Category: Animal Fiction


Chapter 11 Banana Split and Other Conchs

As you know, Mamoo does not like scorpions or any creepy-crawlies. I mean she hates them with passionate loathing and hysterical screaming. You can't avoid them here in the tropics. I have mentioned that some of the things that don’t bother me do not give my human companion the same feeling. This is one of those differences. Mamoo has Alan, the pest killer, come by frequently to look around for bugs and spray a nasty chemical in the corners of the house. I spend the night out at those times as the smell gets to me and makes me dizzy. I cannot believe Mamoo can’t smell it too.
One night we even had to stay in a motel when Alan put the grandfather of all plastic sacks over the house. Can you believe a sack that big? He backed a truck up the driveway and pumped gas into the sack.
“This will kill everything in the house including the plants around the outside.” I sidled closer to Mamoo when Alan spoke. I didn't like the way he looked at me.
I think we would be better off to let the bugs alone. They don’t bother me at all and they provide amusement on slow days.
One of the better bug killers around is Joey. If I am Wonder Dog then Joey is Wonder Boy. He likes to jump in the pool and look for the creatures that hide out there. Big spiders that can live under water, for example, can also walk on top of it. The females burst out with hundreds of baby spiders that spread out all over the surface. The mothers then sink to the bottom and die.
Joey once found a worm-like animal who carried his home on his back and attached himself to the pool railing. Also, a lot of small frogs find their way there but they don't last very long in the water. We like to catch frogs together-not like my usual hunting-but its fun to do on a rainy day. Joey is brave. He will even go into the room under the house where the long, black scorpions live.
Brook is a golden retriever who absolutely hates cats. He lives with Rocky, the macaw. He hates Rocky too. You can't really blame him because Rocky can mimic different humans and makes Brook run up and down the stairs by using Joey's voice.
Rocky also has a sharp beak and, being a mean bird anyway, he lives to take a bite out of any dog that comes too close to his cage. Believe me, I’ve had an experience with him. Brook and I have plotted for months, trying to figure out a way to bite off his head.
Brook, Joey, Suzy, Mamoo and I were out walking one year at Christmastime when everybody else in the neighborhood was out with their companions. Something was definitely going to happen. But I wasn’t sure what. It was late. The moon was out and shining brightly. Everyone seemed to be waiting expectantly. I hoped it wasn’t going to be a big dogfight. I don’t have the urge to do battle any more; I’ve gone “Keezy.” (That’s what they call it in the Florida Keys when you get languid and lazy)
I heard the siren before the spaniel, and all of us lifted our voices to join in with the sound of a fire engine. Sure enough, around the corner came a big, lime green fire engine with a singing machine and thirty kids hanging on the sides. In one million years I would never have guessed who the driver was going to be. Good ole Sandy Claws. He looked a lot older than the last time I saw him. He was wearing a T-shirt under his red suit, which was open down the front, and his beard was real, not glued on. But it was him. I sang along with him this time.
Joey comes by to take me walking around the block. Sometimes we go in the pedal car. That’s a car for two people and one dog that you pedal like a bicycle and drive around like a car. Joey keeps running it into the grass because he can't see over the windshield.
Susie is wonderful and my first friend here. I found her one day when she was skating on wheels around the block. From my spy seat in the front flowerbed one afternoon, I raced after Susie and stopped her in her tracks. (When you’re good you’re good.) I think I may have scared her, because I was very determined.
Susie has yellow hair and wears a different flower in it every day. She also wears sparkly pretties in her ears and on her fingers that she wiggles making little flashes of light.
I also have a best friend here, now. His name is Fred and he is as old as I am. We meet in the morning before the sun comes up and makes the rounds of the area. He is a reddish golden retriever with lots of white on his chops. I can tell when he is getting ready to go out and, if I bark loudly, Mamoo will let me out the front door. She knows I won't get lost because we are surrounded by water with only one way out.
“I wonder where the stars go when it gets light?” Fred wondered one morning. “Maybe they fall into the sea?”
“Where I came from there wasn’t any sea, but they disappeared like they do here,” I said. “Maybe they hide behind the clouds.” I always had Lots of important conversation like that with Fred. He was a real philosopher.
“I live with a tragedy, said Fred. “My owners have many problems I can’t help with. Elise is almost blind and works all the time; Albert has no legs now. Someone cut them off at the hospital. He spends the whole day lying in bed drinking beer and watching the talking box. Jeffy, my boy, spends all his time getting into trouble with the rough necks in the neighborhood.”
“I help Mamoo but sometimes she won’t take my advice,” I said. “I think she is lonely; I do my best but it isn’t enough. It is very frustrating. Taking care of our humans is hard work .”
Fred has been here for a long time and he likes to tell stories of the old days. “There weren't many people here then and the ones who were fishermen or guys who drove pickup trucks.”
I could relate to that.
“There weren't any rules and you could do what you wanted,” he said. “Now, there are signs saying: NO FISHING, NO DOGS ALLOWED, NO PARKING. I can’t even go to the beach anymore without revving everybody up. Actually, I am not allowed out without a leash, but Elise thinks it is too early for anyone to see me.”
Same for me I guess.
“I’ve seen it all in my day: dead guys washing up on the shore after falling off boats coming from Cuba. Big fish floundering in the shallows, killing themselves trying to get back to the deep. It can get very wild here -- the big winds especially. They are called her-ricanes because, until lately, they have been named after women.”
I wondered at everything he told me. It was nice to have a pal to roam with and share old men’s memories. I told him about the farm in Kentucky and he wondered at the huge expanses of rolling land. He had never seen a hill. He couldn’t believe my hunting stories. There is a law against shooting coon in Florida. Can you believe it? No wonder the raccoons are so sure of themselves. Come to think of it, I never see coon tails hanging from car antennae here.
The day Mamoo found three big scorpions crawling in the kitchen I knew something drastic was going to happen. She found them in the room where she watches the moving picture box, in the bedroom, in the office, under the sofa, and on the walls outside the doors. Everywhere. Donna (my favorite groomer) started it. I was having a bath and rubdown and Donna said, “Get a cat!”
Not any old cat, but a purebred cat. A hunting cat. There goes my peaceful existence. What I am I supposed to do, give up my privileged place of honor? Are we going to have to travel with all the paraphernalia that goes with them? And a cat box. Whew, what a smell. And, all they do is sit around licking themselves.
Donna gave her a cat with its own carrying cage. I know Mamoo isn’t the cat type, but she took her anyway. Mamoo opened the door to the cage, picked up Bananas who-quick as a wink- turned around and bit her. I can tell you I breathed a sigh of relief. I decided to be patient and lie back and wait. Bananas didn’t know Mamoo as I do.
The first surprising thing about Bananas was she that had no tail. I wondered if someone had taken it off, as they did mine or maybe a big dog had bitten it off during a fight. Bananas said she was born that way and all of her friends were like her. She had lived in a cattery all her life and knew very little about people. Her owner sent her to different places for breeding purposes and she had six litters.
Her coat was blue-gray with white trim. She was small, very well made and clever. Her claws were sharp and she knew the old one-two punch with a couple of variations. I liked the way she could open doors; I’ve never been able to master that particular accomplishment. She’d take her paw and pat the edge until it opened. Mamoo put her on the side porch when she first arrived because it had comfy chairs, a back door to the outside and big sliding doors to the rest of the house. The glass doors meant Bananas could look at the goings-on inside the house and get used to it quicker. Mamoo would close her in at night with her basket bed, her toys and her water bowl. I would walk by the scene when I did my investigative prowling after Mamoo went to sleep.
Bananas would be up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, pacing up and down before the glass door, waiting to be fed. Boy, could she eat! Mamoo couldn’t fill her up. Can after can of the most deliciously smelling tuna, chicken and beef, and dried food in tiny little shapes kept appearing. I loved it when she would leave some because I was on it in a sec.
Bananas slept a lot in a basket with a pillow in it. She had a scratching pad to keep her from tearing up the furniture. She even had furry, fake mice to play with. But she was a mean wildcat with a grudge against the world. She hissed at everybody. Not just me. Wait, I take it back, she liked Joey, or she put up with Joey, which is about the same thing. She would let Joey pat her Ö but warily.
One day, Mamoo saw a dead snake in the office doorway. It was obvious it didn’t die a natural death because it was minus its head. Bananas was under the dining room table, making pitiful noises. She had lost her front teeth, those two long canines that are important to jobs like killing and tearing. (all those nice businesses dear little kitties love to do.) Mamoo had “Vet” written on her face again and I went back to my hiding place in the garden and let them sort it out. She really did look very peculiar. Her jaw looked caved-in. Not surprisingly, it didn’t hamper her appetite. If anything, it made her hungrier.
In all fairness, the situation wasn’t entirely Bananas’ fault. Mamoo had been used to such perfection with me; it was hard for her to cope with such defiance! Like the day Mamoo tried to teach her to walk on a lead. Bananas either couldn’t or wouldn’t get the hang of it. I went along to give my expert assistance, but it was hopeless. Bananas would run the line out and get caught in a tree or bush. Then she would hiss or bite when Mamoo tried to free her. I realize she was probably scared, but her angry attitude didn’t help matters.
After dinner when Mamoo and I would settle down for an evening of watching TV, Bananas would pace through the house going to every glass door, crying pitifully for hours. Back and forth, up and down, it was nerve racking to say the least. One morning, when Mamoo was going to take her for a walk, Bananas went ballistic, hissing and scratching and (the worst), dropping dirt everywhere. How could a teensy, weensy cat have so much in her? I had to watch where I stepped. I exited to my bed again. Mamoo lost it a tad and tossed her out the door. I watched from the bedroom window while Bananas hightailed it into the bushes. Wait till she sees what awaits her there, I thought to myself. She’ll be back in a heartbeat.
Then there was the time Mamoo went off to see Gaga and Unkie, Mamoo’s family with whom I’ve had stayed many times. I couldn’t go this one time because dogs weren’t allowed in the new place where Gaga lived. I went to stay with Ed. Mamoo left enough water and food in her office, closed Bananas up in it, and left. Bananas knocked over her water, ate up all in the food the first two days and starved the final three. When we got back home, Bananas was furious. Mamoo fed her and watered her right away but she never got over it. From then on it was pure hatred. Bananas stepped up the pressure. She wanted out when I went out at five thirty A.M. and caused uproar until she got her way. She had been spayed. It couldn’t have been the call of nature. What was exciting for her out there? I never saw her with any feral feast. She wasn’t interested in garbage cans or sniffing out dogs. And the wild cat that lived in the neighborhood was something you avoided at all costs.
Eventually I was on to her plans. I’d see Bananas hiding in my spot under the stone deck. Or in the flower garden in the shade. She would only come back when she got hungry in the late afternoon when I was settling down to my dinner. Boy, did she take everything as a personal affront. Like the time the water sprinkler went on and soaked her. Or, the time Mamoo sprayed her for fleas. She left red claw marks all down Mamoo’s arm. And let’s not forget the day she got a bath. I weigh 90 pounds and Mamoo doesn’t have a problem with getting me in and out of the tub. Bananas weighs no more than five` and there is no way to bathe her without risking your sanity. I could hear it all the way outside. Such screaming you would think Mamoo had a cattle prod on her. When they came out with a towel wrapped around her, I could see blood oozing down Mamoo’s arm. On top of all this, I never saw her with a scorpion in her mouth, which was the reason she was brought here.
After the bathing ordeal, Mamoo paced the floor all night. The next day she packed Bananas up and took her to the pound. I went along for the ride, and as Mamoo said, “to teach me a little humility.”
The people at the pound were very nice and put Bananas in a cage, promising to find someone who would put up with her. Joy, oh joy. The house to myself again. Much to my consternation I heard later that a farmer up north had adopted Bananas. He needed a playmate for his Manx. The two of them would spend their days hunting mice and playing in the hay. What a way to go!
Within one week after Bananas left, there were black scorpions back in the house. Mamoo had really had it. I got the feeling we were going to move because Mamoo then had the real estate lady over. I guess everything would have turned out differently if Susie’s father hadn't shown up. He went under the house and found a hole under the kitchen where the bugs had been coming in to get to my water bowl and dinner dish. Mamoo moved my feeding to the outside and they plugged up all the holes. No more giant insects. Peace reigned again.
Guess what! Brook told me the other day that Rocky was sold and the new owners love him. It proves my theory-in the scheme of things; there truly is someone for everyone.

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