Sep 1, 2021
Hi there, Max here!
Here’s the third installment of my novel “Day of the Dogs.” If you haven’t read the first two chapters-
This is the best one yet! I hope you all like it! It’s VERY long!
Maximus Gary, Labrador Saboteur calculated his position. There were storms brewing within Chez Salty and there were storms that had yet to burst. Maximus Gary would not describe this situation as a crisis, but it was time to bring the heavy guns to the fore.
Where most people became panicked or emotional in crisis, Maximus Gary remained calm. There was no “Fog of War” for him. He was able to individually discern all the moving parts. He was able to separate the facts from emotional attachment and hyperbole. He prioritized a critical path of events as naturally as a Newfie slobbered. It was as if his well-conditioned mind could slow down time. The more the pressure mounted, the more time slowed. It was a natural and beautiful gift that a military Biped would pay millions of Bully Sticks for.
Maximus Gary broke down the the complex situation’s moving parts as such:
1) If this whole thing falls through, there were two seared scallops with bacon in The Forbidden Closet that no one knew about.
2) The fridge doors needed to be closed immediately.
3) There was a broken platter in front of the fridge. All traces of it needed to be removed immediately.
4) Wiener dogs ran panicked throughout the house. They needed to be brought to heel or neutered.
5) Auggie and Teddy were fighting and needed to be re-purposed.
6) All the relevant food was out of the fridge, but laying in a useless, obvious, giant, pile at The Depot.
7) The food needed to be moved to the Lilac Tree immediately and without one Biped laying a single eyeball upon it.
8) Buddy completed his mission and was still in his original position. He needed to be re-directed.
9) Bipeds were moving around upstairs and would soon be foraying downstairs.
10) Liana was immobilized, in pain, and in the foyer. Unfortunately, she would still need to be kept immobilized.
11) Don was walking about the house like a fat, angry, stinky, dangerous walrus. Goo Goo Ga Joob.
Maximus Gary dropped the spiral ham on the run when he saw Ginger cowering behind a huge fern in The Great Room. She was too small to help move any of the food containers out to the Lilac Tree. But she must have other talents.
“You!” snapped Maximus Gary. “Wiener! Whatever your name is! If you want even the tiniest bit of this food, you’ll help me stave these Bipeds off! Show me what you can do!” Maximus Gary didn’t wait for an answer and charged back to The Hot Zone.
Ginger snapped out of her shock. She looked at that luscious pile of Biped food and understood the breadth and scope of what was at stake. Maximus Gary had given her clarity over the situation as he had many dogs over the years.
As Maximus Gary ran across the The Living Room/Dining Room to the Hot Zone, she heard Don yell “MAX!” Don took a couple lumbering steps…
Ginger realized exactly what needed to be done. She shook off her fear and ran like a bolt of blue lightning directly into The Living Room and saw the sluggish Don- fresh off the couch. She made a mighty leap and squarely hit Don in the “low – hanging – Fruit – of – the – Looms – if – you – get – what – I – mean,” with all the momentum her 17lbs could muster.
Don screamed in pain. He doubled over, grabbing his crotch with one hand and suspending his body off the floor with the other.
Ginger uprighted herself and ran to The Foyer where Auggie and Teddy were still circling and regarding each other with vicious intent. She slowed her pace, looked each of them in the eye and said, “GET THE FOOD OUT.” When they only gaped at her, she showed her teeth and growled.
Their jaws hung low and their eyes bulged at what they were witnessing. Ginger squared off, crouching, ready to spring and teach them a lesson with her nasty little dachshund bite.
“Who put you in command?” grinned Teddy maliciously. “May I have his name and rank, Love?”
Undaunted, Ginger darted forward and bit him on the leg. Teddy howled and withdrew. Ginger stood her ground as Teddy backed up uncertainly and eyed her warily. Auggie stared in shock.
Abruptly, Ginger pivoted and ran into the Living Room where a groggy Don was clumsily trying to get to his feet near the couch.
She ran over quickly and bit him squarely on his butt. Don shrieked and fell. He grunted as his head hit the corner of The Living Room table. Then he crumpled to the floor like the hothouse flower he was. After a brief twitching of his left foot, he was still. Ginger had knocked him out.
Ginger turned and raced to confront the growing mass of confused Bipeds gathering upstairs.
Auggie and Teddy watched her run up the stairs with a shard of Don’s underwear hanging from a lower tooth. Teddy was astounded.
And Auggie was hopelessly, helplessly in love.
Liana was in her pajamas and laying on The Master Bedroom stairs. She was in a lot of pain. A LOT of pain.
Through those waves of pain, she couldn’t be sure that little wiener dogs weren’t running around barking at much larger dogs. She couldn’t be sure larger dogs were fighting somewhere in the house. All Liana was certain of was that she just used The Bathroom, tripped over Buddy, and a huge dish broke in the kitchen. She also admitted to herself that she had a visceral urge to tend to that broken dish immediately.
It also became clear to her that Don was being savaged in The Living Room if only because of his sporadic and unusually high-pitched screams.
Maximus Gary ran up to Liana with a waggy tail. What a relief! He put his face close to hers. She felt his cold, wet nose. He licked her. Then he put his nose past her head and spoke to Buddy in the dark Bedroom, making sure to keep his tail wagging.
“Hi Buds! Are you doing good! Can you get up? Do you have to poop? Do you have to pee?”
There was an agonizing pause until Buddy said from the darkness, “Hi Max! Was I a bad dog? Did the plan turn out OK?”
Maximus Gary grinned. There was Old Buddy!
Maximus Gary backed up and licked Liana on the face a couple times again. She clutched him like he was a lifeboat. Then Maximus Gary put his snout behind her head again. “Buddy, you are a good dog! Do you need to pee or poop?”
There was darkness. There was a scrape. Buddy said, “Is there any food?”
“Yes, Buddy. There is food. There is a lot of food. There is a ham.”
“Where is the ham?”
“I need to get it and put it at the Lilac Tree, Buddy. Can you pretend that you need to pee and poop really bad?”
Silence from the darkness. Then, “I was here a long time on the steps, Max. I really do need to pee and poop. I don’t need to pretend, Max.”
There was shuffling from the dark. Buddy climbed laboriously up the two steps into The Foyer. He looked blinded and confused. He saw Liana on the floor hugging Maximus Gary.
Buddy let loose a cow-stream of pee onto The Foyer. He never even lifted his leg.
Liana screeched. She was in a LOT of pain, but she wasn’t in so much pain that she couldn’t get out of the way of Buddy’s pee-spray. She yelled forlornly, “NOOOO!!!! BUUUUUUDDDYYYY!!” and grabbed his collar. Buddy’s stream became a dribble.
She stumbled hastily to her feet and grabbed the garage door handle. She opened it and hobbled down the steps with the help of an ancient hockey stick. She hit the button to the garage door opener and there was a huge sound like some ancient dinosaur waking up as it engaged.
Liana grabbed the dribbling Buddy by the collar and staggered down the steps with the crusty hockey stick. Incidentally, she hobbled so much like Buddy naturally walked they could have won an Olympic medal for the Three-Legged Race.
As they made their way across the garage to the lawn, Liana heard an awful commotion coming from her house. As soon as Buddy was emptied, she would need to investigate.
After Ginger ran upstairs, Auggie and Teddy regarded each other uneasily.
Auggie had achieved the same clarity over the situation as Ginger and Maximus Gary. He turned to Teddy.
“You should know,” said Auggie, “that Liana and I are strictly Snuggle Buddies. Nothing has ever happened between us in the years we’ve known each other. In fact, if you jumped up into the bed with us, you could snuggle with her.”
“I think I fancy Ginger!” Auggie giggled like a pup.
“I fancy them both!” laughed Teddy, doubled over with laughter.
“It seems stupid to fight with all that food in The Great Room,” said Auggie, “We can fight after we stuff ourselves with Biped food.”
“For Love and Food!” shouted Teddy.
“For Love and Food!” resounded Auggie.
They High-Fived each other like schooldogs and ran off to The Hot Zone.
Auggie and Teddy ran to The Hot Zone and saw Maximus Gary fastidiously grabbing pieces of broken platter with his mouth and sliding them under the refrigerator. He was in big trouble. His tongue had several small, painful, slices on it.
He saw Auggie and Teddy run up to him. They were smiling.
Teddy grabbed a dishcloth from the oven handle. He shoved Maximus Gary aside. Then Teddy used the dishcloth to push the platter shards and food bits under the fridge with his front paws in large sweeps.
Maximus Gary said, “That’s great Redneck Engineering, Teddy!”
Auggie saw the open fridge doors. He looked curiously in the fridge to make sure all the food was out. Assured, he then gently leaped- shutting the fridge doors with paw and not claw, one door after the other.
Maximus was gobsmacked. Yet there was no time to contemplate. He said quietly to them, “All that food in The Depot needs to get to The Lilac Tree immediately or we won’t enjoy ONE SCRAP OF IT. Don needs to be neutered at every turn. Ginger is staving off the Bipeds upstairs, and will need help. Buddy is handling Liana, but may need some help. Meet in The Great Room when those instructions are carried out.” Maximus Gary took a big breath. “And this is the most important thing- Shut the door to the deck when all the food is out of The Depot. BUT DON’T SHUT IT ALL THE WAY. We’ll need to get back outside easily to enjoy all this bounty or the coyotes will get everything.”
Maximus Gary paused and swallowed, “And you know our creed- Leave No Dog Behind. GO.”
Maximus Gary did not have to issue orders twice.
Augustus bolted to The Food Depot and grabbed a plastic container of buttered squash and brown sugar. Then he bounded out the door
Teddy pushed the last of the platter shards and food splatter under The Fridge with the dishcloth and then did the same to the dishcloth. Then he took off to the Depot so Auggie couldn’t claim bragging rights to moving the whole food by himself.
Maximus Gary turned towards The Living Room where Don lay on the carpet. Don was knocked cold, but it was only a matter of time before he began swearing and grunting again.
Maximus Gary took a deep breath and moved out.
Ginger ran up the stairs barking like a crazed hyena.That set Zeus off on a mission to out-craze Ginger’s hyena barking.
After a few moments, sleepy Bipeds were chatting in the hall. Small Bipeds asked loudly what was happening from the bedrooms.
Zeus watched Ginger with his super-sensitive, radar-like ears focused on the stairs. When Ginger got to the top of the stairs, Zeus came running over to her.
“I don’t have any time to explain, Zeus. Follow my lead and there will be heaps and heaps of Biped food!”
Before Zeus could agree, Ginger ran under many Biped legs and squared off at a closed bedroom door. She pulled her ears back and started growling and barking at it like Michael Vick was on the other side of it. Taking his cue, Zeus sallied forth, yapping and bouncing like he was a Mexican Jumping Bean on a hot griddle.
More Bipeds came out of the four upstairs’ bedrooms.
“What the hell is in there?” one of them asked, pointing at the closed bedroom door.
“The Morrises,” another one answered over the barking.
The rest of the Bipeds shuffled around uneasily.
“Or a raccoon,” was offered.
“The dogs make it sound like there’s a serial killer in there.”
Zeus raised the pitch of his barking and growled. Running around in jerky, shark-like motions also helped to elevate Biped anxiety.
“Should we go in?” one of them asked.
“Jeff and Jen are asleep,” another one said.
“I just saw a light come on under the door.”
Just as a Biped tentatively reached to knock on the door, Ginger growled loudly and yelped. Then she jumped in the air, twisting and turning. She hit the ground, popped up, and ran crazily in circles. Zeus was confused. He asked her, “Are you mental?”
“Don’t desert me now!” she said. “Distract the Bipeds!” and she dashed to the bathroom.
Zeus ran around after her, barking at nothing in particular. His echoing, high-pitched bark was splitting all the Bipeds’ skulls. Even the ones who hadn’t been drinking to excess.
“What the hell is going on?” asked Jeff Morris, opening his bedroom door.
“Whatever it is, it’s still going on….” said a Biped with a red plastic cup in his hand named Scott Lebow.
Ginger leaped and tore at the shower curtain. In doing so, she shook free the shard of Don’s underwear off her lower tooth. It was about damn time, she thought. She spun around and made for the attic stairs. Zeus beat her there.
His body went rigid. He flattened his ears. He stared intensely up the dark stairs and growled long and evenly.
The Bipeds trailed along after them apprehensively. They were collectively thinking, “Is there some kind of teleporting ax murderer in the house?”
Downstairs, Liana was just opening the automatic garage doors and all the Bipeds flinched, believing the huge unearthly sound was the ax murderer beginning his culling.
Yet there was only Ginger and Zeus barking frantically up into the dark attic void.
Auggie and Teddy took off to the Depot. They ran the large plastic containers of food in their mouths over the deck and to The Lilac Tree. Some of the bowls were still warm, and that gave Auggie no end of delight. They were laughing and ever-mindful of limiting their nail-clicking on the hardwood floor.
In a few minutes, they were almost through all the food in the plastic containers, and Auggie had not seen the ham. It wasn’t in the fridge. The fridge was empty. He was sure of that when he closed the doors a moment ago. It wasn’t anywhere in The Depot. It was nowhere near The Lilac Tree.
Where the hell was that spiral ham? Had a coyote already nabbed it at The Lilac Tree? It was hard to believe there was time for that to happen. Had Teddy or Max or Buddy grabbed it? The Living Room smelled so much like spiral ham. It was driving him crazy.
There was no time to consider it further. There was other food to move to The Lilac Tree. There were other things to do. Auggie turned and dashed off down the deck stairs with a huge container of still-warm Mac n’ Cheese in his mouth.
About halfway through the job, Auggie heard Don moving in The Living Room. He poked his head in and saw Don flat on the floor with his limbs twitching. He was muttering. He was about to come to.
Don would need to be neutered soon.
Don came to his senses. His face was flat on the carpet and it smelled horrible. His ass hurt and the left side of his head was swimming in raw pain. His mouth was open and there was a thick strand of drool hanging from his mouth to that awful carpet.
Rick and Morty blared on the television. It cast flickering, confusing lights on the walls all around him. Small dogs were barking upstairs. The garage doors were opening or closing. He couldn’t tell. And mostly, he didn’t care.
Don had a vague recollection of what happened prior to his undignified collapse. Was he in his own house? His face was smooshed against The Living Room rug. It smelled terrible. It should have a biohazard sticker on it. Why hadn’t anyone cleaned this rug in the last 10 years? Why did his crotch hurt so much? And could God or Satan SHUT THOSE DAMN LITTLE YAPPING DOGS UP?!?!
He vaguely remembered Maximus Gary running and… a ham? There was something shifty going on. And he couldn’t put his finger on it. He shouldn’t drink so much during the holidays.
That’s when Don saw Maximus Gary trepidatiously put his head around the corner into The Living Room and look at him. The dogs were definitely up to something. He’d straighten this mess out by the hair on Max’s chinny-chin-chin. Don tried to raise himself off the floor.
Maximus Gary put his tail down and limped into The Living Room. He whimpered and whined. He made his way over to Don and laid down next to him. Don was confused. Never in his history with Maximus Gary had he seen something like this. They were both hurt and Maximus was seeking him out for solace.
For added effect, Maximus Gary exhaled loudly and wriggled his back into Don’s belly for the perfect spooning. Maximus Gary made sure he was simultaneously blocking Don’s view into The Dining Room and ensuring he himself had a commanding view of it.
Don put a hand on Maximus Gary’s side.
Maximus Gary’s eyes were wide open and staring at The Dining Room. Inside his mind, he was vomiting.
The house seemed alive to Liana. As Buddy searched, circled, and staggered for the best place to poop on the lawn, she leaned on her hockey stick and craned her ears to the house. There seemed to be several “things” going on upstairs.
It looked like everyone was upstairs partying. Lights were on. People were moving across lit hall windows. Lots of people. Dogs were howling and barking like when she sang “Missisippi Queen” on Rock Band. Her paranoia grew. She listened more intently and began moving towards the garage again. Even though the house was buttoned up for the harsh Maine winter, she could hear what she thought was several frenzied dogs barking. She sure could go for a good bout of Rock Band right about now. And there were lots of people up at this wee hour for a good jam session.
Buddy found a great place to pee and poop on the lawn and made the most of it by peeing and pooping at the same time.
He saw Liana hobble across the driveway and into the garage on her hockey stick. She went up the few steps, opened the door and went inside.
She didn’t leave the inside door open.
“I’m hungry,” Buddy thought. “Where is Max?”
In The Great Room, Auggie and Teddy finally got all the plastic food containers in a pile by the Lilac Tree. They looked at each other with a sense of shared accomplishment and renewed friendship. They ran inside to get the missing pièce de résistance- The Spiral Ham.
They could smell it. They just couldn’t find it.
They froze when they saw Liana open the door all the way down in The Foyer and lurch in with her improvised crutch. She closed the door and made her way upstairs. Auggie and Teddy looked at each other.
Where was Buddy?
Where was the ham?
Liana hobbled through the Foyer, and turned into The Front Hallway without noticing any of the dogs or Don. She began making her way towards the racket. Her improvised crutch “thunked” on every stair- adding to the terror of the upstairs Bipeds.
After she passed, Auggie came forward and put his head cautiously into The Living Room. He saw a snoring Don and a tensely-reclined Max spooning on the floor. Poor Auggie almost burst out laughing until he saw Maximus Gary’s fixed, furious eyes upon him. Auggie turned around and signaled Teddy for silence.
Maximus Gary mouthed “Status report.” To which Auggie silently responded in kind, “Liana and other Bipeds upstairs. Buddy outside. Food at Lilac Tree. Where is the Ham?”
Maximus Gary stared in disbelief. He put The Ham in The Depot himself.
Maximus Gary’s mind raced. Where the devil was that ham? Had a team member stolen it? It was impossible that a Biped recovered it. The closest Biped to The Ham all evening was Don. And he only ever got a couple feet from the couch where he was knocked out. The wiener dogs? No way. The two of them together couldn’t even lift it, much less get it out of The Depot.
Had a coyote nabbed it at The Lilac Tree? Coyotes rarely traveled alone. If a pack of coyotes was at The Lilac Tree, there was no way they could cooperate to get The Ham or even be quiet about it. There would be a maniacal, howling mess for hours as they fought over it. The similarities between a coyote pack and the folks upstairs playing Rockband were eerie.
Maximus Gary mouthed, “Did you put it at The Lilac Tree? “
“No. Neither Teddy nor I have seen it.”
Auggie and Teddy? Had they stolen The Ham for themselves? Why would Auggie ask where The Ham was? He might be creating plausible deniability. Auggie was with him from the beginning and was his most loyal officer. And yet Auggie and Teddy hated each other until very recently. Had they bonded over a pilfered spiral ham? They seemed awfully friendly now.
Maximus Gary would need to play this hand delicately.
“Buddy,” Max thought.
Where was Buddy?
Out of the corner of her eye, Ginger saw Liana come up the stairs. Liana looked at the panicked Bipeds and loudly barked over the barking, “What the hell is going on up here?” In a strange way, the Bipeds felt relieved that someone who actually lived in this house and hadn’t been murdered by a serial killer was taking control.
An agitated bunch of Bipeds began to answer Liana loudly and energetically.
Liana was unprepared for the thronging mass of terrified Bipeds she saw on the second floor of her house. There was only one thing to do. She said, “Let’s go upstairs and play Rock Band on the 72″ TV in surround-sound.”
She was met with a huge cheer. “And we’re doing ‘Mississippi Queen’!!!” she yelled. When they hesitated Liana said, “I didn’t hobble all the way up here on a hockey stick to listen to frickin’ ghost stories.”
As all the Bipeds laughed and thronged around Liana, Ginger said to Zeus, “Let’s go downstairs. Be small. Be very, very small.” They ramped down their barking amidst the cacophony of Biped chatter. They silently made their way to the stairs through Biped feet as unnoticed as your personal data being uploaded to Facebook servers.
Ginger hopped down the huge steps silently and cautiously. Zeus followed in turn.
Biped Sarah loathed Rock Band. She detached herself from the Biped crowd. She needed Bourbon.
She noticed Ginger and Zeus halt on a tread in the middle of the stairs, staring at something like lemurs.
She watched Ginger and Zeus as silently as her own shadow.
Don woke himself up with his own snoring. It sounded like a tractor that was stalling over the period of a few minutes. Once the tractor had finally stalled in a mighty backfire, Don shoved the spooning Maximus Gary brusquely. Maximus Gary limped away much as he had approached Don in The Living Room. Don remembered Maximus Gary’s limping before and tried to coax him back. Maximus Gary slunk out to The Great Room, but not before casting a berating eye back at Don.
Don’s head felt like a shattered vase.
He grabbed the remote and shut the TV off. He could hear voices, music, and laughter coming from upstairs. Liking none of those things, Don staggered off into The Front Hall towards The Kitchen. He discovered his ripped underwear and a small glazed-over wound right under the rip. He decided it was nothing to worry about and lurched into The Kitchen with his head in his hand.
He did a double-take. Wait. What was that? Wiener dogs were silently staring at him, at eye level, from the stairs.
Strange they weren’t barking, Don thought absently. Weren’t they JUST barking?
Something budded in Don’s mind as he staggered forth like a head-shot, butt-bit zombie towards The Kitchen…
Wait… The dogs. Something was going on with the dogs. Maximus Gary and the wieners… What was it? The booze and the hit to his head was making it difficult to remember. What was it? As he made his way into The Kitchen, he was certain he heard the wiener dogs clamber down the stairs and rush to The Great Room via The Living Room.
“The Dogs,” Don thought. “Something about the dogs.” He stumbled into The Kitchen with his ripped, blood-spotted boxers and pale butt. He filled a glass with ice.
Tohono was the alpha male of a 10-member coyote pack. At 50lbs, he was huge for a coyote. He had scars covering his muzzle and legs from many military engagements. He even had a scar on his back from a bullet. Tohono meant “Scarred one” or “Ugly One.”
Tohono, his alpha mate Waskin, and the rest of the coyotes that comprised the pack they called “Wharglearg” (Loosely translated- “Four Winds and Seasons”) were in their scrapes for the storm when they began noticing the most savory wind coming from what they called “The House of Many Black Dogs.”
It was a hard winter for Wharglearg. Though it was mild and had rained today, winter had come early and there was a significant snowpack. His underlings were lean and on a hair trigger. They were subsisting on mice, voles, squirrels, old berries, and Biped trash. On a few occasions, they were lucky enough to chase down a couple cats, a small dog, and a raccoon. By that Grace of Dog they were still alive and he and Waskin were still Alpha.
What they smelled now was ambrosia.
Tohono and Waskin mustered the pack and Wharglearg began their eerie war songs.
Sarah saw Ginger and Zeus remain completely still on the middle steps as Don scrutinized them. Incredibly, as soon as Don passed, the wieners silently tear-assed down the steps through The Living Room, and into The Great Room.
“Where is the fire, wieners?” Sarah thought absently, “Where is the barbecue, wieners?” She muffle-snorted at her little joke and made her way down the stairs to see Don with the left side of his face swollen and bruised. He was looking at her vacantly from across the kitchen island with a glass of ice in his hand.
Sarah was of sturdy New England stock. She could not be ruffled by the pedestrian horrors of Don. Nor could she be deterred from her coveted nightcap by someone as boorish as Don at this late hour.
“Hello, Sarah. I’m feeling like a little Naughty Sausage Dip, ” Don said seductively, “You in?”
“Gawddamnit if I’m not!” she sang.
He held up a deep dish with wrap over it in one hand and an unopened bag of Fritos in the other. Sarah clapped her hands excitedly.
He slung the dish into the microwave. Nobody except the shadowy Julie Baxter knew the precise ratios needed to achieve the perfect Naughty Sausage Dip. It was widely agreed in Chez Salty to be the crowning achievement of 10,000 years of humankind.
Don hobbled off to The Bedroom and grabbed a bathrobe to cover his monstrosities. He almost slipped in Buddy’s pee in The Foyer both coming and going. He did not bother to mop it up. When he got back to the kitchen, Sarah made herself a respectable Manhattan and poured Don a generous Bushmills whiskey.
In a few minutes there was a “ding” from the microwave. It was Naughty Sausage Time.
Buddy didn’t like being alone. Especially outside. Especially at night. Especially without a way to get back into the house. And ESPECIALLY without any food. Where was the food?
Maximus Gary said there was food. He said there was ham at The Lilac Tree. Buddy plodded towards The Lilac Tree. He was tired. He was hungry. He had to lie down and rest a couple times. He was 15 frickin’ years old for Dog’s Sake!
When Buddy finally got to The Lilac Tree, he saw a bunch of containers piled everywhere. He could smell that the containers had food.
He looked around. He was hungry. But he mustn’t ever chew through something to get the food. Don and Liana would be angry. Where was the ham? Maximus Gary said it was at The Lilac Tree. Buddy was at The Lilac Tree and there was no ham.
Buddy sat his creaky body down for a bit. He was tired and hungry.
He was borderline deaf, but even he could hear coyotes howling.
Were the containers by The Lilac Tree for the coyotes? Would the coyotes
bite through the plastic containers and eat the food? That would make Don and Liana mad.
Buddy never met a coyote. He heard them all the time. They howled. Especially in winter. The coyotes seemed like they were having a lot of fun when they were howling.
The fun was getting closer to The Lilac Tree.
Once Maximus Gary was released from Don-spooning in The Living Room, he carefully made his way to The Great Room with the wiener dogs. Auggie and Teddy ran up the front steps. They met on the outside deck.
They all looked to Maximus Gary.
“Where is the Ham?” he asked.
Auggie looked around. Then he said, “None of us have ever even seen the ham. Except YOU, Maximus Gary.”
“Go on…” said Maximus Gary, “Put it out there. Don’t hold anything back.”
“It sounds like we should be asking YOU where the ham is,” interjected Teddy. “You were the only one to ever even see it.”
Maximus was taken aback. He hadn’t expected to have to defend himself. These dogs couldn’t even get a scrap out of the trash without alerting NORAD. But it wasn’t time to score empty points. It was time to lead.
At least it was clear to him that Auggie and Teddy hadn’t stolen the ham for themselves.
“I dropped the ham right in The Great Room,” said Maximus Gary levelly. “It was the last thing I got from the fridge. This wiener dog is my witness.”
“My name is Ginger. And this is Zeus,” she said. “He’s telling the truth.”
“I’ll be damned if it’s not in The Great Room,” said Teddy. “We looked everywhere in there. The smell is SO dang strong!”
“Where is Buddy?”
“The last time Auggie and I saw him,” said Teddy, “he went outside to pee with Liana. He didn’t come back in with her.”
“Do you think Buddy stole the ham?”
All the dogs looked at each other.
Auggie said, “I don’t think Buddy is capable of stealing anything. If he found it. He took it. He didn’t know that he was stealing.”
“Let’s go find Buddy,” said Maximus Gary. “I don’t like him out there alone with that ham and those coyotes.” Then he added, “Wieners! Err… Ginger and Zeus… Stay close! I don’t want you to be coyote Hors d’oeuvres.”
“Hold on,” said Auggie. He went into The Great Room and grabbed a grocery flyer from the kindling bin in his mouth. He hopped up on two legs and put the flyer against the lock with his paw and closed the door by grabbing the knob with his teeth.
“Now the Bipeds think the door is closed, but we can get back in,” explained Auggie as he looked through the door glass and pulled the flyer flush with the inside of the door.
“Brilliant…” said Maximus Gary as the rest of the dogs gazed in wonderment. “That will let us get back inside if things go sideways with the coyotes.”
All the dogs looked around nervously. The coyote howls gave them all goosebumps.
“Let’s move out.”
When the microwave dinged, Auggie was just squaring the flyer up with the inside of the door. Don and Sarah grabbed their drinks, Naughty Dip, and Fritos and made their way to The Great Room.
Sarah said to Don, “Is there a door or window open in here? It’s freezing.”
“Are you trying to get me to start a fire so you can wolf down all the Naughties by yourself?” asked Don.
“No. No No. No…….. Yes,” Sarah admitted and dropped a generously-dipped Frito into her waiting mouth.
Don grabbed the bag of Fritos- thinking he could hold it hostage until he built a fire and put some music on. Sarah merely used two fingers to scoop the dip out.
“Dammit,” he said and threw the bag of Fritos to her. He set himself to his task, intermittently shoving dip and chips in his mouth as he was able.
That’s when a bunch of people came downstairs.
“Dammit,” said Sarah and tried to hide the Naughty Sausage Dip and Fritos under the coffee table.
Incredibly, the late night Bipeds never opened “The Fridge.” They helped themselves to ice from the ice maker. They reveled in the spirits and garnishes at the bar. They bloated themselves on the chips, unopened dips, nuts, candy, cheeses, breads, and tons of other food left out on the counters covered with plastic wrap. They helped themselves to the sodas and beers in the Beverage Fridge.
Yet no one even noticed the lovely and packed fruit bowl.
Only little Eva opened The Fridge, looking for her Pokemon “Glaceon” she put in there earlier. She cocked her head. “The Fridge” was almost empty, though Glaceon was still there.
She grabbed Glaceon and went over to her parents and tried to get their attention.
“Somebody stole all the food in the refrigerator.”
“Was it Glaceon?” said her mom poking Glaceon in the belly. “He looks a lot fatter!”
“No. He couldn’t eat all that food,” said Eva. “He doesn’t get very hungry anyway.”
“Why aren’t you upstairs asleep? It’s adults only this late at night,” said her dad.
“I couldn’t sleep with all the dogs barking and the noise coming from upstairs,” Eva said. “And now I can’t sleep with all the noise and music coming from downstairs.” She paused. “Where are the dogs?”
“All the dogs. Where are they? They were just barking and running around like crazy. Now Don and Liana’s dogs aren’t even begging in The Great Room with all this food around.” Eva shrugged her shoulders and slowly walked off to the stairs with Glaceon. She took a handful of M&Ms from a waiting bowl.
“We’re having blueberry pancakes for breakfast tomorrow!” shouted her parents after her. “Don’t be late!”
The Dogs ran off the deck and made straight for the Lilac Tree. They saw an exhausted Buddy panting amid the food containers and looking around confusedly.
“BUDDY!!” All the dogs exclaimed. “Where have you been!! Where is the ham?!”
Buddy looked up at them and said, “Yes! Where is the ham? I am hungry now.”
“Buddy, did you see the ham?” asked Maximus Gary.
“No. I want some ham though. Is the ham in the plastic bins?” Buddy sniffed speculatively at the containers.
“No, Buddy. We don’t know where the ham is.”
“I think it’s in The Great Room,” said Buddy. “It smells like it’s in The Great Room. I can smell it from here.”
“They” say that Bipeds who are deprived of one sense are more acute in the others. Buddy could barely see. He was almost deaf. And he was pretty dumb. Ergo, Buddy’s sense of smell was outstanding. No dog present realized it though.
It was clear to everydog that Buddy had never even come close to the ham.
Maximus Gary lifted his head and looked in the direction the coyotes were howling, “There’s trouble coming,” he said. “Let’s get this food to The Garden Shed. It will be easier to defend there. And the Bipeds won’t even use the shed until mid-April.”
Maximus Gary paused briefly. He idly wondered if Auggie and Teddy hadn’t stolen The Ham after all.
Auggie spoke up, “The lawnmower door of The Garden Shed is open, but swings shut. Just get your paw between the wall and where the door is warped at the bottom and pull. It will swing wide open. When the door is free, have one dog keep it open and another bring the food in. Otherwise, the repeated noise of the smacking door will attract Bipeds and coyotes alike. Put all the food inside The Garden Shed as far back as you can get it.”
Auggie took a deep breath, “It will be easier to defend against the coyotes who are most definitely coming.”
When Auggie was finished, Max said, “Ginger, Zeus… you’re lookouts. I’m sure Zeus’s ears can hear a moth farting on the moon. I want Zeus up there on the deck, looking and listening to that treeline with every tiny bit of his ears. I want Ginger at the corner of the building monitoring what Zeus can’t see in case they try a flanking maneuver. Us three will monitor the front lawn on our trips from The Lilac Tree. If any dog sees a coyote, DON’T BARK. Gather as much intelligence about them as you safely can and silently make your way back to us at The Garden Shed. We will need all the information, stealth, and surprise we can get to counter these coyotes.”
Teddy, Auggie, and Max set themselves to the furious task- grabbing bins and hustling them to The Garden Shed.
Zeus and Ginger dashed to their stations and set their radar-like ears to their respective treelines.
The coyote howling abruptly stopped. They were close.
“I would like some ham, please,” said Buddy. No dog heard him. After a minute, he got up and plodded his way towards the deck. No dog noticed him.
Wharglearg stopped its singing as it made its way towards The House of Many Black Dogs. The smell of food was driving the entire pack crazy. Tohono chastised a younger pack member who eagerly pulled ahead of the rest of the pack. Waskin nipped an older bitch on her back legs as she howled recklessly while galloping towards the smells an. These were Bipeds they were closing in on. They had guns and they hated coyotes.
As far as Tohono knew, this whole thing was a Biped trap and they would all be hanging by garrotes in the morning. Tohono didn’t get such a large pack over the years by ignoring such things.
They got to the treeline. Waskin gave the signal to halt. A coy pup named Grelant walked a few steps past the treeline. She bit him severely in the rear leg. “Hang back,” she growled. “Or I’ll rip your throat out myself.” Grelant said, “Yes Waskin,” as he quickly drew back into the treeline and assumed a submissive position.
Tohono, Waskin, and their cadre silently observed The House of Many Black Dogs from the safety of the treeline.
Zeus’s ears had already recorded the number and locations of all the coyotes before Grelant stepped onto the lawn. Zeus even heard Waskin’s threat to him.
Zeus was halfway to The Garden Shed to sound the alarm when Grelant took his second step past the treeline. Such were the ears of a Chiweenie.
On Zeus’s way off the deck to warn the other dogs, he passed Buddy making his way to The Great Room door. Zeus thought Buddy must be doing what Maximus Gary told him to do and paid him no mind. Buddy got to the back door of The Great Room and saw a bunch of people with a fire going inside. They were eating food and Buddy very much enjoyed food. He was hungry. He barked a couple times. No one noticed. He yarkowled a couple more times. Nothing.
Buddy decided to do what he did at the cabin when he couldn’t get inside: he wedged his giant, anvil-like head on the doorknob-side of the door, and applied an enormous amount of force to it. Usually the act itself didn’t work well, but it would get one of the Bipeds to open the screen door so he didn’t rip it wide open.
But this time it worked great! The door flung open and crashed into the doorstop with a huge “BANG!” The flyer Auggie had placed earlier to keep the door open fluttered out and landed on the deck where the Bipeds couldn’t see it.
“BUDDY!” all the Bipeds shouted.
“What an entrance, Old Boy!” yelled Don holding ice to his swollen head. “The best yet!”
Buddy paid them no mind. Mostly because he couldn’t hear or see them very well. He shuffled around the room, sticking his nose in the air, sniffing and snuffling for the ham.
Sarah thought Buddy was going for her Naughty Sausage Dip. She coyly moved it farther under the coffee table. That was HER dip, dammit.
After a minute or so, all the Bipeds in The Great Room forgot about Buddy and went on with their usual Biped things: eating, drinking, singing to the blaring music, jabbering… The door to the deck was unceremoniously closed.
Buddy maneuvered his way around The Great Room with his great proboscis in the air. He bumped into Bipeds. He bonked his head into a wall. A Biped laughed at that. All he smelled was that maddening ham. He was hungry.
It was very close.
The fireplace had a strong smoky smell. It cloaked almost all other smells. Then there were other delicious food smells coming from everywhere in The Great Room like booze and Naughty Dip. There were other terrible smells like Biped armpits and feet.
Where was it?
Buddy was tired of searching. He plopped down in front of the kindling box. The ham smell was so strong on the floor. It was here. He could smell it. He snuffled his giant black head into the gap between The Fireplace and The Kindling Box.
He found it. He was sure of it. It was very deep in there and looked shiny. Buddy scooted his head into the gap. It sure was shiny. He was pretty sure nothing shiny was edible, though. There were sticks of wood all over it.
He stretched his whole body out a little farther into the gap to have a better look with his weak eyes.
Zeus came running up to Max, Auggie, and Teddy just as they were loading the last of the plastic bins into The Garden Shed.
“They’re here,” Zeus hissed. “There are 10 of them and they’re making their way through the woods. The leader is a female named Waskin. She’s very mean and she came right out of the treeline and looked at me!”
“Bring Ginger back here,” said Maximus Gary. “Make sure you both are absolutely SILENT,” he warned.
“Where is Buddy?” said Maximus Gary, alarmed. “Is he still at The Lilac Tree?”
“I saw him on the deck when I saw the Coyotes,” said Zeus.
“Oh, thank Dog,” Max said. “Those Coyotes would kill and eat him if he was alone.”
“Really?” asked Zeus. “But Coyotes are Canines like us!”
“We’re well fed and cared for,” said Auggie. “When you’re starving in a freezing Maine winter, you need to eat.” Auggie looked vacantly at the treeline and said absently, “Their pack ran down a large deer in our yard a couple years ago.”
“If they get a cut on their paw, there are no Bipeds to treat it for them,” said Maximus Gary. “If that cut gets infected, they die. They’re truly animals like the turkey and the deer.” He paused. “And they have a right to live as we have that right.”
Zeus shuddered. He hurried off to warn Ginger. As he made his way, he had an epiphany:
In the house, Ginger was baited into this whole thing as a way to get some extra food and as a way to ingratiate herself with the big dogs of the house.
Zeus had only followed Ginger. Now they might get eaten by Coyotes and become part of Nature’s Great Cycle.
He bounded to Ginger with renewed urgency.
Once everydog except Buddy was reunited at The Garden Shed, they nervously looked to Maximus Gary.
And Maximus Gary looked solidly back at them.
He saw a group of overwhelmed, scared, and exhausted dogs. They were a team that stealthily beat the Bipeds, but in no way were they a fighting force. Yet, they had come too far to hand everything over to a bunch of mangy, half-starved coyote thugs.
“I wish I was inside by the warm fire and getting little tidbits before getting a good night’s rest,” Maximus Gary began. “But I chose to do something extraordinary. We all chose to do something extraordinary tonight. Bipeds heavily outnumbered us, yet by our Dog-given talents and persistence, we stole the food for their Holy Day. We executed the greatest food heist in the history of Dog. WE WON. And not even our cold graves can take that from us. Our actions today will resonate throughout Dog history. That will inspire and encourage other Dogs to rise up and take what is theirs. Our victory tonight will resonate for all eternity.
“Do you remember the days before our exalted victory? Wieners and Black Labs–suspicious strangers? Pompous Bipeds–secure in their intellectual superiority over all Canines? Mere scraps of food doled out by smug and lazy Bipeds? Do you remember?” Maximus looked squarely at Ginger and Zeus.
“Do You remember?”
Maximus Gary paused.
“Tonight we have scored great victories against the Bipeds. Victories like the Scalloped Potatoes. Victories like the Green Beans With Almonds,” Maximus Gary’s voice rose in pitch and fervor. “AND NEVER FORGET THE GRAVY!!!!”
All the dogs shuffled their feet and nodded. They were smiling and drooling.
“What is most important now is that we beseech Our Lady of Exalted Victory for one final victory. The most difficult victory any dog has asked her for!
“THIS is a pack of great power and purpose. We don’t covet another Dog’s talents. We respect them. Where would we be at this moment without Zeus’s amazing ears, Teddy’s redneck engineering, and Auggie’s clandestine intelligence? And GINGER!! Where would we be without your courage, determination, and bravery?
“I humbly submit to the heroes gathered before me that we name our pack ‘GINGY’ in honor of our bravest member.”
All the dogs howled their assent. Teddy hollered and jumped up and down. Zeus barked shrilly and rapidly whilst cutting short circles. Auggie clamored with the rest and sidled up to her. Ginger blushed as much as a Dachshund possibly could.
When they relented, Maximus Gary lowered his tone.
“Be it resolved that the victories we have stored in that Garden Shed are OURS. And we all are entitled to our share.
“I shan’t lie to you. We are outnumbered by an enemy seeking not only to steal our stupendous victory against the Bipeds, but to vanquish our very being. They loathe us. They believe we are sub-Canines. They think we are weak and docile. They believe we will not fight. They think we will roll over on our backs and give them our tender bellies and necks to shred.
“I am NOT talking about the Bipeds.”
There was a titter of laughter.
“I don’t know about the rest of you,” Maximus Gary continued. “I don’t know whether any one of you will fight or flee tonight. That does not concern me. You are welcome to do as you see fit. I do not want to fight. I possess no bloodlust. But I will defend what is mine from these cutthroat swine. Perhaps I will fight and die alone.
“But I will die HERE, defending what we have worked for–what is MINE and OURS. I shall stay and secure what is most valuable to me. I shall not lay my bounty or belly to the mercy of these bloodthirsty coyotes.
“This is hallowed ground because this is our ground. And if I can’t secure our victories on this ground, then I will gladly die defending them here.
“Whatever happens, I am part of a noble new pack. A pack that rests in my heart of hearts…
“I am Pack Gingy!!”
Pack Gingy roared. Auggie exploded and howled. He raised himself up on his rear legs over and over, gnashing his teeth and growling like a war machine. Ginger and Zeus boiled in a frenzy They lifted their heads to the sky and howled in a haunting, dirge-like tandem in the tall grass. Teddy grinned and flexed himself lengthwise. He dug strongly at the tall grass with his rear legs like he just took a satisfying crap.
Then they chanted “Maximus! Maximus! Maximus!”
Maximus Gary looked severely back at them. Inside, he was smiling.
He now had an army.
He raised his paw and continued.
“Zeus said the coyote pack had 10 members and their leader was a female named ‘Waskin.’ Do not be scared by that. We are outnumbered, but we three are much larger than even the largest coy dog. A few in their pack are bound to be juveniles without proper fighting instruction or experience. We can take advantage of that. But do NOT write the juveniles off. They are natural killers.”
Maximus Gary paused.
“Don’t ever forget that they are fighting for their lives.
“I don’t have time to give you proper instruction, so understand that in a normal dog fight, the objective is to dominate, not to kill. As civilized Dogs, we bark loudly and nip at the face and legs until an Alpha is decided or the Bipeds force us apart. Coyotes fight to the death. They will go for the neck and belly and use any number of dirty tricks to win. You must always be aware of this.
“We are on the defensive. Yet do not be alarmed! Being on the defensive has great advantages. We are fewer, larger, and less mobile. Defending a tight perimeter renders their superiority in numbers and mobility useless. If Teddy, Auggie and I keep our backs to The Garden Shed, they can only attack us from the front. They can’t out-flank us. And even if they rush us all at once, we three can stop them with short, focused strikes.
“It’s only a matter of time before the coyotes find the weakness in our defense. They will dig their way through the snow blocking the back door to The Garden Shed and chew their way through the bungee cord holding the back door closed. It’s the only weak point in our defense. When that happens, we are breached.
“Ginger, Zeus, we need you to guard the interior of the shed–front, back and sideways. If you see ANY snout come through any hole in that shed, start barking as loud and as quickly as you can. One of us big dogs will come in to deal with them. DO NOT attempt to fight a coyote on your own!”
Ginger reared up indignantly, “I have fought tonight and they were no small battles, Maximus Gary. I can still fight. And I would gladly die on this hallowed ground.”
“No doubt you can Ginger. You saved us tonight, that is true. But the goal is not to die. The goal is to send these butchers back to their woods, hopefully for good. We need to monitor the inside of The Garden Shed, and unfortunately, the job goes to you and Zeus. But don’t think this is a cushy made-up job. If the coyotes breach the back door all is lost.”
Ginger looked at Maximus Gary reproachfully. She wanted to fight with the big dogs. She deserved to fight with the big dogs. But she understood that it made no sense to have 100lb Teddy in the Garden Shed. She and Zeus would need to fill a need that the three other dogs couldn’t.
“I will monitor the back of the shed until Victory.” she said.
Zeus added, “Me too!”
“One last thing…” Maximus Gary breathed deeply, “If I bark ‘CHOKECHAIN’, ALL dogs make for our fallback position at the Great Room door. And let me be clear–all dogs leave in an organized pack and defend each other–the wounded and the small. We are NOT coyotes. There will be no dead dogs from Pack Gingy left behind for coyotes to eat. Is that clear?”
That’s when Pack Wharlglearg came through the treeline in force.
Tohono bared his teeth and lowered his head. He called out, “Black Dogs!”
Teddy and Auggie lay down in the tall grass in front of The Garden Shed like deadly tightened springs–camouflaged and ready. Ginger and Zeus went to the front door of The Garden Shed and watched apprehensively.
When none responded, Tohono barked out, “We are ten, you are less than five.”
Everydog in place, Maximus Gary walked brazenly into the open lawn.
He stopped and surveyed Wharlglearg.
“Palaver,” he barked loudly.
The coyotes, exposed on the lawn and unsure what Maximus Gary said, stood still and swung their heads back and forth, looking for traps.
Except for Tohono. He moved forward to meet Maximus Gary.
Sorry guys! That’s all I can write this month! Here’s a map if you’re confused:
See you in January!
— Maximus Gary