Web Site: www.garystarta.net
A dog turns the tables on those who would pit it to die in a dogfighting game.
By Gary Starta
Karmic Retribution. I now believe this is why that strange ship crashed and altered our genetic makeup giving us the ability to speak and understand human language. I really haven’t had much time to wax philosophically on our transformation though. A neighbor began plotting our fate with my owner a few days ago.
I never quite liked Adam Laughlin or his aroma. My olfactory nerve always told me he smelled suspicious. He emitted a sour smell, almost nearly as noxious as putrefaction. But he liked to bend the ear of my owner, Jesus. I overhead Jesus and Adam plot my murder and those of another 11 canines as they played poker in our basement. As I understood it, we were to become unwitting victims of euthanasia.
“The government paid us to keep our traps shut, Adam. What have you got to fear?”
Laughlin scoffed at Jesus’ interpretation of the world.
“Take off the rose colored glasses my friend.” Laughlin paused to refill his beer stein. “They’ll be back. This is too big. Sooner or later the news will leak. I think the best course of action is murder. I don’t know about you Jesus. But I don’t need any government eyes on me. Comprendo?” Laughlin squinted and blew a puff of smoke. It haloed around the head of Jesus.
Jesus knew what Laughlin referred to. The illegal betting, the vicious and unconscionable dog fights. Laughlin made tons of money setting up these illegal fights. He wasn’t about to lose a butt load of tax-free income. I nearly snarled. But I constrained my impulse. I sauntered off to find my friends. They were all lazing underneath the shade of an oak tree.
“We’ve got to do something!”
The dogs all looked at each other, astonished their beloved human owners could conceive us such ill will. The basset hound’s jowl sunk a few inches lower. The cocker spaniel’s eyes misted over. The dachshund squirmed as if he were a worm.
They all looked upon me. They demanded leadership. Before domestication, we lived in packs. It was only normal one leader should rise up at a time of crisis. I narrowed my scruffy terrier eyebrows and took command. “Alright then. I’m in charge. That means everybody obeys me. Any questions?”
The mutts all nodded. They had never seen this emotion in me before. I guess it was attributable to our change.
A strange ship crashed in the park a week back. I recall the strange squealing sound the craft made just before impact. The shrillness of its tone nearly caused my head to explode. We were all knocked unconscious. The twelve of us awoke the next day, instilled with the capability of speech. We had vocal cords and could speak just about every word in the English language. We could still bark if we wanted to, but the point seemed mute. During the ensuing days, our owners bestowed us with presents. We slept in newfangled heated doggy beds, were allowed to eat scraps off the floor and Buster, the next door Rottweiler, was even allowed to lap water from the toilet if he so chose. My owner Jesus was beside himself with joy. He told me of a wondrous story written by Dean Koontz. The government to spy on other countries had genetically enhanced a golden lab named Einstein. Einstein could communicate but not quite in the manner I could. He marveled at the possibility. “Imagine fiction becoming reality!” But then the glee dissipated. Government men, dressed in black knocked on all our owner’s doors. I can still recall the simultaneous rapping upon our dwellings. Most of us instinctively ducked for cover underneath beds and couches. After the G-men left, our owners’ dispositions changed dramatically. Happiness turned to suspicion. But in my household it was far worse. I saw the emotion in my owner’s eyes. Jesus had become filled with fear. I despised this emotion most of all as it generally lead to violence. I started watching the nightly news. I saw firsthand just what the human race was capable of.
The G-men informed our befuddled owners that an extraterrestrial ship released a Hertzian wave just before it crashed. He said the particular frequency of the electromagnetic waves oscillated at just the right frequency to turn on our dormant genes. A spectrum analyzer confirmed a pulse magnetron had emitted the correct frequency to effect the change in us. He believed all other species were immune to the signal. When our human owners asked why that was so, the man in black sheepishly replied. “It’s kind of like how a dog hears a whistle when humans can’t.” His mouth formed a smile, but his eyes were cold. I tended to believe his information for the most part. There had been a rumor a few cats were capable of speech, but my basset hound friend, Ollie, told me they stopped talking after only a few hours. Ollie philosophized the cats feared talking might jeopardize the comfortable symbiotic relationships they currently enjoyed with their owners. Why talk when a simple meow fills your bowl with food or showers your head with kisses?
In the ensuing days, I found out my dear owner had been placing bets on fights Mr. Laughlin had organized. I could only ponder what might come next as I sat flabbergasted from my basement window perch. Would he subject me to this brutality as well? How did our species survive this long? They always said we were man’s best friends; but now I had to ponder if man was really dog’s best friend? Oh I heard some millionaires left fortunes to their prized pups. And Hollywood types coddled Chihuahuas and shiatsus in their arms, parading them proudly around Tinsel town in chic sweaters and doggy hats. But then there were those cultures that devoured us as delicacies.
Laughlin tried to explain this conundrum to Jesus. “The Chinese are the real devils. They eat dogs. And the Japanese invented dogfights for Christ sakes!” Adam launched his hands of cards on the table in disgust. “Another losing hand! You see, Jesus. I need this income. I can’t play poker for beans.”
I watched Jesus’ face intently. His eyes misted as he gazed upon the painting: Looks Like Four Of A Kind. The famous portrait of dogs playing poker hung prominently in our basement. I always believed Jesus loved dogs just as much or more than poker. But now I had my doubts. And ultimately, Laughlin would coerce Jesus to his way of thinking sooner or later.
I couldn’t let sooner become later. I pounced into action.
My eleven friends met me under the oak tree. We conspired to turn the tables on our lecherous owners right then and there. I even let the canines take a vote. The decision was unanimous. We would assume control. It was life or death. None of us wanted to die from a needle. Besides, deep inside of us we all felt a calling. We couldn’t have been changed just to die or live mundane lives. We had to have been altered for a reason. We just might be able to deliver an important message to the world. I kept this thought in mind as I led the pooches inside our house. I would sacrifice Jesus if it ultimately meant saving the world. We entered through the kitchen doggy door and quietly began descending the basement stairs.
Charlie the Doberman confronted Laughlin first.
“Caught you red handed!”
Laughlin fumbled for words. Some of us snickered. He responded with hate.
“I’ll see to it that every one of you mangy bastards dies!”
“No you won’t,” I replied. “You two are not going anywhere.”
Jesus cried, fixating unbelieving eyes upon me. It was then I felt I had a soul.
“We must judge you,” I continued.
You two will engage in a fight to the death. If you win Laughlin, we’ll allow you to walk out of here.”
“How can I trust you’ll let me just walk away?”
“You’ll just have to.” I bared fangs. His shoulders slumped.
Good I thought. The bastard isn’t so cocky after all.
I explained to Jesus that if he won, he would enjoy the same prize. Freedom.
“I trust you will do the right thing.”
His eyes fell to the floor, realizing I had been referring to his euthanasia plan.
The men shed their clothes, save their underwear.
Ollie stuck his paw in a red can of paint and drew a circle. When he finished, I explained the rules.
“No one leaves this circle until the other is dead. We encourage the type of combat used in your precious dogfights. Biting is most certainly allowed. Scratching is welcome. Any questions?”
Laughlin twisted his face into a scowl. He reminded me of De Niro in Raging Bull.
The two engaged combat. Laughlin took a nasty chunk out of Jesus’ shoulder. It seemed to cripple his right arm. I commended Laughlin’s tactical approach although I still despised every fiber of his being. He would force Jesus to bite him back. I didn’t know if my owner had it in him. I hoped so. Unlike the humans, I wanted to run a fair fight. If Laughlin emerged victorious we would flee our homes. Yet we would find courage in our conviction. We would still to be alive to spread the word. We would be prophets.
But right now my doggy friends were busy converting my basement into a shop of horror. I could only hope we were created to spread a benevolent message. God forgive us if Satan had been flying that craft. I sickened at the realization. Did he release those waves to serve a diabolical plan? Was he poisoning the bond between man and canine simply by giving us the power of speech? Ultimately, did he simply want to take man’s best friend away from him?”
A bloodcurdling scream of pain interrupted my thought. Laughlin had taken another bite out of my former master. Jesus eyes burned red. He was succumbing to rage, no longer willing to turn the other cheek.
Ollie nudged me. I fought to listen over the din.
“Do you think what we’re doing is evil?” His eyes bore into me. They were glistening with some kind of emotion human’s felt. I believe it could have been regret or even pity.
“Nah,” I said. “We’re only animals.” Yet my conscience nagged me. Had I learned to become as callous as humans when it came to survival?
Just then Laughlin roared. Jesus had taken a nasty chunk of flesh from Adam’s rib.
I though to myself, Jesus just might save us yet.
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