As dusk approached the center of the city, a pigeon landed on a roof of an amphitheater, surveyed the surroundings and watched two cats stroll around one of the corners and disappear out of sight. The pigeon then turned and gave a swift head nod, signaling scores of hidden onlookers to scurry and hustle into a secret door through the alley of the establishment.

“Take a peak outside, as lines align, the patrons hide and slink inside. Be cool, be sly and circumvent two cruel felines, hellbent on rent. Such nonsense. So close minded, such lack of vision. I’m good for it! I pay with gifts, I pay with song. My gift’s a gift, I must perform. Rent or no rent the show MUST go on! Yet I’ll be in great chagrin until alas I meet these twins.”

With his hind paws being dragged across the floor by henchmen that appear to have deaf ears to his pleas, Chilly attempted to convince his capturers of their mistake.

“Of course, you think you recognize me!” He said to his imprisoners as he bragged. “I’m one of the most recognizable faces west of here. Big screen, small screen, all screens…that garnish royalties, that is. In fact – ” the Chihuahua, too pompous to be frightened of his current situation concluded, “that’s why you find me here. For screen fame to appreciate stage talent. For the circle of professional entertainment is -”

“SHUT UP!!” The large mastiff shouted in a thick Russian accent. “Me babushka gave me that doll and you violated our sacred bond! Now you need reparations or compensation of equal value.”

Before the mastiff could continue, a hesitant bulldog slowly approached the group and greeted, “Good evening, gentleman. I have arrived as requested.”

Chilly jumped at the sight of his friend and began wagging his tail furiously as the henchmen advanced on Bully and surrounded him.

“Where is it?” The mastiff asked with a tone more demanding than inquisitive. ” Your friend was almost mince! You certainly took your time ”

“Well, funny story.” The bulldog began bashfully. “Quite strange in fact.”

Bully stroked his brow trying to figure out the best way to explain his delay.

“It appeared a mirror popped out of nowhere. I rushed off to retrieve your package as promised then went to call upon Jewels.”

“WHAT?!?” Chilly screamed in disbelief. “You told my Jewels?!”

“But of course, sir. I’d be remiss not to, she does worry.” Bully said matter-of-factly before he warned, “And she is NOT happy. She was going on about me eating spaghetti she had thrown at me. ABSURD!”

The mastiff’s henchmen grasped Bully and dragged him to the area Chilly was being secured as he continued his story.

“I had just secured the gift and turned the corner to be faced with my own reflection. I thought to myself what an odd place for a looking glass. I even examined it thoroughly out of curiosity. I raised my right paw only to be matched by what appeared to be my reflection with no surface. Then I sneakily and swiftly raised my hind left leg, only to be answered by my doppelganger. I turned about face and walked seven paces and you know what? I went full Bully. Full speed ahead.” The bulldog laughed before he continued, “Needless to say, hilarity ensued. The gift went flying, as did I. I’m pretty sure I momentarily blacked out and may possibly be concussed. I should see a vet. What was I talking about?”

“Where’s the gift?!” Chilly panicked reminding his compatriot of his intentions.

“Oh, right. I retrieved the gift, circled around this odd reflective object and like I said, called upon…Ah, there!” The bulldog realized in a eureka moment amidst retracing his steps. “Jewel has it!”

“Jewel, has it?!” The devastated Chihuahua astonished.

“Well, she said it was technically hers.” Bully explained.

Causing Chilly to conclude, “She has a point. I hate it when she right.”

The mastiff approached the restrained canine and announced. “Then this jewel must be found to reclaim my prized possession.

“Gentlemen, please.” Chilly begged. “If you release me and allow me to meet my Jewel for our liaison, I can convince my love to return this gift and we can get this all sorted out.”

“I have better idea.” The mastiff growled through a thick accent. “We go to this ‘liaison’ as you call it, together.”

The once occupied stage and empty theatre of the arena had now switched places. Every seat was filled, some with multiple occupants. The crowd murmured and rumbled in anticipation until it could no longer control itself.

“ERA!”                                  “ERA!!”                                “ERA!!!”

The masses chanted in unison calling for the appearance of their performer. The performer that nervously paced in the hallway between the stage and dressing room.

“Pace and pace and wait and wait. For I can’t take stage ‘less payment’s made. They scream my name, they seek my face. So now we end these cat-mouse games. I won’t run, so need to chase. So, step forth!” She shouted, “And stake your claim.”

The two cats that were patrolling the hallways and perimeter appeared and proclaimed in unison, “Time’s up, Era.”

The cats stood with shoulders, sides and legs pressed together, like Siamese, positioned between Era and the stage door.

“No pay…” the cat on the left started, “…no play.” The cat on the right finished.

Era revealed a tiny sack, reached in and pulled out an oversized novelty clock with the second hand just ticks away from reaching the top of the hour. “A time agreed is a time indeed but the deadline for fees has yet been reached. So, you see, we’re not quite done. Not until 3…2…1.”

“Would you look at that, right on time!!” Chile said to Bullie as they rounded the corner of the hallway to approach Era and the two felines. “We would’ve been here sooner if you didn’t take your time getting that thing where you hid it.” He said referring to the blue box with white ribbon the bulldog was transporting.

“I told you.” Bullie snapped. “I ran into myself and butted my own head.”

“Yes, you keep saying that and I still have no idea what that means.” Chile said and continued. “But tell me again, was this before or after you ate a plate of spaghetti off the floor?”

“After.” Said the bulldog. “The plate nearly hit me. I ate that saucy deliciousness and high-tailed it outta there!”

“Uh-hum.” One of the cats coughed to get the attention of the canines.

“Oh, right.” The Chihuahua said nudging his partner with his elbow.

“Payment as promised.” The bulldog said sliding the box towards the cats as prompted by his friend.

The cats tore open the box to reveal a crudely glued together baby mouse in red diapers with two white fastens.

Chile leaned over to Bullie and whispered with wide eyes, “How’d that get in there?” Only to be answered by a silent shrug.

The two cats stood on opposite sides of the small doll and observed. One cat used its front paw to hit it to the other. The second cat stared at it and batted it back. They repeated this back and forth, increasing speed a few times before they looked up, nodded to Era and approved in unison, “Payment accepted.”

The bulldog leaned over to the Chihuahua and quietly questioned “Hey Chile, isn’t there supposed to be a ru-”

The Chihuahua interrupted the query with a sharp elbow to the bulldog’s plumped belly. “Ixnay on the ubyray, Bullie.” Chile then turned to Era and the cats and announced, “Looks like our job’s done here. Let’s get moving Bullie.”

The Chihuahua grabbed the bulldog and hustled out the back exit. Just seconds later another Chihuahua and bulldog are escorted to the backstage hallway from the front entrance by the mastiff and his entourage.

“That does not belong to you.” The mastiff said to the cats in mid-play.

“I’m sorry but you must be mistaken. This has been given as annuity to insure the impending exhibition and it has been accepted.” The cats said taking turns speaking and finishing each other’s sentences.

“Given to you by whom!” The mastiff inquired.

“THEM.” The cats answered in harmony referring to the bulldog and Chihuahua.

The mastiff gave the captives a look that attempted to shoot daggers through them but before the mastiff could speak, the older hound dog under the mastiff’s regime concluded, “If it is as you say, it seems that we are the benefactors of this event.”

The hound dog looked towards his mastiff boss and suggested, “If Era goes out there and announces the official title as ‘Era’s Comedy show: Presented by Herman’ your name would be attached and credited as bringing one of the greatest acts to the city.”

The mastiff pondered a moment before speaking. “My babushka did say this gift of hers would bring joy to the masses. Perhaps this is what she meant. It’s a deal!” He shouted. “You keep this heirloom as payment for the venue. Era gets to amaze the world with my name and organization associated to it.”

The cats accepted the terms and vanished into the shadows with their newly acquired prize. The mouse anxious and prepared to take stage, in full costume, clapped and jumped in excitement.

“Now we will depart to enjoy the fruits of our seeds.” The mastiff said as he entered the auditorium with his clan.

The Chihuahua and bulldog remained in the hallway confused of their roles in what just occurred but the confusion was set aside by the appearance of a female Chihuahua.

“There’s my Chilly dog.” She said approaching Chilly wearing a deep red ruby affixed to her collar. “I love my gift, thank you!” She said, kissing him as she displayed her pendant. “You’re the best! I’ll see you inside.”

Chilly looked at Bully in astonishment and once Jewel was out of earshot, stated “You’ve done it again, Bully boy! How did you come about that?”

“Well, you know how you said get the most expensive thing I could afford?” The bulldog reminded.

“Uh-huh.” The Chihuahua agreed before the bulldog confessed.

“You didn’t give me any money, so I had to piece together what I could find and -.”

“HA!! Piece together. The Chihuahua laughed. “So humble. Whatever you did the outcome worked out well.” The Chihuahua smirked cutting off the bulldog. “Jewel received a gift from me and most amazingly we made it on time to view the release.”

The Chihuahua walked inside the theatre ready to enjoy the performance, leaving the bulldog in the hallway baffled and talking to himself before joining. “- the only thing I could find was a broken mouse, that I literally pieced back together with glue.”

Era squared herself away, making her final adjustments before taking stage and made an observation.

“The time is here. It’s time I go. My fans await their favorite show. Yet before I bid you adieu, I’d like to give thanks to all that’s due. Two pairs of twins, split in two by a merchant and lady from Syracuse. For it took all four to unknowingly unite to successfully pull off this night. So, thanks to those names that end in E and those names that end in Y.”

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