Sunday, March 13, 2005


The Resume (A Random Anecdote)

From the Personnel Files of Detectives, Inc.
Job #1: Boy Detective

Dogs Distracted and Discovered

I fell over backwards in the dust and stared at the growling, slavering dog as he bounced off the chain link fence a couple of times, like he just couldn't wait to sink his teeth into my stringy shanks. He was a Doberman--a lot of folks had them, it seemed. I remember them being very popular in the 70s, probably because of those movies. But I hated them. The dogs, not the movies. Well, yeah, the movies too.

Okay, I didn't hate Dobermans. I was scared of them.

And this one had just proved why. Very sneaky and fast. Hadn't even heard him coming from the wooden side of the fence, where we couldn't see him. And now here he was with his muzzle peeled back, showing those big fricking teeth, all of which seemed to have my name on them. Even though the chain-link gate separated us, I was still nervous (can ya tell?). We backed away from the fence and he calmed down.

"That's Fred. He's not a real guard dog. He just looks scary," said Shawn, who loved dogs of all kinds. "He's Brian Vaughan's dog." Brian worked at the depot. Apparently so did Fred.

"Well, we're not going in now," I said. I felt like a wimp, but this wasn't fun any more. "Let's go home."

Shawn made a face when I said that. I remembered how much he hated going home, and I'm sure he was thinking about that and about how close we were. "Wait," he said. "How many nickels do we have left?"

I fished the Mobile Crime Lab out of my book bag and reflexively snapped it around my waist. I rummaged around in a pouch and came up with a handful of nickels, about 65 cents. Shawn held out his palm and I dropped them in. "I'll be right back. You watch and see if Brian or anyone else is still working in there. If they are, tell em you left something on the bus and see if you can get in." And then he ran off towards town. Shawn was the tallest kid in our class, had very long legs, and could run like anything.

I turned back to the fence. Fred had already lost interest and was trotting back towards the hut. I paced off the length of the fence there in the front, and as I got to the part where it changed from chain link to wood, I found a loose board near the bottom. I peered around to see where Fred was, then kicked at the board with my tennis shoe. It gave a little and I thought it could be pulled open enough that we could get through. From that spot, it was straight dash to the three buses. It would be a cinch, if not for the dog.

As I waited, I thought I could hear a faint clanking around from the maintenance hut on the far side of the yard. I thought about banging on the fence, but the hut was too far away, and my noise would only attract Fred.

Presently, Shawn returned, carrying two cans. I smiled.

"Strongheart dog food," he said. "Twenty-nine cents each. The cheapest the grocery had." I showed Shawn the loose board. He handed me the cans and gave me his most serious look. "I know you're scared of that dog--"

"I am NOT!"

"--so I'll go in. You go down by the gate and hold the can up to the fence. Let him eat it through the fence. While you're doing that, I'll sneak in here and go look in the bus. When I'm ready to come back, I'll wave and you can feed him the second can."

I was feeling less smug about my big deduction now. Shawn was the real brains of the outfit. He came up with these great plans, and all I could do was take notes and hold cans of dog food.

"You're so smart," I said, not even really meaning to utter the words, but being so overcome with admiration I couldn't help myself. Shawn, who was never good at taking compliments, reddened, then pointed at the cans. "Come on. Open em up."

I got out my Swiss Army knife--man, the Mobile Crime Lab sure was coming in handy!--and used the can opener. It was my first knife and I still felt awkward using it, so it took me an agonizing couple of minutes to seesaw my way around the tops of the cans. Which I regretted doing almost immediately as this smell like rotting carcasses wafted up from the lids.

"Yucka doodle!" I exclaimed. "This stinks."

Fred thought so too. He was back at the fence in a trice. I waggled one of the cans and led him over to the chain link gate. He growled a little at me, but his stubby tail was wriggling. He was no trained guard dog, that was for sure, and this cheap-ass stinky dog food was just too good to pass up. So I hunkered down and held the can up to the fence while he stuck his pink tongue through and began lapping at the food.

A few moments later, I saw Shawn on the other side running flat-out for the bus. He was running on the tips of his toes and barely made a sound. My heart was in my mouth the whole time, but in less time than it takes to type this he was inside the bus. For a second, I was elated. It had worked.

My glee faded fast. Now that Shawn had taken the real risk, I felt both ashamed of myself and a tad emboldened. If he could do it, why couldn't I?

But Fred had already sucked all the food out of the first can and was sniffing around at the second can tucked behind me. I had thought about winging that can over the fence and away from the buses. He'd chase it, and while he emptied that can I could slip in. Except...what then? How would we get out?

So I waited with the second can. The minutes ticked by with glacial slowness. Fred paced back and forth, licking his chops.

Finally the bus door opened. Shawn leaned out to wave...

...and hearing the squeak of the bus door, Fred turned in his direction. With a low growl, he bolted straight for Shawn. I called and waved the second can but it was too late.

(This would be a good spot to end and start a new chapter. If this was a book, I mean.)

(But since it's not, and it's a Sunday night, and since this has already gone way longer than I meant it to--and probably you wanted it to--we'll just keep going.)

(Feeling any suspense at all? Any?)

Now, if this were a kid's mystery story, this would be the inspirational moment where I would overcome my fear of the dog and slip in under the loose board and yell and holler and lead the dog away from the bus and save my best friend.

But there was no fucking way I was going in there.

All I could do was hop around on the other side of that fence and make pained faces--interspersed with dry-mouthed attempts to whistle for the damn dog.

Shawn ducked back inside the bus like a shot and I saw the door close. But for some reason it wasn't staying shut. Indeed, as soon as Fred reached the bus, he leapt up and pushed on the door with his front paws and it fell right open. The dog bolted inside and I could faintly hear my friend cry, "Whooooaaaahh!"

My face felt numb. I was sure that was the end of Shawn. There was quite a commotion inside. I could see dark forms moving around and the bus even shook a little.

And suddenly I saw the emergency door swing open at the back and Shawn was clambering up onto the roof of the bus! Fred leapt out the back onto the ground, barking now. Shawn looked a little disheveled, but he waved. I was never so relieved to see anyone in my life. I didn't even care that he didn't seem to be holding anything that looked like a stuffed dog.

He stood on the roof of the bus, panting. The he stood up straight. Something over by the maintenance hut had caught his attention. He turned and pointed.

I cupped my hands and yelled. "WHAT IS IT?"

"Bring the book bags and meet me over this side," he cried. Now he was pointing to the two dilapidated buses next to the one he was on. The very last of these buses was parked right next to the fence on that side. I grabbed the bags and ran around the corner.

There was a slope on this side of the motor depot and the fence--all wood on this side--was much taller. I called out that I was there and heard a strange metal "ba-bonk" sound several times and I realized Shawn was jumping from one bus roof to the next, something I didn't think I would have the balls to do (I hated heights, as well as Dobermans). In a moment, he peered over the barbed wire at the top of the fence. He seemed impossibly high above me.

"Empty our book bags," he said. "Hurry."

Our book bags were just that: canvas bags with drawstring tops. I dumped them both out and tossed them up one at a time. It took a couple tries but I finally got them up to him. He pulled the drawstring tight on his and looped the string once around the barbed wire, knotted it and let it fall on my side of the fence so that the bag was dangling above me. My bag was made of a little thicker material and had a waterproof rubber lining inside, so he laid this one over the barbed wire and, ever so slowly, eased himself onto the bag. Then he swung down and grabbed his dangling bookbag. There was a sproinging sound as the barbed wire tightened from his weight, and a slight ripping sound, but he was already swinging freely, about two feet above my head.

"I'll catch you," I said, and raised my arms. He let go and I steadied him as he slid the rest of the way down the wall. At the last second, the bag tore free in his hands and then he was on the ground.

"Thanks," he said, and I saw he was shaking a little.

"You okay?" I asked. He nodded, catching his breath. "But no dog, huh?" I asked. Hey, I never said I was Mr. Sensitive.

"No," he said, suddenly invigorated. "That wasn't the bus, just another lookalike. But once I was on the roof, I saw something over behind the hut. Come on!" We left his ripped bag and the contents of both our book bags there and ran.

Of course, real detectives would have completely cased the whole place before doing what we did. And had we done that, we'd have saved ourselves quite a bit of effort (not to mention 58 cents for the dog food). We also would have discovered an interesting sight around to the back of the depot, where there was a short access road that led to a garage door mounted in the back of the service hut.

For there, on our side of the fence, hooked to the back of a tow truck, was a bus with a #4 on the fender.

We were too excited to kick ourselves for all the trouble we had gone to. No one was around and the hut seemed shut tight so we ran right for the bus. We both pushed and finally the door folded open.

"In the back," I said, remembering that Bruce and his sister had been close enough to the exit door to open it and jump out. We stopped about 6 seats back from the tail of the bus and started looking, me on one side, Shawn on the other.

The sun was low in the sky now and in the shadow of the hut the interior of the bus was dark (and it was then I made a mental note to ask my parents for a mini-flashlight for my birthday. Who has a Mobile Crime Lab with no flashlight? Tweezers? Bubble gum? Yo-yos? Check, check and check. Flashlight? Duhhh...) We both had to feel along the seats and on the floor, not trusting our eyes in the dim light. Petrified gum, used Kleenex, bits of detritus I had convinced myself were dried boogers--we felt all of it as we wedged our hands down under the seat cushions.

In the second-to-last seat, I jammed my hand down behind the cushion and hit something soft. I felt it pop out through the back. I leaned over the back of the seat and there on the floor was the dog.

"I GOT IT!" I yelled, diving over the back. I hit the floor, skinned my elbow on a metal seat edge and came up triumphantly holding that stuffed dog. He was a little brown dog with what looked like some kinda red chunk of meat in his mouth (I was informed later this was a heart). Maybe not so cute up close, but right then he looked pretty good to me. Shawn let out a yell and we jumped up and down like idiots for a second.

Then we heard the clunk of a door and the start of an engine. We turned and looked way down through the front window and could see someone behind the wheel of the tow truck. Suddenly the whole bus lurched and since we were already on an angle, we tumbled over easily.

Still clutching the dog in one hand, I hauled myself up as the tow truck pulled us forward to the main road. Shawn popped up and looked out the window as the last of the depot fence flashed past.

"Oh my gosh!" he said. "We're going to Kansas City!"


Wow. Love your blog, but didn't know you could write stories! Better than Nate the Great too;-)
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
How exciting! OH yes - much anticipation - you could make watching paint dry seem exciting if you wrote about it!

Aha! I was right! It must be all of those Bobbsey Twins/Nancy Drew/Encyclopedia Brown books I devoured as a kid!

I just have to say that I absolutely love reading your blog.

I hope we get some good KC scenes ... That's where I was born, raised, and turned into the pathetic shell of a man I am.
i have a doberman and he is soo cute. hes not vicious at all because hes not a guard dog. u no not all dobes will be like that. people are scared of them but it doesnt help most of them wouldnt hurt any1 unless provoked. there big softies!
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