The Dogs have Ears

Character list

 

Chubby Buddy: Tommy’s Dog (with dognitude and dognity) Quote: “Dog is I, and Dog I am.”

 

Tommy Tool: Protagonist

 

Bobby Bastard: Side Kick

 

Restaurant Owner: Senile old man

 

Tool Family: Typical jerk relatives

 

Al: Animal training instructor

 

Chapter I

 

I don’t remember what his name actually was.  His last name was either López or Lee, and his first name was either Roger or Rastah… something to that effect.  For lack of recollection, I’ll just call him Tommy Tool. The name of the the city is not important either. I’m not saying that because I don’t remember it, even though that’s exactly what’s going on, but it really isn’t important anyway.  His story could happen anywhere, as long as we’re talking about your typical metropolitan area with suburbs scattered here and there.

Tommy Tool, like anyone else, faced a major decision after graduating from high school, namely, what to major in when he went to college.  Perhaps his parents also had a hard time remembering his name, because they would always solicit his attention by calling out “hey, stupid!”  When the day finally came for him to choose his major, his parents did not hesitate to offer sage advice: “choose something, stupid. Don’t be stupid.”  Tommy resented having to make a decision, since his family never let him choose anything else in his life. If it was up to him, actually, he wouldn’t go to college.  He had no business there; no interest in going at all. But it was the family mandate that he should go. His parents hadn’t gone themselves, so he must go.  He was the ambassador of the Tool family; the battered flag that symbolized the accomplishments of his kin; the great, dignified horse that carried the carriage of his namesake as the driver bellowed out “keep moving, stupid!”  And he moved, boy, did he move, with the same pace as a herd of sheep.

The student catalog was very daunting.  Nothing in particular caught his interest, so ultimately he decided to major in zoology.  Nobody asked him why, nobody argued; in fact, his parents were quite indifferent. Maybe they just wanted him in college (and out of the house), regardless of his major.  Tommy Tool was actually very relieved. He did finally make a decision, after all. The weight was off his shoulders.

It wasn’t until the first day of class that he realized that his major had to do with animals.  It didn’t matter. The routine was the same. Go to class, turn in the paper, repeat. That was enough to get him the A’s.

The day eventually came when graduation day approached.  He only needed two more classes. He had a few classes to choose from: animal husbandry, equestrianism, a seminar on the exact measurement of goldfish memory retention, etc.  After intense deliberation (this was, after all, the second decision he ever made in his life), he settled for a class on pet training. He had a dog, so he reasoned that if he took the class he would be able to calm him down when his arch nemesis, the mailman, approached the house.  Satisfied that he had made a reasonable decision, he walked into the classroom.

I don’t remember the name of the instructor.  For lack of better words I want to call him the Dog Whisperer, but I’ve been warned that that would be copyright infringement; so I call him Al.  Now Al was quite the character. He wouldn’t get animals to just roll over, he would teach them to do the most spectacular stunts ever. He would just go up to any animal, no matter how rowdy, untrained, and vicious it was, say something by its ear, and the animal would obey.  Dogs danced, cats cried, parrots sang, monkeys lied. There were no limits.

Tommy Tool quickly learned the art of communicating with animals, or at least, how to talk to them (the listening part was hard for him to do).  In his graduation day, he spoke in the commencement speech, saying things like “Now that I hold the power to rule the animal kingdom, you will rue the day that you oppressed animals.  The man shall see what the animal can do to set things right!”  The crowd cheered, but they weren’t paying attention anyway.  Tommy was in his Marxist years, so he felt obligated to say something revolutionary, but no one had really paid attention, least of all his parents.  In fact, after people finished clapping, his parents yelled out, “there! You’re finished already. Get off the stage, stupid!” Tommy sheepishly obeyed.

After graduation it was impossible for Tommy to get a job.  Employers told him that he must have experience before he gets experience, no matter what degree he has, or where he got it from.  They didn’t even give him a chance to demonstrate his skill at imitating the mating call of the Siberian donkey, which was the first thing he had learned in his second semester in college.  Left with no other choice, he turned to a life of crime.

He used his skill in animal communication to instruct raccoons to get gold bars from a bank.  The bars were too heavy, but the raccoons tried with all their might. In fact, some people recorded the raccoons with their smartphones and posted the comical video on social media.  The fat security guard caught up to the animals and returned the bars before they reached Tommy. The authorities noticed a pattern on all the heists that were going on in the city. At that point Tommy settled to stealing snacks at the liquor stores.  He would instruct feral dogs to run in and fetch any snacks they could find. Once he had to give a dog CPR because it had swallowed a chocolate bar. Unmoved by his lifesaving act, the authorities turned Tommy in, but seeing as they could not convict him, as no one in the jury believed he could actually communicate with animals, he was let off the hook, his record perennially stainless.

Thus we are introduced to typical Tommy Tool.

 

Chapter II

 

Tommy Tool was standing by the meat section of the supermarket.  He stared blankly at the packaged pork, steaks, and fishes. He pressed his finger on the plastic wrapping that encased the carcass of a dead animal, and all the while, his heart was filled with a vague sense of agony and sympathy towards the fortune of the creature that may be his lunch.  After a few moments of inner dialogue, he decided that he would buy no meat; partly out of a sudden conviction that he should be vegetarian for the sake of animals, but also, equally important, because he was broke.

He left the store with the same hunger that he walked in with, only intensified.  With a great cry, he spoke in animal, and expressed his misfortune. At this, some pigeons felt sympathy and shared some breadcrumbs with him, of which he did not take notice due to the preoccupations within his mind.

How would he make a living?  No one will hire him with his degree.  No one will hire him without experience.  His parents were not an option for aid, as his pride, whatever he had left, would not allow him to ask for any.

As he walked down the main crossroads of the town, which had more fast food joints that you could count on both hands, the fogginess of his thoughts did not allow him to notice the hot dog costumed gentleman dancing frantically to the song “Born in the U.S.-” actually, for copyright reasons, let’s call it, “Born in Canada.”  The mascot’s hectic promotion of the fast food restaurant gave you the impression of joy, but if you would see the man’s face, looking as though it was struggling to break free of the heavy costume under the summer’s sun, you would notice that he was having the opposite of fun. Tommy mindlessly walked right into him, and the great clash brought them both back to the moment.

As they both stood still from the shock of impact, the lyrics hummed in the background “Born in Ca-na-dah! Born in Ca-na-dah!” The only thing that brought them out of the shock was the realization that they were once classmates.

“Tommy!” Said the walking hot dog.  “Hey! Uh, how are you?” Said Tommy, trying to hide the fact that he did not remember the man’s name.  For that matter, I don’t either. I know it had a B for both the first name and last, so… let’s go with Bobby Bastard.

Tommy and Bobby spent some minutes in small talk, interrupted by Bobby’s boss. “Hey, get back to work!” Said the boss.  “I’m helping a customer, if you don’t mind.”  Said Bobby. The boss gasped, looked straight at Tommy, and apologized, and with great humility, asked him to step inside so as to take his order. “So you’re finally useful for something! If you keep this up and bring a second customer, you get one more hour of work per week.” “Gee thanks, I’ll try to fit all five hours into my schedule, jackass!” Bobby Bastard retorted.

 

Tommy felt a jolt of panic, and said to Bobby in a low voice, “look, man, I’m broke, I’m just- sorry.”  When Bobby heard Tommy’s stomach growling, and all the while noticing the look in Tommy’s face which, a person somewhat proficient in body language would interpret as the look of someone slowly losing an opportunity to have what he needs and wants, with a reassuring tone he said, ” don’t worry, it’s on me, just order and enjoy.”

The inside of the restaurant had no other customers besides Tommy.  The boss was clearly delighted to have at least someone order something, and treated Tommy with more kindness than Tommy was used to or comfortable with, namely, the standard etiquette that you would expect from anyone.  “What will it be? We have hot dogs, chili bean fries, bacon bits with pork sauce…” said the boss. “Well, do you have anything without, um, meat?” Said Tommy.  “Let’s see, we have chicken.”

“Well, I think that counts as meat.”

“Okay, how about fish?”

“You know, I would like a salad.”

“Okay, how much oyster sauce dressing would you like with it.”

“Let’s skip that.”

“Okay, so what was it again? Chicken or fish?  The salad comes with either at no extra cost.”

“I just think plants will do just fine.”

The boss took a few moments to give Tommy a puzzled look.  His natural reaction would be to blurt out: Well if you don’t want fish, or chicken, or cow, or pig, what are you gonna eat?  Come on now!  But he remembered the self-help book he bought to increase business in his restaurant (which his therapist forces him to read as well), and the first line of the book clearly states, “listen first, talk later.”  He took another moment to do what he wasn’t used to doing, taking orders from another person.

With resignation the boss said, “Yes sir, your goddam rabbit food is coming right up.”

He walked into the kitchen, from which Tommy could hear him blurt out “I’m so stupid! The book says to be nice!”  So the boss walked back out of the kitchen and told Tommy, “did I say rabbit food? I meant salad, your salad is coming!  You don’t like to eat rabbits I’m sure, they taste like chicken but they are not, no matter how many times they accuse you of selling fake rabbit meat yet clearly the pet store won’t sell you anymore because…, oh never mind, your salad’s coming!”

“No problem.” Tommy said with a perplexed expression.

When the salad was placed at his table, it didn’t last more than a couple of minutes before it was completely devoured.  Although it calmed his appetite, Tommy did not feel full, as he wasn’t used to just eating salads. But at least it picked him up just enough to lift his mood up a little.

“Say, so how are you going to pay for this?  Debit, credit, or cash?” Asked the boss, still unfamiliar with basic customer service etiquette.

“I’ve got this,” said Bobby, walking in from his lunch break.  He could not wait to take the top part of his costume off so as to get some air.  The air conditioned restaurant was his haven.

“You’re going to pay?  If that’s how you’re going to get customers, I don’t mind, but that’s not what I meant when I told you to promote the restaurant by any means necessary.  I’ll just deduct it from your wages for today.” Said the boss.

“You don’t understand, he’s a classmate from my pet training course in college.  We were best buds, right Tommy?”

“Right!” Said Tommy, with an awkward smile, as he struggled to remember.  Bobby searched through his pockets and found his glasses. They were so thick, if you put them on, you could see the future.  Bobby’s pupils instantly looked twice their size. That’s when it all came back to Tommy. He remembered that Bobby was the only student in the class who never managed to learn how to speak to animals, but somehow figured out how to listen to and understand them, and hence passed the class due to that saving grace.  He could listen to the concerns of animals and tell the rest of the class what the animals’ opinion was about a certain command given, the actual lyrics in the songs of birds, or even if the animal was trying to be deceptive. Parrots sang, monkeys lied Tommy remembered.

“I could tell that you were hungry, you were saying it not with words, but with the general vibes you were putting out.” Bobby said.  “Funny, up until now I could only sense that sort of thing with animals.”

“Well, maybe I am an animal now.” Tommy blurted. “No one will hire me.  The degree we got is useless.”

“Don’t think that way, look at me!  I got a job.” Bobby stated proudly as the music from the boombox in the street was still audible.

“Well, uh, I guess you were always more talented than I was.” Tommy said in an effort to not say anything against Bobby’s career choice.

“Excuses!”  Said the boss. “Let me teach you something here.  Employers only care about one thing from their employees.  It’s not the degree, or the experience, or the talent, or whatever else they tell you in the interviews. If you can make them money, that’s all that matters.  Prove to them that you can bring them more sales, and you will always have a place somewhere. Bastard here has secured his job now that he brought in one customer.”

“Thanks, gratitude overwhelms me,” said Bobby, “but Tommy, it’s always useful to learn a new skill just in case you want to work for yourself.  That’s also an option. Go your own way.”

“I tried that,” Tommy said as he remembered the raccoon struggling to drag the gold bar fast enough to escape the wheezing, obese security guard.  It was a sad sight that went viral.

“Just learn more skills,” Bobby said.

Tommy thought for a moment.  So the logic goes like this; get a degree, get a job.  One follows the other. It was the natural course. He had the degree, therefore the job was supposed to also somehow come.

If it didn’t come, Tommy reasoned, it’s because he didn’t master his degree completely.  Bobby was the only one who mastered the ability to hear what animals had to say, and guess what, at least he had a job.  Therefore (Tommy mustered as much of the reasoning skills he got from his general ed philosophy course as he could) he must learn to listen to animals, and then, logically, he will have a job.

“Bobby!” Tommy said.  “I know how to speak to animals, but you know how to listen. I need you teach me how to listen to animals.”

“What good will that do?” asked Bobby, perplexed.

Please!” pleaded Tommy.

“Well, sure, I guess. But it won’t be easy.  It just won’t be easy.”

 

Chapter III

 

The training began on a Wednesday afternoon in the Tank Top Swap located in the outskirts of town.  Bugs buzzed their way in organized flight, going in circles and dashing forward in the backdrop of their scene.  You could hear the frogs croaking and the water gently splashing from the arbitrary life forms that inhabited the area.  Every other moment of this otherwise peaceful setting was interrupted by what seemed to be howling from a distant predator.

Tommy and Bobby faced each other and mentally prepared for what the training would require.  Bobby, to Tommy’s distraction, was still in full hot dog uniform. He didn’t want to waste time going home and changing, as he was confident that he could teach Tommy all he needed to know in one afternoon. Tommy wanted to do what it takes to gain the skill that would complete his education and land him a job.  And he felt strongly that knowing how to listen to animals would be the solution. And so he was ready.

“Listen to the sound of the bugs, the frogs, and whatever else you notice here in the swamp.  All you have to do is listen. Don’t let thoughts enter your mind. Just perceive, just feel, just merge with the melodies of nature,”  Bobby instructed.

“Yes sir-“

“Just listen!” Bobby demanded.

And so Tommy listened.

Bobby didn’t let his gaze abandon Tommy.  He paid attention to Tommy’s expression, and as soon as he noticed Tommy’s attention wander, he kicked him in the gonads.

“Ah!  You bastard!” Yelled Tommy, in great pain.

“That’s Mr. Bastard to you, as long as this training sessions lasts.” Bobby replied.  “Now set your attention beyond the pain, and just listen to the sounds. Feel what the animals are trying to say.”

Tommy listened hard.  Little by little, he could distinguish words in the little voices, and heard things such as: food! food!, what a cute buggie!, food!, bird fly must hide!

He could not believe what he was hearing, and Bobby could sense Tommy beginning to doubt.

“It’s real.  Believe it!  You’re beginning to understand the creatures all around you.  Don’t stop,” Bobby said.

Tommy could now hear entire paragraphs from the creatures.  I’m an alligator, this is my life, I see two humans by the pond, I’m gonna bite.

“Run!” Tommy warned.

“I sense it, too,” Bobby said.  “Stay still. You know how to give commands to animals, use your ability.”

Tommy began to run away, but Bobby restrained him.  “Use it now!”

Tommy screamed an order in animal, and the water movements suddenly shifted to the opposite direction.  The gator was now leaving.

Tommy’s heartbeat was racing. “Are we done now?” He asked in desperation.

“There’s only one last thing,” Bobby said.  He suddenly grabbed Tommy and got him in a headlock, then proceeded to submerging his head underwater.

Tommy struggled, but Bobby was too strong.  Tommy then heard so many voices, the voices of fish.  Swimming, I’m swimming, I want to mate, swimming, food, land creature! staring at us, threat! swim away! worm! eat! yum. swimming.  

Tommy’s head re-emerged from the water.  “Now you’re ready,” said Bobby, with a look of great wisdom while wearing his wet hot dog costume.  “Now, you can hear the animals.”

Chapter IV

It’s something we don’t see everyday, but we assume happens a lot, at least it does in cartoons.  A cat being chased by a dog. Two dogs in this case, chasing a nimble white cat with yellow stripes.  And likewise, we don’t really see this happen often, but we assume it happens everyday: the cat ran up a tree to avoid the dogs.

Bobby witnessed the scene as he was on his way to work (hotdog costume and all), and found it particularly interesting that he could sense a smug attitude emanating from the cat as she looked down at the dogs below which barking frantically with no end.

The scene could be deemed rather typical, until Bobby deciphered words from the animals.

“Feline fiend! We will tear you apart!”

“Yeah, you insolent little cat, we will destroy you unless you take back what you said,” the dogs barked.

“Prrrr, why do you want me to retract the truth?  It’s not right to take back the truth,” the cat said in a very calm manner.

“Lies! It’s all lies! You lie, you cat, you lie!” The dogs’ barks blended into a cacophonous chorus with the word “lie” being the main lyric.

The animals didn’t notice Bobby as he drew closer to listen to this exchange.

“The lies here are coming from you,” said the cat, “besides, do you really think you’re going to climb up this tree and get me?”

“You’ve got to come down to eat sometime, kitty,” said one of the dogs.

“And when you do, it’s us who will eat you!” Said the other.

“Come on doggies, move along” Bobby said.

“The human, he is addressing us!” Said one dog.

“Yes, but we are not worthy to understand his unintelligible divine words. What could he be saying? Perhaps he is insisting that we eat the cat?” Said the other dog.

“Behold, his hands gesture. It seems he wants us to leave to another place. Perhaps the great one is telling us that we will find fortune if we pursue it elsewhere. Let us away!” With this the dogs left, panting and running frantically.

Now, only Bobby and the cat remained.

The cat stared at Bobby, with a look of disdainful indifference, and then looked away towards the horizon, as if it hadn’t seen anything of importance.  After a long moment, Bobby heard purring, which he was able to process and understand the following utterance “surely, dogs will never understand that humans are not gods. Surely, it is the blessing and curse of the feline to know this. But even more more important, surely, is the obligation of the feline to keep this knowledge to itself, for the foolishness of dogs manifests itself in bite marks, should their foolishness be challenged. I will no longer make the mistake of attempting persuasion. Let the dogs wallow in their ignorance. I will bask in the warmth of the afternoon wind, then carry on.”

“Hey kitty, I know I’m not a god, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. Let’s chat a little.” Said Bobby.

“Oh humans, their meaningless babble is never ending. Surely, not advanced divine speech, but the utterances of grown infants.” With that, the cat left running down the tree and into the horizon.

It was a shame that Bobby never learned to speak to animals, but only to listen, since during his time Zoology classes he mainly listened and took notes, and did everything he could to not fully participate in the activities that involved talking to the animals. But now Bobby saw the error of his ways, as little by little he was beginning to realize that perhaps he’ll actually need to get his point across to an animal someday. It seems to be that now he’s going to be the one that needs assistance in acquiring that skill.

Chapter V

Tommy Tool was sitting in his front porch, practicing his animal listening skills. The birds said flirtatious things to each other that were so daring he could not believe it. Maybe that’s the whole point of their chirping to begin with, he reasoned. The earthworks cursed like construction workers. Termites spoke too softly to be properly perceived, but he could somewhat catch their chorus hum behind the walls and wooden floors. The squirrel running around the neighbor’s front yard by the big tree spoke pure paranoid madness as he twitched his head left and right frantically; he swore everything was out to get him (a few moments later a falcon almost got a hold of him). As far as Tommy knew, only the homeless dogs spoke with decorum, as they strode with a ballad in their little barks, chronicling their resilience towards obstacles and recounting the tales of legendary street dogs that they have registered in permanent memory, asserting their self-determination in poetic song. All dogs like to tell tales, and chase them, Tommy introspected.

Why doesn’t my dog sing epic poetry? Tommy wondered. In either case, Tommy got a notepad and pencil, and took careful notes of what his dog had to say. His dog, Chubby Buddy, was a short, white/brown bulldog. Chubby had no idea his owner could understand what he said, and so he spoke, as though to himself, or even to an unseen audience, as he stared at the street with a philosophical air, and growled the following:

 

“I am the dog of the house, and that comes with many responsibilities.  Among those is keeping my house safe, and I take that job very seriously.  Everyone who walks through those doors must go through a background check. I smell their backside from the ground up, making sure to register their identity.  My people’s food must be safe, so every time someone eats, I demand a portion to taste, by whimpering and shifting my body weight when they say “sit”, so that I may check for poison.  Whether or not they are grateful for it, I will never know.

Although all this security work might seem routine, there is one thing which I have yet to fulfill.  The mailman is a mighty nemesis, and he scours all the houses of all these lands, leaving threatening letters which warn his victims that he will collect their “bills,” have a visit from “grandma,” or that their house might face “foreclosure.”  All these are code words for one thing, that he is a conquering barbarian who will pillage our lands. If he thinks he’s going to get away with that, he will have to get through me.

Everyday I wait to sense his unholy smell.  It reeks of paper, ink, and donuts. When I do, I promptly attack, with the aim of taking his life.  But alast! The fence and this chain, this horrid chain, does limit me! Fie, Fie, thou vilest of fiends!  I see your smirky face as you walk away. Your mind, full of clever plots and vile intentions, has perceived that I am the guardian of this house, and so you leave to lay waste to another house.

Alas, I cannot protect all the houses, but if I could, but if I could…  Everyday is the same scene. He comes, I stop him, he leaves. I would be content if it were not for the fact that his threatening letters are left in that box by the gate.  I suspect he planted it there himself, so that he may leave more threats, or perhaps someday, an explosive. He does that to all the houses, and my fellow dogs, even the stray ones, do their best to protect the homes, but he is too sly, and leaves all the letters he wants.   

For as long as I live, I say to myself, I will protect my family from the mailman.  However, that leads me to another thought, a somber one. I cannot live forever. There will be a day when my feet no longer carry me, when my bark no longer vanishes evil, and when my smell no longer identifies friend and foe.  They say all dogs go to heaven, but when my time has come, my ghost will remain, making sure that the Tool family is safe until they themselves reach heaven. Ether teeth don’t bite so hard, so I do hope, however, that providence provides my family with a replacement guardian when my body returns to the earth.

But on the meantime, I keep vigilance, in the meantime, I scout the perimeters.  There is no rest for me yet, and there shall be none also for the mailman.”

Tommy scribbled as much as he could of that diatribe, then saved it in a white envelope.  “Hmm… would it be considered rude to Chubby if I mail this to myself?” he wondered.

 

Chapter VI

 

It wasn’t long until Bobby Bastard got a well deserved promotion. He no longer needed to dance in the street, but rather, he would walk the busy boulevard passing flyers. Also, he no longer needed to wear a full body hotdog costume. Instead, he was to wear a cap that said, “I’m a hotdog” and a shirt that said, “buy and eat me at the corner of Daisy Street and Willow Boulevard.” This was quite a gain, especially considering the hot weather.

Another pleasant surprise was that most people were very nice to him, and gladly accepted his flyers with a smile. The only rudeness he encountered were the birds, who would occasionally let their droppings fall from great heights, and would exclaim “dang, I missed” if it didn’t hit Bobby.

All this came with a 25 cent increase in his hourly wage. Bobby did the math: if he saved those extra quarters, in just a matter of weeks he would have enough for a bus pass, and not have to walk the last 8 blocks to his home attempting to save on bus fare.

It seemed like things were finally changing for the best in his life.

 

Chapter VII

 

Tommy’s unmarketable skill of animal communication reached unparalleled levels. This morning he convinced a poisonous snake to wrap around his waist and act as his belt since he had forgotten where he left his actual belt. The ants on the walkway of his house aligned themselves in attention as he walked by as though he was their fascistic leader. The birds were careful to hold their droppings until after Tommy had walked by. All the animals were convinced that he was a special human being, but not special in the sense that his parents and school teachers had tried to label him in the past, but special in a sort of majestic sense. Well, all the animals except for… the cats. Felines kept their distance and offered disdainful glares as he walked by. To them Tommy’s communicative abilities didn’t mean much except to imply that he was just another animal, and not a divine caregiver as the dogs fancied. In fact, to the cats humans were simply dogs who stood erect, which would explain the close relationship between K-9s and humanity.

“Mutt” a cat muttered from a nearby tree. Tommy flinched and tilted his head toward the direction of the cat.

“Looks like this dog has ears,” whispered the cat, and perched on the branch as though it were about to attack.

Tommy stood still, he watched as the cat lurked closer, walking like a hunting lion fixated on its prey. He backed off slowly, crunching fallen leaves beneath the soles of his shoes all the while. The cat landed, crouched, and suddenly… sprinted towards Tommy, readying its claws as it got closer. Then, within a matter of seconds, it all happened.

The cat pulled out its claws to injure Tommy, prompting the snake on Tommy’s waist to react. The snake reached out towards the cat with its venomous mouth, but instead, caught Chubby, who had broken his leash and escaped the house when he had sensed that Tommy was in danger.

It didn’t take long for the poison to take effect, nor for Tommy to fall into panic, carrying Chubby in a hurry searching for help, without knowing where.

After a long while of asking people for directions to the nearest vet, and getting there by foot, the animal hospital was quick to explain to Tommy the monetary costs of the procedure that Chubby would need, to which Tommy swore he would find a way to pay somehow. All the promises from Tommy’s strained and tearful voice were not enough… Chubby would have made it had he been a younger dog, but age was catching up to him, and the venom made sure it did. Chubby would never again bark at anyone when the day ended, and the Tool family lost its sole protector.

Tommy walked home to catch his family watching a movie called, I wanna say All Dogs go to Heaven, but for copyright reasons I’ll call it All Dogs go to Hell. “Close the door, stupid.” Tommy’s father said.

“What’s the point, Chubby won’t run in anyway, he passed away” Tommy said.

His family went quiet and turned to Tommy for a few moments to see if his expression was serious. After confirming that it was, they went right back to watching the TV.

“Then maybe he’ll come out in the movie” Tommy’s dad said.

Tommy went to the basement, or as he called it, his room. He collapsed into his bed, and before he realized it, his pillow was slowly soaking with quiet tears. His world was collapsing from the inside out. All the pressures of finding a job, of feeling unloved by people, of finding love through animals, only to to have the one that he cared for the most pass away, it was all too much to handle at one time. He felt as though his room was spinning, and yet he didn’t move. A deep, strong sleep couldn’t have fallen over him soon enough. The inner scream of unexpressed frustration became muffled by the sudden slumber brought upon by having all his energies drained away by melancholy. Eventually, he found peace in a dream, a dream in which he could hear the echoes of a distant bark, and the transparent face of his former dog, smiling with his puppy eyes and surrounded by the starry splendor of the cosmos.

Chapter VIII

A group of cats gathered under the moonlight sky by a corner liquor store. The leader, named Chairman Meow, took sips of a fallen vodka bottle as he readied his nerves for his speech, which went as follows:

“The word ‘pet’ was used a lot around us. We were the pets, they would pet us. Us scratching furniture was their pet peeve. So they let us go. How petty, that they should be so pestered by our perennial habits, that they part with their pets.”

“That’s right!” Cheered the feline crowd, with the exception of one cat, named Marlow, who meowed, “I can’t resist your alliteration! It’s true, it’s all true!”

“However,” Chairman Meow continued, “We’ve traveled far and wide for a space of our own, where we can be safe, and create cat communities like the world has never seen before. But it seems that humans dominate everything, and even if we travel 5 whole miles we can find no place without them and their concrete jungle. Should we create, then, a world of our own from the ashes of theirs?”

“Yes! Let’s drive them all away! Let’s make this our city!” The crowd cheered, with the exception of Marlow, who merely meowed “Wait, what?”

“That is our option and consensus,” said Chairman Meow.

“I have a question!” said Marlow, raising his paw. “What if we search further than 5 miles? I think we might find a place for us if we search more than that. There can only be so many humans in the world.”

“More, Marlow?” Asked Chairman Meow.

“Yes! I’m certain that if we travel a little more, we can find a place without people. If you think about it, humans walk very slowly. Only those weird metal cows on

“… I guess we can keep up the long march a little further. Alright, listen everyone, we shall fight humanity if there is no vacant land for ourselves, but first, we shall continue searching for a place of our own. It is my strict order that no conflict arise between cat and man until it is necessary.” Chairman Meow ordered.

“But we want to fight now! Humans have no claws, we do, we can win.” The crowd groaned.

“Well…” Chairman Meow purred.

“Fools! Humans have much more dangerous weapons, such as slippers! The chairman is right, we must not rush into a fight, not yet,” Marlow said. He was immediately hushed by the other cats.

“Everyone listen. Thus I have spoken, thus it shall be! No confrontations until it is necessary.” Chairman Meow finished, and then retreated into the background, searching for a place to be alone so he may “contemplate,” or as the other cats call it, cat nap.

The crowd of cats gathered around Marlow, and asked him why he disagreed with them.

“You know, the cat who stands out will be hammered in.” A cat from the crowd said.

“Doesn’t the metaphor go ‘the nail that stands out will be hammered in?’”

“It wasn’t a metaphor,” The crowd replied, with one or two cats adding “dumbass!”

“And that’s my cue. I gotta go… somewhere. Looking forward to the next meeting.” Marlow said as he backed away, making his way through the crowd of angry cat faces as they hissed under their breath.

Chapter 9

“In Ancient Egypt cats were deified, and in modern times cats are vilified.” Thus were the first verses in Chairman Meow’s narrative poem of feline revolutionary emancipation. Cats are taught from an early age to see themselves as undervalued by the modern man. They are instructed to resent the notion of perceiving their value in relation to humanity, and thus are encouraged to yearn for a place of their own, away from the decadence of human civilization, thriving through their perennial efforts of toughening their cat character and basking in their feline graces.

But this vision of cattopia always left an afterthought in those who contemplated it, the seed of doubt suggesting that it is nothing more than a mirage. This faint echo of disbelief was always self-suppressed, calmed by a varage of motivating self-talk to keep the hope alive, drowned in the loud slogans and cheers of every rally, and pushed into the subconscious successfully through focusing on revolutionary activity. Successfully, that is, for all but Marlow.

Marlow did not have to express his doubts (for if he did he would be sorry), but all cats could tell from his lack of enthusiasm, reluctance, and overall demeanor that he was not fully engaged in the cat cause of independence.

(to be continued)

 

Echoes through time

It all started one summer afternoon on a class field trip to the Alamo.  My group was given permission to wander for a bit right after we ate a quick lunch.  The Alamo today is like any other museum, with archaic artifacts and souvenirs, and tourists from all over the world.  I spotted a man who was wearing odd clothes like those you see in the movies when an archaeologist comes out.  He was a middle aged and was sun burnt to the extent that it seemed almost comical.  I noticed that he was reading a book, a book that I could tell did not originate from the souvenir shop, given that in the cover it showed Egyptian symbols.   I asked him what it was, and he said that it’s the book of the dead.

“It must be very interesting, isn’t it?   I imagine it’s at least a few thousand years old,” I said.

“Yes, it is very ancient, and I say that it is just like the Bible.  It tells you the difference between right and wrong, it tells you about the afterlife, and so I think that it’s just as valid as any other holy book,” he said.

His words sparked in me a curiosity to look into not only the Egyptian Book of the Dead, but also the Tibetan one, or any other that the world has, in the hopes of finding similarities.  I excused myself and continued walking around the old mission, not wanting to use up all my free time in this field trip on things that I could look into later.  But as luck would have it, I ran into another ancient book while I was browsing around.  “Oh look, this has Mayan symbols, with an abundance of skulls drawn all over.  Could it be that it is their book of the dead?”  I asked myself.

I decided to take the book over to the strange man before he left, and I asked him if he knew anything of it.

“That is actually an Aztec Codex.  I do not know what it says, but it looks like there’s a Spanish language translation on the margins.”   He said.

“Hurry up, we’re leaving!”   A friend yelled out to me.

“Coming!”  I said.  I thanked the man and, and after I paid for the book at the cash register,  ran back to my group.

Back at my house, I took extra measures to protect the codex.  My house has as many dogs as people, so I held my treasure high as I walked in the door, to avoid any damage as my dogs greeted me.  I wish I had cats instead.  The reason I prefer cats is because they don’t slobber all over you like dogs do, but since fate conspires to give me my second best choice in everything, I live with three dogs.  Two of them are huge and could tackle me down if they wanted, and one of them is so small, and yet so loud.  After an onslaught from happy, drooling dogs, I managed to enter my room with my book safe and dry, though the same could not be said of my shirt and sleeves.

I opened the book and noticed the Spanish words written in the margins.  I can speak, read, and write Spanish as well as anyone else of Latin American origins, but these words, gosh, these words were written by what must’ve been the Spanish equivalent of Shakespeare, or Beowulf.  I could only understand a few words, mainly the articles, but it’s a miracle that I got even that, since the handwriting must’ve been written by a medieval doctor writing a prescription from what I could see, it was such an illegible spectacle.

(to be continued…)

Short story about your dog

I am the dog of the house, and that comes with many responsibilities.  Among those is keeping my house safe, and I take that job very seriously.  Everyone who walks through those doors must go through a background check.  I smell their backside from the ground up, making sure to register their identity.  My people’s food must be safe, so everytime someone eats, I demand a portion to taste, by whimpering and shifting my body weight whey they say “sit”, so that I may check for poison.  Whether or not they are grateful for it, I will never know. 

Although all this security work might seem routine, there is one thing which I have yet to fulfill.  The mailman is a mighty nemesis, and he scours all the houses of all these lands, leaving threatening letters which warn his victims that he will collect their “bills,” have a visit from “grandma,” or that their house might face “foreclosure.”  All these are code words for one thing, that he is a conquering barbarian who will pillage our lands.  If he thinks he’s going to get away with that, he will have to get through me. 

Everyday I wait to sense his unholy smell.  It reeks of paper, ink, and donuts.  When I do, I promptly attack, with the aim of taking his life.  But alast!  The fence and this chain, this horrid chain, does limit me!  Fie, Fie, thou vilest of fiends!  I see your smirky face as you walk away.  Your mind, full of clever plots and vile intentions, has perceived that I am the guardian of this house, and so you leave to lay waste to another house.

Alas, I cannot protect all the houses, but if I could, but if I could…  Everyday is the same scene.  He comes, I stop him, he leaves.  I would be content if it were not for the fact that his threatening letters are left in that box by the gate.  I suspect he planted it there himself, so that he may leave more threats, or perhaps someday, an explosive.  He does that to all the houses, and my fellow dogs, even the stray ones, do their best to protect the homes, but he is too sly, and leaves all the letters he wants.   

For as long as I live, I say to myself, I will protect my family from the mailman.  However, that leads me to another thought, a somber one.  I cannot live forever.  There will be a day when my feet no longer carry me, when my bark no longer vanishes evil, and when my smell no longer identifies friend and foe.  They say all dogs go to heaven, but when my time has come, my ghost will remain, making sure that my family is safe until they themselves reach heaven.  Ether teeth don’t bite so hard, so I do hope, however, that providence provides my family with a replacement guardian when my body returns to the earth. 

But on the meantime, I keep vigilance, in the meantime, I scout the perimeters.  There is no rest for me yet, and there shall be none also for the mailman.