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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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

Crunch

Hearing something go crunch in Franny’s mouth, I ask, “Franny, what are you chewing on?”

“I dunno. It’s hard on the outside, gooey on the inside and kid of bitter tasting. A nut, maybe.”

I reach into her mouth and pull out a half chewed plastic pen. “Hey, don’t chew on my pens. I need those.”

“But Fleegle said I should try chewing on it. He really likes it.”

Fleegle looks up from his nap. “Plastic provides a very satisfying crunch that’s hard to find elsewhere.”

I toss what’s left of the pen in the garbage. “Maybe so, but then you swallow bits of it and end up puking it on the bed at three in the morning.”

“We don’t need plastic for that, Raud. A bit of swallowed stick is just as good for a late night puke.”

“You say that as if all of those 2am throw ups were planned.”

“Best alarm clock I know of. No fading batteries required, no fear of power outages.”

Franny looks at me, black ink staining her blond snout. “But why can’t I chew on them? I haven’t seen you touch them in weeks and suddenly they’re super important. What are they for?”

“I use them to write short vignettes about Fleegle’s dog adventures.”

Fleegle wags his tail. “Does that make you Watson to my Holmes?”

Franny shakes her head. “I’m not going to be Mrs. Hudson.”

Next Bartering with Biscuits – Rage

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – Mr. Pillow

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy

Dirt

“Franny, don’t eat that,” I say.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s dirt.”

“So?”

“Dogs aren’t supposed to eat dirt.”

“How would you know that? You’re not a dog.”

“Thank god for that or I’d have to floss the dirt out of my teeth every night before bed.”

Fleegle sniffs the dirt pile Franny has been eating. “He probably read it on one of his books on dogs.”

Franny’s tongue is dark brown with dirt. “Another book written by a two-legger.”

Dirt crumbs stick to Fleegle’s nose. “A two-legger who wishes he were a dog.”

“Yea, so he could eat dirt without being picked on by the other two-leggers,” Franny says and picks up another clod of dirt in her mouth. She looks at me. “Want some? Fleegle’s teaching me to share.”

Next Bartering with Biscuits – The Princess

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – Sharing the Canine Way

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy

Sharing the Canine Way

“Are you going to eat all of that?” Fleegle asks as I bite into my sandwich.

Franny drools at his side. “Yea, that’s a lot of sandwich for one dog.”

“I’m not a dog,” I slur around my mouthful of sandwich.

“You sure smell like one,” Franny says.

“And I wonder why that is,” I say. “Living with two shedders.”

“We’re getting off topic,” Fleegle says, also drooling. “Back to the subject at hand. Are you sure you’re going to eat all of that sandwich?”

I nod as I chew.

Fleegle shakes his head with disappointment. “Didn’t they teach you to share when you were little?”

Franny cocks her head to the side. “He used to be little?”

“He claims he was once long ago.”

“If he was little we could just take that sandwich away from him,” she says. “Teach him to share the canine way.”

Fleegle tilts his head at her. “But that’s not how I taught you to share.”

“It isn’t? I take your sticks from you all of the time. Isn’t that you sharing?”

“I drop the sticks to stop you from biting my back leg.”

“Oh, and I thought you were sharing.”

Next Bartering with Biscuits – Dirt

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – How Honest Can a Butt Wiggle Be?

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy

How Honest Can a Butt Wiggle Be?

I arrive home from a trip to the paint store after leaving Fleegle and Franny at home because it’s too hot of a day for them to wait in the car while I wait for the store clerk to mixes the paint and we all know how long that can take. I slide my house key into the front door lock, expecting to hear the patter of paws on the other side but there’s nothing. I turn the key and open the door, but there is no one there to greet me. Beginning to worry, I go inside and into the living room where I find Fleegle and Franny stretched out on the couch.

Franny barely lifts her head to look at Fleegle. “I told you it was him.”

Fleegle doesn’t even bother to lift his head to speak, he just mumbles, “Duh, who else would it be?”

I put down my freshly mixed gallon of paint. “What? No greeting at the door? No, hi Raud, we’re so happy you’re back? Not even a surly remark about how surprised you are that I found my way home without you.”

Moving only her eyes to look at Fleegle, Franny says, “He’s very needy, isn’t he?”

“Tell me about it,” Fleegle mumbles. “He needs a lot of reassurance that he’s loved. I think I’m too tired to do that today.”

Franny rolls onto her back. “You’d think the fact that we haven’t eaten him in his sleep would be enough.”

“Never underestimate Raud’s emotional neediness. It can make him really thin skinned sometimes. But you know, he did say we could eat him if he dies in his sleep and we run out of kibble.”

Franny’s ears perk up as she moves into a sitting position. “He did?”

“Yep.”

“Well then…” She jumps off the couch and comes over to me, tail wagging. “I’m really glad to se you, Raud. So glad you made it home.”

I put my hands on my hips. “You know, I’m not feeling the sincerity.”

She puts a bit more butt wiggle in her tail wagging. “How’s that?”

I reach down and pat her side. “Better.”

Fleegle sits up. “Raud, why don’t you try again like we do when we practice your sit-stay training. Go outside and come back in, and have a couple biscuits ready for us when we greet you at the door.”

Next Bartering with Biscuits – Sharing the Canine Way

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – Fleegle’s Bed

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy