The Hydrant

When Arthur arrived at the cafe, the hostess seated him outside on the sidewalk patio at his favorite table right in the midst of the diners where the people watching was best. He ordered a glass of wine, not because he liked it but because he didn’t. It would last a long time and he didn’t want to get drunk, not tonight, not with what he’d learned this morning.

The middle-aged couple on his right were discussing current events. He eavesdropped for a bit but they were just boringly parroting talking points they’d picked up from television news like something they’d tracked in on their shoes. Besides, Arthur knew all that was just lies fed to the public to keep them engaged enough to be complacent but not so engaged that they started digging for the truth and got mad. You see, Arthur had found the perfect source for news, one that never lied and was honest to a fault.

A month or so ago at the beginning of spring, he had been weeding around the fire hydrant in his front yard by the curb when he was struck by an odd smell. As he sniffed the air trying to identify it, he started to hear voices in his head and see images in his mind’s eye, as if he was watching other people’s memories, but then he started hearing even stranger voices commenting on what he was hearing and seeing. There he was on all fours, sniffing the air next to the fire hydrant, and he felt like he was watching a show next to someone who was giving a running commentary on what they were watching.

Continue reading “The Hydrant”

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”

Negotiating with Cookies – Talking About Talking

While sitting in the backyard on a sunny afternoon, Fleegle drops his slobber covered tennis ball in my lap for the umpteenth time. I pick up the ball with two fingers and toss it to him. “Fleegle, you know how you’ve been asking me about getting a puppy?”

He catches the ball but spits it out. “Oh boy, are we getting one today? Let’s go,” he says, his front paws bouncing on the ground.

“Well, I’ve decided it might be time to start to actually give the idea some real thought,” I say calmly.

He stops bouncing. “Huh? As opposed to the fake thought you already started giving it?”

“Um, yes.”

“So we’re not going today to get a puppy, but today you’re going to start thinking about getting a puppy? This is like when the guys on the car radio start talking about what they’re going to talk about. I thought you hated that.”

“I do. It drives me crazy. They spend more time talking about what they’re going to talk about than about it itself. It’s totally boring. Like they tell me all about the weather report they’re going to give at the top of the hour and in the time they take to tell me that, they could’ve just given me the weather report.”

Fleegle nose bumps the ball toward me. “So you want to start thinking about what you’re going to do instead of just doing it?”

“This is different.”

“Maybe to someone who is brainwashed by listening all day to people talk about what they’re going to talk about, but not to someone who does things when he wants to do them and doesn’t need to think about it first, let alone talk about it first.”

I pick up the ball and toss it. He catches it in the air. “This coming from a dog that would jump out a second story window after a ball.”

He spits the ball out in my lap. “I would not.”

“There’s a reason we live in a one story house, and that’s because I thought about it first.”

“But what if there was a swimming pool below that second story window. Think of all the fun to be had there.”

I toss the ball for Fleegle to catch, but he doesn’t move and it bounces on the ground behind him and rolls to a stop. “Raud, I think it’s time I give it some real thought about going and retrieving that tennis ball, but first let’s sit down and discuss it, let’s talk about what we’re going to say about the ball and the fetching of the ball.”


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Negotiating with Cookies – A Request for Mayonnaise

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.”


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Negotiating with Cookies – Take-Out

Fleegle and I are in the car on our way to our first dog walking appointment when Fleegle says, “Raud, the Seaweed Men came again last night.”

“The who?”

“I call them the Seaweed Men because they smell like seaweed, but they don’t really look like men, more like children with really big hairless heads.”

“You must’ve been dreaming, and we both know how weird your dreams can be.”

“Nope, I wasn’t dreaming. I was wide awake, though I couldn’t move. I never can when the Seaweed Men show up, can’t even bark to wake you up.”

I stop the car for a red light. “What do these Seaweed Men do?”

“Oh, they usually float you through a hole in the bedroom ceiling and you’re gone for a few hours.”

“But there isn’t a hole in the bedroom ceiling.”

“I know that and you know that, but they don’t. If they want a hole there, there’s a hole.”

“I think I’d remember any nighttime excursions that involved levitations and passing through ceilings.” The light turns green and I step on the gas.

“Nah, you sleep through it every time.”

“Every time? How long have these Seaweed Men been coming?”

“As long as I can remember?”

“That’s at least three years and you’re just telling me now?”

“They didn’t ask me not to this time.”

“I see.”

“I think they just forgot. But don’t worry about it, they always bring you back.” He stands up in his seat and wags his tail. “Is it time for my lunch yet? I could really go for some California rolls right about now, with an extra wrap of seaweed, how about you?”


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Previous Negotiating with Cookies – Fleegle Cures Laziness

Negotiating with Cookies – Fleegle Cures Laziness

While I’m lazing in bed late Saturday morning, Fleegle ambles into the bedroom and over to my side of the bed. “Raud, there’s a poop in the living room.”

My eyes pop open. I’m wide awake now. I deal with enough poop outside that the thought of it being inside too sets my mind alight like a 4th of July sparkler. “What do you mean there’s a poop in the living room? Did you poop in the living room? Are you ill?”

“No, I didn’t poop in the living room.”

“Why would you do that? You’re dog door is open and the yard has lots of prime locations for private pooping for poop shy dogs like you.”

Fleegle shakes his head. “It’s not my poop.”

I push the comforter aside and sit up. “It’s not? Well it certainly isn’t mine if that’s what you’re implying.”

“Are you going to get up and take a look? It could be staining the rug?”

“It’s on the rug? You’re damn right I’m getting up to take a look.” I throw my feet over the side of the bed. “Who’s been pooping on my rug?”

Lickety-split, I’m up, down the hall and in the living room in. I scan the rug, looking for the offensive waste product, and there it is, the size of a pine cone sitting under the coffee table. I move in for a closer look, and as I do I realize that’s what it is, a pine cone. How could Fleegle miss that? I look around, expecting him to be standing behind me, but he’s nowhere to be seen. I pick up the cone and carry it through the kitchen to the patio door, where I see Fleegle sitting next to the storage bin that holds his kibble.

I open the patio door and toss the pine cone out into the bamboo. “It wasn’t poop, Fleegle. It was a pine cone.”

“Oh, really? It sure had me fooled, but now that you’re up, do you think you could feed me my breakfast?”


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