Colleen woke with a start and looked at her alarm: 7:10. She’d seriously overslept. When the rapid thumping of her heart stilled after a few seconds, she listened for the sound of her sister’s dogs in their kennel in the next bedroom. Those very dogs were responsible for Colleen’s oversleeping—they had snorted through most of the night, a preternatural snorting that penetrated the walls separating the two bedrooms.
The dogs were silent now, but when Colleen swung her legs over the bed, they started to whimper; perhaps they heard her with the uncanny hearing of their wolfier ancestors, or perhaps it was coincidence that their pug bladders had reached their limits just as Colleen had finally awakened.
She’d been happy to watch Lily and Ebenezer while her sister and her husband were on vacation. The dogs were good-natured and docile, and Colleen enjoyed her sister’s flat-screen television. Still—she hadn’t counted on the snorting.
Barefooted, Colleen padded into the next bedroom and opened the kennels. Lily and Ebenezer scampered to the back door, their toenails scrabbling on the hardwood floor. They were prancing and whimpering, and Colleen feared that they might not be able to wait while she untangled their harnesses and leashes. She hesitated for a moment. They’re fat pugs. They’re not going to run. Out and back—how hard can it be? She opened the door.
Like slapstick comedians, Lily and Ebenezer both fought to get through the door first, and Lily actually snapped at her chubby pal before trotting toward a shrub. Ebenezer followed, waddling and sniffing. Colleen shivered in the cool morning air; she was wearing only an oversized tee-shirt and sleep shorts.
The dogs stayed close by, sniffing, lifting a leg, sniffing, using some criterion for just the right spot known only to dogs. Then Lily looked up, hyper-alert, and emitted a low wuff, staring at a spot across the street.
A bird unfamiliar to Colleen was preening there, a bird with longer legs and beak than the birds in Colleen’s world, and larger by half. It looked both elegant and proud, and as Lily continued to wuff, it glanced over, haughtily, as if to say come at me, tubby.
Lily accepted the dare and took off, yipping. Colleen was frozen for a second, suddenly aware of her relative state of undress in the ever-lightening morning and her until-now unrealized fear of largish birds. Ebenezer, unconcerned, continued to sniff and squat. Spurred to action by the certainty that she would never be able to explain Lily’s escape to her sister, Colleen ran, calling “Lily! Stop, Lily! Bad girl!”
An early-morning jogger appeared, and Colleen crossed her arms over her chest, horrified. She was suddenly aware that she must also appear to be pants-less. Lily yipped and danced in front of the elegant bird, which hopped a few yards away and continued to preen. The jogger looked to his left, at Lily and the bird, and to his right, at Colleen. At just that moment, the lawn sprinklers came on, spraying Colleen’s tee-shirt, which now became semi-transparent. The jogger smirked.
When he passed, Colleen crossed the street and put her hand on Lily’s neck, still apprehensive about the bird. Would it fly at her? Fortunately, the large bird simply walked away, with great dignity. Lacking a device to guide Lily back to her own yard, and keeping an eye on Ebenezer (who had found a spot of lawn not reached by the sprinklers and was still squatting), Colleen tried a sort of soccer dribble, nudging Lily forward with alternating feet until they had crossed the street. They had to take a zigzagging route to the back door to avoid the sprinklers; still, Colleen was quite wet and chilly by the time they finally met up with Ebenezer.
Both dogs nosed at the door, eager to begin their daytime activities (sleeping, snorting). As Colleen held the doorknob, she noticed that she’d stepped in Ebenezer’s morning output. Holding onto the knob for balance as she wiped her foot on the grass, she both heard and felt the awful click. Locked out. The sprinkler came back around, dousing her again.
Of course she had no key with her, no cell phone, no handy kit of burglar’s tools. She soccer-dribbled the dogs to the front porch and waited for the jogger to come back. Lily and Ebenezer slept, snorting contentedly.
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