Word had already hit the street by the time Susan called. You couldn't buy a pretzel on the corner without hearing the buzz. Still, I was anxious to hear her take on things.
Crushing the receiver between my ear and shoulder I lit a cigarette, took a deep draw, and braced myself.
"What've you got, darling?"
"Well", Susan's voice rattled at the other end of the line, "It's better than you might fear, but worse than you might hope."
"No time for games baby, give it to me straight".
There was a pause, and I could hear Susan take a deep breath. "Well, I just got here, so I haven't had a chance to check everything out, but it looks like two casualties, three wounded, eleven homeless, and Bronski..."
"Let me guess...missing in action - again."
"Right, but they're combing the neighborhood. He'll turn up."
"Ok, I'm on my way over. Hang tight and I'll be there in 15 minutes."
I wiped the shave cream from my sideburns, slipped Earl a five, and headed off across the square towards home.
I saw the casualties the moment I walked in the door. The small bodies of the boy and girl lay on the hardwood floor near a crumpled up rug and overturned hostess table. Their porcelain heads and arms lay nearby, separated from their bodies.
The wife will have an absolute bird when she sees them. She had found them at an antique shop in Barnstable and simply had to have them. "Perfect! Just Perfect!" she kept saying. Damned ugly if you asked me - heads too big for their bodies, and both of them in dresses. What's with that? Anyway, I won't miss 'em.
The homeless were gathered in the kitchen, darting around nervously and staring out from the 11 glasses of various sizes and shapes that covered the counter. The floor was covered with water, broken glass, and about 10 lbs of blue and green gravel. Over in the corner, the little plastic treasure chest still bubbled and hissed, though it no longer opened and closed.
I splashed across the kitchen, lifted a juice glass from the counter and held it up to the light. The little Nile Catfish gazed back at me with big bulging eyes.
"How long have they got?"
"Metro aquarium is on the way over now. Chances are good they'll all make it."
So efficient. Must get that from her mother.
It wasn't until I set the glass down and turned to Susan that I noticed the escape path. Wet prints led across the linoleum to the screen door, and straight through the mesh screen.
Following the tracks into the yard I found the wounded. Bent and twisted, three ragged green stalks protruded from a bed of red petals.
The wife's prize English roses.
I seriously considered heading back to the barber shop. I certainly didn't want to be here when she found out. Hell, even I was afraid to touch those damn flowers. Bronski was as good as dead.
A quick tour of the house revealed an open window, several overturned plants, dirty brown footprints on the cream colored sofa and pillows scattered around the room.
I had just finished piecing most of the story together when posse showed up. Tommy and a gang of neighborhood kids came rushing in the front door with the big Irish Setter in tow.
"Dad, we found Bronski. He was after Mrs. Finster's cat, Precious. He chased her up a tree in Bobby's yard."
I should have guessed. Now it all fit.
Precious, in her never-ending quest to get our canary had climbed in the livingroom window and onto the hostess table. In addition to being spoiled rotten and fundametally evil (as I believe all Persian cats to be), Precious is a rather large cat. Obese, in fact. There was no way both she and the statuettes were going to fit on that table, and well, guess which one of them took a dive.
The ensuing crash would have woken Bronski who, in his excitement to investigate, would not have taken into account the frictionless properties of a wool rug on hardwood floors. Precious may have broken the first statue, but 85 pounds of spinning, sliding, confused Irish setter finished the job.
Precious either leapt, or was thrown into the nearby plant stand. In either case, the devestation indicated that Bronski had been right behind her. Through the plants and dirt, around the coffee table and across the couch they went, pillows flying in every direction.
The chase led on into the kitchen, where Precious had taken refuge atop the large aquarium. Unable to reach the cat from the front of the aquarium, Bronski had decided to try the side of the stand. Wedging himself between the wall and the aquarium stand, he struggled to the top.
What Bronski may lack in intelligence he more than makes for in persistence.
The combined weight of the two animals was more than the top-heavy stand could accomodate and the aquarium had come crashing down, completely soaking the room and both animals.
Based on the claw marks I'd say that Precious was about half way up the screen door when Bronski hit it at full stride, tearing the screen open and sending them both rolling through the rose bushes, in to the yard, and off into the neighborhood.
Which brings us back to the present.
Squealing brakes signal the wife's return home, and I hear Susan talking to her out in the driveway. Bronski looks at me with sad brown eyes as if he knows the storm that's about to be unleashed. I can't help but feel for him. He was protecting the house, after all. And that cat...I mean, we all know it's just plain evil.
I look around the room at the carnage, at the doorway that will soon house the screaming silhouette of my wife, then back down to a waiting, hopeful Bronski.
A few seconds later the screen door is flapping in the breeze and man's best friend and I are off to enjoy a quiet evening in the park. Hopefully she won't look there.
See that job title? Check it out: "Spy". How cool is that? I know, you're probably wondering what it means to be a spy for an international organization like Intrepid Media, huh? Well I'd love to tell you, but I can't. It's all part of the spy game, baby.
ABOUT ROGER STRIFFLER
more about roger striffler
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
9.26.01 @ 8:41a
No matter how diabolical the Persians in Babe or happened to be, the Siamese is the true devil incarnate. That pre-coital yowling - it's not of this earth.
Thanks for a much needed giggle this morning.
9.26.01 @ 8:44a
"...or Stuart Little..." That's what else was in that line...at least on my end. The "bad movie transmorgafier" set up by Jael, rather than change it to Anastasia must have deleted it altogether.
9.26.01 @ 10:36a
Could we please keep the discussion off movies and on puppies and kitties?
9.26.01 @ 10:38a
Actually, I was kind of kidding but how do you people get movie references out of a column like this?
My dog is completely laid back when it's just me and him. We hang out, we have a couple beers, we nap. The moment the wife gets home, however, he turns into a Chihuahua.
9.26.01 @ 10:55a
Oh, my immediate thought was of the Siamese from "Lady and the Tramp." That's how, Joe. Oh, and is your dog usually a Chihuahua? Because the physics involved with, say, an Irish Setter turning into a chihuahua simply boggle the mind.
9.26.01 @ 11:46a
Adam, I immediately thought Lady and the Tramp too. Those freaky Siamese, if you please.
9.26.01 @ 12:07p
Actually, I was thinking of the Persian in Cats and Dogs, and also my friend's cat who would rub against me til I petted it, then bite me.
Joe's dog rocks, though I've only seen it do the chihuahua thing once. Actually, last time I saw him he was wearing a football jersey, and they were both drinking beer. (Joe and the dog, not the dog and the jersey)
9.26.01 @ 12:29p
"You people" says Joe. Yeah, like this constant movie referencing was a predilection of mine before I signed on this blasted site. Nature vs. nuture, dear friend. Face it; your site is corruptive.
We once had a St. Bernard that ate the entire Thanksgiving turkey as it sat cooling on a table on the back porch. Really. It was so funny...kinda like what the Bumpus' dogs did.
cagey movie reference.... :)
Fortunately, we had acquired enough side dishes to compensate for lack of primary entree bird.
9.26.01 @ 1:10p
Okay, he doesn't so much turn into a chihuahua as he, sort of, channels a chihuahua. He's a good looking dog though, and Allison will let me give him beer, just not bourbon.
9.26.01 @ 1:20p
Bring him over to my place and we'll get him all liquored up with Loki, Jack and Rommel (who channels a pretty good Irish setter himself).
9.26.01 @ 1:59p
Rommel might be the best name for a dog I've ever heard!!!!!
9.26.01 @ 2:11p
I love the Bumpus' dogs.
One of the ways I know the holidays have arrived is the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story on TNT.
(commences waiting for Adam to make Yom Kippur joke)
Loki is also an awesome dog name.
And since joe is putting the kibosh on movie references, a book reference here: How many of you have read American Gods? It's aaaaaaawesome.
9.26.01 @ 2:51p
Rommel is a (black) German Shepherd Dog, so the name seemed appropriate. Loki is a Siberian Husky, so the micheif factor was pretty much there.
I love A Christmas Story...
Give me one good reason to read American Gods (aside from the fact that I tend to believe most everything you tell me).
9.26.01 @ 4:19p
Never read any Gaiman...is it a good start? What is it, contemporized mythology or something?
9.26.01 @ 4:51p
[editted to remove repetition]
9.26.01 @ 4:52p
Oh! It's Neil Gaiman! That's reason enough right there. Love his stuff with Terry Pratchett too.
9.26.01 @ 5:14p
Wait, am I missing a different reference, or did you name a dog after the Nazi shithead commander of the 15th panzer division?
9.26.01 @ 6:36p
Yes, you are missing something. Irwin Rommel was a world-recognized strategist and tactician. His campaigns resulted in the highest number of victories with lowest casualties, he was known for his sympathetic treatment of prisoners of war. He was more of a nationalist than a nazi,and when he was executed for attempting to assasinate Hitler, Winston Churchill gave a speech in his honor.
I think "Nazi shithead" is a bit of a generalization.
9.26.01 @ 7:19p
9.26.01 @ 8:07p
And we're totally losing sight of the fact that this discussion is really about Neil Gaiman.
Mike, trust me. American Gods is this wonderful examination of what happened when immigrants brought all their gods with them and promptly forgot about them, and the old gods are languishing, and new gods like the internet are taking over, and they're gonna rumble.
Neverwhere's pretty good too -- the world in the sewers below London.
Dark, funny, brilliant.
9.26.01 @ 8:07p
Thanks for the history lesson, but back to dogs...
I knew my parents had gone off the deep end when they allowed their two 110 lb. golden retrievers to become lap dogs. When I go home, I don't sit down because about 2.3 seconds later I will have lots 'o dog on me.
9.26.01 @ 8:16p
My empty-nesting parents are still trying to decide on chocolate lab vs. beagle vs. dachshund. They haven't made much progress on the debate in the last, oh, eight years.
9.26.01 @ 11:01p
Ok, so now I have to read American Gods...like I don't already have a huge pile of books in the queue...and you just know that one's going to jump to the front somehow.
Jael, I'm thinking you'd like "Good Omens", by Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. If you haven't already, check it out.
9.27.01 @ 9:23a
On the book topic: I just started a book by James Gunn (wrote Tromeo and Juliet (Troma Films), some other screenplays, not a bit H-wood player tho) called The Toy Collector that is absolutely hilarious. I'm only 50 pages in, but it is GREAT! And very dark. But great.
9.28.01 @ 1:56p
My little sisters watched Disney's The Ugly Dachshund every morning for the entire 1988 summer break. It drove me fukem crazy. I can't be around little dogs now. I get this incredible urge to punt them.
10.1.01 @ 9:59a
Thank you, Roger. I stand semi-corrected.
Martin Mull once did a whole stand-up routine on how he had become a conservationist and how he wouldn't wear wooden clothing or burn wood, and how wonderfully dogs work as kindling instead. Very sick; very funny.