Festival Day 2: Brunch With the Beast

by pjmcbride

I sit at a picnic table, eating my sandwich. Nick is crouched on the table, and passersby are giving us a wide berth.

“This sun is hot. Could you spread your wing over me?”


“I’ll give you a dollar.” I hold one out to him. He sniffs it suspiciously, then gulps it down.

“That didn’t taste good at all. I don’t know what you people see in them.”

“The five-dollar bills taste five times as good,” I say, and immediately regret it–once I get him started down that line of reasoning, he’ll start demanding hundred-dollar bills.

“You can’t fool me. They’d taste five times as bad.” He glowers at me. “I understand arithmetic.”

“Of course you do. Spread your wing out over me anyway. You can quit if you get tired.”

“I never get tired,” he says loftily. I resist the urge to argue–as is so often the case with him, it’s a can’t-win situation. Either I agree with him and he preens himself, or I disagree and give him an excuse to slack off.

“How about if I tell you a story?” That always works. He fans his wing out over me. “Um, have you seen that commercial for pomegranate juice?”

“No, because She won’t let me watch TV for six weeks,  because I was playing with the frogs again, and one of them might have ended up in Her shoe. Don’t you think six weeks is a little long?”

I won’t encourage him to question his owner’s disciplinary decisions. “You’re lucky you get to stay in the house at all. Anyway, once upon a time there was a pretty lady–kind of like Her”–he beams–“and she had an Antioxidant Dragon, made out of pomegranate juice. And it could breathe fire! But it got its claw hung up on her yoga mat”–he winces–“and that’s what happens when you let beasts in the house.” I like to end on a morally-edifying note.

“So what you’re saying is…that I could breathe fire if I drank pomegranate juice?”

“No! What I said was–”

“Is that pomegranate juice you have there?”

“No, it’s diet Coke. You brought it to me, remember?”

“I remember nothing of the kind. I bet it’s pomegranate juice, and you don’t want me to have it so I won’t breathe fire.” He swipes at it and knocks it over, lapping at it, realizes it is diet Coke, and starts frantically clawing at his snout, trying to get the taste out of his mouth.

“Damn, is there someone I can report you to? I wasn’t near to finishing that drink.”

“Maybe.” He often says that when he means “yes,” but I suspect he really doesn’t know in this case. I don’t know either, since he’s not technically on duty.

“Hey, I bet they know how I could breathe fire!” he says suddenly, and heads for the fire crew across the street. Alarmed, they drive him back with a fire hose, and he scrambles back to me, shaking himself and spluttering.

“Make sure you’re completely dry,” I warn him. He gets a rash if he’s kept damp for very long, and then his owner has to apply a soothing ointment, which I understand is quite expensive.

He rolls on his back on the grass to dry himself, which involves a great flailing of claws and tail. This draws the attention of a small boy passing by, who says to his mother, “Look! It’s a–”

“Stay away from that thing!” his mother yells, snatching him back. “Don’t you know they eat little children?” She marches her son away, muttering about the militarization of the police.

Nick rolls back on to his belly, and regards me in a way that makes me remember how many teeth he has. “I will find out how to breathe fire. I promise.”

to be continued, as soon as I figure out how…