Josh’s friend Ethan was live-streaming video games again. It was some obscure racing car game that Ethan had found at his local thrift shop. The instructions were in another language, and Ethan was constantly torn between laughing and cursing as he tried to figure out which direction he was supposed to be driving his go-cart.
Josh watched with bittersweet amusement as Ethan played through the game, his streaming through the gaming website gathering a couple of hundred people in the chat cheering him on and talking about various other racing games. There was even someone trying to help Ethan by bouncing back and forth between the chat and Google Translate to figure out what language the game was in.
Josh didn’t speak in the chat. It felt a little strange, considering his place had always been beside Ethan, trying to play the game with him. Now that he had moved across the country, those days would be few and far in between. Josh wouldn’t even be able to watch the rest of the stream due to the time differences. Sleep was already making his eyes heavy.
When Ethan announced that he was going to take a quick break to get dinner, Josh shut down his computer. He contemplated sending Ethan a text – something cheeky about not burning his house down or something while cooking – but ultimately decided to let it lie. He’d talk to Ethan tomorrow.
Or maybe the next day. Maybe in a week.
Josh was still getting settled into his new home after all. He still had a few boxes to go through, and he was using that as an excuse whenever his friends from across the country tried to call him and talk for more than fifteen minutes at a time.
He supposed the excuse was starting to lose its meaning, though, considering he’d been in his new house for about a month. How long did it typically take someone to unpack after moving? Surely he had a bit of leeway considering that he was on his own?
Josh heaved a deep breath and grabbed his keys.
The night air was cool for the springtime, and the street lights were dim if they were working at all. Josh took out his cell phone and turned on the flashlight app, aiming it toward the ground. If any driving idiots came whizzing around the corners of the road, at least Josh would attempt to be seen. He was conscious enough to know that his gray hoodie and dark jeans wouldn’t help.
For a while, it was only the crickets and occasional bird that accompanied Josh’s footsteps in the night. Nothing else had been stirring until a light abruptly turned on down the street. Josh blinked, taking a moment to realize that it was the motion sensor light that was attached to Rebecca’s and Sarah’s garage.
Great, he was out here alone while some random burglar was prowling around his neighbors’ house, he didn’t even remember what number their house was to call the police for them—
A yap broke Josh’s thoughts and he stopped in his tracks. A series of yips sounded for about five seconds before Josh vaguely heard a woman trying to shush the yapping dog.
“Rebecca?” His call was soft from the edge of their driveway, and he was almost positive that she didn’t hear him.
But Moose did.
With a triumphant bark, the little brown dog raced through the garage’s spotlight before blending in with the shadows of the night. Josh cursed as Rebecca came darting out from around the house to catch the pup, and he desperately hoped that Moose wouldn’t go running out into the street. All he needed was for his neighbor’s dog to get lost or, worse, hit by a car that didn’t see him.
He needn’t have worried, for Moose decided to attach himself to Josh’s shoe.
The Chihuahua’s tiny teeth did nothing to Josh’s sneaker, but Josh was able to scoop the dog up and hold him at arm’s length so he couldn’t try to bite anything else. A flash of light momentarily blinded Josh, and it took him a moment to realize that Rebecca had a flashlight app on her phone as well.
“Omigod, Josh.” Rebecca took a moment to catch her breath. Josh figured it was from the anxiety of almost losing her dog or of a stranger appearing in the evening on her property rather than the mad dash from the backyard to the driveway. “I’m so sorry, did Moose hurt you?”
“Uh, no.” Josh held the Chihuahua out to the woman and rubbed at his eyes when she took him. “It may be a little while before I can see properly again, though.”
“Uh, sorry.” She giggled awkwardly. “I didn’t recognize you. I didn’t know what you were doing, so I thought, um…”
“You thought to blind me?” Josh finished lightly, his eyes readjusting to the dark enough to see Rebecca give him a crooked smile.
“It’d be easier to beat you up if you couldn’t see, right?” she asked.
He wasn’t sure if she was serious or not, and decided he didn’t want to know.
“Sorry for scaring you two,” Josh said. Moose had gotten settled in Rebecca’s arms and was glaring as well as a Chihuahua could, ears flattened and all.
“It’s okay,” Rebecca said. “I’m sorry Moose tried to bite you. He hasn’t tried to do that in a long time…”
“He was just trying to protect you,” Josh said. “Totally understandable, considering I just came out of the dark and all. Right, Moose?”
The dog’s ears perked at his name, but he still stared at Josh as if he were an alien that needed to be tossed back into space.
“What are you doing out here at this time?” Rebecca asked. “Everything okay, or just enjoying the night air?”
“Just felt a little restless,” Josh settled for saying. “Can I ask where you got Moose?”
“Sarah’s friend’s dog had an accidental litter,” Rebecca said. “Why, are you thinking of getting one despite how ferocious this one is?”
“I was actually thinking an indoor cat,” Josh said. “Didn’t know if you knew of any good pet shops.”
“I know a few good shelters,” Rebecca said. “We were actually thinking of getting another cat too.”
Josh raised an eyebrow. “A cat? With Moose?”
“Moose was raised by a cat,” Rebecca said with a grin that turned sad after a moment. “Smokey had been with us for a few years before Moose came along and, although they didn’t get along at first, they eventually became close like brothers. Smokey was such a good kitty…”
At the name of the cat, Moose looked up sharply at Rebecca and his tail gave a few slow wags. Josh was surprised that the Chihuahua apparently remembered the cat, but he didn’t directly comment on it.
“You think it’s just time to get another cat, then?” Josh asked.
“We think so,” she answered. “Smokey was more Sarah’s buddy and Moose is mine, really. She’s been missing her cat a lot lately.”
“Well, I’d be interested in going with you two,” Josh found himself saying. “Having my own place is awesome, but it’s quiet. Figured it be more socially acceptable to talk to a cat rather than myself all the time.”
She laughed and, with the sound, Moose’s tail wagged harder. “Hey, it’s hard to find someone else to have an intelligent conversation with, you know?”
“Someone who understands!” Josh grinned. “I’ll let you get back inside the house now. Didn’t mean to take up so much of your time.”
“No worries,” Rebecca said. “It’s nice that you moved here. This neighborhood is full of older people and younger kids. Sarah and I were kind of stuck in the middle age-wise. Let me give you my cell number. Whenever your house is ready for cat, let me know and we’ll visit the shelters.”
He didn’t hesitated to bring up his phone’s contacts. “Sounds like a plan.”
The pair exchanged numbers before finally saying good night. Josh watched her disappear into the backyard again and made his way back home.
As he wandered toward his bedroom, Josh glanced at his contacts again, seeing a notification that Rebecca had sent him a quick text to be sure the numbers hadn’t gotten messed up. The video game streaming app also showed up in his notifications, indicating that Ethan was back and playing his racing game again.
Josh responded to Rebecca and, ignoring the other notification, went to bed.