“Hey Panda!” Foster said suddenly.
“You know what sounds good right now?” “Some delicious bamboo?” I asked hopefully. We were kicking back in the front living room while Mom was working on her blog. As we’ve mentioned before, that sometimes gets boring for us, because we have to think of things to do on our own. Not that we lack imagination or anything, you understand. “No,” came a muffled voice below me. “Ice cream!” Okay, I thought, I guess I’m going to have to address this. I rolled off the windowsill and landed on a catnip mouse. “Dude,” I said. “Since when do cats like ice cream?”“Well, I don’t know if we do or not,” Foster replied. “Mom never lets me taste human food. But did you see the picture Gabriel gave Mom yesterday at church? It shows somebody offering me an ice cream cone. So I got curious.” “Wow!” I said. “That’s really good! Hey wait, is that ME flat on my back next to your food and water dishes?” Foster chuckled. “Yeah, Gabriel knew right where to draw you, didn’t he?” I had to admit it was pretty perceptive of him. Foster tugged at the edge of our travel tunnel with his teeth. “What are you doing, anyway?” I asked.“I’m trying to get this thing open,” Foster replied. “I heard Mom say something about it had a hole in it and she was afraid we would get stuck between the fabric and the metal wires, so she folded it up.” “Here, let me help,” I offered. We worked on it a little more and then it sprang open!“Cool,” Foster said. “Now we can go to Italy!”Before I could say “Italy, why Italy?”, we were spiraling through space like we did when we went on our cruise! “I thought you were going to have this thing serviced,” I said instead. “The accelerator is way too sensitive!” “I’ll do it when we get home,” Foster promised. “Hmph,” I mumbled. “Unless Mom gives it to Goodwill first!” Foster was about to reply when we heard a voice above us. It was our friend Benji from Seattle! “Hey guys! Wait for me!” he called. We were amazed to see that he was flying through space all by himself! “Benji!” Foster called back. “We didn’t know you could fly!”“Oh, I’ve been soaring like this for years, Benji replied casually. “Where are you going?” “Italy,” we replied in unison. “Want to come with us?” We tried to slow down so Benji could climb aboard but we were going too fast. “Just hold on, Benj,” Foster instructed. “You can climb in when we slow down!” “Copy that!” replied Benji, as he grabbed ahold of our travel tunnel.As we entered the earth’s atmosphere we managed to get Benji inside with us. “Do you guys know where Italy even is?” he asked after a while. “I think it’s down there,” Foster answered. “It’s the one that looks like a boot!” “Hey!” I shouted excitedly. “Is that France down there? I think I see Paris!” Benji looked impressed. “Wow, you’ve been to Paris?”“Only once,” Foster replied. “But it was fun. Hey, let’s land here!” We realized we must be in Venice when we saw the beautiful canals and brightly painted buildings. We all agreed that Mom would really like the colors. Once we had landed, we decided to go look for a snack. We found a super quaint cafe and sat down in front. “Hey Benji, what are you doing?” Foster asked, as the former climbed up onto one of the potted plants. “Dude, I’m sharpening my claws on this palm tree. They’re getting too long and Sue doesn’t let me scratch on her chair.” “Bummer,” Foster sympathized. “I remember reading that on your blog. Panda, have you figured out what that sign says?”“Well,” I said, as I tried to get a better look, “the spelling isn’t that great, but I think it says apple strudel and free coffee.” “Awesome!” Foster replied. “Let’s go in!” After a delicious snack of apple strudel and free coffee, we decided to go look at the gondolas on the canal.“Hey guys!” I called, when I had jumped across to one of the boats. “Let’s go!” Foster shook his head. “No way, Bro,” he said. “The last time I went with you on a three hour tour we ended up at the bottom of the sea!” Benji agreed. “Forget that,” he said. “We read that post. I think I’ll just go exploring on foot.” I would have been perfectly fine with going on the gondola by myself, but Foster said he’d feel guilty if anything happened to me, so he came along after all. The sunset was beautiful and our gondola trip was very relaxing.When we got back from our gondola ride we couldn’t find Benji. He had left us a note at the hotel desk saying he was going to see if he could find some of his relatives at the Torre Argentina cat sanctuary in Rome, and that he would meet up with us later. So we decided to go for a walk downtown. “Wow!” I said. “Those umbrellas look kind of like ice cream cones!” Foster looked startled. “Oh yeah! I almost forgot why we came to Italy! I wanted to look for ice cream!”I thought it best not to ask why he thought there would be ice cream in Italy, but since he seemed like he knew what he was doing I went along. The first place we found was a small ice cream shop with a table outside. While we were waiting for our order Foster asked some of the local ducks if they knew where we could find the best Italian ice cream. They directed us toward a park down the street.As we headed down the street we passed a group of men sitting outside talking. Foster wanted to see if he could understand them, since we had heard Mom say Italian was somewhat similar to Spanish. “No way,” I protested. “The last time you did that we found ourselves on the middle of a drug bust in India! I’m getting out of here!” Foster caught up with me later, saying they were only talking about the weather anyway.The ducks were right! We found a fantastic ice cream shop in the park with tons of different flavors. We wanted to try them all, but the shopkeeper said there were no cats or pandas allowed, so we had to leave.Unbeknownst to us, there are a lot of mobile ice cream vendors in Italy too.We found an unattended one and decided to climb up for a better look.They were literally everywhere. We were tempted to see if we could drive this one, but then we saw the ice cream truck of our dreams!We could hardly wait to tell Mom about this! We knew she would love it, having been raised in the 70s like she was. “Oh my word, that reminds me!” Foster exclaimed. “We never even told Mom we were coming!” I nodded. “She is going to be super worried if she finds out we’re gone! We’d better start getting back.” After all that ice cream tasting, we decided to get some real food before leaving for home. We were happy to find this cool outdoor restaurant. “This place seriously looks like something Mom would draw!” I said. Foster agreed. “Let’s go in and see how their food is.”We were pleased to find their food was very reasonably priced. I climbed up to check out the pizza. “Hey Foster!” I called, leaning to one side. “It’s the leaning tower of pizza!” “Oh my word, come down from there!” Foster was not amused. We picked up an extra piece of pizza for Benji and then went to get our travel tunnel. “I sure hope we find him,” I said as I scanned the horizon for our friend. “Well even if we don’t,” Foster reminded me, “he knows how to fly, remember?” I was just about to say that I would still feel better if he was with us when we heard a voice from below.“Hey guys!” Benji called. “I’m down here! Wait up!” By some miracle we were able to slow down enough to allow him to jump aboard, and we were once again on our way.We dropped Benji off at his house and were soon back in Fresno. We landed in the living room under our den. “Wow!” Foster said. “That was some adventure!” I agreed. “Yeah and it was really fun having Benji with us. I hope he doesn’t get in trouble for coming home so late.” “Well,” Foster replied. “If he’s anything like us, he knows how to sneak in without her noticing. Let’s just act like we’ve been asleep all morning and Mom will never know we were even gone!” I agreed. “Sounds good to me.”
And before we knew it, we were both fast asleep!
(Background pictures for Foster and Panda’s Italian adventure courtesy of Pixabay.com. Benji’s participation in this adventure was pre-approved by Sue.)