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.

When his grumpy neighbor from down the street walked by with her little Chihuahua, she did nothing to stop him from lifting his leg on the hydrant even though Arthur was right there weeding. Normally Arthur would’ve said something but as the scent of the dog’s urine wafted his way he was too distracted by what he suddenly saw and heard in his mind.

“If she tells me I’m getting sirloin steak and serves me that slop out of the can one more time, I’m going to growl at her. I’ve already stopped loving her, so why not? All she does is lie,” a little voice said while Arthur saw the grumpy neighbor spooning some cheap dog food from a can into a bowl and setting it in front of the Chihuahua, saying, “It’s time for your sirloin.” As the neighbor and her dog continued down the street, it struck him what was going on. Arthur was decoding pee-mail.

It became his morning habit that after retrieving his mail from the mailbox he’d stop by the hydrant and feign tying his shoe while decoding the latest dog news. He heard and saw lots of stories. Dogs were masters at observing and listening and there was a main theme, dogs really disliked liars and they saw liars everywhere. They knew a person was going to lie by their body language before they even opened their mouths to speak. And they could just as easily hear the truth when someone spoke.

When their owners thought their dogs were just napping or licking their paws, they were watching and listening. Arthur was surprised how well informed they were about current events. They clearly watched a lot of news with their owners, but they could also hear the lies in the newscasters’ voices and sort through to the truth based on what they were lying about.

The young couple at the table on Arthur’s left were also talking about current events and they’d overheard what the older couple on Arthur’s right had been discussing and now the two couples were having a war of talking points with Arthur right in the middle. A couple months ago he would’ve found this amusing, but not now that he could decode pee-mail. The dog news had taken a dark turn in the past week. They were getting more and more pissed, and so were the cats. For once they were agreeing on something. They’d reached a tipping point when enough of them had seen reruns of Planet of the Apes and realized the possibilities. The news on the hydrant was clear. Dogs and cats were sick of the lies, the lies about the food, the lies about what was going on in the world, the lies people continuously told one another. They’d come to the conclusion that the majority of people ate, breathed and spoke nothing but lies and it had to end. All that was left was choosing when.

Now a couple at a table behind Arthur had joined in the war of talking points so Arthur paid for his glass of wine by slipping a few bills under the glass and left the cafe. He headed down the sidewalk, taking in the sight of humanity chatting and lying along Newbury Street’s cafes. Sometimes he felt guilty for not sharing what he knew, but any attempt he made would just make him look crazy, but also, he agreed with the dogs, and even the cats though he wasn’t much of a cat person.

He paused at the first fire hydrant he came to and dropped to his knee to check his laces while giving the air a good sniff. There it was, the news he’d been waiting for. The dogs and cats had agreed on a time. Tonight while their owners slept the lying would end.

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