I’m woken in the middle of the night by a brilliant light streaming through the bedroom blinds. The light shakes as if its source is from a police helicopter spotlight, but I don’t hear a helicopter or anything else. I get out of bed, lift one of the slats in the blinds and just as I look out, the light snaps off. I hope the rear neighbors haven’t gotten themselves a new freakishly bright porch light. The one they have now is pushing it. I don’t see anything out there but the bamboo in the yard has grown so much anything could be back there, even a small car.
“What are you looking at?” Fleegle asks, appearing at my side. “Are the squirrels rioting? I want the squirrels to riot. I riot of squirrels in my yard would be fun.”
“No, the squirrels are asleep. It was some sort of light shining through the window.”
Fleegle’s hackles get ruffled. “Intruders?”
I reach for the baseball bat leaning in the corner by the nightstand.
Fleegle’s hackles smooth out and his tail starts to wag. “Oh, you think they’re here to play ball? I’ll get my ball that glows in the dark. It’s under the bed with the dust bunnies and tumbleweeds of fur.”
Without turning on any lights, I head down the dark hall to the kitchen, followed by a disembodied glowing green orb and the clickity-clack of dog nails that need to be trimmed. I slide open the kitchen patio door and step out under the metal awning. The source of the light is much dimmer now, but parked on the lawn I just mowed yesterday is a flying saucer the size of a smart car. It’s round and sleek, with an illuminated glass dome on top, and inside the dome are what looks like two dogs staring at us.
Fleegle drops his ball. “That doesn’t look like a car.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“But I’m sure those dogs inside it will play ball if you still want to. They look like Labs. But I wonder where their driver went.”
The clear dome on top of the saucer begins to open and out jumps one of the dogs. He looks like a smaller version of Fleegle, a stunted Labrador Retriever, and approaches us somewhat hesitantly. His fur shimmers sleekly in the light from the dome, as if he put too much hair gel in his fur this morning.
“Do you mind putting your pet on a leash,” the shimmering dog says. “My friend over there had a bad encounter with one of them and won’t leave the ship until you do.”
I’m flabbergasted that this strange shiny dog can speak, having thought Fleegle was the only dog who could, but then I realize he’s not addressing me, but Fleegle.
Fleegle nods. “He’s harmless, but I understand. Some of them can be unpredictable, especially with where their feet land when you’re sleeping.” He looks up at me and I swear I think I see him wink. “Raud, go put your leash on, and while you’re at it, get the cookie jar down from the counter and bring it out here. We have guests.”
As I play along, the shiny furred dog whistles and the other dog jumps out of the ship and trots over. “Take us to your leader,” he says, looking equally shiny
As I stand behind Fleegle with the leash and cookie jar in hand, Fleegle glances at me and grins. “That would be me.”
“Finally, someone in charge of the monkeys. That’s a bold move to let them roam free like that. Are they all as obedient to you as this one?”
But before Fleegle can grin and confirm we are, George the rooster struts into the kitchen from Fleegle’s chicken room and lets out one of his deafening cock-a-doodle-doos.
“Run, it’s an ambush,” one dog shouts to the other. “The chickens beat us here.” And both of them skedaddle back to their ship, flick on the brilliant light and rise into the night sky, soon to be just another passing satellite.
Fleegle looks at me and wags his tail. “Well, at least you brought the cookies. I was going to secretly tell you to break one in two and see if they noticed. They didn’t seem very smart to me, but George sorted them out. Dogs afraid of chickens? All George wants to do is groom my fur of bugs. I can’t say he wouldn’t hurt a fly, he’d eat it, but not much more. What kind of world could they live on where they’re afraid of chickens?”
I hand Fleegle half a cookie. “An evil chicken world?”
“Hey, where’s the other half?”
George struts out onto the patio. “Cock-a-doodle-doo,” he says and starts pecking at Fleegle’s cookie crumbs.
Next Negotiating with Cookies: The Morning After