HUMOR: Wild Thing
You make my heart sing
You make everything
— The Troggs, “Wild Thing”
One of the great cultural shifts absolutely no one saw coming is the ascendancy of the lap dog to iconic status. And we are not talking about the anchors at CNN or Fox News.
Chet sipped a beer in the crowded patio of Le Petit Cuistot with his good friend Brenda. In her lap sat Poopsie, her King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. Brenda carried Poopsie everywhere. It occurred to Chet that he had never seen the dog on the ground, although he assumed it must be placed on its own feet at some point, for practical reasons.
Aren’t you the sweetest thing, Brenda said in baby talk, feeding the dog from her plate. She and Poopsie were by no means conspicuous. A half-dozen other dogs sat in the laps of their owners, smacking their lips. At thirty dollars a plate L’morsures taureau seemed very expensive dog food, but nothing was too good for Poopsie of Robbinsdale. Or Boris of Edina, or Pedro or Rene or Her Ladyship Braxton Atelier of Tuckahoe Trace, Lady for short.
After lunch Brenda handed the dog to Chet. “Remember,” she said. “Don’t wake him until nine. He likes his eggs over easy. Don’t pet him too hard, it agitates him. Make sure he’s in bed by ten, and absolutely no R-rated movies. After “The Ring” he didn’t sleep for a week.”
Who did? thought Chet.
“Here are my keys. If you have any questions call.” Poopsie shivered in Chet’s arms. “He’s scared,” said Brenda. “It’s nothing. He does that when he’s scared.”
“Don’t worry, Poops,” said Chet. “We’ll be just fine.” The dog shivered even more.
Back in Brenda’s townhome Chet sat with the paper, waiting for Poopsie to go outside and do his business. The little spaniel peered at him with large, terrified eyes. When he tried to lead him to the door the dog recoiled in terror. Chet could wait. He turned the page. Another sort of man might have snooped about the place, but not him. Chet and Brenda had never dated. He didn’t know why, except when he thought about it the idea seemed absurd. Brenda outweighed him by forty pounds. She had big hands and big thighs and her blonde hair rose in a big halo about her head. She could easily defeat him in any physical contest, as she had defeated so many others in the years he had known her, if indeed love could be considered a physical contest, and with Brenda he had no doubt. There was nothing in her home that could possibly add to Chet’s lurid imagination.
He looked at his watch. Time to do his business or get off the pot. He pushed Poopsie out the door, but something was wrong. Both man and dog hesitated.
A large rabbit sat on the lawn, stone-like, its eyes wide and unblinking. Poopsie shivered and whined. It seemed silly to fear a rabbit, but was it? Chet couldn’t be sure, having very little exposure to wildlife. He heard somewhere that a cornered animal might turn vicious. After a moment he walked Poopsie to the front door, where the dog finished quickly. Once inside Chet’s own heart stopped pounding. He thought he’d hidden it very well, and soon Poopsie dozed in front of the TV.
The next morning the rabbit was back.
Chet and the dog stared from behind sliding glass. Large and grey, the animal had a curious strength, a strength that lay primarily in its immobility. Not a hair moved. The eyes were like marble. It knew something, Chet was sure of it. So was Poopsie, who all but dragged him to the front door, far from the rabbit. Eyes bulging in terror, Poopsie peed on the nearest upright item, Brenda’s garden gnome.
Days passed identically, with the large and virile cottontail in complete control. It owned the outdoors. It owned the backyard. It owned Poopsie, allowing him to do his business in the front yard only. For now. What if the rabbit changed his mind?
One night, as the dog dozed, Chet switched channels. You can only take so much public TV. He stopped on the movie Patriot Dog, starring Kell Gardner and Maxwell, the Alsatian Shepherd. As Chet watched Maxwell repeatedly saved Sargent Smith’s life, the dog distracting the machine-gunner, snatching the knife from the enemy’s hands, plunging headlong into battle, ripping, slashing, mauling.
Here was courage, raw, compelling.
Because of his wealth Chet had thought himself lucky, even blessed, and he still did. But how far did money go? Hadn’t the waiter in El Gecko been abrupt and snotty, taking his plate without asking? And the new postal carrier. Sometimes he didn’t deliver for a day or two, then stuffed the extra mail in the mailbox, shredding magazines. When Chet spoke to him (very politely) he was astonished at the man’s rudeness. “Some of us work for a living, buddy!” he growled, storming off. And the dry cleaning clerk, and the cable man, and the florist. The florist!
He woke Poopsie, R-rating be damned. They watched together as grim soldiers tied fifty pounds of explosives to Maxwell, who vanished into enemy territory, picking his way through a no-man’s land of barbed wire. A moment later a huge explosion filled the sky. As credits rolled a dog’s heroic profile filled a waving flag. Poopsie looked at Chet with enormous, wet eyes.
In the morning the dog didn’t get his egg. Chet carried him to the back yard, where the rabbit sat self-assured, commanding and alert. He began to pet the dog hard, as he’d been told never to do. Poopsie didn’t like it, and a low growl rose in his throat. Chet worked over Poopsie and the spaniel growled louder, and louder still, his eyes fixed on the rabbit, and it’s stone-cold eye.
Chet opened the door and placed him on the ground. Go get him! he commanded. The dog shot into the backyard.
Later that morning Chet enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of waffles and jam delivered from Le Petit Monsieur. Poopsie did too, sitting in a chair with a napkin tucked into his collar, and that night they ate popcorn and watched three R-rated films, one after the other, panting with excitement. Poopsie, that is.
“What did you do to my sweet little dog?” Brenda asked when she returned. “He’s absolutely wild. He patrols the backyard like a Doberman.”
The memory of their time together made Chet smile. Truly, he didn’t know a rabbit could run like that. Or jump. They never saw it again, not after Poopsie thoroughly put it to rout. It was probably in Nebraska by now.
“I’ll tell you what I did,” Chet said to his friend, Brenda, as he snapped his fingers at a waiter. “I made a man of him.”