Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Mr. Barbicane Takes A Trip" Chapter Twenty-Six

Earlier that morning, after having walked the dog she rescued around the neighborhood and consequently had her first experience with picking up after a pet with a plastic grocery bag, Vivian Teller returned to her apartment and tried to find ways not to call the man she knew who worked in cargo at the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport. But by the time Mr. Barbicane was checking out of the Hyatt Regency she realized there was no point in putting off the inevitable. With the poodle stretched out in front of her on the living room carpet, Vivian made the call.

Her friend came to the phone and when she asked him about any dogs being transferred through the airport the previous night he told her the story of the five octave cross strung harp falling on a dog’s crate and the animal’s subsequent escape. Vivian’s heart sank; her orphan was no longer an orphan.

She asked her friend if the owners had been contacted. He snorted and said he’d made the call himself, not that he wanted to be the one to tell them their beloved pet was lost, but the thing had happened on his shift and he was responsible, so he made the call. The people in Orlando didn’t seem too put out by the disappearance of the dog. They hadn’t even gone to the airport to meet the flight when it was scheduled to arrive; they figured they’d get the dog the next day sometime.

Vivian’s friend told the people in Orlando that he would talk to airport security and the local animal control office in the hope of finding the dog. That’s when the people in Orlando asked if there was going to be any charge for that because if it was going to cost any money to look for the dog, they’d just as soon forget about the whole thing. It’s not like it was their dog. It had belonged to a distant relative who died. They didn’t really know her and she certainly didn’t leave any money to take care of the animal. They were just sort of talked into taking the dog as a favor since none of the relative’s friends could keep him, but if he’s gone, well, then he’s gone.

When Vivian’s friend in cargo hung up the phone with those people he thought to himself, “I don’t know where that mutt is, but I don’t think he’d be any happier in Orlando.”

Vivian’s friend asked her why she was asking about the dog. Had she seen him? Vivian thought about lying, but there didn’t seem to be much point to that so she told her friend how she found the dog and how he was with her in the apartment.

“Lucky pooch,” is what her friend said. Then there was a pause on his side of the line and he asked her if she wanted him to call the people in Orlando and tell them they’d found the dog.

The dog didn’t belong to her. She had no right to keep him and if she told her friend not to call the people in Orlando that would make him an accomplice or something. After all, the dog did belong to an airline customer and her job was to satisfy airline customers, not steal their property.

“Do you have to call them?” she asked.

Vivian listened for his answer. For several seconds all she heard were the sounds of cargo being moved around on forklifts inside the cavernous freight facility. Finally:

“I think I’ll wait and see if they call me back.”

In this fashion the decision was taken away from Vivian.

She told her friend in cargo that sounded like a good idea. They were just about to hang up when Vivian thought to ask if the dog’s name was mentioned anywhere on the shipping paperwork. Her friend told her to hang on a minute. She could hear him flipping through the pages of the manifest. Then he came back on the line and told her that the dog’s name was Charley. Vivian thanked her friend and said she owed him lunch. He said they should make it dinner and she said, why not?

Vivian Teller hung up the phone and looked at the dog in front of her. He was on his stomach, his jaw resting on the floor, fore legs stretched out in front of him. It took Vivian the better part of a minute to work up the nerve to clear her throat and say to the dog:


The dog, who had not heard that word in quite sometime and who associated it with such things as food, walking, treats, ear scratches, belly rubs, and running around after things, lifted his head and looked at Vivian. Vivian smiled at the dog.

“Hello, Charley,” she said.


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