Negotiating with Biscuits #5 – Flies and Opossums

Still unable to sleep, I listen to Fleegle snore. He sounds like a train struggling up a steep grade with a freight load of fat Labradors. I nudge him with my foot under the covers. “Straighten out your neck and maybe that freight you’re pulling won’t be so heavy.”

“Is the soothing rhythm of my snores not lulling you to sleep? I’m out like a light when you snore,” Fleegle says sleepily. “I love pizza, but I love it even more because it makes you snore and I know exactly where you are without even looking.”

“Pizza gives me far out dreams.”

“When I can’t sleep I don’t bother trying.”

“I know, you go outside and hunt opossums.”

“That’s not me, that’s Buck from across the street. No one has found out yet about the hole he dug under his fence. He’s a little obsessed with opossums. Did you know he takes his kills inside his house through his dog door?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I prefer chasing flies to chasing rodents.”

“What about squirrels? They’re part of the rodent family and you chase them.”

“They don’t count. They’re too cute to be rodents.”

“That’s not what you say when you make them mad and they try to poop on your head from up in the trees.”

I feel the bed move as he gets up. “Now I can’t sleep. I wish flies flew at night. Will you turn the light on and wake them up?”

I shrug. “Might as well.”

The bamboo outside the bedroom window rustles even though there isn’t any wind.

“There goes Buck, hunting,” Fleegle says. “Poor opossums.”

I snap on the light. “Poor flies.”

But then is strikes me. “How does Buck get into the yard past the fence?”

“Beats me.”

The Tree House

Twinkles lived in the West Hills of Portland on Vista Ridge. It was a nice neighborhood in that the houses were expensive and large. Families could live in them without running into each other for days, which was good because many of the families’ members didn’t play well together. Divorce rates were high, affairs a given, and out-of-touch children, who expected life to be sprinkled in front of them like rose petals, were rampant. Twinkles lived in a tree house in the backyard of the Johnsons’ house. It belonged to their children, but they had grown up and moved south to California. It was a good tree house, built by craftsmen and made to last. It needed some paint and caulk because the Johnsons were now elderly and without grandchildren visiting it was neglected. Twinkles wanted to paint it and protect its flaking wood, but he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. Nobody knew he lived there. He was a tree house squatter and he doubted squatter rights would apply to tree houses.

Twinkles liked squatting. It seemed more natural than ownership. You can’t take your house with you, so ownership was really no more than squatting. But people’s laws said otherwise and men with guns enforced them, so Twinkles kept quiet in his tree house and only fixed things that wouldn’t be noticed, like leaks in the roof and squeaky hinges, and these he did in the early hours of the morning when no one was about except for the drunks arriving home after last call. To them he would appear as nothing more than an apparition of an oversized gnome. He even wore a red hat he’d found last Christmas. It was knitted wool, and it may not have kept his head dry, but it did keep his thoughts warm, and it was important to keep his thoughts warm because it was his thoughts that controlled where he traveled at night in his dreams.

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Negotiating with Biscuits #4 – Babies

I’m tossing and turning in bed, struggling to get to sleep, when Fleegle asks, “Where do babies come from?”

I look through the murky darkness in the bedroom at his black silhouette sitting on my bed. “The stork flies them in and delivers them to houses of families who want them.”

“What’s a stork?”

“A bird that’s big enough to carry a baby in it’s beak and still get off the ground. Why are you asking about babies?”

“The neighbors behind us just got one.”

“Uh huh.”

“So if I stop chasing the birds out of the yard, a big one will bring me a baby?”

I worry where this is going. “Yes, that is correct. But why do you want a baby?”

“Not just any baby.”

“Hmm. I’m confused,” I say.

He tilts his head. “You? Never.”

“Do you mean one who looks like me or one who looks like you?”

“There’s a difference? I thought you looked like me.”

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.

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Portland Towers

“I was getting headaches until I got the second one,” Dinty said, an earphone in each ear with wires leading to the cell phone in his shirtfront pocket. “Now all my calls come in stereo. Like a voice inside my head, right here.” He tapped his forehead with his index finger. “If it’s my boss, it sounds like the voice of God.” Mimicking his boss’s deep baritone, he said, “Dinty, public toilet five on the ninth floor has crap smears in it. Get up there with your brush.” He scratched the bald spot on the head of the Chihuahua in his lap. “Mr. Orly is like any boss, he’s obsessed with smears.”

Taking the earphones from his ears, he offered them to the dog. “Here, do you want to listen? I’ll call you and I can be the voice of God. ‘Stanley, stop shedding on the man’s uniform.’” Then the phone rang. The caller ID said it was Mr. Orly. “Oops, speak of the devil. I better take this.”

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Negotiating with Biscuits #3 – The Garage Sale

I gather up an armful of tired looking toys and pass Fleegle in the kitchen on my way to the garage.

“Where are you going with all my toys?” he asks.

“We’re having a garage sale.”

He cocks his head to the side. “You’re going to sell my toys?”

“They’ve been sitting untouched in your toy basket for so long I figured you were bored with them.”

He follows me out to the garage, but now he’s carrying something in his mouth and it’s not a toy. “What have you got there?”

“Your remote to the television,” he slurs around the hard plastic. “It’s your donation to the garage sale. Think of it as going on a diet for the mind and you’re cutting out visual junk food.”

I do a 180 and return the armful of toys to his basket and he drops the remote back on the coffee table. Détente is established.

Back in the kitchen, he grabs his crate by its door and starts dragging it toward the garage.

“What are you up to now?” I ask.

“I’m going to sell my crate at your garage sale.”

Negotiating with Biscuits #2 – The Remote

“What’s that you got in your crate?” I ask Fleegle, pointing inside it at something small and black.

His tail wags. “Well, Raud, that’s one of your remotes. I think it’s to the television.”

I look at him suspiciously. “What’s it doing in there?”

He sits, his tail sweeping the floor behind him. “It’s like this, I just tossed a cookie remote in my crate for you.”

“Ha ha, very funny.” I get down on all fours and crawl in to retrieve the remote, wet with dog slobber, but thankfully not yet chewed on. The crate door bangs against my feet. “What are you doing out there?”

“I’m giving my crate to you and you’re moving in. Now that it’s yours, do you want a stuffed Kong to chew on while I’m out carousing the neighborhood with my friends?”

Negotiating with Biscuits #1 – The Crate

I hold open the crate door for Fleegle, my chocolate Lab.

He stands his ground and stares at me. “No. I’m not going in my crate.”

“Why not?” I ask.

“Because.”

“Because what?”

“How come it’s my crate? Why isn’t it your crate?”

I look at the crate, which is small for me, then back at him. “Well, have you ever seen me get in it?”

“If you get in I’ll get in.”

“I’m sure you would. That would be very cozy.”

“I like cozy,” he says.

“I know you do.” I toss a dog cookie in the back of the crate.

“Oh boy, a cookie,” he says as he runs in after it. His tail thumps against the inside of the crate as the cookie crunches in his mouth.

I put a Kong stuffed with frozen peanut butter in behind him and close the door. He hears the latch close and turns around.

“Cat butt! I fell for it again, didn’t I?” he says, looking through the wire mesh of the crate door.

“Yes, you did.”

He spots the red Kong toy. “Ooo,” he sniffs the air. “I smell peanut butter.”

You Can Be Anything You Want to Be

I was napping underneath Tina’s dangling feet—she was the smallest of my two-legger family—while she sat on the old red leather couch between her dad and granddad. Every now and then she brushed her toes against the fur on the top of my head. It woke me with a tickle, but I didn’t mind. Tina was my favorite being in the whole world and could do nothing that would bother me. I just lay there dozing and listening to what the old men had to say. When Tina’s dad took her to the park to play with the other two-leggers her size, he was always the oldest dad there, but the other dads seemed to look up to him as if he’d been through this many times before and was full of wisdom, as if he was the dad they’d always wanted. But he’d just gotten a late start and was in the same boat as they were, though he never mentioned this. He did look more like a granddad than a dad, and with Tina sitting between him and her mother’s father, the two men looked like brothers. She sat there and giggled at the silly things they said while her feet rubbed the top of my head.

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Tina?” Granddad asked.

She pointed at me, lying on the floor. “I wanna be Charlie.”

Her dad smiled at her. He was a lawyer who had wanted to be a doctor when he was young, but the chemistry classes that first year in college didn’t quite take. “You want to be the dog? But you can be anything you want to be when you grow up, a doctor, a lawyer.”

She shook her head. “No, Charlie.”

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