HORSE SENSE

What does this picture inspire you to write? Another challenge from my friends at “What Do You See?”.

“Hey, Charlie! Phil! Get a load of these jackasses!” neighed Daryl as he stared over the fence onto the country road. “Do they really think they’re capable of winning a race? On two legs?? This takes the cake!”

“Daryl, I’m pretty sure they’re not actual jackasses” whinnied Charlie. “They just look like jackasses!”

Phil kicked up his back legs and snickered loudly. Tossing back his glossy black hair, he gave out a hearty laugh. “That was hysterical, Charlie! ’They just look like jackasses!’ Absolutely priceless!”

“Well, they’re sure acting like jackasses! What the heck are they doing?” asked Daryl.

“They’re jogging – people run around all bandy-legged with arms flailing getting all sweaty going nowhere in particular and looking pretty dumb while doing it.” Charlie explained.

Phil trotted over. “Yeah. I read about these idiots in Horse Beautiful. It’s some kind of craze, far as I can tell .. some sort of asinine exercise routine.”

“Yeah” agreed Charlie. “What a total waste of time! And there’s even more of them running around the city.”

“OMG!” laughed Daryl loudly. “Check out these two in their matching his-and-hers outfits. Look at the shape they’re in! They gotta weigh 600 pounds combined. Can you imagine them riding us? Oh, my aching back! My screaming knees!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Look at what we got here, boys. Now that’s some fine-looking little filly!” exclaimed Phil as he moseyed nearer to the fence. “Oh yeah. I’d like to see her in a wet t-shirt contest!’

“She sure is something else, alright” Charlie agreed. “Check out those tiny shorts she’s wearing. She can ride me bareback any time she wants!”

“Man, now that’s one stacked number! I could watch her jog and bounce around all day!” Daryl smacked his lips.

“Hey! What are you three flea bags doing all this way from the barn? Farmer Brown’s gonna have a cow if he hears you jumped the fence again!” It was Barkley, the yellow lab who lived on the ranch. “Best get yourselves back home before someone notices you’re gone. C’mon! Giddy-up!”

“Race ya!” snorted Phil and the trio took off leaving Barkley in their dust.”

“Bunch of jackasses!” Barkley yowled indignantly. “Well, good riddance to them and woof to you, sexy lady. You jog by here often? Have I got a bone for you!”

NAR © 2022

#WDYS

SOCIALLY DISTANCED

Both men lived in the same apartment building, one on the ground floor and the other, two flights up. They would see each other in passing, nodding ‘hello’ or muttering the occasional “How ya doing?” They were approximately the same age and had seen each other often but a friendship never developed.

Then the corona virus hit and everything changed.

They happened upon each other in a nearby park, masked up, walking their dogs. One had a golden retriever, the other a chocolate lab. They struck up a socially distanced conversation, at first talking about their dogs then, of course, the craziness of COVID.

They were both unemployed computer engineers, laid off because of company closures. Each one contemplated moving back in with their parents but that was impossible; neither one came from accepting or understanding homes.

They started biking and jogging together, often running the six miles that made up the full loop around Central Park. As they talked they discovered they had much in common: their nonexistent love lives, their passion for chess, a fascination with micro-brewing and their dream of working from home as computer app designers. And how gut-wrenching it was coming out as gay.

The next step was so natural: moving in together. They could share one apartment and save money, work on ideas for app design programs, dabble in a little home-made beer and totally, passionately, fiercely fall in love.

A new year, a new start. Love in the time of corona.

NAR © 2021

IT’S A DOG’S LIFE

“Where are we going, Charlie? Huh, huh?? Where are we going?” 

“I thought we’d go to the dog park. Would you like that, Earl?” 

“The dog park? THE DOG PARK?? OMG! I’m so excited I think I’m gonna pee!” 

“You better not! Now settle down and stop licking my face. I’m trying to drive. And quit running around the car or we’re going home.” 

“I’ll be good, I promise. You brought the frisbee, Charlie? Oh, man, this is gonna be so great! I can fetch sticks and roll in the leaves and if I’m really lucky you-know-who will be there.” 

“Yes, Earl. That cute beagle you’ve been eyeing. What’s her name – Misty?” 

“Yup, yup, that’s it Charlie – Misty! ** SIGH **  Hold on, Charlie, this isn’t the way to the dog park. You gotta turn around. We’re going the wrong way! Charlie, turn around!” 

“It’s ok, Earl. We have to make one stop first. Why don’t you just lie down and rest. We’ll be there soon.” 

“Ok, Charlie. I’ll just lie here on the back seat and save my energy for … hey, why is my crate in the car, Charlie? We never take my crate to the park. Why did you bring my crate?? Why, Charlie? What’s going on?”

“Earl, sit! Good boy. Look, here’s your chew toy.” 

** CHOMP CHOMP ** 

“Ok, Earl, we’re here. Let’s go buddy.” 

“Hey, I recognize this place. It’s the veterinarian’s office! Why are we at the vet, Charlie? I don’t need shots and my nails don’t need trimming. I don’t wanna be here. I wanna go to the park! Charlie, why are you taking my crate out of the car? Why do we need the crate? Charlie, I got a bad feeling about this.” 

“Come here, boy. Sit next to me and listen, ok? You’re my best bud and I’ve never lied to you but I didn’t tell you the truth today. I’m sorry. We were never going to the park. I only said that because I didn’t want to upset you. We’re at the vet because it’s time.” 

“Time? Time for what, Charlie? Am I sick, Charlie? Am I DYING? That’s it, isn’t it? I’m dying!! CHAAAAARLIE!! I don’t wanna die!” 

“Calm down, buddy.You’re not sick and you’re certainly not dying. You’re here today to get snipped.”

“Snipped?” 

“Yeah – neutered.”

“NEUTERED?!? ** HOWL ** I’d rather be dead! Why, Charlie, why?? What about Misty? That means I’ll never … you know.” 

“Misty? Of course you’ll be able to … you know. You’ll just be shooting blanks.” 

“Cmon, Charlie. Can’t we please just go home? I don’t wanna do this. Being a dog without balls is a bitch, metaphorically speaking, of course.” 

“It’ll be over before you know it, Earl. Get in your crate now, boy. We’ll go to the dog park in a couple of days and Misty will be there waiting for you.”  

“A COUPLE OF DAYS?!? ** WHINE ** This sucks, Charlie! Betrayed by my best friend.” 

“Sorry, Earl. Sometimes life’s a bitch, ain’t it?”

NAR © 2019

ANDIAMO

I was jogging down the marina boardwalk one day last week, my two loyal yellow labs, Daisy and Molly, right by my side. It had been quite a while since we were out together like this and the warm sun felt great on my face. I had locked myself away in my apartment after the death of my beloved black lab, Duke, only taking the girls out when necessary. 

But that day I looked at them and realized how my melancholy had affected them. They had become as listless and lost as I. Well, this wasn’t fair to anyone – staying cooped up inside mourning – so off we went on that beautiful day in May. At first it felt like forced fun, just not right being at our favorite place without our buddy, Duke. We started out slowly, three sad sacks just moseying down by the sea, but soon the smell of saltwater and the spray of the ocean began to invigorate us and we picked up our pace. 

“Yeah, we needed this, girls. It’s good to be back outside, isn’t it?” and Daisy and Molly looked up at me, their big brown eyes happy again. 

We rounded a curve in the boardwalk and off in the distance I noticed a big Cadillac with tinted windows parked outside one of the warehouses. We drew closer and I saw the chauffeur leaning against the car, working on his tan. As we jogged by, the guy yelled out “Yo, pal! Looks like you lost your dog.” 

Caught off guard by his statement, I stopped abruptly, nearly tumbling over the girls. With a quizzical expression on my face, I looked at the guy. Without saying a word, he pointed to the leash I had tied around my waist … Duke’s leash … for old time’s sake. 

“Oh, this” I said somewhat sheepishly, and before I realized what was happening, I told this total stranger my sad story about Duke. 

To my utter disbelief this hulking goon of a guy broke down like a baby, telling me about his dog that died when he was a kid. Just then the door to the warehouse flew open and a couple of very large, intimidating men came out followed by a short squatty guy chomping on a cigar and sporting the most ridiculous toupee I’ve ever seen. 

This little guy was obviously the boss. He walked around the back of the car and stood there shaking his head. “Mama mia, Bruno, it’s been thirty years since Spot died. I get it. I’m a dog lover myself but enough’s enough. This happens every friggin time. Now say bye bye to the nice doggies and get in the car.” 

Wiping his nose on his sleeve, Bruno did as instructed. It was only when the car door opened that I spotted the lustrous black lab in the front seat and my heart stopped for a second. 

“Papa’s here, Leonardo” said the man with the toupee. “Andiamo, Bruno! Let’s go home.” 

NAR © 2019

DOG DAY AFTERNOON

“Windsor, you son on a bitch, get your ass off my lawn! Go on .. get the hell outta here!” 

That was Old Man Jenkins. He and his wife Margaret live next door to us and the source of his rage was none other than our pet bulldog, Windsor. My husband Tom would run out of the house, apologizing profusely. 

“Sorry, Mr. Jenkins! Windsor’s a handful but he’s just playing. He’s really lovable once you get to know him.” 

“Get to know him!? Are you freaking nuts, Peterson? That bastard just crapped on my fruit trees!” 

“Fertilizer, Mr. Jenkins?” Tom suggested sheepishly and dragged Windsor away. 

“FERTILIZER!?! I think you mean shit! 

Hush now, Aaron!” chastised  Margaret. “Using such vulgarism .. why, there’s children next door!” 

“Don’t hush me, Margaret! That damn dog’s a menace! If you can’t control your frigging mutt, Peterson, I’m gonna call the cops. Or maybe I’ll just put a bullet between his beady little eyes.” 

And the kids started crying. 

“Now, Mr. Jenkins, please don’t say that. You’re scaring my kids.” 

“Well, that’s just too damn bad! You solve this problem or I will .. permanently.” 

Tom brought Windsor back inside, promising the kids everything was going to be ok, that Old Man Jenkins was just sputtering angry syllables that he didn’t really mean. 

The next few days we kept Windsor on a short leash. Old Man Jenkins seemed to calm down and busied himself with his fruit trees. 

On Saturday morning Margaret Jenkins approached me in the grocery store. “Thank you, Alice, for keeping Windsor out of our yard. Now Aaron can care for his beloved fruit trees in peace. In fact, he’s been so preoccupied he hasn’t noticed the family of critters living in our wood pile. They’re just so darling, I even named them – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar!” 

And off she went, chuckling surreptitiously. 

Sitting down to dinner later that day, we suddenly heard Old Man Jenkins yelling at the top of his lungs. We never heard him scream like that before so we knew it had to be something awful. Please .. not Windsor! We raced outside, stopping dead in our tracks: there stood Old Man Jenkins, pricked by at least 100 porcupine quills.

“Excellent aim, Balthazar!” exclaimed Margaret. “Guess he knows you’re just a mean old ‘prick’, Aaron!”

Old Man Jenkins learned a lesson that day: don’t mess with Margaret; she’s one smart cookie!

NAR © 2018

THE POKER GAME

“How do, ladies and gents? Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dougal James MacTerrier, but everyone calls me ‘Mac’. I’ve been top dog at Barktower Manor for ten years now. You see, his lordship, Hound Ruff Branan saved my life one night after that fleabag Angus ‘Scotty’ Montgomery caught me sniffing around his bitch and nearly tore me apart. In my clan, when another saves your mangy life, you’re beholden to them forever. Truth be told, I’ve had a good life here. 

Tonight I’ll be donning my vest and tam as I’m the greeter for the weekly poker game. Sir Ruff and the boys always have a great night playing cards, drinking whiskey and smoking cigars. Well, there was that one game a few weeks back that didn’t turn out so well. 

That particular night started out like any other. Sir Ruff, his four cousins the Hounds of Baskerville and the two Boxer Brothers were having a grand time. M’lord’s sweetheart, Madam Pompadour, owner of the fabulously successful pup salon Shampooch, and her saucy poodle assistants were there to cater to everyone’s needs. They looked extraordinarily fetching in their French maid outfits. Tails were wagging, for sure! 

It was no secret that the Boxers were in debt big time to loanshark Weezy “Pit Bull” Mulally, and had cooked up a scheme to win back their losses that night.  The game was going strong and the pot was getting bigger when one of the Boxers slipped the other a card under the table. Things were looking good for them and they surreptitiously exchanged a few more cards without anyone noticing. The hounds were growling their displeasure as the Boxers won game after game. 

Just then Madam Pompadour and her delightful maids came in carrying silver trays of bones, kibbles and bits. When Sir Ruff looked up from his paw of cards, he caught the reflection in a tray of the Boxers passing winning cards. M’lord began barking and howling loudly, alerting the other hounds who immediately pounced on the cheating Boxer Boys. The two connivers were no match for the five rabid hounds and things did not end well for the brothers that night .. but they did end permanently. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear our guests scratching at the door, eager for tonight’s game. Let’s hope the night goes well. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, you know!” 

NAR © 2018