the soft, fuzzy silence of the room was startled by another sound.
“It’s sort of a snarling, gargling sound, ” Vadie whispered to Natie, in the dark sleepy room.
“I think it sounds more like a snort,” Natie said, “or a boom.”
They strained to hear and as they listened, the sound became sounds. First two sounds, then three, then whole bunches of them came together and Vadie and Natie wiggled down further under their covers and peeked with bright black eyes at their safe little room with all its familiar objects. There was baby Gabriel’s crib with their little brother sleeping soundly in it. There was Mama’s rocking chair and the wooden wagon with all their nighttime books neatly stacked upon it. There were toys in the corner and pictures on the wall and everything looked just as it should, and nothing seemed to be making the noises that were growing louder and more peculiar by the second.
“It’s a lion,” said Natie, “a great hungry beast who will gobble us up like a Thanksgiving feast.”
“A lion? That’s silly,” said Vadie “I think it’s a tiger who crept out of the drain in the sink.”
“A tiger? A tiger,” said Natie. ” I doubt it. It’s a baby rhinoceros, no doubt about it.”
“Perhaps it’s a kitty with a cold in its nose,” Vadie said, as she waggled her fingers and toes.
“Or a bunny that’s learning to stand on its head.” Natie said, as she dared to peep out of the bed.
“Do you think,” Vadie whispered, “it’s a hiccuping moose who was scared in the dark by a low flying goose?”
” I believe, Natie said as she started to giggle, it’s a small speckled snake that is learning to wriggle.”
Just then, Mama came into the room. She looked at the four button black eyes that were opened wide and sparkling bright as moonlight, and the two small heads that were sticking up out of the covers and straining to see out over the sides of their bed.
“Now what’s going on here? What’s making this racket? Daddy and I have heard clicks, beeps and clackets. We’ve heard whispers and giggles and all kinds of noise. Are you having a party with all of your toys?”
“Listen,” begged Vadie and Natie as one. “There is something in here having all kinds of fun. It has made every kind of a noise and a sound.”
Said Mama, “I think I’ll just look around.”
She looked in the corner behind the boxes stacked one on top of another, six boxes high. She looked in the drawers and under the dresser. She looked in the closet and on the window seat. She was just about to say that she couldn’t find anything strange or noisy at all in the room, when a small, sad sound like a sob or a sigh could be heard clearly in the very quiet room. Mama bent down and reached under the small chair the girls used to stand on, to gaze down at their baby brother when he was in his crib.
When Mama stood up she was holding something in her arms. She had a gentle smile on her face that made Vadie and Natie feel a warm bubble of joy tickle the inside of their tummies.
Mama’s large, loving eyes held Vadie and Natie in their gaze for a long moment.
Softly, she said, “It’s just Caramel, your fuzzy brown bear. He was stuck in a bucked under the chair. I think he was lonely and hoping you’d hear; find him and hold him and cuddle him near. I’ll just lift him up and unruffle his fur.” (Though she couldn’t be sure, Mama thought bear was smiling at her.)
Mama lifted Caramel up to the top bunk for Vadie to hug him and kiss him good night. Then she leaned into the bottom bunk so that Natie could hug him and kiss him good night. Then she gently placed Caramel at the foot of the bed where he could be close to the girls all throughout the long, dreamy night.
Mama straightened the covers and puffed up the pillows, and said to her girls, “Here’s a last goodnight kiss, not a word, not a peep.”
But Vadie and Natie and Bear were already asleep.