Category: Animal Fiction


Chapter 10 Water, Water, Everywhere

“We are not going back to Kentucky,” Mamoo announced the first day it started to get cold. “I have rented the house to a man from Pakistan and we are going to buy a house where it is warm for the wintertime.
I wanted to stay in Canada but Mamoo said, “It gets very cold here. You would freeze the rest of your tail.” Here we go again, packing for a long trip. Polly brought us oatmeal cookies to eat on the way. HA, they were gone before we got out of town.
We drive all day and stop at buildings that only have sleeping rooms. We stopped at our favorite called Days Inn, but we only stayed at night, never during the day. Mamoo brings back food to the room and we eat pizza. I also have my travelling bowl with dry food in it. because of the throw-up problems I had when we started this odyssey.
Usually the rooms we stay in have two beds: big beds with pillows, one for me and one for Mamoo. We stroll around to get the kinks out and loll in our respective beds watching the TV. Mamoo leaves the light on in the bathroom while I roam around during the night. I like Mamoo to know I will take care of her during the time she sleeps.
The weather is getting milder and there is a smell in the air I don’t know. It smells sweet like honey and fruit. There isn’t any rain and no bare trees, only high, skinny ones with long, graceful leaves that bend in the wind. Everything smells very fresh with no smoky, gassy odors. Lots of salty, fishy, chalky smells.
Canada is cold and rainy. I don’t know why the weather is warm here. I don’t miss the rain, but I like it cooler than this. I will miss all my friends in Canada. Hopefully, there will be more where we are going.
When we stopped again the air was balmy and the grass wasn’t grass at all, but some kind of weed that is hard on the mouth. It didn’t settle my stomach as the northern grasses did. I have noticed in our walks that the motels have those concrete ponds like the one at the farm. I sat there and watched Mamoo swim in a pond one evening. She seemed to love it.
When we got to the end of Florida Turnpike, everything looked different. The trees had fallen down or had no branches on them. Mamoo stopped at a place that had a pile of rubble in front of it and a sign hanging by one ring. She made gulping noises and water ran out of her eyes. “Look what Andrew has done,” she sobbed. Well, I heard Patsy and Andrew weren’t friendly anymore, but he must have been really mad to do this kind of damage.
We turned off onto a side road and drove through a terrible area. The houses were painted with black marks and didn’t have doors or windows. I saw dogs on the sidewalk that were thin and weak from hunger and could hardly beg me for food. We left a sack of my food there in the middle of the sidewalk. The garbage pails were lying everywhere with nothing in them. I saw swollen up cats and dogs in the street, which would never move again. There were no signs at the corners to tell Mamoo where we were going. This went on for street after street. The few people we saw looked dazed and frightened. There was no end to the devastation. The birds didn’t sing and all I could smell were rats. This was more than what one guy could have done, with even a bulldozer. It had to be something else. The woman Mamoo talked to about directions had a scrawny yellow mutt. He told me in a language I could barely understand that a terrible wind named Andrew came in the night, blowing down the trees and the poles that had the wires strung on them.
“All zee hanimals were blowed away into zee water zat goes on forever and navar seed agin,” he whispered. “Zee noise she was terrible, rolling ovar everthin’. I saw cats fly through the air and roofs of ëouses. Pets and peoples were split away forever. Great cats got losted from they cages and long-toothed beasts as big as ëouses and crazed with fear roamed at will through zee dark lanes.”
I wish I could have heard more but Mamoo hurried away. I couldn't understand why she had brought us to this awful place or where the big wind was now. I had seen the twisters come in the spring and summer at the farm, but outside of uprooting a few old trees, no great damage ever happened. The rest of the road was narrow and ran through endless seas of grass with only a few blackened tree stumps to break the monotony. Suddenly the grass disappeared and became endless seas of water on both sides. I could see small dots of land here and there and the clouds were mirrored on the surface of the water. There were boats everywhere; way out on the water way out and in close; by the side of the road, hitched up to a wooden walk-way; or riding on wheels behind a truck or house car. I don’t think I would like a boat ride. As you know, I have enough trouble walking on a floor that is steady.
What did I tell you before about bridges? Well these make a big hill opening up at the top for boat passage. If they break apart this easily, I don't want to be on top when they do. Every time I get to a road that goes over the water, I yell as loud as I can to make sure whoever makes the bridge move knows we are on it.
We stopped to feed Beula again beside one of those house cars that take up much of the road. The “hot dog” that lived in it was lifting his leg beside me in the bushes.
“It is like your home inside with TVs, sleeping rooms and indoor water spouts. You can't go out for a whiz any time you want,” he said, “the floor rocks a bit Ö it's safer to curl up in a chair.”
There was a lot to warn about with umpteen bridges and water on both sides of us as we drove into the setting sun. We turned into the driveway of a small house. One minute it was light and the next it was dark. Mamoo undid the door and carried in a few things including, thank God, my water bowl. It feels good to be on solid ground again after being in the car for so long.
When it was light again, I set out for Polly's house. But I ran all around the block and wound up where I started. No David or Polly. No Canada. But lots of forest with strange trees. Not big, tall trees though; more like a heavy thicket-hard to push your way through.
But through I must go, for I smell coon. Not the same as I am used to, but coon all the same. I detected the subtle odor of some kind of rat, and something fishy , which I had never smelled before. It may not be so bad here after all. After sniffing out the other dogs in the neighborhood, I met Brook who was seeing his little boy companion off on a bus.
“New in the Conch Republic?” he snarled. “Keep to your part of the street and I won't tear you limb from limb.”
Like, I am really scared. At least I found out we were not in the good old U S of A. anymore. He also told me there weren’t any squirrels here and the cats didn’t go up trees. Not being a cat enthusiast, I didn’t listen to the rest of what he said because I bit down hard on something scurrying across the road with a body like a rock. Oh, my poor mouth! Time to go back to Mamoo and get some poor Sam pats. “Don’t mess with the land crabs, Sam, they will tear your mouth to bits,” she said when I got home. Now she tells me.
Key West is definitely my town. We had to cross the ocean on a long bridge to get there. It was frightening but I yelled loudly to warn everybody we were coming and we hadn’t fallen off yet. Then I barked down both windows to look out both sides to make sure.
Oh, the smells coming from the eating places on Duval Street: hot, spicy and fruity. (I know, I’m always hungry.)I could go anywhere here, because there are no rules. I went in a place that gave Mamoo shoes, in another that gave her hats, and a special outdoor restaurant where a sweet-smelling man brought us goodies to eat( yummy hot bread and butter for me) under a shady tree.
After the hot bread, we went to an ice cream place where I had vanilla cream on the porch and watched the other dogs eat their hearts out. The best place, though, is FAST BUCKS, an amazing place filled to the ceiling with amazing things. My nose went berserk twitching out all the items.
FAST BUCK’s watch dog, a big Airedale, told me to mind myself the first time we went in there or he, personally, would take a piece out of my butt. Why do people think that, because I was raised on a farm, I have no manners? Beats me. To calm him down, I touched noses with him and let him get a few sniffs. But things aren’t always what they seem.
There were lots of people all around the store and, since I can only see legs until they moved away, I didn’t see it at first. I jumped in front of Mamoo to protect her from what looked like the biggest rat I had ever seen. I didn't want to take my eyes off of him, but I could feel those around watching to see what I was going to do. They backed away giving me a clear field of vision.
There, in the doorway to another part of the store, was a rat caught in a trap. His breath hadn’t left him yet as he twisted and pulled, trying to free himself from the spring of the trap. I started for him to put him out of his misery, when I realized he didn’t smell like a rat. He smelled like the stuff in pillows. I saw blood on his nose but I couldn’t smell it. Actually it smelled like paint. I heard a little whirring noise coming from inside his body. What in the world is wrong with me? I didn’t want to leave him there, but there was nothing to kill because he wasn’t a living thing. I plopped down with my face on my paws to try to think it out.
When Mamoo saw I wasn’t going to leave until I found out what was happening, she leaned over and picked the thing up. It was a toy! Can you believe it? The Airedale laughed his head off. The saleslady gave it to Mamoo to send to P.J. for April Fool’s Day. I can see him with it. He probably could fool some of those dumb dogs in Kentucky!
When the sun is not too hot, we go to the beach. The car is packed with water and cookies and Mamoo brings an umbrella to sit under like the one on the table at her concrete pool. Sometimes there aren’t many others there and we have the beach all to ourselves. Very interesting items on a beach, both breathing and not.
Along the shore the waves throw off bales of wet grass that is home to multitudes of small creatures. Blue balloons that have strings attached to sting you. Great big, spider-like animals with hard crusty bodies, some with pincers -- jump back from those. The birds too are different from any I have ever seen: thin, white stalks with feather crests stick up from their heads and come in different sizes.
There’s even an eagle look-alike that builds a large, round nest perched on the top of the poles strung with wires along the road. They can see for miles around. Their nests are vulnerable, however, for the next big wind will blow their nest into the ocean. There are great, ugly pelican birds with gigantic wingspans, which swoop down into the water and come up with fish that wiggle in their huge bills. There are Brightly colored ones that can talk like Mamoo, but live in cages normally, sometimes in the mangroves.
The biggest surprise at the beach for me-the water. I don’t like to go in swimming, but I do like to drink it. But not this water. It tastes like salt. Sticky. Very unpleasant.
Mamoo puts on black glasses and looks at books while I investigate the lady giving away sausages at the stand with the umbrella on it. Amazing. Mamoo has to wear dresses that cover all of her, but the sausage lady only wears high-heeled shoes and a sash across her chest. She must want an even tan. Mamoo sniffs a lot when we see her. I’ll bet she smells those wonderful sausages too.
The nighttime in the Conch Republic (the Keys as Mamoo calls it) is as exciting as any place I have ever lived. After dinner one evening, I took off to check the neighborhood, overgrown thickly with brambles -- the perfect hiding place for raccoons.
I always huff and puff when I’m after some varmint. It gets them nervous and they make mistakes. Not these guys. Their little eyes gleamed in the barely there light from a passing car. They huddled together with their backs to the tree waiting for me to go in for the kill and they jumped me. Smaller than normal, they made up for their lack of size with ferocity and disregard for their own safety rarely seen in a nocturnal animal. They bit and clawed, tearing my ear and cutting open my face. I was intensely aroused and didn’t even feel them on me. When I finally shook them loose, I lay in the middle of the road, exhausted. Mamoo found me the next morning under the table by the pool where I had slunk to after such a devastating defeat. She carried on, ranting about “New Doggy” (my fictitious replacement), and put me in the bathing tub. After a rub down and some “vet work” on my cuts and bruises I went to bed, a wiser, but happier dog.
The next few days told the tale. Two men put up a fence around the house and two other men put in special door to the house. I could go in and out of the house whenever I wanted. I had the freedom to go out but I was still a prisoner within given boundaries. Goes to show, you can’t have it all.
I still have a good game, however. The tree rats try to get under the fence, and I swallow them whole when they do. Thing about tree rats is they don’t agree with me and I relieve myself a day or two later. I’m still having a problem with bones. The fence is made of woven wire which makes it easy to see what’s doing on the road around the property. I know before anyone who is arriving. I announce them, sniff them up good and let Mamoo do the rest. I also have plenty to do burying bones and easing my itchy skin.
My snake act always brings out the skeptics around here, although I have to bury them fast because things rot quickly in this climate. Mamoo never had little creatures slithering around on her floors before, but this is the tropics and she does now! It might have something to do with why most houses here are built way up off the ground on poles.
Not a day goes by that I don’t see those speedy lizards darting out from under the sofa or running up and down the walls. You need sharp eyes because they can change their color to match whatever they are sitting on. They are hard to catch and not worth the effort. Bitter tasting.
The other creatures are not as entertaining. Big, hairy spiders which come in from the pool area and long, slow-moving insects with pincers and tails they carry up in the air. Mamoo screams when she sees them and runs for the spray stuff to kill them; almost kills me too to tell the truth. I never knew Mamoo was such a bloodthirsty woman.
I've noticed people take off their clothes a lot around here, like the sausage girl at the beach. Even Mamoo does every once in a while early in the morning before the sun comes up and the men come to work on the roof of the house across the street. She likes to swim in the pool after she takes off her bathing suit and throws it on the chair under the umbrella. For precautions, she hangs a towel on the railing by the pool stairs before she goes in.
Something interesting happened on the day we usually go to the flea market on Big Pine Key. Mamoo was splashing around having a good time when the guys who were working on the roof came. (They also take off their clothes and dance to their music boxes while they are fitting the roof pieces together.) She started to get the towel to cover herself (much as I love Mamoo, she’s not the sausage lady), when down the steps came a family of those long, black scorpions to get a drink of water. Now, when I say Mamoo is afraid of them, I mean she is petrified. She turned very pale and would have screamed bloody murder if it would have made those bugs go away. Did I mention they have deadly stingers at the ends of their tails? Mamoo is a large fat woman and her end of the pool was deep and had no ladder. All I could do was watch because I am rather cautious about those scorpions myself. To this day I don’t know how she did it, but Mamoo pushed and pulled herself out of the water, over the edge of the pool, crawled on her hands and knees to the towel, wrapped it around herself and ran into the house-all without the dancing roofers catching a glimpse of her. Needless to say, when she came back with the spray can, those bugs were toast.
I stay with Mike when Mamoo goes away. His companions are two big yellow Labs, Bonnie and Clyde. Cute, very cute. They are twice my size, young and definitely don’t want me there. Alan, Mike’s neighbor is very nice and when those two Labs give me a hard time, I go next door to sleep with him.
Bonnie is sort of a busybody but Clyde is a piece of work.
“Around here I am top dog. That's the way it is if you want to stay,” so sayeth Clyde, the Big Cheese.
Clyde’s house is built on stilts and has a lot of vines growing all over it. Lots of bugs too -- especially cock-a-roaches. Wouldn’t Smiley love it here? (Although I doubt he would be able to get up the steep stairs.) We walk together to an island over a narrow bridge, where Mike lets us run around and do as we please. Bonnie and Clyde run along the waterside while Mike paddles his kayak in the ocean. They also dash out into the water to retrieve the large nuts that fall from those tall, skinny trees I told you about.
One time, Clyde caught a big fish when he was chasing a nut Mike had thrown. I was impressed. Almost made me want to try the water. (You noticed I said almost.) I heard about it for days. Clyde bragged about his picture in the paper that Mamoo looks at every morning. He said he was having his 15 minutes in the sun.
Although I don’t have any special friends yet as I do in Canada, life here is filled with acquaintances that make it interesting. Good friends are few and I am grateful to the Powers That Be for the ones I have. All things considered, things could be a lot worse.

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