How I Spent My Afternoon
This one is full of inside references from the news groups, but it
has a bit of general relevance.
It's the middle of the afternoon, and I've got it made.
The clicker in my left hand keeps baseball and race cars alternating on the tube, leaving my right hand free for beer. After a while I even rest my eyes a while.
Then the TV starts that awful beeping and bright red messages scroll across the bottom of the screen. It seems we're in for a storm. An August thunderstorm in South Georgia is hardly a novelty, but I can already hear a difference in this one. The flashing and booming is becoming continuous, and the wind and rain are roaring. I step out on the side sun porch, and am startled to see hail bouncing off the deck. A bolt of lightning strikes so close it seems the light surrounds me, and the instantaneous crash chases me back inside, where I plan on cowering until this thing passes over.
But the Boss has other ideas. "The dogs next door are crying!" I consider initiating a discussion on the lack of relevance of the emotional state of foreign dogs to my own sense of well being, but think better of it. After all, it's only about 50 feet to the side yard where Neighbor Dog 1 is tied up. I quickly dash out and untangle and reposition his line, giving him easy access under the house. I make it back a bit wet, but proud of my quick action.
"You forgot the other one!"
Having made one trip, I don't have a ready excuse to avoid this escalation, so I head out again. But Neighbor Dog 2 is in their back yard, tied to some kid of double housefall trolley rig, which I can't seem to figure out. I'm really getting beat up with rain and hail now, but I can't manage to disconnect the line, despite using every word of Boatswain's Mate vocabulary I ever learned. Then there's a tap on my shoulder...
My young son, decked out in full rain gear, is standing there offering me a leash he picked up on his way out our door. (He's a lot smarter than me, you know.) I quickly disconnect the trolley line at the dog end, attach the leash and head for the neighbor's front porch. Young son, still dry of course, returns to base.
I reach the neighbor's front porch, make the leash fast to a bitt, and pause to reassess the tactical situation. I'm wet and tired, but under a roof at least. ND-1 is safe under the house, ND-2 is secured here on the porch. It's still raining like a sumbitch, the street and sidewalk are flooded, and various fragments of vegetation are flying through the air. I decide to stay put, firmly in possession of the high ground.
I look over at my own house, and my young daughter is doing her best Florence Nightingale imitation in the front yard, tending to squirrel casualties. The count so far is one KIA and one WIA. You know it's a real storm when it knocks the damn squirrels out of the trees.
Just then, I hear an SUV roaring down the street, swerving to miss the downed limbs. Neighbor has returned. She is obviously worried about the dogs, and waves at me ( or maybe just at ND-2, who knows? ) and runs over to ND-1, who comes out from under the house to meet her.
In the perfectly reasonable expectation that he will run up on the porch to join us, she unhooks ND-1. But after making an OK approach to the porch steps, he bolters, and heads west down the sidewalk in full burner.
Without benefit of orders, suggestions, requests or indeed any hint of mental activity, I somehow find myself slogging after him. Even on the sidewalk, the water is over the tops of my shoes. The hail has stopped, but lightning is still tearing up the sky. In an abstract, impartial sort of way, it occurs to me that this is not a wise course of action, but it doesn't seem to matter.
Of course the electricity is out, so lots of my other neighbors are out on their porches, cocktails in hand, watching me chase the dog. They are glad I am chasing the dog, because although they fervently believe the dog should be retrieved, they do not care to do it themselves. They do offer encouragement and advice. "He went that way!"
As I plod along, I'm pissed. I'm not pissed at the dog, he's just scared. I'm not pissed at the Boss, she just has a kind heart. I'm not pissed at the weather, because that's a waste of time for sure. I'm just pissed in general.
Up ahead, I see a flash of movement through the rain. At first I wonder, "Is that him?". Then I realize that in all of God's creation there are only two creatures stupid enough to be out in this mess, and I know for sure where one is, so that must be the other one.
He spots me and heads for the north side of the street. I keep moving west 'til I get abreast, then start a gradual turn, aiming about thirty degrees behind him. After I'm about halfway through the turn, he realizes I've cut him off from a reversal to his right. He tries a short break to his left, but he's blocked by terrain. His easiest escape is straight ahead, east toward home plate.
A stern chase is a long chase, and the math gets even worse when the pursued is faster than the pursuer. But in this case everything works out. Once headed in the right direction, ND-1's canine TACAN locks on, and his internal homing instinct overpowers his panic. He's inside his house and getting dried off while I'm still two blocks away.
On the swim home, the porch pundits are still in evidence."It's OK, he came home!"
I think to myself, "Came home, my ass! I chased his sorry butt home! I did it!" But I don't say anything, I just wave.
Did I tell you it was raining? A lot?
When I reach my own front door, I get the door about half open. "Don't come in, you'll drip all over the floor!" I stand exiled on my small front porch, and a towel gets handed to me through the slightly opened door. After I whine for a while, a beer gets handed out the same way.
I take off my shirt and hang it on the porch light. Water runs off it in a steady stream. I look at my front yard, covered with leaves and tree branches. I wonder who won the race. I think how glad I am I'm not a squirrel. I wish the electricity would come back on. I'm glad at least it's not cold out here. I realize that those two dogs bark at me almost every day when I come home. But not today.
Finally, I am allowed in to clean up and change clothes.
After a while, I realize I left my shirt on the porch. When I go out to get it, it has already been retrieved.
"I brought it in", says the Boss. "I hate it when you do tacky things like that."
- This started out as a true story. I swear. Really.
- The inaccurate, inappropriate and generally bogus jargon was inserted in a shameless attempt to bring this story on topic.
- Any allegorical or metaphorical similarities between the events of this story and life in the military are strictly intentional.