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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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

Chapter 16 – How To Become a Coyote

While visiting a hidden field in Forest Park, Fleegle finds an appealing scent on the ground and commences rolling in it. Knowing his tastes in scents, I call him to me in a vain attempt to stop him from smearing himself in the source of the scent. By the time I get to him, Fleegle is finished with his rolling and is strutting around the field like he is master of all he can see.

Franny emerges from underneath a very large fern on the edge of the field, gives the breeze downwind from Fleegle a sniff and says, “I smell poop, really strange smelly poop.”

Fleegle wags his tail high in the air. “That’s not just any poop. That’s the caviar of poop.”

He struts upwind of me. “Ugh, not coyote poop again. That’s the rankest poop of all. And don’t tell me beauty is in the nose of the sniffer, we’ve had that conversation before.”

Franny tilts her head to the side. “But I thought you ate caviar?”

Stupidly, I say, “You do,” as she ambles over to where Fleegle rolled.

She gives it a sniff, then says, “Well then,” and …

“No, Franny, don’t do that,” I shout to no use.

Fleegle pauses in his tracks. “Boy, why didn’t I think of that? Get the scent from the inside out. It could last for days.”

Next chapter – Invasion

Previous chapter – The Boy Bit Of God

First chapter – The Puppy

Chapter 14 – The Biggest Brain Of Them All

I sit in the backyard half reading a book on dog biology and half watching Fleegle and Franny wrestle in the fresh cut grass. After a while, they tire and start chewing on a long stick, one on either end. Franny is now seven months old and still substantially smaller than Fleegle, especially her head.

I put my book down. “You know, Fleegle, looking at you next to Franny makes me realize just how big your head is. I swear, it’s almost as big as mine.”

Fleegle lets go of the stick. “No, Raud, it’s bigger than yours, especially in the part that counts, my brain. The size of my brain makes yours look like a peanut.”

“Shelled or unshelled?” Franny asks.

I hold the book up in my lap. “This here book about dogs says your brain is the size of a walnut.”

Fleegle tilts his head to the side. “And who wrote this book? A dog?”

“Of course not.”

“Exactly. Just more lies to cover up the biggest lie of them all, that people have more than a peanut for a brain. You’ve heard the saying, ‘victoribus spolia’?”

“Um, no, I haven’t.”

“It’s a Latin quote from Julius Cesar’s dog, Maximus Canis, and it translates as ‘To the victors go the spoils.’”

“Actually, the phrase is attributed to a Jacksonian Democrat in the presidential election of 1828 after Andrew Jackson won the presidency.”

“Which is my point. The winner writes the history books,” he says.

I set my book down again. “So if dogs have such big brains, why are the peanut brains running the world?”

Fleegle shakes his head sadly at me. “Oh, Raud, the peanut brains only think they do. Your brains don’t have the capacity to understand the bigger picture of what’s really going on. You’re just a small part of a vast social experiment us dogs are conducting, but don’t worry, I’ll write up my report on you as favorably as I can.” He licks his lips. I sense a request for a bribe is coming. “Within limits, that is.”

Franny looks over at Fleegle. “So is peanut butter really brain butter from people? I don’t want anymore of that in my Kong if it is.”

Next chapter – The Boy Bits Of God

Previous chapter – Digging

First chapter – The Puppy

Chapter 12 – The Sky Is Falling

I’m greeted at the front door by a wide-eyed Fleegle with his ears pinned back with worry.

“Raud, thank the god of stray people you found your way home. Just before you got here I heard this terribly loud rumble and the ground shook all through the house. I thought the sky had finally begun to fall and was crashing into the driveway. Then just as quickly as it began, it stopped.”

“That was me pulling into the driveway.”

“No it wasn’t. I know the sound of our car from miles away. It sounds nothing like that.”

“I wasn’t driving the Element, I was in the truck. I finally got it running again after sitting in the driveway for five years.”

“We have a truck?”

“Yep, that old Ford F250 from the 70s. I just realized it’s been sitting there broken down longer than you are old.”

“You mean that giant lawn ornament you climb up on to trim the tree next to it? I didn’t know that was ours.”

“That’s the one, but it’s not like it’s sitting on blocks in the middle of the front lawn. It’s been parked in the driveway.”

“With the ivy growing over it,” he says.

“Now I can trim the ivy without climbing under the truck.”

“Uh-ho, you better lock this door, Raud,” Fleegle says, nudging the front door closed behind me with his nose.

“Why?”

“You’ve gone and taken the gnomes home for a spin around the neighborhood. He’s been living in that truck.”

“I’ve done one better than that, I’ve loaded the truck bed up with two cubic yards of Douglas-fir bark dust. I’m finally getting rid of that front lawn.”

“The gnome isn’t going to like that. We better shut and lock all the windows and doors. He could attack any minute. You never know what an angry gnome will do.”

“There are no gnomes in the front yard. There’s nothing out there but a dead lawn.”

“Raud, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not exactly known for your powers of observation.”

Franny ambles down the hallway from the bedroom, yawning. “I just had the strangest dream. I dreamt a little guy with a long beard and a pointy red hat crawled in through the bedroom window.”

Fleegle slow wags his head. “And she ain’t talking about Santa.”

*   *   *

That evening when I climb in bed I feel something very itchy against my legs. I push back the covers to see what it is. “Okay, which one of you tracked in the bark dust?”

Fleegle and Franny exchange a look, then both say to me, “Not us, Raud, it was the gnome.”

Next chapter – Digging

Previous chapter – Truth

First Chapter – The Puppy