Monday, January 21, 2008

Great Dane In A Suitcase - A Short Story

(Ed.'s Note: I now (3/03/2008) know that this is nothing more than an urban legend. The story's been around since 2001, or some shit like that. Anyway, I think something similar may have happened to some human at some point in history. So let's just accept it as a possibility. Enjoy the story.)

Check out the following true-to-life tale. I heard it 3rd or 4th hand - the main character in the story is a friend of a friend of Jaimi’s cousin, or some such tenuous connection. Nevertheless, I believe it to be true, or mostly true-ish.

When I originally heard the story, it probably took all of 2 minutes to tell in its entirety. But I’ve taken the liberty of embellishing, creating background, and generally making it much, much longer than a standard blog post. Many readers might even say, "Wow Mill, this is WAY too long. Thanks for nothing, jerk. I wasted my entire lunch hour and skipped two afternoon meetings for this?!?!?" Fair enough. You don't have to read it if you don't want to.

And now, “The Case of The Dead Great Dane In The Suitcase.” You’ll soon learn how I came up with this creative title. See below:

(Note: All names of people and places have been altered to protect the identity of those involved in this true story, and/or I forgot and/or never knew the actual names of anyone involved in this story or exactly where any events in this story actually occurred because I heard the story third hand. Thanks for your attention.)

Thanksgiving break - a time to give thanks, and to take a vacation.

Julie was home from college, and although she wasn’t lounging on a tropical island, she was happy enough watching TV on her neighbor’s 50-inch plasma screen. The neighbors, Chuck and Betty Menendez, had taken their two kids to France for the holiday. Julie was asked to house sit for the week, and she gladly obliged.

The Menendez home was a typical suburban Chicago castle. Chuck, a successful Chicago-area orthodontist, purchased the sprawling 5,000 square-foot home 3 years ago.

Before they moved in, Betty spent a great deal of time scouring Pottery Barn and ABC Home catalogs for the perfect furniture and faux Native American decorations. This was her dream home, after all, and she wanted everything to be just so.

Dream home? More like a decorator’s worst nightmare. Julie thought it looked like crap.

Nothing seemed to match. The living room, for example: area rugs, woven with some sort of tribal design, were laid on top of cream-colored wall-to-wall carpeting. The aforementioned state-of-the-art TV sat on top of two simulated antique whiskey barrels. The sofa was black leather. There was an old-looking brown saddle hanging from the ceiling. And a giant steer skull stared down from above the mantel, complete with horns, measuring 4 or 5 feet from tip to tip. Oh, and don’t forget about the curtains. Purple velvet from floor to ceiling. Part Magic Kingdom, part EPCOT Center, part T.G.I. Friday’s.

Even so, Julie was very comfortable here. The black leather couch was supremely soft and cushy. The rich smell of leather reached as far as the kitchen. And even though it probably cost $2,000 a month to heat the place, the thermostat was always set at a cozy 74 degrees. The cold Chicago winter couldn’t reach Julie in a place like this. So in that way, it was a bit like a tropical retreat.

She was free to raid the fridge as often as she liked. It was fully stocked with juice, cold cuts, snacks, ice cream, yogurt and fruit. The maid showed up 2 or 3 times a week, so there was no need for Julie to pick up a broom or take out the trash. She was essentially free to do as she pleased.

Julie’s only responsibility, and the real reason for her house sitting, was to care for the family’s dog - an 8-year-old Great Dane named Pinky. Naming a Great Dane “Pinky” may sound like pure irony, and the Menendez family certainly had a good sense of humor. But the name originally came from a pink spot on the dog’s nose. When he was a little pup, the spot was large enough to cover half his nose, but as he grew, it retreated to just a few specks above one nostril. The name, however, was etched in stone. The dog wouldn’t respond to anything else.

Pinky was a gentle giant. Weighing in at over 140 pounds, he was literally large enough for young children to ride like a horse. And his dove-like demeanor meant that he constantly had a child on his back, or one pulling on his ears, or another one grabbing hold of his tail.

The dog was easy to care for, and not demanding in the least. She had dog/house sat for the family twice before, and never had any problems. It was a great excuse to escape from her own family, although they only lived a few houses away.

The day began as usual. Julie let Pinky out in the yard. She stood at the kitchen window while her coffee brewed, watching the dog do his business. He seemed to be moving a little slower than normal. Never a quick animal by any means, but today he seemed especially sluggish.

She glanced up at the sky. A gray blanket of clouds slowly rose from the horizon - like a sheet pulled up over a sick patient, first covering the feet, then the torso, then the head. But don’t you cover the head only after the patient has died? He’d be pretty pissed if you covered his face and he wasn’t even dead yet. I mean, give him a chance to recover, Julie thought.

Bad weather always put her in a melancholy mood. She had planned to go for a jog this afternoon, but not if it was going to be 35 degrees and raining. “Fuck that,” she said out loud.

After sniffing around a bit, Pinky limped to the door, and weakly slapped his paw against the glass. The whole door rattled. Julie ran to let him in, almost tripping over the feet of the life-size cigar store Indian that stood guard outside the kitchen. She briefly cursed the wooden Indian (and Betty Menendez’s taste in decor) before reaching for the door handle.

Pinky slid inside, stumbled over his own oversized legs, and collapsed in a massive heap next to the sofa. Julie was a little concerned, but she reminded herself that Great Danes are not the most graceful of canines. Maybe he was tired, or perhaps he ate a little rat poison. It had happened before, and Pinky had made a full recovery. Or, he might be a little depressed because his family was away.

Julie tried to comfort the dog with a bowl of water and a handful of Milk Bones. He wasn’t the slightest bit appreciative of her gesture. Pinky normally loved treats, and by the amount of urine he produced when out for a walk, he seemed to pride himself on being fully hydrated.

Uh oh, she thought. This dog ain’t right. Can the vet send an ambulance?

She tried to calm herself, and reasoned that Pinky probably ate something that didn’t agree with him. He’d be up and about within 24 hours, tops. Why worry now though? This was her vacation time, after all, and she was going to enjoy it, goddamn it.

She grabbed the remote control from the mantel, and flipped through the channels. The Food Channel was showing a marathon of “Iron Chef America,” and being that it was one of her favorite shows, she decided to settle in for the long haul. She eased into the comfort of the big, black sofa and watched Mario Batali battle it out with a competitor from San Francisco. The competition stood no chance against the confident master of organ meats. The secret ingredient for this episode: calf’s liver.

Time melted away as Julie sipped her coffee. She occasionally glanced over at Pinky, staring at his torso for a long moment, watching for the rise and fall of his rib cage. He seemed to be sleeping soundly.

Three o’clock came and went, as the Iron Chef marathon rolled into its 3rd hour. Time for lunch.

Julie hopped off the couch and went into the kitchen, carefully avoiding the wooden Indian this time. Her toe still ached from the prior collision.

She prepared a turkey sandwich, and poured herself a glass of red wine. It’s vacation after all, she thought, and what sweeter luxury than drinking in the middle of the day. She headed back to the living room with sandwich and wine glass in hand. She made it a few steps out before turning back to grab the whole bottle. Vacation, after all.

Julie consumed the sandwich, along with 2.5 glasses of wine, in about thirty minutes. She was not usually a big drinker, so this amount of wine was more than enough to affect her. The combination of wine, plus a big sandwich, plus a weakly competitive challenger on Iron Chef were like lead weights on her eyelids.

Consciousness, like waves slowly lapping against the side of a boat, drifted in and out. In fact, she dreamed of her father’s boat, during summers at their cottage on the lake. And then, brought back to the real world by the TV, “Mario Batali makes a paste from bone marrow...” Blackness, and the boat’s gentle rocking. ”....the challenger uses shitake mushrooms as a garnish...” Blackness again. ”...Batali’s sweetbreads are seared with a little olive oil...” And finally, a deep sleep.

Julie awoke about 3 hours later. The orange glow of sunset told her it was close to five o’clock. Dark enough in the house for her to turn on the lights. She slowly sat up and reached behind her to switch on a lamp. In her semi-lucid state, she accidentally knocked over the half-full wine bottle, its contents spilling on the tribal patterned rug. It took her several seconds to realize what had happened, but when she did, she hopped to her feet and rushed around the sofa towards the kitchen. She knew exactly where the rags and carpet cleaner were located, even though the maid typically did all of the cleaning. Accidents do happen, after all.

As she raced across the living and sprinted past the door to the backyard, her foot caught on something large and fleshy. She went down like a sack of soda cans, hitting her chin on the floor. Stunned, but unhurt, she sat up to see what she had tripped over. It was Pinky, sprawled out on his side, eyes rolled back with only the whites showing.

She stared at him. He wasn’t breathing. Had she just killed him? No, she tripped over his backside, not his head. Normally, to a dog this size, a swift kick in the ass would barely feel like a pinprick.

Julie crawled over to Pinky and put her hand in front of his mouth. All she felt was a cold draft against the side of her hand. She knew it was just the wind sneaking in through a gap in the door, but it gave the eerie feeling of cold air streaming out of the dog’s body. She panicked.

Rushing to the kitchen, Julie rifled through a drawer for the list of emergency phone numbers. The veterinarian was listed at the top. She dialed the number and waited breathlessly for someone to pick up.

“Hello, Franklin Heights Animal Hospital,” the veterinary technician answered. They were short-handed this time of year.

“Hi, um, my name’s Julie Simmons and I’m taking care of Chuck Menendez’s dog, and, well, I think he’s almost dead. Either that or stone-cold dead,” Julie stammered.

“Oh my, that beautiful Great Dane. Ok, well first of all, try to calm down. Did you check for a pulse?”

“No, let me check. Where do I...”

“Place your fingers on the underside of the front paw, just above the foot pads.”

Julie raced back to the dog and searched for a pulse. She tried all four paws, just to be sure. Nothing.

“There’s no pulse. No nothing. He’s not breathing. I really think he’s dead,” said Julie.

“Oh my. Well, I think you should come down here with the dog right away. It doesn’t sound good, but there’s a small chance we could revive him.”

“Ok...but can you send someone? I don’t have a car, and my parents are away for the weekend. I don’t think I can get down there.”

“I’m sorry Miss, but we don’t have any sort of ambulance service. Especially not during the holiday.”

Julie stared into space. What if she had to spend the rest of the weekend with this dead dog? Could she fit him in the freezer? Probably not.

“Well...what the hell should I do? I can’t just leave him here in the middle of the living room,” she said, her voice beginning to quaver.

“Hmm...Can you find a big rolling suitcase, or a large duffel bag? If you can fit the dog into something you can move, then you can bring him down here on the bus. The South Pulaski Limited could get you here in 15 minutes. We’re half a block from the stop.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll look and see. If I can’t find anything, I’ll call you back. Brainstorm while I’m gone, just in case.”

“Good luck Julie. You’ll get him down here, I just know it.”

With that, Julie rushed upstairs to Mr. and Mrs. Menendez’s bedroom, and tore apart their walk-in closet, searching for any sort of large luggage, preferably with wheels. Within three minutes, she had found a large, soft-sided duffel with wheels and a handle. It was big. Very big. And it might just be roomy enough to contain Pinky.

She had nothing to lose.

Julie brought the bag downstairs, unzipped it, and laid it on the floor with its mouth open at the dog’s head. Like a giant python, jaws unhinged, ready to swallow its prey whole.

But unlike a big snake, the duffel just sat there. Julie would have to push the dog into the bag by herself, and in one piece. It seemed an impossible task - kind of like giving birth to a Volkswagen.

She pushed the dog from its rear end, and little by little, inch by wriggling inch, got him most of the way into the bag. She was able to lift one end off the floor a few inches, and the dog’s body slid all the way in, with only his tail sticking out.

She struggled to stand the bag on end, but after getting it entirely upright, she was able to zip it closed, tail and all. She now had a 145 pound rolling duffel bag, with a presumably dead dog inside.

It wasn’t tremendously difficult to move the bag, once she had it rolling. She built up enough momentum in the foyer to hop it over the lip of the door and down the front steps in one smooth motion.

She dragged the duffel bag down the block to the bus stop. In her haste, she hadn’t checked the bus schedule, but with any luck, the appropriate bus would arrive shortly.

A couple buses came and went, neither being the right route to get to the vet’s office. But after a few minutes, the South Pulaski Limited arrived. The bus was pretty crowded, with no seats available, and several people standing in the aisle. A wave of dread washed over Julie. How the hell would she get the bag onto the crowded bus?

The door opened and the bus occupants looked down at Julie in unison. She was visibly upset, what with tear stains on her cheeks and a dead dog in her duffel bag. She stepped onto the bus and tried to heave the bag into the narrow stairwell. It would hardly budge. A man who was seated in the front (normally reserved for the elderly or infirm) immediately stood up and offered to help. Not so ironically, he was tall and thin, with long hair and a beard. He looked a lot like Jesus, thought Julie, but maybe a little scruffier than Jesus would have been.

In any case, the man offered to help and reached down to grab the bag. He was able to lift it onto the bus with quite a bit of difficulty. The veins bulged on his neck and forehead as he pulled the bag onto the bus.

“Oh my god, lady. What’s in this bag? It weighs a fuckin’ ton. I mean, holy shit!” said the helpful stranger.

That’s not how Jesus would talk, she thought. But she also realized that she couldn’t tell this guy what was actually in the bag. It must be illegal to transport dead animals on public transportation. She hadn’t tried it before, but it certainly seemed like something that should be illegal. And if it wasn’t illegal now, she’d make it her life’s work to ensure that dead-dog-transport via public transit was outlawed.

In the meantime, though, she had to come up with a story to explain the weight of her bag.

“Um, ha. Yeah, well.....I just broke up with my boyfriend. And I had to get the hell out of our apartment. I mean, it was a bad break up. So I’ve got everything I own in the whole wide world right here in this bag,” she said.

She was rather proud of herself for coming up with this plausible story right on the spot.

“Oh. Bummer, man. Well, where are you headed now with all this stuff?”

This guy seemed to be a little too interested in her situation. It only added to her level of anxiety.

“I’m going to my brother’s place right now. He’s an ex-Navy Seal. And he’s got plenty of room. So I’ll stay with him for a while,” she said without a blink.

“So he’s gonna meet you at the bus stop?”

“Um, no. But he just lives a block away, so I’ll be able to drag this thing there no problem.”

Again, she was proud of her quick thinking.

“Good. That’s good. But I guess you’ll need some help getting it off the bus.”

“Yeah, that would be great. Thanks for the help.”

“No problem.”

They stood in silence as the bus rumbled across town. It was only a few stops before they reached the animal hospital. Julie prepared to disembark.

“My stop’s coming up next,” she said to the tall Jesus-looking stranger.

“Ok, cool,” he said, as he grabbed a hold of the bag and began to slide it towards the door.

The man continued to drag the bag towards the exit, and positioned himself in the stairwell before the bus had come to a stop. Julie still stood behind the yellow line, now a few feet away from him and Pinky’s make-shift sarcophagus.

The doors opened and the man jumped down the stairwell. He seized Julie’s bag, and with a grunt, lifted it in one fluid motion off of the bus. When it was securely on the ground, he raised the handle, tilted the bag back onto its wheels, and raced off down the street. Julie hadn’t even stepped off the bus, and he had already disappeared around the corner.

It took her a few seconds to realize what had just happened. After all, who would want to steal a Great Dane corpse? But the man assumed she had brought all of her valuables with her on that bus. He probably thought he had hit the jackpot. Boy was he wrong. Dead wrong.

Julie jogged down the street, halfheartedly searching for the soon-to-be-disappointed dognapper. But it was no use. He was long gone, vanished into the shadows of suburban Chicago. No need to go to the vet now, she thought.

The only question that remained: what should she tell the Menendez family? Oh boy, this one won’t be easy to explain.

She couldn’t help but laugh, and cry at the same time. Poor Pinky. He had been a kind soul. But at the same time, what a ridiculous story this would make! Imagine the look on the crook’s face. A perfect story for the internet, she thought. Maybe someone will blog about this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Da Mill,

I couldn't soak up the tears fast enough...what a soul rattling tale. I mean its like Satre meets Buddha.

Do you think Jesus eats dog meat?