Attention Producers --
I admit it: I lingered too long in the newsroom the other day, poking fun at the phone call you wanted me to turn into television. Sorry, but claims of stray dogs stuck under houses always crack me up. It’s not that I’m anti-canine, I ‘m just naturally skeptical. (Twenty years of chasing vapors will do that to a fella.) This time however, your instincts were dead-on and had I shagged over there just a little quicker, I would certainly have captured some memorable moments on camera. Instead, all I can offer is the following exchange; two true-life minutes that are now stuck on a loop inside my head…
“I’m sorry you came all the way out here,” the lady in the housecoat said, “but Horace already got that dawg out.”
“Really?” I asked, looking around for evidence of the imperiled pooch. I found none, but there was plenty else to look at there in the lady’s front yard. Cats, perhaps two dozen of them, roamed this way and that, peering out of the front window, cowering under nearby bushes, rubbing against my ankles.
“Yeah, the poor thing got stuck up under there this morning” she said, hiking a nicotine-stained thumb to the modest home behind her. “But he’s in the woods by now. Horace got him out.”
That’s when I noticed a flashlight’s weak beam shining from beneath the house’s crawlspace There, through a low square hole in the bricks, a greasy head of hair inched toward the opening. Horace, I presumed.
Following my gaze, the woman acknowledged her hero. “Didn’t take him but a minute to get him out. Said his collar was hung up on my ductwork. I gave him some food and he took off for the woods. The dawg, not Horace.”
I nodded as I watched the man of the hour turn his shoulders and shimmy out through a hole the size of a shoebox lid. Incredibly, the baseboard orifice birthed a pretty sizeable hillbilly. As Horace stood to his full height, he squinted at the stranger staring back at him. Lowering my gaze, I couldn’t help but notice the muddy skid mark on the front of his rebel flag t-shirt. Something in my subconscious clicked and I suddenly remembered the pick up truck I’d park behind a minute or so earlier sported mud flaps with the same set of Stars and Bars. That’s when I noticed Horace was looking at me, hard. Then he coughed up some long-lost lung nugget, hurled it into the dirt, reached for his millionth Winston and turned to the lady.
“That’s the same dawg ate that cat last year.”
This seemed to bother the lady and for the first time she acknowledged the felines at her feet.” I just hate to hear an animal suffer. It’s why I got all these cats. I don’t go looking’ them. They must just follow their friends here.”
I nodded absent-mindedly, wondering how I was going to convince the producers that the great Stuck Dog Story of Aught Nine was a no-go. That got me to guessing how else I might spend the rest of this suddenly slow news-day. About then, I felt the burning stare of Horace as he searched my form for any sign of confederacy affiliation. Finding none, he turned his attention to my glasses, his forehead scrunching between unkempt eyebrows. Wondering if my bosses would be able to find my remains by tracing the memory of my GPS unit, I glanced nervously at the woodline, where the mystery dog was supposedly licking his woods. That’s when Horace uttered an offer I still can't seem to get outta my head...
“You want me to stick him back up under the house so you can get yer picture?”
Oddly enough, I didn’t.