The weather forecast calls for lots of rain, a good time to fertilize the bamboo plants in the backyard that Fleegle like to lounge under so much. The rain breaks down the fertilizer and it begins working its way through the soil to the plants’ roots. But there’s another reason why I wait for rain before I fertilize.
Fleegle follows me from plant to plant as I pour the gray granules around the base of each plant. He’s pretending to supervise, but I know better. He’s making note of where I’ve poured the fertilizer so that he can come back later when I’m not around and eat it. It stinks like the fish it’s made from and until that scent is washed into the ground, he’s drawn to it every time he goes outside. This is the real reason why I only fertilize before a rain storm, and why anything I put in the backyard has to be safe for animals.
When I finish, we go inside and I slide the panel into his dog door that keeps it closed. Seeing this, Fleegle tilts his head to the side and with his eyes open so wide the whites show all around his eyes, asks, “What are you doing?”
I give him a sly look. “Closing your dog door.”
“I see that, but why?”
“So you don’t go outside and eat the fertilizer. I’m not stupid. I know that’s what you’re planning.”
He crosses his back legs. “But I have to pee.”
“No you don’t.”
“How many bottles of carpet cleaner do you want to bet?”
“If you have to go, just scratch on the glass of the patio door like you learned to do as a puppy. I’ll escort you out and keep you company. It’ll be like the old days.”
He hangs his head in a sulk. “But I’m not a puppy.”
That evening the rain comes but the fertilizer doesn’t dissolve as fast as I’d hoped. Instead the entire backyard smells like fish and before I know it, Fleegle is feigning sniffing for a spot to pee while secretly licking at the dirt around the base of one of the bamboo plants.
“Oye, fish-breath, pee or come in, but stop licking the fertilizer.”
He trots toward me. “If you’re going to treat me like a puppy, do I at least get a biscuit for peeing outside.”
“No, but I’ll give you a biscuit for every time you’re outside that you don’t eat the fertilizer.”
He nose bumps my hand. “How about a biscuit for every time you don’t catch me eating it?”
“You do realize that asking that only makes me watch you like a hawk?”
“I’m a pretty big mouse. Good luck getting me off the ground.”
* * *
The following morning when I wake and open my eyes, I’m greeted with the unnerving sight of Fleegle’s big head hovering over my face staring down at me. “Thank all that is stinky,” he says. “You’re awake. It was touch and go there for a while.”
Looking up at his big droopy face, I ask, “What are you doing?”
“I was monitoring your breathing while you slept.”
“My dog door is locked.”
“I’m locked inside, and if you didn’t wake up I would starve.”
“And that made you monitor my breathing?”
“I was really worried there for a while. Your breathing got so shallow and quiet, I thought you had stopped breathing all together and would never wake up. I could feel the hunger pains gnawing away at my insides, but then I realized that if you were dead I could eat you, and the hunger pains went away.”
“And the drooling commenced,” I say and push his head away to avoid being drooled on.
“If it weren’t for the drool, I doubt you would’ve started breathing again.”
I become aware of the drool on my forehead and wipe it off. “Well Fleegle, if I die in my sleep and the dog door is locked, you have my permission to eat me.”
His tail wags. “Oh good. Now I won’t feel so bad about doing it.” He continues to stare at me.
“Why are you still staring? What else?”
“Well, do you think you could start leaving the mayonnaise out on the counter at night? And a few of those plastic packets of ketchup too? You know, just in case.”