Before Butterfly came home, the closest thing Cricket had to a sister was her human cousin, Tamar. Cricket and her cousin were a lot alike, with their long skinny legs, mischievous eyes, and tendency to scream, very very loud.
Tamar was two and a half years old when Cricket arrived and she wasn’t sure about those teeth, and the fast paw movements, and the way Cricket could jump up on a couch or a bed and seemingly appear out of nowhere. And Cricket was too enthusiastic. Too bossy.
Tamar ran into her brothers’ room and grabbed onto me for dear life when Cricket followed her down the hall. I was reading to the boys, five and eight at the time, and Tamar zoomed in and climbed on my lap and curled into a ball, genuinely afraid. Cricket tried to come over and make friends, but with her pink tongue hanging out, her intentions were misconstrued.
By the next visit, Tamar had a pink toy gun and was fascinated with shooting at people. Her brothers were fixated on computer games with serious firepower, and so was her father (my brother), and therefore, so was she. And being her aunt, I was a prime target. She loved the shooting, but even more than that she loved to do her own death scenes, falling dramatically to the floor after a drunken stumble down the hallway. Cricket was off playing with the boys at first, but when she heard the loud thump of a body hitting the floor, she ran down the hallway to help. Tamar scrambled to her feet and raised the pink water gun and screamed, “fweeze puppy!” in a very serious voice.
Cricket didn’t follow orders. She ran towards her human cousin with her tongue hanging out, intent on licking the pain away. My niece ran into her bedroom and slammed the door.
It didn’t take long for isolation to get boring, though, and the gun slinger came out of her room and tracked me down again. I was in the kitchen, baking cupcakes with the boys, and, in order to save time, and eggs, I gave in; I did a long, slow death scene at the kitchen counter and fell to the floor. But when I tried to get up, Tamar laughed and shook her head and said, “No, you can’t move. You’re dead.” I thought for a second, and then called for Cricket to give me the Puppy Kiss of Life, to bring me back from the brink, so I could finish making the cupcakes.
Cricket rushed over to lick my face and I surged back to life.
My niece loved it. She insisted on replays, with various family members nearing death, and Cricket rushing in to save them.
When it was my oldest nephew’s turn, he did a very convincing imitation of death, after a very convincing shoot out with his younger bother. He was sprawled on the floor, limp and seemingly dead, and his little sister was horrified. She called for Cricket to hurry, “You gotta save BB!” Cricket obliged with the puppy kiss of life and my nephew rose from the dead with a flourish. Tamar jumped up and down and screamed, “I saved BB! I saved BB!”
She was so proud.
After that, she held Cricket’s leash and called her “my puppy” for the rest of the visit. She still demands Cricket’s leash, while her younger brother hogs Butterfly, but she doesn’t love it when Cricket tries to lick her toes. You can’t have everything.