Dirt Mouth

I was living in the perfect city. The two-leggers who called it home with their “I heart Oregon” and “Diver Down” bumper stickers were a bunch of crumb-dropping couch hogs who couldn’t catch me even if they doubled up the batteries in their electric scooters. When it was mealtime I’d head to the nearest supermarket parking lot and pick myself out a nice fat shopper who looked the sort to barbeque year round. They were easy to smell with the scent of animal fat glistening from their pores and they left a stink trail even a puppy could follow in a downpour. I’d watch them go in and then wait for them to come out carrying my dinner. On their way back to their car, I’d tear into the plastic bags and spill their contents across the parking lot, then grab whatever meat they’d planned on grilling that evening.

It was easy pickings. I’d score chicken twenty packs and gorge on drumsticks and thighs, family steak packs that would make me sleep for a day. In summertime I would score sausages galore. In fact I was getting fat just like the tubby two-leggers who were supplying me the goods. I was smart about it. I never hit the same store twice in a row or at the same time of day. I was unpredictable and spread my scores amongst ten or more big chain stores so they never knew when I’d hit them, but eventually enough of the poor sport customers complained and most of the stores hired security guards to keep an eye on things in the parking lot. Calling them security was being kind. They wore their ill-fitting uniforms down low on their hips like gangbangers imitating prison inmates, sported tattoos above the collar and had stretchers in their ears. The acne on their faces said they were straight out of high school or the GED equivalent and dog did they love to talk on their cell phones. They’d sit in their third-hand cars in the remotest part of the parking lot, smoking cigarettes or getting high, and gab and gab on their phones.

“Whatcha doin’, bro?”

“Sittin’ in my car at work, ’bout to burn one.”

“Way cool, dude.”

Can you imagine if us dogs used cell phones, had little bluetooths jammed in our ears? The conversations wouldn’t be long. It’s hard to talk and sniff the hydrant at the same time, and beside, the hydrant can tell me a lot more than any conversation could. But then again there are some neurotic types who, like you two-leggers, would give you a step-by-step accounting of the minutia in their lives because they’d be afraid to hang up and break the illusion that they were not alone.

Two dogs at the dog park doing the usual ass sniffing in greeting when one of their cells rings.

“Hold that ass right there, I gotta take this.”

Not much different than two kids doing homework. While in the middle of power hitting the bong, one of their cell phones rings. “Oops, it’s my dad, better take this.”

If we misplaced them we wouldn’t have much difficulty sniffing them out, but they’re anathema to who we are. You two-leggers like to do a lot of things at once and give it an important sounding name like multitasking to cover the fact that you’re just doing a lot of things crappily, but us dogs don’t multitask. When I pee on a tree, that’s what I’m doing. I’m not shitting on the toilet, eating a Baby Ruth and smoking a light while talking to my girlfriend on my cell about the new pink sneakers she just bought at Target.

When it was clear the security guys’ efforts were inept because, let’s face it, it’s hard to give chase with your pants sliding down your ass, it somehow became big news on the local television station. I was enjoying the stupidity of a Friskies commercial on a TV in a department store window when Mr. Happy News Anchor came on with a human interest story about how the city was becoming overrun with starving feral dogs who attacked people in supermarket lots for their Twinkies. I guess my efforts to spread my work around had been a bigger success than I realized because this town had the fewest free dogs of any I’d been in. Rarely did I see a dog that wasn’t chained to a two hundred-pound-plus ball of blubber, and no one was starving. They were pampered and fat like the two-leggers they were tethered to. Like I said, even I was getting fat in this town and I was doing all the thieving and running. And Twinkies.… Let’s just say I ate one once and that was all it took. Never again.

Then Mr. Happy gave a guilt trip about people abandoning their pets on account of the economy. Oh dog, what evil people they were to set free pets who might now have to fend for themselves. Too bad it wasn’t true because it would be good for them to rediscover what it meant to be a dog. They’d given up their natural state of running free and sniffing and pissing on everything, and for what? A bowl of the same dry kibble day after day. The monotony of it was mind numbing. The day the first dog started scrounging at the garbage pits of primitive man was the day we put our nose up at our true destiny. Two-leggers should be eating the kibble, not us. In fact, sometimes I think we should be eating the two-leggers, though I doubt all that fat would be good for us.

It was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. The politicians saw an angle for cheap votes and got involved, making life miserable for everyone with their quick fix schemes, including myself. They hired more dog catchers, and they weren’t as stupid as my security guard multitaskers, and since the city wasn’t actually overrun with crazed feral dogs, they were really only after me. The odds were stacked against me and it wasn’t long before I found myself behind Safeway in a Mexican standoff with three of the county’s finest waving their dog catcher hoops at my head trying to get their nooses around my neck.

“Ten bucks to the first one who gets him?” one of the bastards said.

The other two bastards agreed and doubled their efforts.

I made a break for it but one of the nooses got me and once it tightened up and I began to choke there wasn’t any point in fighting and making it worse. Most dogs panic at this point, but not me, I’d been through the system before, an ex-con incarcerated for being free. Once you were caught survival didn’t depend on physical force but on mind games. If I wanted to get out alive from where they were taking me, I had to become the sweetest, kindest, easiest-going dog in the pound. I had to be that special dog the visiting two-leggers who were in search of last chance love wanted to share their chili with. So that is what I did.

On my second day of incarceration, a family of wide loads waddled in smelling of last night’s meat stew and MSG and I knew they were the ones right away. The stains on Junior’s T-shirt were fresh enough to lick and I did just that as I turned on the puppy dog charm. They didn’t really have much choice but to bail me out. Even the spinster at the counter processing the papers for my discharge was telling them some malarkey about how sweet it was when the dog chose its new family.

“He’s a really smart dog,” she said, leading me out from behind the counter on a slip leash. I love slip leashes. “He sure lit up when he saw all of you. Like he knew you were coming.”

She got that right.

We left the building and started walking toward a full-size van in the parking lot. No minivan for these folks. Junior was a little fatty about ten or twelve and it looked like I was to be his dog. He started calling me Sparky, like that’s any name for a dog, and tugging on that slip leash. Slip leashes only work as long as you pull on them. If you slacken the leash and shake real hard, they’ll loosen up enough for you to back out of them, and that was what I did. I stopped walking and the leash went slack and I started to shake it loose but before I could slip free, Junior tightened up on it. If I didn’t get free now it would only become harder once they got me to their home and into a new form of prison lockdown. There’s be fences and doors and probably a choke collar. I had no choice but to bite the kid. I went for his shin and clipped it just hard enough to start the kid’s waterworks so he’d drop the leash. He did and I darted out of reach. Mom and Dad stared at me in shock, too stunned to react.

“What are you looking at? I ain’t gonna live in your gilded cage binging on chili and ice cream until I’m so fat my hips give out on me and then you euthanize me because I’ve become too much of a bother. No, fuck that. That’s not who I am. My name is Dirt Mouth, not Sparky, and I’ll do whatever whenever I want.”

They all stood there slack jawed wondering if they’d really heard what they’d heard and I took off running. This town had become too hot. I’d ruined a perfectly good setup by being too clever. So as I migrated north I contemplated the art of begging as apposed to stealing and wondered if I had it in me to beg for food out front of Safeway. I didn’t wonder about it for too long; the quick heist was in my blood.

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