I heard Panda’s voice from the ironing board and looked down at him, puzzled.
“Umm…excuse me?” I said. “Would you mind telling me what you’re doing down there?”
“I’m practicing my karate moves,” Panda responded, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “Watch this!” He executed a flawless flip and landed on his feet. “Not bad, huh?”
I had to admit I was impressed. I jumped down onto a piece of fabric that Mom was using to make something. “Where did you learn karate?” I demanded. “And when did you get that outfit?” Panda looked modestly down at his new outfit. “Mom made it for me when I got my black belt.” he replied. “I guess I forgot to tell you I’ve been taking online karate courses.”
“Come into my office,” I instructed, as we adjourned to the front room. “I think you have some explaining to do.”
“Well,” Panda began. “I guess you know you take lots of naps throughout the day. I got bored. Mom said I could sign up for an online class, so I chose karate.”
“It was really fun,” he continued, as I sat speechless, trying to figure out how I could have missed something of this magnitude. “Everyone was really nice to me and it was just like I was there in person! All my instructors said I was a natural.”
“Okay,” I said when Panda had finished his explanation. “So you earned your black belt in karate and I slept through the entire process?” Panda nodded. “Basically,” he replied simply. “But now I’ve been thinking maybe we could go to Japan so I can perfect my skills even further.”
“Remember awhile back when we were thinking of different ways to travel?” Panda asked, before I had a chance to protest. “Well, I’ve been thinking the trampoline might work after all.” We continued talking it over until we had our travel plan figured out. “I guess it couldn’t be any more dangerous than our flying carpet,” I said. “Shall we go tonight?”
We were right! The trampoline worked great! Soon we found ourselves soaring high above the earth. The view was breathtaking.
“Hold on, Bro,” I told Panda as he seemed to slide a little too close to the edge of the trampoline. “I don’t want you falling off like you did at the Grand Canyon!” Panda shuddered. “Or Area 51!” he reminded me. Other than that our trip was uneventful.
As we re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, Panda brought up a good point. “Umm, do we even know how to get to Japan? That kind of looks like Africa down there.”
It took a little maneuvering, but we managed to get back on track and before we knew it we were gliding into the beautiful city of Tokyo!
We landed some distance from a huge, brightly lit arena, but there were no people in sight. It took us a minute to figure out where we were. “The Olympics!” we exclaimed in unison, our eyes wide. It was then that we heard two gruff voices behind us. “Who are you and where did you come from?” one of them asked, while the other demanded to know what we were doing there.
We turned to face our interrogators. “My name is Foster and this is my best friend Panda,” I began respectfully. “We just arrived from the US and–” But I was interrupted. “Aha!” said one of our new acquaintances. “So you’re the karate team from the US! You’re just in time! Come on!”
Before we could protest we found ourselves speeding away into the night in the back of a taxi. “It’s almost your turn,” said one of the men in the front seat. “It’s a good thing we found you when we did!” Panda and I looked at each other, bewildered. What were they talking about? We were soon to find out.
The men from the taxi dropped us off at the entrance to the Olympic arena. “Stay here and watch the karate warm ups,” they ordered. “You’re on next!” We watched in awe as the competitors warmed up. “I think I can do that,” Panda whispered. I was less confident. “Let’s hope so…” Suddenly we heard our names being announced over the loudspeaker. “From the United States, the karate black belt Panda and his trainer, Foster!” There was no applause, because, as the men from the taxi had explained to us, there were no spectators allowed due to Social Distancing.
Panda jumped in and did some of his best karate moves right along with his opponent. I have to admit I was amazed. It reminded me of when we went to Yosemite and he won the world championship log rolling contest! His karate teachers were right, he was a natural!
Imagine our surprise and delight when it was announced that Panda had won the gold medal! The next day his picture was on the front page of every newspaper in town. We knew Mom would want a copy of the paper for Aunt Gail, so we bought a couple on our way to lunch.
We watched in fascination as our food was prepared. While we waited, we chatted with the chef, who was curious to know about Panda’s gold medal. “We didn’t actually come to Tokyo to be in the Olympics,” I explained. “I guess it was a case of mistaken identity.” The chef looked at us thoughtfully. “Maybe,” he replied. “But you got a gold medal out of it, so that’s a good thing.” Panda nodded in agreement. “Something similar happened to me in Yosemite,” he said. “Only I hadn’t taken log rolling lessons like I did for karate.”
After lunch we went to have some delicious tea. While we were waiting for our order, we heard someone talking on the other side of the tea room. “Is that them?” one of the voices asked. “Yeah, Boss,” replied the other. “Keep an eye on them while I go get the taxi,” instructed the first voice. Suddenly we realized: we had heard those voices before!
We decided it would be best to leave the tea room before the man came back with the taxi. “You’d better take off your medal, Bro,” I cautioned. “It’s made out of real gold, you know.” Panda took off his gold medal and started to put it in his pocket. “Wait,” he said, in a puzzled tone. “I don’t seem to have a pocket!” I scrutinized his outfit and he was right! “Well, Mom’s going to have to fix that when we get home,” I declared. “Here, just wrap it up in your black belt, it should be safe there.” Panda complied, and we tried our best to blend in with the crowd.
One of the first places we stopped was the marketplace . We wanted to see if there were any cool souvenirs we could bring home to Mom. Since we couldn’t read Japanese, we didn’t know what some of the items in the packages were, so we continued down the street.
After we had walked for awhile, we realized we were getting hungry. We stopped at a little stand and ordered a delicious snack. “Hey,” said the proprietor when he turned around and saw us. “Aren’t you that cat and panda from the US who won the karate medal?” We nodded modestly. “Well just for that,” the man continued, “I’m going to give you your snacks for free. It’s on the house!” After we ate, we thanked him and started on our way.
It was starting to get dark when we turned onto a busy, cheerfully lit side street. “Come on,” Panda called as he hurried ahead of me. “There has to be a place here where we can get a present for Mom!” I sighed. Just like always, it was my responsibility to make sure Panda didn’t get lost. “Panda!” I called. “Slow down! Wait for me!” It was then that I thought I heard someone say, “Hey, cat!” and I glanced quickly behind me. There was no one there. I turned around to follow Panda, but it was too late! He had disappeared around the corner.
Note: The background photos for this adventure are from both Pixabay.com and Unsplash.com. Any resemblance, real or imagined, to actual athletes (Olympic or otherwise) is purely coincidental. And Panda’s karate outfit really doesn’t have a pocket.