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James

James stood in the driveway wishing he were a plumber once again. He had been a darn good plumber after all; he had single-handedly run the waterworks of an entire Navy base and never had even a complaint about his work. With his feet glued to the driveway, he thought longingly of the days spent working on the base. Now, as a probation officer, he encountered myriad problems that had never come up as the Navy's trusty civilian plumber.

With this, his thoughts returned to the house before him. The knot in the stomach pulled tighter as he dared a glance at the dog sitting between him and the house. The jet black German Shepherd gazed back steadily, unblinking. His teeth were not bared nor his hackles raised, but to James he was menacing all the same. With a great effort, he shuffled his feet free and reluctantly took the first step toward the house, toward the monster. He moved slowly, but deliberately, speaking to the dog in forced calm and quiet tones. He hoped that the dog could not sense the shaking of his voice or hands and explained that he was there to neither steal nor to harm.

To his great surprise and relief, James passed the dog without incident, but he felt positively sick as he realized that now the dog was between him and the safety of his car. He was on the turf of the Beast and sweat built up in his clenched palms. There was no going back, and he only hoped that the man whom he came to meet would be at home, swearing under his breath what he would do to him if he was not. He knocked on the door eagerly, not taking his eyes from the dog. It seemed like an exceedingly long time before he heard the tiny clicks of the door being unlocked and for a scruffy and unshaven man to open it. A feeling of relief swooped through his stomach and he exchanged a genuinely friendly greeting with the man who held the door open for him. To his greatest dismay however, he saw that the black dog had joined them on the porch and the man held the door open long enough for it to slip through the door as well. The shepherd brushed against James’ leg as they both crossed the threshold at the same time, sending shivers up his spine.

What was it about these big dogs that everyone liked so much? He had never seen dogs as anything but creatures with sharp teeth and wild natures that ought to be feared above all else. To keep them as pets was as crazy as it was dangerous.

The dog followed closely as both men passed through the house into the living room and took seats near a low coffee table. They were talking amiably enough about some goals that had been set for the man on probation, but James was finding it difficult to fully focus on anything but the dog. This was going to make the meeting much more difficult, but to make matters worse James was immensely frustrated at how the man made no moves to rid the room of the beast. In fact, he was entirely unapologetic, and that left James uneasy indeed.

After making a few circles investigating the room, the dog settled on the floor by the end of the couch within an arms distance of James. He tucked his snout beneath his paws and his eyes began to droop. He seemed to fall asleep immediately and James was finally able to focus on the business at hand. The man was sticking to the terms of his release rather well, and James was confident that the remainder of his probation would be without incident. He liked it when people did well and got back on their feet without any heavy handedness on his part. The man began filling out a short stack of paperwork that James had brought, and quiet filled the room.

He had met the man the previous Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. under the fluorescent lights of the local jailhouse. The man had been arrested for disorderly conduct like many of the others in the stale-aired, dimly lit room. He was a drunk, but hardly a full-blown criminal. One of James’ main duties was to get men who had been arrested in the night through the complicated process of being released from jail in time for work the next morning. Nobody wanted these men to lose their jobs in addition to being disorderly drunks and James had a particular knack for working with this sort of fellow.

As he recalled this first meeting with the man, James was abruptly yanked from his reverie when the dog began to stir and then rose from his sleep. Sitting a little more rigidly in his chair and closer to the edge with half his weight on the balls of his feet, he readied himself to retreat as soon as possible. The dog took a long stretch touching his nose to the ground and began to meander around the room, sticking his wet nose all over anything that he could reach. The dog passed between James and the coffee table, nearly brushing his knees as he passed. James was frozen with fear, but the dog paid him no mind, ambling around the room in circles. He was watching the black dog closely, looking for any sign that it had had enough of this intruder.

The dog showed no aggression but to his absolute horror, James did look up to see him in a strange stance, taking a crap right there on the living room floor. The smell began to make him nauseous, but the man had not seem to notice, buried as he was, in forms to be signed.

Quicker than he meant to James jumped up from his seat, startling the man and the dog both of whom were now staring intently at him. “I'm sorry! This is just too much! Do you really let your dog just do that?” cried James, with no attempts to mask his disgust. The man's eyebrows raised creasing his forehead deeply and he looked from James to the dog and then back. “My dog?” he asked, “I thought he was your dog!”

Comments

The ending reminds me of "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" By Douglas Adams (the fourth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy).
 

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Rodafina
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