By Deborah Taylor-French and Marc Hoffman
As I sat on a park bench, enjoying a sunny afternoon, a dog walked up to me. He was a muscular mutt with large pointed ears and a wide-set of teeth. He wore a red collar with license tag. Could he be lost?
I sit up straighter as the dog starts talking to me. For some reason, I am not surprised that he can talk. But I feel odd when he asks to borrow my cell phone to make a call.
Well, I hand it to him and he gets busy. As he begins talking into my phone, he disguises his voice, which make me think.
Is he doing something illegal, maybe something dangerous? I wondered if I made a mistake, loaning him my phone. Maybe I should feel nervous? Why did he need to change the sound of his voice? What will that dog do next?
And then, the dog says into my phone, “Thanks Chief Burger. Sorry I lost my phone. Sure, sure. Bye, Sir.”
The dog’s eyes slide sideways. I followed his gaze. Now we are both staring at a white pizza truck parked on the dead-end street. From the park, I can just make out the license plate, 2GOOD4U.
“Who’s that?” I ask. Before the dog can answer, a woman walks up from the trees behind us. Spiky hair, wearing jeans, cowboy boots and a puffy ski jacket. Not your typical motherly or grandmotherly type.
“Hey.” A boy runs over to her. “Where’d you go?”
She gives him a hug and smiles.
The dog nods hello to the spiky haired woman. In a low growl he says, “Yeah, Pizza Jones. I’d like to hear why my back up just up and left.” Before she can answer he runs over sniffing around the carousel. It slowly comes to a stop.
“Sammy, I have my way of looking out for you. I’ll be back.” Pizza Jones walks away. Soon I can see her as she strolls into the trees near the creek.
Then the talking dog is back again. He takes my cell out of my shirt pocket, barking into it, “Mutt Specialty Pizza Pies? I’d like a large combination pizza, extra meat. This time come to the carousel and don’t give it to anyone unless I okay it. Got it?” He listens for a minute.
“Yeah, I’m the dog that called before. I only got one measly slice of that pizza — what happened? Doesn’t matter just bring another. Be sure to find me, then have this dizzy guy in jeans and a black button-down shirt pay for it. Woof.”
“I’m paying? But I’m not hungry.” I am curious. “So did you pick up a scent?”
With a gleam in his eye the dog says, “I got side tracked.” He watches the boy run back for another ride on the carousel.
“That boy is not to be underestimated.” The dog says. “He has the determination of a Jack Russell terrier, is as clever as a poodle, with the will of a Saint Bernard. He can be of great help to us, but if he’s involved with the suspect…well, I’d rather not say.”
I sit on the park bench, head in my hands, trying to make sense of this surreal experience. My mind is spinning faster than the merry-go-round. Am I in danger or am I just dreaming?
“No time to paws and think.” the dog says. “You in or out?”
Reluctantly I say, “I’m in. What do you want me to do? Sit, stay or fetch?”
“Don’t be a wise guy!” The dog mutters, “Jeez, humans.” Then he looks up at me. “Go talk to the boy. But don’t mention me or the suspect or why we’re here.” He gives me an encouraging nudge.
“But I don’t know why we’re here. Please, fill me in”
“Maybe later. Just do as I say and keep that boy here. I’m going to pick-up the scent. Now give me your phone and let’s sic em.” He puts on sunglasses and picks up a basket the Pizza Jones put down.
Reaching the merry-go-round, I pause, recalling past experiences with motion sickness. As if this adventure isn’t dizzying enough, the ride looks like a spinning tornado. But I can’t wait for the ride to stop and possibly lose my chance at talking to the kid. With hesitation, I make my leap. My feet slide on the smooth wooden floor and I stumble and fall right beneath the boys brown horse. I rise to my feet unhurt and embarrassed. My fall captures the attention of the boy.
He asks, “Hey Mister, You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine kid, Thanks for asking. Say that’s a fine-looking chestnut you’re riding.”
“It’s not a chestnut mister, it’s a horse, and the name is not kid!”
“Sorry about that. You mind if I ride this white horse next to you?”
“Free world mister.”
It’s at this moment I realize the dog is right; this kid’s a handful. “So kid, oops sorry. You like horses?”
“Yeah, they’re all right.” He turns and looks me straight in the eyes. “But I’m more interested in dogs.”
“What kinda dogs?”
Then he sees the pizza truck, dismounts and jumps off our slowing ride.
I don’t see the dog or Pizza Jones anywhere. Then I get goosebumps. That first pizza truck looks way to big to just be delivering pizzas. The boy seems to be sneaking up on it through the bushes.
To be continued.