Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Short Bit of Escapism

I was at my desk, reading a story about local burglaries in the news when my desk phone gave a wheezy chirp, like the last gasp of a choking canary.

"Mr. Landis?," said a voice from the phone.


"Your...your dog. He's dead."

The voice clicked off.

How could this happen? My dog .. dead? The news raised so many questions, but most importantly...

I didn't have a dog!

My mind flipped through old sound bytes, trying to recognize the voice that so clearly knew my name. I wasn't positive, but it almost sounded like my elderly land lady. Maybe she confused one of the neighbor's dogs as mine?

I grabbed my jacket and rushed for the door of the office.

"Where are you going?" cried June, the "don't call me a secretary, I'm an administrative assistant" secretary.

"Big news at my apartment...evidently my dog died!"

"But you don't have a dog!," June yelled as I turned the corner.

I pushed through the door and was gone.


Halfway down the street and waving my hands frantically, I finally caught the eye of a cab driver with his off duty light glowing. He flicked a switch, started the taxi and circled around to meet me.

"Buddy," I yelled through the window. "How quickly can you get me to Rose Street, just across the water?"

"No time flat," replied the cabby. "Jump in. Say, what's the hurry?"

I flopped into the back seat and began to explain about the strange phone call I had received. The cabby tore up, pointing to pictures of his own ugly little chihuahua.

"He's such a cute puppy," said the cabby. "But after this morning, I don't know if I'll ever see him again."

"What happened?," I asked.

"Well, I was carrying him under my arm, loading up the taxi for a couple headed to the airport. I couldn't life the whole suitcase with one arm, so I sat Sylvester Junior -- that was his name -- on the top of the cab."

The cabby sniffled.

"Next thing I know, the couple's rushing me to leave and completely forget to grab Sylvester from the roof!"

"Oh no!" I cried. "What happened? Did he slide off of the roof when you drove off?"

"If only!," replied the cabby. "Sylvester Junior was so much more resourceful than that -- he knew how forgetful I could be. The little guy bit down hard on the radio antenna and held on for dear life."

I pictured a little 4 pound dog flailing in the wind of the busy city streets. Poor guy must have felt like kite in Chicago.

"So what happened next?" I asked.

"Well," said the cabby, "after a few minutes I realized the little guy wasn't sniffing for peanuts under my seat, like usual. I pulled over as fast as I could, slamming on the breaks with my boot."

"And Sylvester Junior?"

"Catapulted clear across the Bay Bridge," said the cabby woefully. "Poor guy was airborne for at least a good two minutes."

"That's awful," I said, feeling unable to console the cabby in his loss.

"I know," the cabby said, wiping his eyes with a filthy hanky. "I still never found what happened to the poor guy. I've been looking all morning and still no Sylvester Junior. I think I flung him clear out of the atmosphere. Anyways, we're here. Sorry about the sad story, pal. Here's my card -- if you see my dog, give me a call, will ya?"

"Sure. Good luck ... umm, what was your name again?," I asked.

"Sylvester," said the cabby as he smiled sadly.

"Of course," I replied. "Well, good luck, Sylvester."

The cab drove off and I stood watching for just a second, touched by the story. I turned and raced up to my landlady's door, hoping to figure out how I'd suddenly become a dog owner myself.

Knock Knock

"Mrs. Gladabee?," I called.

"Who's there?," she answered, her voice as ancient as her frame.

"It's Mr. Landis"

"Mr. Landis who?" she said, then cackled slightly.

"Umm ... I'm not sure I know the punchline to that one," I replied. I heard her shuffle over the door and open it, latch by latch.

"Ah, Mr. Landis!" She adjusted her glasses. "What are you doing here in the middle of the day?"

"Well, Mrs. Gladabee, didn't you call me? About my dead dog?"

"But you don't have a dog!," she cackled again.

This was growing a bit tiresome.

"Yes, Mrs. Gladabee, I know. You called me at work today and told me my dog was dead, but you hung up before I could figure out what happened. I thought I should rush over to make sure everything was alright."

"Oh, right! Now I recall -- I was walking past your apartment, up on the 4th floor, earlier this morning when I heard a huge crash at the window! I grabbed my keys and unlocked your door to see what had happened, and you'll never guess what I saw laying there on the floor!" Her eyes lit up like she was in her twenties all over again.

No! It couldn't be. What would the chances be of Sylvester Junior...

"Let me guess," I replied. "It was a small chihuahua?"

"A chihuahua?," she laughed. "Heavens no! It was a cat burglar! But funny you should say a chihuahua..."

"Why's that?," I replied, still shocked that my apartment had been broke into.

"Well, I was watching from the door way as the burglar started picking through all your stuff..."

"Why didn't you stop him!?"

"Now hold on," she replied, "Let me finish. So anyway, while I was watching, he realized that nothing in your apartment was really worth any money. So he started mumbling to himself about a plan to lure you home and rob you!

When I heard this was their plan, I let out a little gasp, and the burglar heard me. He grabbed me by the neck and forced me to call you on the phone about your dead dog."

"But I don't have a dog," I replied.

"Exactly!," she cackled. "I figured you'd be smart enough to call the cops about something so suspicious. Guess I was wrong on that one."

I looked down at the ground, embarrassed. "But wait, Mrs. Gladabee, if the burglar had you held up, how did you manage to get rid of them and get back down to your apartment?"

"That's the best part!," she laughed. "After I had sat the phone back down, I heard a slight whistle coming from the direction of the broken window. The burglar pushed me toward the sound, and I saw a small dot on the horizon, flying towards us at a remarkable speed."

I shook my head in disbelief.

"It was a chihuahua," she continued, "and it was angry about something. The little guy came flying through the window lightning fast and latched onto the neck of the cat burglar! The burglar tried to shake him off, but the tiny dog held on for dear life, clamping his teeth down on the burglar's ear and flying around like... well, like..."

"A kite it Chicago?," I offered.

"Exactly!," she cackled. "The two took off out the door and down the steps. I haven't seen or heard anything since."

Incredible. Little Sylvester Junior survived his flight and saved Mrs. Gladabee. I dug in my pocket for Sylvester Senior.'s card and asked the landlady for her phone.

It rang twice and Sylvester picked up.

"Hello, Sylvester?," I asked. "This is the guy from your cab just a couple of moments ago. I think I might have found Sylvester Junior!"

Sylvester Senior laughed loudly. "Didn't you hear? The police just found the little guy! Evidently he wrestled a wanted burglar down in the street and a patrol car stopped to see what was happening. Sylvester Junior's a hero!"

I congratulated Sylvester Senior and told Mrs. Gladabee the good news. exhausted from all the excitement, I climbed up to my now slightly-more-drafty apartment and relaxed.

Maybe it's time I get a dog?


Post a Comment

<< Home