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Dreamscapes Two
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The International Writers Magazine
: Dreamscapes: Dog Story

ZWOLF the wonder dog
David Tavernier

...They need a dog willing to travel through the eye of this tornado of shining tomato paste. They need a dog who is willing to give his body for their lives.

There once was a couple, very happy with each other, who owned a dog named Zwolf. He was an unremarkable dog in every way, with one exception. He barked like a normal dog. Never pestered passers by their house with relentless yelping. And he didn't whine whenever they went away for longer than he liked. Loyal, he wandered the house. You might think him a guard dog if he wasn't small as a terrier -- but not a terrier.

Once a mouse had plagued the couple's home. It ran rampant through numerous holes it burrowed in the night. It seemingly had a network of tunnels, opening into the dining room, kitchen, living room, and even their bedroom. The entryways he scratched through the plaster opened out onto tables, over the couple's bedstead, underneath the stairs, and one even let into their cupboard where they kept their rice, pasta, and canned beans. The mouse was everywhere, and tormented the couple so relentlessly they began to suspect that it was a company, a regiment of warrior mice bent on defeating their human adversaries.

The couple could never figure out why the mouse did what he did. They only knew what: he shattered their vases; he destroyed the casings on their sofa and their expensive leather chair, and chewed up the wires around their home theater and stereo equipment. The mouse couldn't be stopped, and he took license to have his way with their food as well -- and not even things mice normally eat.

A pound of ground beef disappeared from their refrigerator one day. The man, who had been having an aggravating day working at his Engineering firm -- one of the databases was on the fritz -- blamed the woman. And she, annoyed because she'd lost one of her pumps when she tripped and fell down a manhole in the street, decidedly let him know that he was always trying to blame her for everything, and that he'd better own up to his mistakes, or she'd leave him for the butcher the next day without a word or written notice -- that was how fed up she was with him.

Now, they were about to have a tangle in the living room. The man had an ornamental pottery choir boy in one hand, and the woman had taken off her other pump and brandished it in two fists. She was growling at him, and he was skipping, bobbing and weaving like a boxer with his choir boy tucked under his elbow. Things were going to come to blows this time. Although they'd always resolved their disputes because they held strong ties with each other, there is a boiling point for every couple, and like a kettle bubbling on the fire, they were about to blow.

When all of a sudden Zwolf appeared. He had pricked up his ears, sensing their distress, and knew exactly what to do. He was their companion – the man had bought Zwolf for his girlfriend as an anniversary present -- and he didn't hold either, man or woman, any special loyalty. He wanted them both to survive unscathed, and the only way to do that would be to intervene with some miracle before the gauntlet had been thrown down.
He foretold their imminent fisticuffs and raced to the scene of the crime. Opening the refrigerator with his nose, he spied the hole where the mouse had entered, and then dashed to the living room. There, the couple stood face to livid face. Zwolf yelped, and instantly they turned. Their red faces began to cool because they couldn't stay mad at their cute little doggie -- not with Zwolf. In fact, he was the prime mediator in almost all of their conflicts. Even his acquirement was with that same intent in mind, for the man had bought him as a present on their anniversary to make up for the way he'd blown up at her the day before, after she'd forgotten to pick up the groceries. He was their "little Henry Kissinger", their little diplomat. Each of them had a war department that continually stockpiled munitions, but he held an embassy in each of their hearts, and brokered treaties whenever mass destruction loomed over the horizon.

They followed Zwolf quickly, knowing that if there was anyone who could make things up, it would be him. To the kitchen, they followed his bouncing tail. He panted and his spittle spotted the floor.
In front of the refrigerator, the both of them stood. Neither wanted to be the one to initiate peace. Neither wanted to open the fridge to find whatever disarmament resolution Zwolf had drafted this time. So Zwolf did what he always did -- improvised -- and opened the door with the tip of his nose, just as he did before.

Lo and behold. Behind the rack where the man had stored the package of beef at the beginning of the week, there was a small black hole, about two inches in diameter. The woman, happy that she had been right all along, started to hug her boyfriend, when he stepped away and crossed his arms. What was this? The evidence of the hole wasn't enough? She was still to blame for his missing meat? He nodded his head. She could have drilled the hole in the fridge herself. What? Yes. She could have snuck into the fridge during the night and drilled the hole, taken the meat out and given it to one of her friends -- she was always going on and on about her friends, especially Barbara, whose husband worked at a ketchup factory and brought home sample after sample of ketchup when they had no meat to put it on.

This wouldn't do at all. She had not proven herself innocent, but had even furthered her guilt by trying to use Zwolf to validate her lie. She had lied to him, and he was going to pack his things and find a new apartment, leaving her with the exorbitant rent. She protested that he already paid the majority of the rent, and that it would be too much of a burden for her to pick up the balance for the remainder of the lease. So, find someone else, he said, and promptly began moving toward the living room door. Find someone else to share your rent. You can work it girl. Troll the bars until you pick up some bum to live with you, and see how you like it. Maybe then you'll appreciate me and stop stealing my things for Barbara. You leave Barbara out of this! She screamed.

Now things were even more heated. And Zwolf was worrying his head what to do. What does a dog do when he is more competent to act than his masters? He has to use his doggie wits, and that's exactly what Zwolf did whenever the hour grew grim. Racing to the living room, he jumped out of the front window and onto the street. He knew his mission. He knew the way to solve this problem. He knew his destination and he picked up his pace to get there quick as he could. Time was scarce. Before long he knew that the man, who was standing nearby the kitchen sink, would grab one of the knives and begin his attack. The woman, on the other hand, stood by the pots and pans, so he knew that she would have ample defense. She could use the big steel frying pot as a shield, but he feared for the man's head, because, with a mighty blow, she'd be able to crush his skull.

Time was running out when finally he saw the objective he'd been looking for. Rising twenty feet high -- astronomically high, high as the sky for a dog -- was the supermarket. Inside, behind all of the aisles of frozen boxed meals, cereals, and canned goods, would be the deli with its cuts of meat and ground beef. He'd managed to catch a stray twenty lying on the floor of the living room with his mouth, and planned to make a purchase that might or might not save the both of their lives. It would be a close call, a head to head finish. There's no telling whether or not he'd be able to make it home in time. But with luck, and with the courage to be the first dog to buy his own pound of beef at the supermarket, he would succeed and save his darling masters.
A man and his shopping cart, with a boy riding on top, emerged from the squeaking electric doors. The lights of the supermarket were inviting, and he could hear all of the cashiers scanning items and ringing up totals on their registers. Hesitating for a moment, gulping down his last fear, he darted through the door, into the light, into the cold air, into the teeth of a million hazards!

Shopping carts squeaked out of control under the grip of old ladies. Young boys raced between the aisles looking for candy. Men with their girlfriends on shopping trips absent-mindedly controlled their carts, eyes glued to boobs rather than to the path ahead. In short, every second Zwolf faced immediate and grisly squishing, smashing, decapitating, and eviscerating. He was running through a mill of potential anguishes and suffering. He was flying through doggie hell on a mission to save the souls of his dear man, and his kind woman.
Between the wheels of a cart he moved, ducking under the shining aluminum grill. A young boy ahead, in the aisle he'd taken, leaned on his tippie-toes to grab a can of corn for his mother. She'd stupidly gone for some eggs, leaving him unattended. He shook on his legs, straining to get the can -- and the inevitably horrible consequences spelled dire doom for doggie Zwolf.

The boy fumbled the can, and fell to the side, arm still outstretched, knocking can after can off the shelves. It was an avalanche of canned corn, lima beans, and kidney. It was a rolling tidal wave of metal in the air.
Zwolf couldn't believe his eyes! Looking up above, he wondered if God had it in for all the doggies in life. Why? Why have you forsaken me, he began to bark. But then his conscience kicked in. That little voice in his head that told him right from wrong told him to buck up. Don't give up Zwolf, it told him. Don't give up on your masters or you'll be homeless for the rest of you life. Don't curse God when what they need is determination, not lamentation. They need a dog willing to travel through the eye of this tornado of shining tomato paste. They need a dog who is willing to give his body for their lives.

Zwolf growled. His conscience was right, and he stared into the tumbling metal cans with a fierce gaze. His nostrils flared and his legs kicked into hyperdrive. Scrambling across the slick floor with his claws biting into the cracks, he hurtled his body through the whirling storm, cans falling to his left and right.
Midway through, a can pinned his tail against the ground, and he howled with pain. But he didn't let discouragement set in and stay his progress. He wouldn't let a mere pinned tail keep him from escaping from the avalanche. He didn't want to be buried under corn. No sir-eeh. He was a ferocious golden retriever at this moment, hell-bent on retrieving a one pound package of beef from the deli and slapping it down on the conveyor. He would purchase that beef alright. He pulled his tale from under the can. He would make it, and he would save them, and they would take him out for a walk no matter how late it was from now on. They would give him a treat whenever he panted for one. They would rub his belly when he demanded. He would be their master. Ah, ah, ah, his conscience told him. They will always be yours.

Zwolf made it through. He came out on the other side with only a bruised tail, and the deli counter was high and frosted ahead. The butcher stood over him, blood on his apron, a knife in hand, dicing meat. He had a nasty beard and a nasty look on his face to match it. Zwolf barked. The butcher looked around, but didn't seem to believe his ears. Zwolf barked again. The butcher raised his eyebrows in shock. What could be making that noise? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No.
Bark! Zwolf barked at him, and he finally looked down. Now this butcher happened to know the man and the woman, was actually a pretty good friend of theirs who they invited for tea every Saturday afternoon. Recognizing Zwolf, he began to ask him what he was doing there. Had his masters been in a car crash by the supermarket? Did they need help?
Bark. Bark.
No. That's not it. What are you here for? Are you hungry boy?
What would you like? We've got veal cutlets. We've got polish sausage. We've got beef--
Beef? That's it, you want beef? How much beef do you want?
You want one pound eh? Well, you know that's mighty expensive don't you. I don't see how a doggie like you will be able to pay for a tall order like that, let alone how you'll carry it back. Will you need help carrying it boy?
Bark. Bark.
Boy... you ARE determined to go it alone huh?
Zwolf raised his right forepaw, and the butcher's eyes shone when he recognized the face of Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill. Immediately he dug up a pound of beef from the packages and gave it to him.
There you go, he said, but I still don't know how you plan on carrying this out.

Zwolf, answering his question immediately, took the package in his jaws while keeping one claw hooked through the twenty dollar bill. The way back to the check-out lines was by no means as hard as the way in. It seemed like fate had taken a liking to Zwolf and his perseverance. He'd shown true courage in facing the avalanche of cans, and true cleverness in his dealing with the butcher. He was a gifted dog, a dog of dogs, a dog who would go down in the history books as a savior, and trusted companion, to me.

At the check-out counter, Zwolf leapt up onto the rubber conveyor when his turn came, and stayed there, as it buzzed and whirred and item after item was scanned by the laser, until he reached the cashier. The cashier, who wasn't exactly the smartest pea in the pod -- if you take my meaning -- misconstrued the situation.
Are you buying this dog, sir? He asked the man behind Zwolf.
No... I ah... I don't believe dogs are sold at the supermarket... but perhaps this one in particular does sell them, although I'm not sure what your rates are, but I may actually be wanting--
Why hello there, the cashier said to him. What a smart dog. So you mean to tell me that you are the one buying that meat, and that you are not actually for sale?
Okay then. I guess I'll just ring you up. That'll be five eighty.
What? You want me to keep the change? Okay, thanks a lot doggie. You're one special pup.

Zwolf silently thought to himself that the cashier was correct and that he couldn't have made a better judgments of his character. He knew he was a special pup. No other pup could have come through what he had. No other dog was half the dog he was -- no matter how big, no matter how ferocious a fighter. Fighting wasn't a true measure of a dog's mettle anyway. Fighting was for big, stupid dogs, dogs that did nothing but destroy. He was a dog of life. He was a dog who saved people. He was a dog who would be sent up into the great roast beef dinner feast of doggie heaven when all of the fighters and neck biters would be sent down into doggie hell, where they would all eat nasty, dry dog food.

On his way home, under the passing light from the street lamps, he began to feel a cocky confidence coming over himself. Although still small as a terrier, he'd picked up a strut to his run. One of his legs kicked forward a little more than usual, and his wet nose had taken on the look of an English poodle's. He pointed it at an angle in the air, haughtily. He had succeeded. He felt it. He knew that he'd done what needed to be done, and that when his masters had listened to him for a second time and found the pound of beef under one of the seat cushions of the sofa in the living room, they would spend the night happily in front of the television throwing him doggie treats and petting his tummy.

He would be a happy dog tonight. That was the summation of his inner sentiments as he tramped up the door to their house, jumped onto the window sill, and dove inside. Zwolf tucked the beef under one of the sofa cushions and made his way to the kitchen, wondering why he didn't hear anyone fighting. Were they dead, he wondered?
No one answered. A rotten feeling began to purl in his stomach. He knew something was wrong, but what? What could they be doing? Where had they gone? He was almost afraid to enter the kitchen because he thought he might find their bloody bodies on the floor in front of the refrigerator.

Entering the kitchen, he found nothing still. Where had they gone to? He began poking his nose around the house, looking from door to door. All the lights were off. From across the street he could hear the thumping music of a party pounding the windows. Had they gone to the party across the street? He was beginning to get frightened. What if they'd gone upstairs? What if the man, becoming tired and frustrated with life, had decided to commit suicide? And then, what if, after he committed suicide, like Juliet she'd decided to take the concrete plunge as well? What if they were both together lying on the patio in the back of the house, a pair of crushed bones and gnarled faces?

He pondered these questions in his mind, and then began his ascent of the staircase. As soon as he was about midway up, he began hearing a sound, a low vibration. What could it be? The banister was slightly quivering, and he could see the windows pulsing with sound waves. Was it the sound from the party next door reverberating all the way through the house?

Rising to the top of the staircase, he made his way down the hall, checking every other room but the bedroom first, afraid most of all of that room because its door was shut. In the bathroom, the mirror stared spookily at him. In the study, he could see the man's papers scattered under the light of a lamp, and the television lay deactivated on a bureau in the corner.

Slowly he approached the bedroom. It was time to bite the bullet. He thought he could hear a noise inside. He wondered what could possibly be happening. Perhaps the mouse had come from the hole and had begun chasing them around the house, and they'd took their bedroom as a refuge by plugging up the hole above their bedstead. No, that couldn't be it. The mouse could always burrow a new way in. He was devious like that -- unstoppable. No. Perhaps the man had killed the woman with the knife, and now, resting her body on a table inside, was sawing her body to pieces, rocking it back and forth, causing the door to vibrate the way it did. Or perhaps the woman had crushed his skull with the frying pan and was doing the same thing, or had come up with an even grislier way of concealing the body and the evidence. The only way to find out would be to use his doggie intellect to open the door.

Stepping on his hind legs, he made a swipe for the doorknob with his paw. No luck. It would be harder than that. Next, he shoved a book from the study onto the ground, and pushed it underneath the doorknob. With the extra boost, he managed to grasp the handle in both paws. But, even turning the knob he couldn't open it. The door was shut too tightly. Thinking, thinking, he continued to fret, pacing in front of the door wagging his tail. What could be done? What was that noise? What would happen to his masters!

Finally, he figured out the trick. Running downstairs to the drawer where the woman kept all of her sewing equipment, he retrieved a piece of colored yarn in his teeth. Dashing up the steps, he knew what to do.
By using his teeth, he managed to tie a small noose in the rope. He would lasso the doorknob, and, after jumping on top of the book again, and turning it to the left in order to wedge it a small ways open, he would leap in the air away from the door, using his doggie weight to pry it open like a crowbar. It was the perfect plan, and he commended himself under his rapid breaths for thinking it up. He was in top form tonight, a true Lassie at his best.

Slipping the loop over the doorknob and sliding the book underneath, the preparations were done. He was ready to commence. Standing on his hind legs, on top of the book, he turned the knob, just as he had before, and opened the door a small crack so that the bolt wouldn't slip back into place. And now, the leap of faith.
With the string in his mouth, ready to fly, he jumped -- and... Success! The door was open! He had done it! He had figured out the problem and now he would finally solve the mystery!
Perhaps they were still fighting. Perhaps they were arm wrestling and he'd be able to solve their feud by leading them down to the sofa and pointing out that the man had merely forgotten it underneath one of the cushions when he'd sat down to watch television. That would be that, and they could go on living just as they had -- he the beloved dog, and they the adoring masters. He almost wanted to strike a pose in the doorway.
From the doorway, he heard the faint sound of "ya, ya, ya." He'd never heard his mistress speak like that before.
He heard a gasp as he entered the darkly lit room. Focusing his eyes, he saw something.
What are you doing on top of her like that!

© David Tavernier October 2004

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