Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dusty the Dog and the Chocolate Underpants

Once upon a time there was a cute little dog named “Dusty the Dog”. One would think that as Dusty was a dog, he surely wouldn’t need the title “the Dog”, but there was a perfectly adequate explanation for the redundancy.

Dusty’s keepers, Mister and Missus Master, also had a human friend named “Dusty”; an odd name for a biped to be sure, but as the Mister and Missus hadn’t chosen either name they felt compelled to respect them both. That said, there was an occasional misunderstanding when, say, the Mister was speaking of “Dusty” having an errantly placed bowel movement and the Missus’ first thought was that of Dusty the friend squatting over his television. The imagined sight was so hideous that the Missus demanded that Dusty the Dog would have the aforementioned adjunct ”the Dog” so as to never “see” anything of the sort again.

I would love to make the reader’s life simple and stop this untitled preface here, but there is a caveat to the name issue; one that might become confusing in the very near future if not dealt with immediately. You see, Dusty the Dog also had a nickname!

As with all humans save the most alpha of their kind, the desire to speak to animals in baby talk is overwhelming. If it were not for the polarization of the human genders, this would not be a problem at all. But as it is, human females tend to coo words and phrases like “Lovey” and “Honey Bunny” and (god help us all) “Yumsey Wumsey”, verbiage that tends to make the male of the species nauseous; and the boys more bark vulgar infantile euphemisms, some they imagine might be interpretable within the language of the animal they’re addressing.

In this case, the Missus Master was constantly calling Dusty the Dog “Pretty Boy”, because in fact he was pretty. Yet for the Mister, to utter the same slogan would have been impossible without it catching in his throat and possibly choking him to death. He had developed another term he thought appropriate; one that was babyish in nature, and yet a truism as it described Dusty’s dogonality. “Poophead” he liked to call him, as Dusty was quite fond of poop. He loved to do it, he loved to roll in it, and he even loved to eat it!

As you might imagine, the Missus was not fond of “Poophead”, and so tried to form consensus so that poor Dusty wouldn’t be confused (basing her assumption on something she’d read that stated dogs can only recall two names and no more).

The name “Pootie” was born; one part “Poophead, and one part “Pretty Boy”. Dusty didn’t really care much in that nearly anytime the Masters spoke to him it meant food, treats, cuddles or outside to pee. They might have called him "Honawanabooginator” for all it mattered; once nudged by a random voice he would simply look up from where he was napping and see what wonders were in store.

Yet he needed a name with which to introduce himself on those occasions he’d slip outside alone and wander through the tall grasses of Masterville; and so he would use both, so as to offer his new found friends a choice, thinking the more accommodating he was, the more likely everyone would like him! (He’d learned that lesson from his Masters. Some human traits were worth assimilating)

He was right in the main, nearly everyone did like him, except the coyotes who probably would have liked him plenty, but in a way that Dusty would not have found pleasurable. As for the name, most animals called him Dusty or even Dusty the Dog, or sometimes Mister Dusty to show the proper amount of respect (or to suck up as it were if they were smallish and quite tasty); but some, the most cleverest of the animals, called him Pootie (mostly because they thought it sounded funny, and they were wise enough to know that even animals need a little chuckle now and then).

One fine spring afternoon Dusty had bolted through the door of Dusty cottage (as he liked to call it) while Missus was preoccupied with beating a rug so as to rid it of its coating of shedded Dusty hair. Free of his imaginary chains, he slipped down the stoop, across the front yard and through the arbor, stopping at the lip of the gravel drive so as to mentally prepare his footpads for the owies that were to come, and to dream himself imperceptible to bipeds.

“Hello Dusty the Dog” he heard from somewhere above. He froze, and slowly turned around to face the arbor, peeking left and right to make sure that he hadn’t been sighted by a Master. He was safe; he couldn’t see a Master, so he must indeed be invisible!

“Up here silly dog!”

Dusty looked upward, and there, hanging onto the lip of the entrance to the wren house was Mister Froggy, Pootie’s part time pal!

“Why Mister Froggy” said Dusty with a half cocked head (meant to show curiosity while maintaining maximum cuteness), what are you doing in the wren house? Aren’t the wrens back from winter break yet? And aren’t you supposed to be in a tree since you’re called a tree froggy?”

Mr. Froggy laughed. “One question at a time little Dusty! In fact no, the wren family hasn’t yet returned from Mexico. Perhaps they need to detour around the fence that’s being built; I’m not sure. As for my being a tree frog, it’s only a name young sir. Just because your name is Dusty doesn’t mean we should expect you’ll always be covered in dust every time we meet.”

“Well” said Dusty, “I usually am pretty dusty, being so low to the ground and so fuzzy and all….”

“That’s beside the point boy!” scolded Froggy. “I chose this location in which to take refuge so as to keep myself and my property safe from predators! That it is not a tree is of no consequence!”

Dusty loved when Mister Froggy got riled up. He spoke so pretty when he was angry.

“Wow” exclaimed the little dog; “I didn’t know frogs could have property! What do you carry it around in? Do you have a little green knapsack or something?”

Mr. Froggy laughed again. He was glad that he’d noticed Dusty sneaking past; it was always a pleasure to talk to his white furry friend.

“Well Dusty” he said after puffing out his chest (a frog sign that what is about to follow will be longwinded and at least slightly pompous; the action from which the term “blowhard” originated). “I, Mister Froggy have procured a most wonderful article d’art, a fascinating relic found only this morning over yonder” he touted as he pointed toward the lilac hedge with his oh so long tongue.

Dusty couldn’t have been more astounded. He plopped his furry arse to the ground and prepared to listen all day if need be, so enthralled was he with the idea that a frog could own anything much less carry it with him to a location high above the shrubbery tops.

“What… what is it Mr Froggy! Please, please tell me do!”

“Patience young man, I’m not quite finished describing its utter desirability, its magnificent splendor, its inestimably miraculous inflation of my prestige as both a frog, and a Masterville dweller!”

Dusty rolled his eyes, hoping Froggy would get the hint. Luckily, it worked in spades.

“All right then impatient wretch” Froggy barked, disappointed that he’d not been given the opportunity to practice his self admired erudite prattle for a much longer time; “I suppose I can cut to the chase and tell you what it is.”

The dog stood, his tongue waggled and his tail shook so hard his flanks appeared to be caught in an automated paint mixer.

Mister Froggy leaned way out of the wren house and spoke in a near whisper. “I have acquired the most amazing pair of…(he paused, hoping to see Dusty crane to hear so diligently that he might stand on his tiptoes, and prove once and for all his educated guess that dogs did indeed have toes) …. Chocolate Underpants!”

Dusty repeated, “Chocolate Underpants!”  He knew of chocolate. The Masters had admonished him recently for pulling a bag of Oreos off the counter and eating more than half of them. He had assumed they were upset because they were selfish, always trying to keep the good foods from the poor little dog. That aside, in their ranting, the word chocolate was shouted many times over. He tried to remember the taste. It was a bit like chewing crunchy, bitter, dead animal fat, truth be told; like when Missus Master had cooked what she called “rosettes” and then had tossed the cooking juice outside in the snow where it hardened into a gelatinous mass of whipped blubber just in time for him to find it and sink his head clear into its creamy center. Ewww! If that was the magnificence of chocolate… WAIT! He remembered now!

He’d once pulled a box from the dining room table and dragged it beneath the furniture before the Masters could spot his evil doings. It was a “selection” he’d heard Mister Master say; a “selection of chocolates!” Yes, yes! They were dark brown lumps, much like poop, but with a more uniform shape! And they tasted…. divine! There was a nasty flavor to the outside crust of course, but the insides…. What majesty! One tasted like the tree bark he couldn’t wait to lick every spring! Another popped and spurted juice like the little red balls he plucked from the reddish brown bush in the back yard come summer. Another yet he perceived to be piquant; exactly like the fruit peels he would scarf from the garbage when no one was looking, not that he liked the taste all that much but he did love the color orange.

“THAT must be chocolate” he thought! “And that’s why I must find out where to get my own pair of chocolate underpants!”

“Mr. Froggy” he whined; “might I be able to see your chocolate underpants for myself so I know what it is to look for should I want a pair of my very own?”

Froggy nodded knowingly. “Certainly Dusty” he answered; “just look inside the wren birdhouse where I’m storing them! Here, I’ll pop the top off for you!”

The middle aged frog jumped once, then twice, and then on his third jump he clunked the top of the wren birdhouse with his hard head, sending the lid topsy turvy, giving Dusty the Dog a perfect view of his prized pants; so long as the dog could jump nearly 7 feet straight up. (A long way to go for a dog only 12 inches tall when standing on his tippytoes.)

But Dusty was resourceful if nothing else. He jumped into the wheelbarrow that sat rusting near the garage. From there he leapt to the hood of the Masters’ pickup truck, scratching his way across the hood, up the windshield and onto the roof. And there they were, glistening in the early spring sunlight. They looked just like a pair of Master pants, only really tiny and brown! Like poop! It was true! They were chocolate underpants!

Pootie scurried to the ground, taking a few claws full of forest green paint with him on the way down. He nearly rolled all the way to the arbor where he jumped up in glee, tearing at the flowers and vines which engulfed the structure.

“I must have chocolate underpants! I must, I must” he howled! “Where do they come from Mister Froggy! Where can I get a pair of my very own!”

“Now calm down little Pootie, before you have a heart attack” the frog said. “As I told you, I found them, right over there.” Again, tonguing toward the lilac bushes in Masters’ yard, he added “there might just be another pair young friend. Perhaps they’ve been covered up by covetous creatures collecting iconic castings in chocolate!”

Dusty heard nothing after “might be”, (which is just as well as only a certified amphibian could have understood Froggy’s flourished finish).  By the time the word “iconic” had slithered from the extendable flap of fly catching frogskin, the dog had already dug a deep ditch in search of delicious dungarees. But alas, in spite of piles of dirt carefully stacked from one end of the fence to the arbor where Froggy watched intently, there were no chocolate underpants to be found; only a few old bones, a now crushed turtle egg (which Dusty slurped as quickly as possible so as to not be noticed by any who might be in legion with the neighborhood turtles) and a rotting newspaper which had been unsuccessfully used by Mister Master in hopes of teaching Dusty to “fetch”.

The poor little doggie looked skyward, silently pleading that Froggy could give him another hint, any clue as to the location of another pair of ecstasies. But the frog shrugged, almost double jointedly, in that special froggy kind of way. It saddened him to see a pained Pootie, but he was helpless to cure what ailed him.

“Maybe I could have your pair of chocolate underpants” Pootie asked, twisting his head as cutely as he could muster. But the sad fact is that frogs are not enamored by dogs, and “cute” just wasn’t an issue.

“It took me the better part of the spring to drag that thing up here little dog. There’s no way I’m giving it up. Sorry, find your own” he finished in a bit of a huff and zipped backward into the now topless birdhouse.

Dusty cried and cried as he walked about the yard, sniffing for any tinge of chocolaty goodness. Finally he grew tired and slogged off to his favorite tree where he might sit in the shade and whine himself to sleep. While he lay sniveling, a few of his forest friends stopped by to see if they could be of assistance.

“What’s wrong little Pootie” said Woodchuck, waking the little sniffing, snoring beast with a start.

“Yes” said Skunk; “It’s such a lovely day. Don’t cry!”

“I can’t help it” Dusty slurred as he tried to come out of his afternoon nap stupor; “I can’t find any chocolate underpants!”

“Oh dear” said Possum. “You lost your underpants you say?”

So Dusty the Dog related the entire story to his audience, hoping against hope that one of them might know of the whereabouts of the object of his current desire. Johnny Hawk was the first to speak.

“I don’t know about underpants Pootie, but I know about this chocolate. Why your very own Masters, just last year threw an earless brown rabbit from their door. It sat in the snow for a day before I thought to take a closer look. I pecked of course, as we hawks will do, and found that the rabbit’s head was crushing a bit each time I whacked it. So I ate a little, and it wasn’t bad!”

“I didn’t know hawks were into carrion” Crow said. “C’mon bird! Now you’re treading on my territory!”

Hawk bristled. “It wasn’t carrion fool! It was this chocolate stuff! Delightful I must say, but far too rich for my taste. I just ate the head and left the rest of it to whoever else might pass by.”

“See” said Ms. Fieldmouse to her husband ’Gnawface’; “I told you they was rabbits foots!”

Why” interrupted Dusty, “whatever do you mean Miz Mouse?”

“Well, I see this brown thing in the yard and I goes over to look, in case it’s scavangeable. It’s hollow see, and big enough to hide in! But every time I just lay there for a minute it gets all sticky on me, and that just don’t set right with me. So I tries and figure what the thing is, and it suddenly hits me DUH! It’s a headless bunny! Like I aint seen one of them before! And then another thing hits me. We been havin the most awful time lately, what with the constant litters I been poppin out and all and all them damn mouths to feed. So I took the things feet! Ya know! For luck!”

The gathered nodded. They all knew the power of rabbit’s feet, and no one could blame Ms. Fieldmouse for wanting a few days free of pregnancy!

“I have it Pootie!” Mr. Skunk said. “I think I know the secret of the underpants!” The huddled masses gathered tightly, so as to not miss a single word of the presumed exciting conclusion.

“I saw Miz Mouse run off with those little feet” he began;” and I was a bit jealous I must say. I could use some luck too; I’ve been spraying upwind an awful lot lately! So I was a bit mopey until I spotted the rest of this thing in the yard; this… this chocolate thing! It looked just like a bunny belly! And y’all know how much we skunks just love to rub our faces in bunny belly. Why it’s so soft and fuzzy and war… “ Skunk stopped as he noticed his friends staring, mouths agape. Woodchuck was even holding his hands over his little teeny ears!. Apparently, they didn’t know that skunks like rubbing face with bunnybelly. Damn!

“Well, never mind that” he continued, his fur turning a bright shade of red; “The point is, I ate the thing’s tummy, and once I was finished I waddled off… leaving… a “

The animals cried out in unison “Pair of Chocolate UNDERPANTS!!!”

Dusty the Dog jumped to his feet and danced the doggy dance all ‘round the tree. He ran to the nearest shrub and marked it, then to a flowerbed where he marked it as well, as dogs are wont to do when they’re excited. Suddenly he stopped, sat and salivated.

“But, how can I watch every single day for a bunny with no ears to come flying out of the Masters’ house? I can’t even sneak past Missus Master every day! Sometimes I’m just stuck in Dusty cottage for weeks at a time, sleeping and eating and napping and chewing and snooping and pooping my life away. How will I know when there’s chocolate underpants to be had?”

The voice heard next was seldom noted in those parts. It was mule, from the horse farm up the road.

“I couldn’t help but overhear doggie, there’s only one time a year when chocolate bunnies might fly through doors, and that’s during the week surrounding a day the bipeds  call Easter. It’s a’comin up right soon too! And I should know cuz they’re gonna use me in one-o-their pageants in a jiffy.”

“Well there ya go” said Woodchuck. “Just keep your eye on the calendar.”

Pootie was ecstatic. He thanked all his wonderful friends for their support and waddled back into the yard where he could snort a raspberry at Mr. Froggy.

“I’m going to have my own chocolate underpants” he barked toward the uncovered wren house. “And when I do, don’t ask me for them cuz you won’t like my answer!”

Mr. Froggy simply looked out of his borrowed home and shrugged again. “No hard feelings Dusty” he said.

“Well in that case” said Pootie, suddenly noticing that he’d forgotten a very important question to ask while his friends were still nearby; “do you know how to read a calendar?”

“See these little beady eyes” said Froggy? “Cataracts boy. Getting old I am! Some days I can’t see the flies in front of my face!”

Pootie was saddened by this news. He’d forgotten in all the excitement, he’d never learned to read calendars.

“But how will I know” he whimpered “when Easter is coming so I can watch for earless chocolate bunnies to fly?”

“When you see the Masters stop eating fish boy” said the wise old frog. “Then you know it’s very soon!”

So Pootie waits and watches, sadly counting the days of fish eating, hoping that chocolate underpants day will come very, very soon; because a dog, just shouldn’t have to wait for anything!

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