The Dog That Talked – Episode One – Mayonnaise & Tuna

It’s Monday. I sit on a park bench across from the restaurant where the guy I’m following has gone inside for lunch. I sink my teeth into my sandwich, a foot-long Italian I got at the corner deli, when a mellow, slightly slurred voice says from behind me, “That sure is a big sandwich, one of the biggest I’ve seen yet.”

Portland has a transient problem. Following my guy through the Southwest Park Blocks was a begathon of the homeless asking for spare change, but not my dimes and quarters. One got snarky when I offered him that. He wanted nothing less than a fiver.

I don’t normally spend my afternoons following people, but I got a call last night from an old girlfriend I hadn’t spoken to since I shot the photos for her wedding. As Eva and I small-talked on the phone, I did the math. It had been seven years since their wedding and the title of that old Billy Wilder movie, The Seven Year Itch, popped into my head.

I’ve never been very good at the long-term relationship thing. I must have ADD when it comes to relationships. How do people do it? How do they keep it interesting? After years together don’t they wonder what it would be like to be with someone else? Or considering how much we base our identity on who we are with, do they ever daydream of being someone else? Seven years seems to be as good a time for that as any. But for me and my attention span, seven years would be poison ivy from hell.

Eva was calling about her husband, Stan. She was worried about him. “Call it what you will, women’s intuition, but I know something is up with him. He’s acting odd. He’s not himself. I think he’s up to something.” She still had that soft voice I remembered from our time together that sounded kind even when she was voicing her suspicions, a trait I don’t remember her having. I guess people change.

“And you think he’s stepping out on you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“I appreciate the chance to catch up, Eva, but why call me with this? Isn’t this what you talk about with a girlfriend?”

“Actually, I’ve hashed it out a lot.” She cleared her throat, paused for a moment, then rushed on. “It’s like this. I could ask Stan to his face and he’d deny anything and everything. You never got to know him but that’s how he is, at least that’s how he is now, not so much back when we married. I need proof that he’s stepping out. Hard proof. That or to know what’s making him act weird. And then I thought of you. You’re handy with a camera, you can get me that proof. I can put it in his face and say, hey, what’s up with this?”

I had learned to keep my nose out of other people’s business. “It sounds cheesy but wouldn’t a private investigator be better suited for this? Someone with experience?”

“A stranger? Ugh.” She pauses and I picture her scrunching up her face in distaste. “Look, Dixon, you and I haven’t kept in touch but we remained friends after we dated and I always respected your honesty.”

I laughed. “Not everyone feels that way.”

“That’s their loss. I’m not asking you for a freebie. I can pay you. Come on, what else do you have going during the week? It’s not like a lot of people get married on a Monday or Tuesday and need a photographer.”

She had a point; business had been slow. Not a lot of Millennials were getting married so they could start a family in their parents’ basement. Besides, being asked to look into someone’s personal business was different than just sticking my nose in it. “What do you want me to do exactly?”

“Just follow him around and take some photos if gets up to anything, especially during and after lunch. If he’s up to anything it’s then.”

“Why do you say that?”

“His phone habits. He’s hard to reach during that time, he never picks up, and it’s a while before he calls back. Plus, he’s around someone with a cat. I’ve seen the hair on his clothes. I know lots of women with cats but very few men.”

My imagination ran with the intimate details of their failing marriage. We settled on a daily rate, she gave me the pertinent info on where they lived and where Stan worked, and I told her I’d get back to her.

*   *   *

I can see Stan through the restaurant window as I chew my sandwich.

“That mayonnaise sure does smell good,” the guy behind me slurs.

I don’t turn around to look. Acknowledging him will just encourage him to hang around. His slurred speech paints enough of a mental picture of who is behind me and where this is going. I don’t want to see him and endanger my appetite. Though it’s curious the drunk has asked about my sandwich because they usually just want cash to buy more fortified wine. Who eats when they can get juiced?

The drunk slurps as he smacks his lips. “Are you going to eat all of it? That’s a lot of sandwich, even for a big guy like you.” Continue reading “The Dog That Talked – Episode One – Mayonnaise & Tuna”

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Feeding Hollywood

While on the couch watching a Battlestar Galactica rerun, Fleegle asks, “So the people on television are not who they say they are?”

“No, they’re actors,” I say. “They’re reading lines they’ve memorized that were made up by the writers about imaginary people.”

“Does that mean if I become an actor I’ll get to fly a spaceship? I want to fly a spaceship.”

“No, they’re sitting in front of a green screen when this is shot. Someone else puts the spaceship around them later.”

“So they’re just sitting there in a couple of vinyl recliners like you and me while someone else does all of the imagining for them?”

“Well, they do read the lines,” I say.

“And they make facial expressions,” Franny says from her end of the couch. “Those two look really skinny, I bet they’re super hungry. Maybe the writers should’ve written something into the script about binging on space food. It might be the only way to get the actors to eat. I bet the writers do all of their writing in their kitchen within an arm’s length of their fridge.”

“Why do you think that?” Fleegle asks.

“Well, are you thinking about sharing when you have a mouthful of food? I don’t think so. I think these writers just don’t want to share any of their food with their characters so they starve them.”

Fleegle gets off the couch and sniffs the actors on the television screen. “They don’t smell so good. Raud, I think they need our help. Why don’t we move the television into the kitchen and try to feed them.”

Franny wags her tail. “Yeah, you could put the television on top of the refrigerator and you could throw food at their mouths when they’re talking. Some of it is bound to get in.”

I shake my head. “The couch goes wherever the TV goes and it won’t fit in the kitchen.”

“Ah yes,” Fleegle says, “but the fridge will fit in the living room.”

“Yeah, right next to the couch. And you’d only have to move one thing that way instead of two,” Franny says and jerks her chin at the screen. “Look at her skinny arms. Do you think she ate at all last week? At the rate she’s wasting away, she may not be around for next week’s episode.”

Fleegle struts in front of the couch. “We need to move on this fast, Raud, and start throwing food at her. She’s my favorite character.”

“Is that so. Then what’s her name?”

“Um… The hungry one?”

I get up from the couch. “Okay, but she’s only getting popcorn. We don’t want to overfeed her. She might go into shock from too many calories.”

Fleegle tilts his head at me. “But that’s popcorn with melted butter, right?”

“And salt,” Franny adds.

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – Therapy

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy

Therapy

Out in the yard while doing waste cleanup, I spot Fleegle chomping on something. “Fleegle, what are you eating?”

He looks up at me and continues to chew. “Well, a few days ago it was Franny’s kibble with a few biscuits mixed in for tricks well done.”

“What do you mean ‘a few days ago’?”

“Raud, you’re usually quicker than this. What I mean by ‘a few days ago’ is that now, today, sitting on the lawn, duh, it’s poop.”

“Fleegle, don’t you eat that.”

“Just because it doesn’t look like kibble and biscuits anymore doesn’t mean it isn’t. It still is, but with Franny’s personal stamp on it. I could say that about half the things you eat.”

“I don’t eat poop.”

“How would you know you? You haven’t smelled your food like I have. Remember that my nose is so sensitive I can smell a mouse fart under the house. It’s not like Snickers or whoever are going to be honest about the ingredients in your candy bar and actually put rat droppings on the ingredient list.”

*   *   *

Fleegle and I get in the car.

“Why isn’t Franny coming with us?” Fleegle asks.

“Because she doesn’t need therapy.”

“You’re getting therapy? That’s good, Raud. I’ve thought you could use some of that for a long time. What kind of therapy are you getting? My favorite is massage therapy.”

“Not me, you.”

“I’m getting massage therapy? Oh goody.”

“No, you’re getting psychological therapy.”

“They have those kind of therapists for dogs?”

“Well, sort of. I found the next closest thing.”

“Why do I need therapy and not you and Franny? If anyone needs therapy it’s the two of you. Maybe this is a case of displacement and you’re taking me to therapy because deep down you know you’re the one who needs it most?”

“I’m not the one eating poop.”

“You’re taking me to a poop therapist?”

“No, I’m taking you to a therapist for eating poop.”

“Why? Does the therapist like to eat poop too?”

*   *   *

We pull into the mini-mall parking lot and find a space close to the building, a single story affair with a row of office fronts.

When I open my door, Fleegle says, “This place smells wonderful. Are you sure this isn’t a poop therapist? That sign in the window is offering two for one coffee enemas until inauguration day.”

There is indeed a sign offering that in the window next to a door labeled, Colon Hydrotherapy. Only in Portland, I think and point to the door next to it. “We’re going in that one. The one that reads animal psychic.”

“The one with the neon tarot card in the window?”

Feeling ridiculous as I get out of the car, I say, “Yes.”

“So the poop therapist, with a freshly caffeinated colon, is a psychic who’s going to predict my future?”

“I want to know if you’re acting out your mommy issues by eating poop.”

“You mean I eat poop because of something in a past life?”

I turn and look at Fleegle. “This is pretty stupid, eh?”

“Maybe you should consult your higher self, but I predict the psychic will forecast poop in the future.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because there is poop in everyone’s future, even the psychic’s. Poop is the backside of life, it’s what gives the universe balance to that burrito joint we passed down the street on the way here. You know, they have a two for one burrito special going on too. Maybe after this we could stop there for lunch on the way home.” He jumps out of the car. “And get one to go for Franny so I can have burritos again in a few days.”

Next Bartering with Biscuits – Feeding Hollywood

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – Pickled

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy

Pickled

I used to go to Starbucks to write until they replaced the comfortable leather chairs and couch with little round tables and hard wood dining chairs. It’s an ingenious way to keep customers from hanging around too long. No one will nod off while their butt s getting sore from sitting. The chairs were the last straw in list of annoyances that led me to dropping Starbucks, though to be fair to them it doesn’t take much to annoy me before I’m properly caffeinated. But not going to Starbucks to write has led me back to what, or I should say, who, led me there in the first place.

Fleegle.

In the summer I sit outside to write while Fleegle entertains himself with chewing on sticks, and now with Franny chewing on him, but with fall temperatures dropping and the rain starting early this year, we’re all inside in my den. I keep the clutter out of my den because when I sit down to write I’m easily distracted by anything, loose books that need to be shelved, dog fur on the floor that needs to be swept, anything that gets me up out of my comfortable leather chair.

I’ve tried to make my den free of distractions, so there is no desktop computer or internet, only an old laptop used to store and play music on, but some distractions can’t be avoided, like the rubber pickle just dropped into my lap.

“Raud, I’d like a refill, please,” Fleegle says.

I pick up the pickle. “Well, since you said please.”

Franny walks into the den. “Oh, cool, Fleegle, you found my pickle.”

He shakes his head. “Nope, that’s my pickle. I still haven’t found yours but you’ll be the first to know when I do, that is, after me, of course.”

Next Bartering with Biscuits – Therapy

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – Inspector Fleegle

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy

Inspector Fleegle

As I sit in my den waiting for Windows to finish updating itself so I can listen to some music on the computer, Fleegle walks slowly into the small room, nose to the ground, sniffing. He does a circle around the edge of the room, then starts to leave.

I’m almost afraid to ask. “Fleegle, what are you up to?”

He stops sniffing and lifts his head at me. “I’m on a very important case.”

“A case?”

“Yes, get your pen out. This is the case of the missing pickle.”

“A pickle is missing?”

“I’ve been hired by a rather young and stupid blonde to find her pickle.”

Franny pokes her head around the door jam. “I am not stupid, inspector biscuit breath. I just can’t find my pickle.”

Fleegle shoves her out of sight with his rear. “As you know, I don’t normally take on such mundane cases that the local constabulary can solve, but this case is quite fascinating because I swear I saw the pickle only moments ago.”

“We are talking about the green rubber pickles I stuff with treats for you guys, right?”

“What other pickles are there?”

“Never mind,” I say, not wanting him to learn of Clausen’s or sweet pickles verses sour pickles. I’ve really gotten hung up in the pickle aisle at the grocery store trying to decide which to buy. Fleegle will want to taste test all of them, and then he’ll learn of relish. Sweet relish, hot dog relish, and that will lead to sauerkraut and kimchi, and I’m afraid what all of that will do to the quality of the air around him.

“So grab your pad and pen, Watson, and start taking notes so you can accurately record the case of ‘Fleegle Holmes and the Missing Pickle’.”

“Umm… Sure thing. I’m right behind you,” I say, not having the heart to tell him it was me who hid the pickle from Franny up on the top of the bookshelf because I was tired of her dropping it in my lap and asking for refills. Three refills is enough for her waistline.

Next Bartering with Biscuits – Pickled

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – Rage

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy

Rage

After a trip to the park, Fleegle asks, “Raud, are your eyes blue?”

“Yes.”

“Does that make you the devil?”

“The devil?”

“The blue eyed devil the angry man at the park was talking about.”

“He was ranting politics.”

“Like you do when you get stuck in traffic.”

“Pretty much.”

“But he wasn’t stuck in traffic. He was in a beautiful park on a dry day surrounded by dogs happy to be out.”

“He was stuck in a political traffic jam inside his head.”

Next Bartering with Biscuits – Inspector Fleegle

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – Crunch

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy