Mars City, Outer Beta Satellites Colony
Dear Mary Lou,
There has been a change in plans and I will not be taking the inner planets shuttle to meet you next month. If things work out Iíll be able to book passage on private Saturn Weekender, "The Alfred Bester" in a few months. Let me tell you why sweetie.
It was that last cleaning job that did it. Porter and I pulled were all set to do an upholstery cleaning job for uncle Jake like we do every Friday. Ever since he got that new ultrasonic dry foam cleaner we been pretty busy on Fridays. We found the place in Wheatonsville. One of those swell homes that you see in the magazines. Big white mansion with columns set on some rolling hills. It looked like rain so we were kinda in a hurry to get inside. We buzzed the robogatekeeper but the lousy thing musta been on the fritz cuz it never came. I think Hale-Bopp set its servoís off again. So we used the security code Uncle Jake gave us and opened the gate manually. The gate was wrought iron and heavy without the power assist so we just decided to leave it open till weíre done with the job, then close it on the way out.
Since the gate keeper was out I didnít figure the housekeeping droids were gonna be much better. I was right. The only response to our ringing the bell was Moe. Moe is the lady of the houseís pride and joy. A useless white little dog of questionable parentage. He looks like a Westie on a bad hair day. Moe is jumping up and down against the inside of the door and yapping to greet us. As you know, I got a wire fox terrier myself at home so Iím kinda glad to see the cute little guy. That was before I got the door open and got to know the fiend.
I open the door a crack just to play it safe and suddenly the dog stops jumping and calmly sits on his haunches. It looks OK so Porter and I fill our hands with all the equipment. Then I prop open the door with my back. Moeís timing was perfect. He waited till we were loaded up and couldnít grab him. Then he shoots though our legs and starts running pell-mell down the walk straight toward the open gate. He stops once to look over his shoulder at us, yelps happily and races through the gate.
Porter and I look at each otherís dropped jaws then I yell at him, "Get all the stuff in and start the cleaning. Iíll catch the cur." Ha! What a joke.
I get to the gate just in time to see his rotten little legs disappearing around the block. Now as you know dear, Iím a little outta shape. Actually, maybe the last time you saw me I was a lot outta shape. By the time I get to the end of the block Iím heaving like a Bluefin outta water. The wretched dog is no where to be seen.
While Iím gasping for breath three thoughts come to my oxygen starved brain. First, I think, Ah, maybe sheíll never miss him. Iím trying to get myself to believe this when the second thing comes to me. I remember a snatch of something that Porter had told me a few weeks ago. Something about somebodyís who was really crazy for their dog and how this dog was a "bolter." You know, the type. You opened the door and like a sudden fired shot gun they bolt out into the wild green yonder. The third thing I suddenly remember is that dogís name. MOE! I gotta get this thing back.
Fear soaked adrenaline can push a man like nothing else. I run down the sidewalk calling, "Here Moe. Here you beast. Nice doggie. Come to daddyóyou creep. On the far corner I catch a flash of something white and race for it. It starts to rain. Hard.
Moe is on the corner of the nicest home on the block. In the center of the lawn. He has decided this immaculate lawn is just the place to empty his wretched little bowels. This is one of those to die for lawns. I almost did.
The yardís little electric yard weasels had been trimming hedges when the rain started. A bunch of them huddled under the magnificent flowering Magnolias and waited for the rain to stop. It didnít. Instead, it started coming down harder in sheets. They must have been ticked off because of the rain or maybe it was HaleóBopp again. But as soon as they saw Moe doing the bad thing on their impeccable lawn with angry squeals they set of after him with flashing snippers.
I think old fur face had run in to these guys before. He managed to twist and turn and just barely avoid that buzzing angry horde, staying always a half second ahead of them. It was a game for him. Just when it looked like they had him he did a tremendous leap and hopped right into my arms. Before I could squeeze him he gave me a tremendous doggie lick and leaped from my surprised arms.
The lawn weasels saw that he had too great a lead. But I didnít. And they were determined to make somebody pay for the insult to their domain.
I wasnít as fast as Moe. But the weaselís titanium cases were supposed to be crush proof so how was I supposed to know? Then I remembered what those things cost and decided Iíd better follow the dog pronto.
After 15 more minutes of getting close, closer, almost, and then a quick burst of speed by the white wonder I was near despair. Moe must have gotten tired of the game too cuz he was soaked. He trotted into an open garage and sat at the bottom step of the door that led into the house like he was expecting someone he knew to open the door. I walked over an picked him up. He was wet but at least he was warm as I held him next to me. I trudged back though the howling rain with him under my arm. Once or twice I tried to give him a piece of my mind. It musta been my tone cuz I just started in on my diatribe and he showed me the top of his gums and his pearly whites. As heís softly growling I think "Maybe Iíll wait till I got him safely inside the house before I dress him down."
I finally get him back inside the house. He is muddy and soaked through to his worthless little hide. I am muddy and soaked too. My shoes sound like sick ducks. But I got him back. Much to his consternation and my great delight I put him behind the toddler gate in the basement.
Porter has finished cleaning the sofa and love seat. Thatís when I notice the cookies. Mrs. B, the owner of the mansion and the vile runaway is the cookie baroness of the western suburbs. She has a string of coffee shops in Gary called "Brown Sky Coffee house." They serve expresso, steamed milk and the most incredibly large cookies you ever ate. These cookies are man-eaters. There was raisin oatmeal, peanut butter chocolate chip and my all time favorite, Macadamia Chocolate chip peanut butter. Mrs. B. has set out some cookies for us.
I tell Porter to turn off his machine and lets take a break. With the machine off I can hear the fur covered wretch in the basement. He is running though an aria of yelps, moans and growls complaining about being relegated to the lower realms. Call me shallow or vindictive but wiggling my squishy socks in my sodden shoes I took perverse delight in knowing the cur was unhappy.
By now the sun had gloriously come out. Porter has opened the French doors that lead to the Tulip garden just off the south wing of the house to let some air in. Sunshine streams wonderfully. The rich black earth steamed and finishes drinking in the rain. The fragrance of deep purple Lilacs and tulips in full sweet float into the room. I close my eyes and breath in the bouquet. Ah, it smells so good, almost like, likeÖlike wet dog. I open my eyes and there is Moe. He is standing in the doorway. His feet are crusted thick with the rich black soil of the tulip garden. He is eyeing the immaculate upholstery. His intentions are clear. He has us in checkmate. I know from experience just how fast he is. There is no way Porter and I can stop him from either jumping on the furniture or bolting through the still open gate again.
But then it occurs to me. I can still hear Moe yelping from the basement. And here he is standing before us at the ready with muddy paw. My mind races for an explanation but before I can come up with one the dog provides one with his own mouth. "Bet you wonder how I can be in two places at once donít you Chubs?" Thatís a recording I made a while ago. I put it on to make you happy."
"What do you mean to make me happy? And the nameís not Chubs itís Alvin."
"It should be Chubs the way youíre pounding down them man-eaters. I figured you was sore at me for leading you on that little trod in the rain so youíd be glad to think I was suffering a little."
"No way. I was playing video games then took a nap. I got outta the basement through the doggie door."
"You gonna jump on our clean sofa?"
"Well, that depends on you sport."
"I like to go for brisk runs. Itís even nicer to have someone chase me. Heck the first one was kinda slow. I had to keep stopping and waiting for you soís you wouldnít have a coronary or something."
"How come you can talk?"
"It was that ID micro chip injected into me. One of the intello chips must have gotten mixed into the batch by mistake. Six months ago I was chewing on an electrical cord and bit through the insulation. When I woke up I had a bad taste in my mouth and could talk. Youíd be surprised at all the things I can do."
"So, you got a choice Chubs. You can chase me though the neighborhood again and weíll have a grand old time or you can see how good you are on getting muddy paw prints outta clean sofas and love seats. Whatís it gonna be sport?"
So I chased the cur. And thatís why Iím gonna be late coming to Mars. Some of the neighbors seen me chasing the dog and asked what was up. I told em I was just giving old poochie his exercise. They liked the idea so much a bunch of em hired me to run their dogs. I quit working for uncle Jake. The money has been pouring in like crazy. Better still, I lost 20 lb. and am still dropping. Enclosed youíll find a holopix of the new slimmer me. Donít it beat all? Iím thinking of entering the Martian Marathon next month.
Love and kisses,
Your darling Alvin.
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