Chapter 1, Part 1

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I woke up from my nap to the normal everyday sights and sounds.  The washing machine was chugging away diligently in the next room.  The television was droning incoherently, slowly invading my post-snooze grog.  Outside, the muffled chatter of the neighbors lawn mower ebbed and waned.  Everything was as it should be except for one thing.

The dog was talking.

“Wake up, shit head,” he said.

I rubbed my eyes.  It’s not every day that my Goldendoodle strings vowels and consonants together into a semi-cohesive sentence.  I shook my head, wondering if my days of self-abuse were finally catching up with me.  All those years of inebriation had taken their toll.  My brain had thrown in the towel.  With a mix of curiosity, disbelief, and a little bit of fear, I pushed myself up into a sitting position on the basement couch where I’d been napping.  Staring down the long muzzle of my dog’s face, I opened my mouth to respond and thought better of it.  The moment you invite crazy into your house, it starts putting its shoes on the furniture and eating all your cheese curls.

Chuck cocked his head to one side.  It was one of those human-like gestures that amused the hell out of my wife.  The sort of gesture that would garner eight photographs on her iPhone and a snappy Facebook post.  Only it wasn’t so amusing at the moment.

“You are losing your shit,” I chuckled to myself, shrugging off this nonsense as some sort of leftover dream remnant.  “Maybe you should go talk to your mom, Chuck,” I said as I assumed napping position and rolled over to face the back of the couch.

“You’re right,” Chuck replied.  “She has more common sense than you do.”

Icy fingers ran down my back as my eyelids shot open.  There was a slight ringing in my ears followed by the sound of my heart thudding in my chest.  I somehow managed to perform a triple sow cow from the horizontal position into a seated one, pulling my knees up and wrapping my arms around them protectively.  I’m not sure why…my knees never did anything for me.

“You… YOU TALKED!”  I squealed.  “You freakin’ TALKED!  This can’t be happening.  You can’t talk!”

Chuck let out a long rattled sigh and a look of exacerbated frustration came over his face.  “You rolled your eyes!” I cried even more incredulously and immediately slapped both hands over my mouth as my eyes shot to the finished basement’s suspended ceiling tiles.  The last thing I needed was another member of the family overhearing my conversation.  That’s the kinda shit that lands you in a padded room with nice canvas pajamas.  The kind with ties at the ends of the sleeves.

“Yes dude,” he said impatiently, “I can talk.”  Frankly, I didn’t like his attitude.

“Since when?” I prodded.

“When did Steve Jobs die?” he asked.  And I shit you not, he couldn’t look more thoughtful if he put his paw up to his mouth and hmmm’d in contemplation.

“Uh… 2011 I think.”

“Since then,” he replied, pointing a paw at me for emphasis.

“The passing of Apple’s CEO inspired you to speak?” I said with a bit of doubt.

“It’s just a point of reference, man.”

“Yeah but… It’s kinda weird that you-”

“It’s not important,” Chuck blurted.  “Cripes, what is your deal?”

“Sorrr-eeeeee” I said, waving my hands in mock indignation.  “Who am I to argue with the talking dog?  Maybe I’ll take my company elsewhere.  Maybe the cat wants to go waterskiing.”

Chuck stood up from his seated position.  His head tilted to the side again.  “Are you mocking me, pinky?”

“No,” I said with resignation, “I’m just sayin’.  I wake up from a nap and my dog talks.  Maybe the cat is into extreme watersports. Who knows?”

“Hey, that cat’s an asshole and you know it!” Chuck exclaimed, his eyebrows furrowing in what I could only assume was distaste for his feline roommate.

“Man, I thought you liked Lenny,” I said in disbelief.

“It’s not about the DAMN CAT!” Chuck snarled.  He shook his head as if trying to dislodge something pesky from one of his ears and let out a sneeze-like snort.  “My God, you are impossible!”

We both sat there for a few beats.  Me feeling scolded.  Chuck feeling rightly annoyed.  Cut me some slack, Fido.  I was dealing with a unique situation.  Could I help it that my mind raced during trying times?  The dog may have learned the art of conversation but he had a long way to go in the patience department.  Finally, after my episode of pouting subsided, I looked back at my dog.

“I’m sorry for snapping,” he said after a pause.  I wasn’t sure but I think I saw a little shame in his eyes.  “It’s just that all this is a big deal and you’re the only person I trust.”  When he made eye contact with me I was struck with an unshakeable feeling of sincerity.  Not that my dog was prone to practical jokes or anything.  He was usually a pretty straight shooter when it came to dog matters.  Peeing on trees.  Scratching his ass on the furniture.  It was done with no tongue in cheek.  But this was deeper.  The look of concern in my dogs eyes was almost palpable.  Like there was a weight on his hairy shoulders that he didn’t know what to do with.  I could tell this was serious.

“No,” I said, shaking my head.  “I’m sorry.  I was a dick. Tell me.”

Chuck looked over his shoulder briefly as if to confirm that we were still alone.  Then he sighed, contemplating what he was about to say.  I knew better than to speak at that moment.  Interrupting would’ve been terribly rude.  Plus, he probably would’ve bit me.  Eventually he looked at me with those big wet dog eyes of his.

“The world is going to end,” he said in a tone barely louder than a whisper.

 

 ~~~

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