Tuesday, October 25, 2005


I was sitting in the conference room. It was quiet. I started to read a magazine. Eventually the police came. "You'll have to come with us," one of them said, almost in a whisper. I didn't resist. They cuffed me and took me away. At the station I was put into a green room with a metal table and three metal chairs.


"What happened?" one of them asked.

"I killed them all," I said. "One after the other. I won't deny it."

"With your bare hands?" the policeman asked.

"Yes," I said.

"You must have been out of your mind with rage," the policeman suggested.

"Oh, not really," I said. "It was just one of those things."

"Were you on any drugs?" he asked.

"No," I said. "I quit a long time ago."

"That's too bad," the policeman said. "It might have helped your defense."

"Oh," I said.

"Well, why then?" he asked.


"At first, I wasn't paying attention," I said. "I try not to hear what is going on."

"So, you are not a team player," the policeman said. He began scribbling in his notebook.

"No, I guess not," I said.

"Go on," the policeman said.

"Anyway, the meeting blather began drifting into my consciousness. There was some plan they all liked. It was a "homerun." But first they had to "touch base" with the clients to make sure everyone was on the "same page." But it was hard. They'd been forced to "play phone tag." Someone said it was like "herding cats."

"And..." the policeman asked.

"And, I killed them all," I said.

"Was it the herding cats comment that sent you over?" he asked.

"Not really," I said. "I think it was that everyone nodded in agreement as if something profound had been said. That's when I knew they had to die."

"No one resisted?" the policeman asked.

"They couldn't," I explained. "It wasn't on the agenda, so everyone just sat there."


"I sorry," the judge said. "But "temporary sanity" is not a valid plea.

"Oh," I said.

'I'm giving you twenty to life," the judge said.

"No problem," I said. "I have just one request. Could I be placed in solitary confinement?"

The judge laughed. "They don't have solitary confinement where you're going," he said.


I heard JC calling to me from the next cubicle. "Hey let's go. No daydreaming. You're going to be late for the afternoon meeting."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


"What did you in art today?" I asked.

"We learned the primary colors," T1 said.

"No, we didn't," T2 said. "That was last week. This week we learned the secondary colors."

"We learned the primary colors first," T1 shouted.

"That wasn't learning. That was a review," T2 countered.

"And what are the secondary colors?" I asked.

"Green, orange, and purple!" they shouted together.

"Hey!" T1 said. "He asked me."

"No. He didn't. He asked me," T2 replied.

"I asked both of you," I said.

"What comes after the secondary colors?" T2 asked.

"I can't remember the name," I said. "I'll have to look it up."

"Is it the ordinary colors?" T2 asked.

"She asked the art teacher that," T1 said.

"Mrs. Melchior said there are no ordinary colors," T2 said. "But there are."

"We don't have ordinary colors in art class," T1 said.

"It is a word like ordinary," T2 said. "Maybe ordin-dary."

"Ordindairy!" T1 exclaimed. "That would be colors that cows could see."

"I said it was a word like that," T2 said.

"Cows in a dairy barn would have ordindairy colors, not people," T1 asserted.

"If you don't stop laughing, I am going to cut open gray kitty and pull out all of her stuffing," T2 said.

T1 was nonplussed. "Hey!" she yelled.

"It's tertiary," LZ called from downstairs. "And that's enough shouting."

"When are we going to have potatoes again?" T2 asked.

"What?" I asked.

"I said, when are we going to have potatoes at dinner?"

"We can have them soon, I guess," I said.

"You always say that, then we have pasta or rice," she replied.

"We can have potatoes," I said.

"And I want real potatoes only," T2 said.

"What do you mean, real potatoes?" I asked.

"She means big potatoes from the oven, not the smashed up kind in a bowl," T1 explained.

"We can have them," I said. "Soon. Just don't hurt gray kitty."

Monday, October 10, 2005


"Would you like to hear a weird dog story?" LZ asked.

"I would," I said. "Unless the dog dies, then no."

"I wouldn't tell you a dead dog story," LZ said. "Don't you know that by now?"

"I almost know it, but I had to be sure," I said. "Go ahead."

"I was having lunch this afternoon with the new teacher, Nastassia, and we got to talking about dogs, and Nastassia told me this weird story about her dog."

"This is that story, then?" I asked.

"It is," LZ said.

"With a name like Nastassia, I would assume the dog is an exotic of some sort," I said.

"No," LZ said. "It's just a German shorthair."

Is a German shorthair an official type of dog, I wondered, or is there more to it.

LZ was back into the story before I could ask. "Nastassia lives in Bardentown," LZ said.

I'll have to remember to find out about the dog breed, I thought.

"I really like Bardentown," I said. "Good restaurants, old buildings, the river area."

"Nastassia doesn't live in that part," LZ said. "She lives across the highway, in the developments. Almost on the border of Exwicks"

"Oh," I said. "That's not as good. I may have to change that if I need local color."

"What do you mean change it?" LZ asked.

"If I decide to tell it, I may need some spruce it up a bit by moving Nastassia over by the river."

"Wait a minute," LZ said. "Whose story is this, anyway?"

"Everybody who wants one gets a version," I said. "That's just a fact."

"You won't be able to do it," LZ said. "Where they live is part of the story."

"We'll see," I said. "Go on."

"Nastassia lives in a regular suburban house with a regular yard, and in between the house and the yard is a back door, and in this back door is a dog door, and the dog door is really subtle. Unless you knew it was there, you would never know it was there."

"I guess the important thing is that the dog knows," I said.

But it turned out that there was probably something much more important about the subtle dog door. Its subtlety may, in essence, have precipitated the whole incident that became this story. At least I thought so.

"It's a small fenced in yard, the dog would go in and out as it pleased," LZ said.

"Nastassia didn't worry?" I asked.

"No, not at all," LZ said. "The dog was getting on, and it wasn't a jumper, a digger, or an escape artist of any kind. He liked the yard. He wouldn’t try to leave."

"But something happened," I said.

"It was the Martin Luther King holiday, a bitterly cold day," LZ said. "Nastassia was home with the children and she realized she hadn't seen the dog in a while. She looked in the yard, the dog wasn't there. She checked the house from top to bottom. No dog. She went outside one more time. No dog. She bundled up the children and walked around the neighborhood. No dog" "'Hermie!' she called. 'Hermie!' But the dog was nowhere to be found."

"Hermie?" I asked. "The dog's official real name is Hermann von Something," LZ said. "They call him Hermie."

So it is a real breed, I thought.

Many of this type of dog stories end at this point," I said. "Dog disappeared, never heard of again."

"Not this time," LZ said. "Nastassia didn't give up. She looked everywhere. She rode up and down the town. She made up fliers and put them on poles. She posted them in stores. She promised a reward. She had a once a week routine of calling every vet and animal shelter in the county. This went on for three months at least."

"That's dedication," I said.

"Then one day Nastassia got a call. A woman claimed to have information about her dog. She asked to meet Nastassia at the BiggerMarket, in the deli section. The woman would be wearing a red cap."

"I guess we're into the weird part now," I ventured.

"Pretty much," LZ said. "So Nastassia went to the market and the woman wass there, just like she said she would be."

"What kind of cap was it?" I asked. "A baseball cap, a trucker’s cap? A tam? What?"

"I didn't get that," LZ said. "Does it matter?"

"It could," I said.

"The woman told Nastassia that she thought her boss has Nastassia's dog. She gave Nastassia one the missing dog fliers with an address scribbled on it, and she took off."

"Did Nastassia follow her?" I asked. "Get her license plate number or anything?"

"No, LZ said. "By the time she thought of it, the woman was gone. Vanished."

"Lot of disappearing in this story,” I said. "Too much, really"

"Nastassia recognized the address. It was in Exwicks. No more than a mile or so from her house. She went right over and knocked on the door. A woman let her in. When Nastassia walked in, she was shocked. The whole room, and the room behind it, at least as much of it as she could see, is full of stacked cat carriers, four or five high. And they were full of screaming, mewling cats. And she could hear dogs barking."

"I never liked the name Exwicks," I said. "I think I'll change it."

LZ rolled her eyes.

"What happened next?" I asked, moving the narrative along.

"The woman in the house was a caretaker for the cats. She tended them all day, feeding, watering, changing the litter, whatever else you do for cats. All day long, while the owner was at work, she was on cat duty. Nastassia showed her a picture of Hermie. The woman thinks, yes, Hermie could be in the basement, with the other barking dogs. But the woman is the cat person only. She doesn't take care of the dogs. In fact, the basement is locked and she doesn't even have a key."

"That strains credulity," I said.

"That's how the story goes," LZ said.

"Then...." I said.

"Then Nastassia went right to the Exwicks police station. The police knew all about the guy. But they were unsympathetic. The guy’s sort of a local character. He’s liked. The police wouldn't help. No laws have been broken that they know of. There's no proof Hermie is in the house. And even if he is, the owner hasn't refused to surrender him. In fact, Nastassia hasn't even spoken to the owner. She's on thin ice coming into Exwicks and maligning a law-abiding resident taxpayer."

"The police sergeant looked at Nastassia. 'This guy, this animal guy,' he said, 'he's a little off, maybe, but he's an animal lover; he doesn't abuse the animals. In fact he fancies himself as sort of an animal savior, rescuing abused and neglected animals.' "Then the sergeant stopped talking and really stared at Nastassia with one of those blank, yet mean, police-authority type stares.. There's a moment of silence. Nastassia realizes that the policeman had turned the tables and was somehow implying that she had brought this on herself by mistreating Hermie. She got all red, embarrassed and angry and the same time. She couldn't say anything; she didn't know what to say. She turned and almost ran from the station."

"So the police were protecting their hometown nut?" I asked.

"Apparently," LZ said.

"We'll make that the end of part 2," I said.

LZ ignored me.

"Nastassia was determined to get Hermie back, of course," she said. "So she called her ex-husband, and he came over with his brother, a big guy, and the three of them went back to the house in Exwicks that night."

"Now the ex-husband," I asked, "what's the relationship there?"

"I didn't ask," LZ said. "It's none of my business."

"It must be fairly close," I said. "For him to come right over, and with his brother. Or maybe it's loyalty to the dog. Was he close to the dog?"

"I guess," LZ said.

"So off they go to the crazy house in CrossKeys," I prompted.

"Exwicks," LZ said.

"OK," I said. "Exwicks. For now."

"They marched right up to the front door and rang the bell. Nastassia was a holding one of those fliers. A guy opened the door, looked at the three of them, looked at the flier in Nastassia's hand. He held up his index finger in that just a minute gesture, turned and walked back into the house. A second later Hermie charged through the room and out the open door right into Nastassia's arms. She grabbed up Hermie and they ran to their car and took off."

"That's it?" I asked.

"Pretty much," Z said.

"No one said anything to the guy?"

"No," LK said. "They were just so surprised and happy to see Hermie that they never looked back."

"Damn," I said. "Now I'm going to have to make up some stuff."

"Like what?" LZ asked.

"Like a lot of stuff. There’s just too many unknowns," I said. "It's dissatisfying. Did Nastassia even say what the guy looked like?"

"Just normal," LZ said. "Nothing remarkable."

"We'll make him mid 40's," I said. "Pasty. Was skinny, but not any more. . Still has the white, skinny legs. The beginnings of a pot belly. Wearing stupid colors. Green pants. Pale yellow sports shirt. Green cardigan. Light brown hair. Stringy and lank. Glasses. How's that?"

"I'm going to check on the girls," LZ said. “I'll be right back.”

“I’ve heard of these people,” I said when LZ got back. “These animal collectors. It’s a regular pathology, or syndrome. I’m pretty sure an official condition. But usually it’s an older woman with cats. I never heard of cats and dogs together. That’s a new angle.”

I thought on that.

“And as for why, how’s this?” I asked. “He’s a guy, a nut, with this animal collector thing. But he doesn’t know he’s a nut. He thinks he’s a hero, an animal savior. So there’s a little bit of that grandiosity thrown in too.”

“He’s got a job, a pretty good job, if he can hire someone just to stare at cats. But he’s out stealing dogs on a Monday morning. Is he off from work for the holiday?
No, and that’s the whole point. Government workers and teachers get off on Martin Luther King day. Not the private sector. It’s like half a holiday. And he’s in the private sector because the woman in the BiggerMarket called him her boss. In government work they always say supervisor.

“So he’s in the private sector. Self-employed. Maybe he has a little real estate office, something that keeps him on the road. Doing his job and watching out for the animals.

“And he’s out in Bardentown, checking out a listing on a freezing morning and he sees Hermie in the back yard, a short-haired dog out in freezing weather. And he forgets that it’s a holiday for some people. He’s unmarried, childless. He doesn’t think about school holidays, semi-holidays. All he sees is an unattended dog, freezing in a yard. He assumes the owners are at work and have left the dog out for the day. He doesn’t notice the subtle dog door: the fine workmanship obscures it. He saves Hermie.

“Pretty good, the way I worked it all out. Don’t you think?” I asked LZ.

“It is logical,” LZ said. “But it sort of takes away the ethereal uncertainty away when you connect the dots like that. Doesn’t it?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean,” said LZ, “that it was all there already. The short haired dog. The subtle door. The boss reference. If you have to spell it all out, maybe it wasn’t that good a story to start with. If you take a regular short haired dog story and try to make it into a shaggy dog story, well, then….”

Ethereal uncertainty, I thought. That’s pretty overblown. LZ’s really gotten full of herself.

“I see your point,” I said.


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