Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Fetching Blaze, Part 3...

Within 8 hours, I had returned to WW's farm, battered but unbowed. I had tried to get Blaze back the civilized way and for my trouble ended up getting my swollen wrist in a splint (it wasn't broken, amazingly, but I had one hell of a bone bruise. Still do, actually). I'd also lost a roll of cash, but I had decided that was the last of the money I was going to spend to get my dog back. I'd had enough. It was time to pull out the stops and do what it took--short of murder, I guess--to get Blaze out of that kennel where he was chained up.

It was time to open the box my brother had overnighted me.

Some items I discarded immediately (really, how much use would white smoke grenades be?), but others I secreted upon my person before driving back out to the farm under the cover of darkness. This time, I stopped short of the turnout marking the beginning of the long driveway, parking the car--facing the other direction for a quick getaway--up on an embankment. Then I walked past the turnout and stopped about a quarter-mile down the road, in a little copse of hedge-apple trees and overgrown weeds. On the other side of the trees, I hunkered down in the field and turned on my brother's handheld night-vision scope. Nifty little doo-dad. With it, I could see that it was a straight walk across the field to one of the sheds near the barn. The shed provided was good cover on this side and it looked as though I could make it to the barn without being seen. From there, it ought to be a simple matter to get up close to the large kennel full of Blaze's siblings.

I had been worried that the dogs themselves would alert WW and his dad to my presence, but I was worrying needlessly. The dogs had been barking since the sun set, yipping intermittently at every distant pop or shower of colored sparks. This was the weekend before the Fourth of July, after all, and the dogs were keyed up by every exploding firecracker or rocket that pierced the silence. If they barked when I showed up, WW and his dad likely wouldn't even bother to check at this point.

I carefully put the night-scope in an inside pocket and started across the field. I was wearing the blackest clothes I owned, but even in the full dark, I felt strangely exposed, walking in across the field. I was taking my time--forcing myself to walk slowly, in part so I wouldn't get overly excited, but largely because of what I was carrying. I was pretty weighted down. In my arms, for example, were two large Styrofoam trays of ground beef, enough to stuff a three-generation family reunion with burgers. As I walked, I'd been scattering big clumps of the ground chuck around me, behind me, spreading it across the field as far as I could. The wind was behind me, too, so I could only hope the smell of raw, bloody meat was hitting the keen noses of those hungry dogs.

I tossed the last of the meat about 50 feet from the shed. I ditched the Styrofoam trays and made myself flat against the wall of the shed. I got out the night-scope one more time and peered around the corner.

There was one outdoor light--a fixture over the barn door that spilled a little yellow color across the yard, barely illuminating the large kennel, where I could already hear barking and--was I imagining it?--more than a few keening whines as sensitive noses smelled something tasty coming in off the wind.

From this angle, I couldn't see the kennel where Blaze had been earlier, but I could see a back porch that faced to the north, the direction of the nearest town, and a more or less perfect vantage point to watch the town fireworks. I couldn't see very well into the porch--in the green half-light of the night-scope, all I could see was mostly screens. But in between the ever-increasing pop and whistle of fireworks, I thought I could hear someone talking. Then I heard a loud belch and the familiar clinking of aluminum as a beer can was being crushed. So they were up and awake and on the porch, watching fireworks.

My heart was pounding so fast it made my head pulse painfully, which was too bad. Even with the nifty painkillers they gave me at the ER, the pain of my wrist had traveled up my arm and lodged itself in my forehead. I would have the mother of all tension headaches soon, I realized. As I put the scope away again, I took a few deep breaths, then crouched and scuttled from the shelter of the shed to the far side of the kennel. The dogs barked more loudly now and I tensed, waiting to see if WW would come storming out, having decided the tone of the dogs' barking was no longer that of a pack of mutts answering the fireworks. But he didn't.

A few of the friendlier, friskier dogs came up to the fence where I crouched. They sniffed at me and poked their tongues through the links of the fence. Poor hungry bastards, I thought, as one young dog tried eagerly to squeeze his head through a single chink in the fence just for the pleasure of licking hamburger grease off my hand. It was feeding time, I decided, and reached over my shoulder to grab the pair of handles jutting out of the pack on my back. Out came my brother's heavy-duty (yet surprisingly lightweight) bolt cutters. BB swears they're the exact kind used in covert operations the world over, but how the hell would he know? Aw, it doesn't matter. They came in right handy as, in the space of about 20 seconds, I was able to quietly snip through the bottom links of the kennel fence.

My plan, by the way, was ridiculously simple. I would create a diversion that would force WW and his dad to go in one direction--towards the little stand of trees across the field. Meanwhile, from the opposite direction, I would come in, cut Blaze loose and hightail it to the car. If all went well, WW and his dad would be so busy rounding up the other dogs, they might not even realize Blaze was gone until the next morning.

Whew, boy, you can smell that wishful thinking from all the way over there, huh?

In my defense, the first part went just right. As soon as I clipped enough fence loose, the smaller dogs began wriggling under, casting about for the tantalizing scent somewhere behind me. A few seconds later, I had the whole bottom of one fence column flapping in the breeze. With a great surge and louder barking than ever, the entire kennel emptied and I was almost overrun by dogs.

The jailbreak didn't go unnoticed. I heard the scrape of a chair and saw a shadow at the door to the back porch. WW.

I heard him swear, then yell something at his father. I didn't wait to see if he would leave the porch or not. I stepped briskly around the back of the barn. I heard the scuffle of feet from the other side, then heard the dad say, "Goddamn them! They got out again!" He and WW took off across the field, following the increasingly distant sound of their dogs, barking with what I could only hope was glee. As soon as I was sure they were well in the other direction, I sprinted around the far side of the barn and across the open field behind the house. I wasn't sure if anyone was in the house--a mother or grandmother or a visiting friend or relative, maybe--so I stayed well clear of the dimly lit yard, making a long, wide circle, orbiting the house. I tripped and fell once or twice, but by this time my eyes had adjusted enough to the darkness that I didn't really need the night-scope, so I stumbled on.

It seemed to take an hour--but it was really less than 2 or 3 minutes--before I finally made it all the way around the house and came up behind the kennel where Blaze had been left to cool all four heels. Even with the wind against me, Blaze could smell or sense me in some way. His head was poked tentatively around the corner of the old doghouse where I supposed he'd been hiding since my first encounter with WW. I heard him whine in an inquisitive way, then he came out and I saw a motion I wasn't expecting: Blaze's tail was wagging. I gotta get this dog home, I thought.

I had hoped to snip the fence open from the back of this kennel, but the wooden doghouse was here and I couldn't move it. In any event, Blaze was still tethered by his chain and his pronged choke-collar. The chain seemed a little longer now and I realized that Blaze must have freed a snag in the links. He had a longer run of the kennel, but still not enough to reach the gate.

Finally, after some really tense moments spent deciding what to do, I made up my mind and dashed around the corner of the kennel, opened the gate and stepped in.

Blaze immediately did his happy-dog face-plant, flopping his head and chest onto the ground while keeping his dog hinder in the air. Eventually he lost his battle with gravity and his big doggy ass flopped over, exposing his belly to me in the ultimate canine gesture of love and trust. He's counting on you. Don't you fucking leave him this time, was pretty much my last coherent thought of the night.

"Hold on," I hissed. Between the dim light and my own broken glasses, it was hard to see where the chain began. Instead, I felt around Blaze's neck for the top of the prong collar, hoping there might be some slack where I would wedge the bolt cutters in and snap it. Blaze was trembling again, but he was sitting still while I looked for a catch or latch on the collar.

And then my dog saved my life.

For no reason that I could see, Blaze suddenly shrank away from me, gazing at a spot somewhere over my left shoulder. It took a split-second for me to realize what this meant, then I rolled away from Blaze. As expected, my already damaged glasses fell right off my face the moment I dodged, so I didn't get a good look, but I could feel the breeze of something long, heavy and metallic--a pipe? A baseball bat?--just missing my head. It whanged off the concrete and the blurry form that was holding it grunted as the vibration of the impact traveled up his arms. WW. He must have come back for a flashlight or a leash. Or maybe he wasn't as stupid as I'd hoped, and saw through my simple diversion. One thing was clear, though: he was mad as hell. He could have crushed my skull or broken my neck with whatever metal thing he was holding. I squinted, trying to see his face, but seeing as my vision blurs about 12 inches out from my eyeballs, I wasn't going to be able to discern his features. I didn't need to. As we circled each other there in the cage, it was obvious that he intended to finish this once and for good.

If WW said anything, I didn't hear it. Unlike last time, Blaze was much more animated. Instead of hiding in the doghouse, he was running on either side of us, his chain clinking heavily on the concrete floor. He barked in a high-pitched nervous yip that drowned out all other noise. As he ran by me, I had to hop to avoid getting hit in the ankles by the chain.

As most of you have already supposed, I don't have a very long or storied resume as a fighter. I spent most of my childhood talking my way out of fights, usually with some success, but not always. I got knocked around on the playground and the high-school parking lot a few times, and on all but one occasion, I was the one who ended up in the dirt with a bloody nose. In college, I studied martial arts for four years. Unfortunately, for two of those years, the martial art I studied was fencing, and I have yet to be challenged to a duel, so I guess that investment of time wasn't terribly useful. The other two years, though, I studied karate, but that was half my life ago. To be sure, I studied hard and drilled myself in the moves and routines far more strenuously than I engaged in more cerebral studies, but 19 years later, I remembered just enough to be dangerous.

To myself, I mean.

Granted, I had some skills left. For example, the instructor had insisted that I either wear contacts or train without my glasses. I had torn one of my only pair of contact lenses and couldn't afford new ones, so I sparred with a variety of interesting blurs, putting my glasses on only during the demonstration portion of the class, when the instructor taught us new stances, punches and kicks.

I suppose that became an advantage; I didn't mind not having my glasses and I found that limited vision made my fighting choices pretty simple. Then, as now, if I was going to walk away from a fight standing up, I'd have to get in close and not let my opponent get away. Because if I could touch him, I could hit him. So in college, I adopted the technique of grabbing whatever arm my opponent threw his punch with and hung onto it with all my strength. This ensured that he stayed no more than arm's length away. Then I just started throwing elbows and knees and whipping my head around to butt my opponent senseless (I have a very hard head). Classmates started calling my technique Drunken Booger Fighting, because once I grabbed onto your hand, you couldn't flick me away.

But there was no way I could get near WW, not while he had the pole or the bat or whatever he was holding. He started to come at me, so I reached back and grabbed the bolt cutters. They were only about a foot long, but they looked sharp, and they were sufficient to the task of parrying WW's next swing. The swing after that, though, he knocked them out of my hands. They almost hit Blaze as he made yet another frenzied lap around us, barking and barking.

I lunged for WW, hoping to get in close, but I've become a slow, flabby shadow of my former self and WW, while a bit of a porker himself, had lots more experience fighting. He whirled faster than I could follow with my bad eyes, and swung right for my mid-section.

When he connected, we both heard a flat CRACK. I felt something shift, all the air went out of me in a rush, and I sagged on top of the pipe (yes, I was close enough now to determine it was an iron pipe. Not a bat. Lucky me.) and fell over, my momentum taking the pipe with me.

In a second, WW was next to me. He brought one fist down from a great height and I saw genuine sparks as he nailed me in the cheek, just below my eye. I hit the ground, giving myself a fat lip when I did. A second later, WW laid two good kicks into me, punting hard with those cowboy boots of his. Both times, the sickeningly familiar sound filled the air. CRACK CRACK!

After the second kick, though, there was a pause and WW stepped back, shaking his boot.

"Ow, what the--?" he started to say.

I can only assume he was wondering why his foot should be smarting. If we hadn't been fighting just then, I'd have told him it was probably because I was wearing something my brother loaned me.

Something that looked a lot like this...


Oh, man, you totally suck!!! I'm now going to have to tie one on in order to get over my impatience. This is a scorcher!
where does your brother GET all of this stuff? BB? care to chime in?
It's a good thing that we know you are okay, and Blaze is home safely, or it would be devestating to wait for the conclusion.
Was the "CRACK CRACK" your ribs, his toes against the body armor, or some combination thereof?

I love this story!
I'm with cmhl on this one - night vision goggles and a bulletproof vest?! Is BB a CIA man or something? lol

And the family man turns into Rambo... even better than him though - you've got that great doggy sidekick :)
When you mentioned BB's package, I was hoping you had some body armor for your second foray onto the farm- I'm very glad it turned out you did.
All these years and evryone said I was wasting my money on army surplus. Who's laughing now, huh? Huh? HUH?

PS: The viewfinder on the night-scope is cracked. You owe me $300 you fucker.

Not you, the asshole that took Blaze.
My heart is in my throat. Even knowing that you're safe at home now, with Blaze, I'm reading this scared to death.

Thank the lo' fo the vest!!! [And for BB.]
For Christsakes! Your making me mental with all these clifhangers!
I like how you've morphed into this batman-magazine man superhero. Ordinary editor by day, ass-kickin' Mag-man by night.
Pissah mint!
This is great. WW has to get enough licks in to think he's winning. Then, when he gets his ass handed to's that much sweeter.

You should have saved some hamburger to smear all over his limp body. Ending up as dogfood would have been a fit ending.

I still think you should have brought BB. At the very least, he could have sat on the hill with a sniper scope and tranquilizer darts. But, then you wouldn't have had the chance to stand over the bloody pulp and tell him: If he ever came near Blaze again, he'd end up in the big house for a very, very long time.

Eagerly awaiting the next chapter. I hope I'm alone in the office so no one hears the "HOOOAAA!"s
Wow, I can't believe you stopped there. Damn yer cliffhanger.
A note for BB, You are just the kind of guy a person needs for a brother. :)
You are so amazing.
I am absolutely riveted. I could literally feel my heart beating in my chest as you walked up to the kennel.

I'm a new reader, but rest assured I will be back for the conclusion and anything you put out in the future. You're definitely in my BlogLines now.
Can't breathe for all the anticipation.

I wish that Blaze had gotten loose and sank those lovely teeth of his right into WW's privates.

Way to go, BB, with that box o' stuff. Night vision scope. Nice! And I think that one WW's balls come back down, perhaps he should send you that cash to replace them. Something tells me, you could get him to do so right quick. And the body armor was a definite nice touch.

MM, you are soooo my hero.
amazing....night vision scope is pretty cool, my hubby has one.

i am so glad i know the are a true hero.
Wow...this is intense!
Your brother is awesome. I think I have a little crush on him. that's pretty awesome that he knew exactly what you might need for any sort of confrontation...AND that he owed it!! Your writing is so addicting...I can't wait to hear how this ends. And, I'm curious how HLS handled your, um, adventure and subsequent injuries. My husband probably would've done the same thing for our dog, but I would've freaked out a bit when I heard the words "lead pipe" and saw the battle wounds! Can't wait for ending, so please don't make us wait too long.
WW, in the kennel, with the iron pipe.

Seriously though, BB, for the record I have always been a big fan of your collection of hardware.

But I mean, white smoke? How about some Willie Pete?
first - yay, bb! you rock, man, and if i ever need to invade the enemy, i'm getting hold of you.

second - yay, karate instructor (and ripped contact)! "drunken booger fighting" *gigglesnort*

i hope blaze gets a bit of his own back too.
oh, i almost forgot...

if you should find yourself in this situation again, burgandy is dark enough to hide you, and looks much less suspicious under the lights.

I do hope this turns out legally. Blaze is a nice dog, but how many laws have you broken so far? The way you're drawing this out (and knowing you, it's probably on purpose), this is also rather disturbing. Am I the only one kind of disturbed?

No one knows where you are, you can't see, and if this guy seriously injured you and you were at the hospital after receiving CPR you're going to explain breaking and entering and dognapping how?.....

Good luck. I have faith in your storytelling ability to make yourself seem less law-abiding then you are. I guess I'm just concerned others might feel vigilante justice is the best way to get what they want, even when the other party is legally in the wrong.

I'm just another commentator here, so what I have to say ain't worth a bucket of warm fireplace ashes, but...

You raise a valid point. However, let me say this: I think of most things in terms of my kids. How would my kids handle something or how would this effect my kids or whatever. So if my son, who is fourteen, told me this story, what would I do? I'm pretty sure I would say, "Hey, thanks for getting our dog back, and thanks to your sister for getting you the body armor and night scope." Why? Because family is family, and family is, by far, worth a lengthy jail sentence. That's the lesson I want my kids to learn. That right is right and sometimes you have to do things the ugly way in order to set things right. And, in this case, to save a defenseless animal from a significantly shorter life filled with misery and awfulness.
wonderful...just wonderful style!

Enough with the cliff hangers! PUH_LEEZE!
If he treats a total stranger like that, imagine how badly he treated his wife and kids not to mention dogs.

Those people should be reported for animal cruelty at the very least.
I just hope that WW doesn't decide to show up on your doorstep. I know at this point only his "EX" knows where you live, but he's been "persuasive" with her in the past. A bit scary.

Why not just call animal control like any other normal human being? you'd get your dog back, avoid injury, and put WW in jail again? Was that too easy? or not exciting enough to write about?
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