Eleventy-Seven Cows

     It was almost midnight when Lucas slipped out of bed and padded down the hall to his parents’ room.

     “Go to bed, Lucas,” Dad told him.

     “I can’t sleep,” Lucas replied.

     “Try counting sheep,” Mom said.

     “I don’t like sheep,” Lucas responded.

     “Then count pigs,” Mom answered.

     “I don’t like pigs either,” Lucas said. “Can I count cows?”

     “Yes!” Mom and Dad said at the same time.

     “Ok. I love you…pleasant dreams…good night…see you in the morning,” Lucas told them.  It was their ritual.

     “We love you…pleasant dreams…good night…see you in the morning,” Mom and Dad replied for the third time that night, as Lucas shut their door and went back to bed.

     “One,” Lucas whispered and a brown cow jumped out of the closet and landed with a thud on the other side of his bed.

     “Two.” A black and white one leaped through Lucas’s window.

     “Three, four, five,” Lucas said. A white cow appeared from under the bed, a grey cow flew out of the attic trap door in the ceiling and a black one with white markings walked out from behind a cloud on the wallpaper.

     “Six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleventy-seven,” Lucas said. He knew there was no such number as eleventy-seven, but it sounded funny and he wanted to see what would happen.

     The fact of the matter was, Lucas was wrong. There is such a number as eleventy-seven and that’s how many cows appeared, all at once.

     Quick as a flash, there were cows everywhere. Big cows, little cows, fat cows, skinny

cows, black cows, brown cows, Guernsey’s, Herefords, Holsteins andJerseysthat jumped and leaped and mooed and milled and filled up the whole room.

     Lucas began to panic. He was surrounded by cows. The smell was just awful. Like when they drove past farms in the country and had to roll up all the car windows and pinch shut their noses. He would never be able to get to sleep with all those stinky cows crowding him.

   “Go away,” Lucas yelled, pushing away one particularly curious cow who was licking his cheek. Lucas gagged as he wiped the thick, slimy cow spit off his face.

     The cows left, but not the way they had come. They rose up on their hind legs, formed a conga line and danced their way out his bedroom door and down the hallway.

     “That’s not what I meant,” Lucas called as he raced after them. In the living room cows filled every nook and cranny. There were cows on the couch, cows behind the curtains, cows watching TV and cows listening to CD’s. Lucas watched in horror as one cow began nibbling on the leaves of Mom’s favorite ficus tree.

     Beyond the living room, a group of cows sat at the dining room table playing cards. Another cow, an aspiring acrobat apparently, swung from the chandelier. Lucas pushed through the herd in the living room to order that cow off the ceiling before the chandelier came crashing down, but forgot all about it as he reached the dining room doorway and spied what was happening in the kitchen.

     Several animals were fixing a beast feast for all their hungry sisters. One cow was preparing a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, onions and peppers, while another was pouring a pitcher of lemonade into Mom’s good crystal glasses. A third cow was mixing up a cake in the big silver batter bowl.

     The barnyard stench of all those animals was making Lucas nauseated and he had to get some air before he passed out or threw up.  The closest exit was the back door.

     Lucas got down on all fours and crawled through the kitchen, under and between the cows, being careful not to get kicked or stepped on. When he got to the back door, he swung it open and stepped out onto the stoop.

   “Oh, no,” Lucas groaned. Some of the cows had made it outside. There were cows playing frisbee, cows skateboarding down the driveway and cows shooting hoops. There were even cows moonbathing in silly straw hats and sunglasses as they kicked back on the lawn furniture, tanning their udders.

     This whole mess was his fault. Why had he said that stupid number anyway?

     “Eleventy-seven,” Lucas muttered. As soon as the number was out of his mouth, the backyard cows froze in place. Then, one by one, they dropped their Frisbees and basketballs, got off their skateboards and tossed away their silly straw hats and sunglasses. They all started back for the kitchen door.

     Lucas jumped aside as they pushed past him into the kitchen. He zipped around the side of the house, stepped through the rose bushes and poked his head through his bedroom window. Cows of evety color, shape and size were filing back into his room and leaving as fast as they had arrived. Lucas jerked back just in time as cows caine sailing out his bedroom window and soared up into the sky till they were nothing more than tiny black specks against the moon.

     Once the initial stampede was over,Tylerclimbed through the window. Eleventy-seven down, ten to go, he told himself.

     Lucas climbed into bed and began the countdown.

     “Ten,” he said and a hugeHerefordstrolled in and walked into the wallpaper, turned and slipped out of view behind a cloud.

     “Nine.” A black one bolted in and raced up the ladder to the attic.

     “Eight.” A greyGuernseyappeared in the doorway, stood up on her hind legs and limboed under his bed.

     “Seven,” Lucas mumbled, closing his eyes. He felt the bed quiver as some other cow came in and did its disappearing act.

     “Six,” Lucas said, exhausted from all the excitement. Maybe counting cows was a good way to get to sleep after all.

     “Five, four, three,” Lucas whispered, almost asleep. As if from far away, he heard a mooing as several more cows appeared in his doorway and made their grand exits.

     “Two,” Lucas mumbled.. .and fell fast asleep.

     When Lucas woke up the next morning, he stretched and smiled, remembering his cow dream. When he got the bathroom to brush his teeth before breakfast, though, he had a big surprise.

     There was Number One, the brown cow, stuffed into the bathtub scrubbing her back with a loofa sponge.

     “One,” Lucas said.

     The cow got out of the tub, toweled herself dry and went down the hail to Lucas’s room. Lucas followed her and stood at his bedroom door as she walked slowly around his bed and stopped in front of the closet. She turned her head and nodded at Lucas as he waved, then strolled into the closet and was gone.

     “So, did counting cows put you to sleep?” Dad asked later, during breakfast.

     “Worked like a charm,” Lucas replied.

      Mom and Dad exchanged a puzzled look when Lucas insisted on eating his cereal dry. Somehow, that morning, he just wasn’t in the mood for milk.

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