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dinner and a movie
by collette mcfarland 
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Winter was here, along with the early onset of sundown. Shorter colder days. Blissful relaxing evenings. I had brought home several good movies to share with my daughter, Cindy, tonight. They would also entertain Scruffy, my terrier. Cindy could always tell me how they ended as I probably would be asleep way before the starting credits finished. No, seriously, I'd maybe see the first thirty minutes.

Dinner, that was prepared by my favorite cook from the “Golden Arches” was spread out on the coffee table next to several DVDs to choose from. Now all I needed to do was summon Cindy downstairs. Too lazy too ascend upward I tex messaged her that dinner was being served by the entertainment center. I loved being alive in this century!

Cindy came bouncing downstairs, her coat draped over her arms, scarf and gloves wadded up in her hands.

"I could turn the heat up for you if it's that cold." I announced feeling a tad under dressed in my house coat and terrycloth robe.

"Oh, you’re funny. I'm meeting the girls at the mall." Cindy proclaimed nonchalantly.

"Oh, who's picking you up?:

"No one, we're walking there."

Count down, the staring contest has begun. I waited patiently for the punch line. None was forthcoming.

I looked at the dark window where all I could see was the reflection of two women at a standstill in a living room in some other dimension. It certainly wasn't a scene taking place in here "Oh, no you're not" I stated, coolly and firmly.

"But mom, all the other mother's don't care."
"Wait till they give you all permission to hold hands and jump off a bridge and I might agree, but this isn't going to happen." I proclaimed.

Oh, great, here it comes, the verbal sewage of a youth spurned. Blah, blah, blah, mature....blah, blah, trust.. blah, blah, embarrassed, blah blah, hate you! Scruffy, sitting on the floor between us moved his head from speaker to speaker as though he was in a ping pong tournament.

Oh thank heavens for the phone. It couldn't have picked a better time to interrupt our family group encounter.

"Honey, there is an escape criminal heading your way, I just heard it on the news!" Mom, ever the chaos addict, blurted out the live news update all in one breath, almost making the sentence sound like one word. I didn't need this now!

"Mom, I'm more concerned about the guy next door that hasn't committed his first crime yet. Every one and their dog will be on the look out for this guy!" I guess lack of respect runs in both directions. I know mom is just worried about us.

Before I could use this tid-bit of information to my advantage on Cindy she burst into tears and pounded upstairs to escape from the wicked witch of the west, or me, one and the same. Well, that went good, I thought as the house reverberated from a door slamming some where above probably forming battle scars in the sheet rock, if not shifting the very foundation of the house.
Scruffy, laid down, rolled his eyes inward, put his paws over his ears and whined. He hated family disputes. "You’re lucky you don't have kids ….er ,,.pups." I said. dogs had the right idea, any thing longer than eight weeks was long term parenting. Let's see, I've been doing this for fifteen years and five months longer than required. I should get a metal. Or at the least, ear plugs.

This little set back wasn’t going to deter me from enjoying the evening. Scruffy was enough company for me. We sat on the sofa like old lovers. While I munched on my hamburger, Scruffy followed every bite that entered my mouth, salivating profusely until I offered him Cindy’s portion, since she didn‘t seem to be joining us tonight. He possessed supreme table manners, not leaving a crumb behind for me to pick up.

Sometime latter I was awakened by a cold wet nose nudging my neck, followed by a dry rough tongue exploring my ear. As I persisted in ignoring this intrusion into my comatose state, paws started scratching my arms, insistently. I rolled over and buried my face in the cushions only for an agile, expert, explorer to re locate me.

“Okay, okay.” I muttered getting up to let Scruffy out the back door. He apparently had urgent business to attend to. Scruffy then took me by surprise, doing something he hasn’t done since puppy hood, he hurdled himself off into the woods like an Olympic sprinter. Great. I rushed after him but not before grabbing my multi purpose flashlight from the kitchen counter.

Swinging the light from side to side and calling Scruffy’s name, I heard some scuffling coming from bushes off to my left. The sound of a struggle. Some kids were horsing around! No, someone was not enjoying whatever was happening. I turned to go and call the police but heard muffled screams and decided help would get here too late by the time I got home and dialed 911. I’m not a hero, nor am I stronger than a man. What to do? What to do? If that was my daughter in there what would I do? As I was deliberating Scruffy came soaring over the bushes. Some one had thrown him out! He scampered off whimpering and yapping. That did it! In I ran charged by anger and without much of a plan but with my flashlight blazing.

The light caught a man off guard, blinding him as he straddled a young girl fighting for her life, or more likely, her virtue, hair in her face, torn clothes tossed about. I seized the man’s collar like a pro and yanked him to his feet. Oops, it looked easy in the movies. He didn’t budge…much. He did oblige me my rising to his feet, allowing the to girl spring up and bolt off. But now his hostilities were turned towards me. “Hey, come back here, two are stronger than one!” I croaked after the retreating form.

I stepped back, loosing an Igor house shoe, (hey, it went with my Winnie the Pooh bathrobe) and belatedly started questioning my judgment. This guy was big, ugly and muscular. He was also infuriated for having lost his Friday night date. But no, a substitution had arrived. I slowly retreated, flashlight aimed in his eyes. He slowly advanced, grinning brutally.

“I have a dog with me!” I threatened. A little agitated with Scruffy for getting me into this quandary.

“Yea, I’ve seen your dog!” he exclaimed lunging at me and throwing me on my back.

“That little thing, that wasn’t mine.” Is lying wrong when you’re lying to a jerk?

Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Came from far in the back ground. Scruffy, bless his heart! Assailant fell down on top of me clamping my mouth shut. I switched the alarm button on the flashlight still clutched in my hand. Loud wailing issued forth for a split second before Assailant bashed it to pieces with a hammer fist. Wolf! Wolf! Getting louder. Scruffy was returning, this wasn‘t very comforting. He already had lost round one.

My assailant commenced laughing, believe me, laughter isn‘t always contagious. He knew it was going to be swiftly over with, and I would be the looser.

Scruffy rematerialized doing a war dance around Assailant bringing more raucous laughter from the meanest man I’ve met in a long time.

I squeezed my eyes closed to protect myself. Why do people think things will hurt less if they aren’t watching? I missed the next couple of seconds. Something massive hurled over me and my attacker went sprawling backwards. I had felt fur tickle my face for just an instant. Scruffy? Had he gained like ninety pounds in the last few minutes? Someone must have left a lot of edible trash outside! No sounds. Then gurgling.

Fearfully opening my eyes one at a time, I crossed the threshold of a world turned upside down. Assailant was on his back, motionless. A colossal beast was astride Assailant with his jaws wrapped around his throat! More precisely, his jugulars, No blood was flowing, but a powerful insinuation hung in the air that resistance would be a bad thing. Assailant had become the victim, sniveling for mercy. Fat chance. How does that feel, big boy? I twisted around, jumped to my feet and tightened my robe before a man burst in on us. The dog’s owner, a Barney Fife look alike, all blustered and confused, (thank heavens the dog was in control!) started punching numbers into his cell phone. With any luck, he wouldn’t misdial with those “steady” hands of his. Scruffy, who had positioned himself in Assailant’s line of vision (so he could smirk at him), had brought the Mounties to the rescue in the shape of a bullmastiff. Scruffy’s expression said, “That’s what you get for throwing me around, tough guy.” Yep, Scruffy was acting all testosterone-y, pleased with himself. Little guys learn early to make hefty friends!

After Assailant was securely in a patrol car and all the reports had been filed, Scruffy and I were driven home by the police. I had been lectured on personal safety and dead heroes. People died assisting relatives and friends, but dying for a stranger was God’s job, or so I was told. The initial victim had never been located. She must have flown home. With any luck she learned a valuable lesson about wandering about after dark. Maybe her parent’s should be stricter.

The ice tray on the kitchen counter indicated that Cindy had been down. I guess her appetite caught up with her, she must have come down for a snack since Scruffy had enjoyed her dinner. Passing Cindy’s bedroom on my way to the shower I could hear her sobbing. Still mad at me for refusing her autonomy. I thought about peeking in on her but decided I was too depleted of energy. Nearly getting killed (or worse) always takes it out of me. I’m just glad I was unyielding enough to keep her safely in the house. The wicked witch, that’s me. I hope somebody else’s daughter is home safe and sound now, hugging her parents and counting her blessings.

The bathroom also showed evidence of Cindy’s presence. I sure wish if she was mature and expected trust she could learn to pick up after herself. I sighed, cleaned up and went to bed, but not before thanking God that we were all safe and sound.

The next morning Cindy came up behind me at the kitchen table while I was sipping coffee and scanning the newspaper for last nights crime reports. I had a feeling I might see something that interested me in either today’s or tomorrow‘s news. My one an only prayer was that mom never found out I had been outside in my pajamas, I’d never hear the end of it!

“Well, I hope you’re in a better mood this morning?” I mumbled, swallowing my coffee. “Because I had a horrible night and don’t need any attitude.”

"Mom?” Cindy’s voice quivered oddly.

Putting my coffee cup and paper down I turned to give her my attention, expecting an apology. I took a deep breath, vaulted out of my chair sending it crashing to the floor, and clasped Cindy in my arms. Her right eye, cheek and nose were swollen and covered in an ice pack. Bruises were splattered over her arms. The mystery girl from last night! I hadn’t saved a stranger. I had saved my daughter. My daughter who would be grounded for and interminable time not to precede her sixtieth birthday.

Outside Barney Fife and his dog were witnessing the kitchen scene at a discreet distance.

“Next time I get to be the hero.” Barney proclaimed.

“Depends on who gets heads or tail,” Dog answered while scratching his ear and licking his…never mind.

“Oh, that is so un-angel like!” Barney commented in disgust.

“Oh yea, how about a kissey?” Dog asked as he rose to his full height transforming into a magnificent celestial creature with puckered lips.

“No way, get away from me you fool before I turn you into the sexual harassment committee!” Barney threatened renovating himself into the same angelic species and shooting off into space.

Scruffy, wagging his tail exuberantly, observed the strange exchange from a window. Those two were always around when he needed help caring for his owners. He barked a hearty fair well to his friends as they blasted home through the morning sunrise.

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