Muggsy the dog wonders about his sanity.
Muggsy knew he was probably insane. But then again he had very little to measure his sanity against. He was a street dog, after all, in Washington D.C. Not particularly big, not particularly strong, not particularly mean or vicious. None of what was normally required to survive on the streets of the capital city in 2017. What Muggsy had was intelligence, in spades. He didn’t know it, or did he? But he was smarter than most humans. Muggsy understood twelve different human languages with perfect clarity and with complete understanding of the body language of each. Couple that with a nose three hundred times more sensitive than humans, ears a thousand times more acute, and you had one perceptive dog. But unfortunately, Muggsy could only actually speak in the language of Caninus Stupidus. That’s what he called the entirety of the various species, sub-species and mongrelized mess of creatures that humans called “dog.” Of which he was mostly embarrassed to be a part.
But it was a beautiful morning and Muggsy began making his rounds. Listening in only half-heartedly to all the self-important, mind-numbing jabber of humans. Occasionally he overheard something interesting. As he sat next to a favorite garbage can in the back alley of Curley’s Butcher Shop, waiting for his mornings trimmings, he listened in on two unkempt looking teens, talking together about the burglary they had committed the night before.
“Man did you see the fear on that old man’s face when I waved my piece at him?”
“Yeah!” giggled the other. “He about crapped his pants, and the old lady dropped like a sack of bricks. Probably had a heart attack or something.”
They laughed like the slavering idiots they were. Muggsy was disgusted. He walked past them then. Getting a good identifying whiff. They never even noticed him. Street dogs were invisible to most humans.
He moved on to his next stop, a coffee shop around the corner, where a nice young lady working as a paralegal in a busy firm, came to sit in the morning sunshine, drink her Latte and nibble a croissant. She always welcomed him, scratched behind his ears and talked to him like he could understand her. Which of course he could. She was sweet, and always gave him part of her croissant, but she was a bit naive. He ached to give her advice and help her understand that her married boss was not her friend, and that he had no intention of divorcing his wife and marrying her, or any of the others he was seeing. Muggsy knew this man was a destroyer of women, their hopes, dreams, and careers. He used them up and spit them into the street like dogs. He tried to tell her.
"Woof!" He said. "Woof woof"
"Aren’t you the cutest thing." she said, standing. "I’ll see you tomorrow." And she was off, clickety-clacking down the sidewalk in those funny shoes women wore. Muggsy whined a little sigh and moved on.
His next stop took him over to the rail yard where a group of day laborers usually hung out. They never had much food to share but they were always glad to see him. Today they were somber. Listening in to their conversation he soon learned why. Old Walt, one of the regulars had been cornered by railroad casuals this morning and beaten nearly to death.
“Casuals” Muggsy knew, were off the books employees hired by the railroad to keep the bums and derelicts moving. They were supposed to be respectful but firm, keeping any settlements from taking shape. But many were just thugs, delighting in the power given them, they were often too rough and even brutal in the performance of their duties. But this was a new low. Old Walt was a kind and gentle man who wouldn’t hurt a fly. He always shared his food and had kind words of encouragement for any and all. Most of the casuals knew him and liked him.
Who were these new guys that began this reign of terror? Last week Jimmy suffered a broken arm when he raised it to fend off a vicious blow aimed at his face. Two weeks before that, Batsy had his ribs broken by a nasty kick with steel-toed boots. Muggsy had to find out who these animals were.
He trotted off toward the other end of the rail yard, where a small dingy office trailer was used as a “break room” by the casuals. A squalid, stinking, portable toilet sat miserably outside. "Sheesh! And they say dogs are dirty!"
Muggsy did his street dog thing, nosing around, peeing on everything, slinking here and there but never out of earshot of the trailer. After 2 hours Muggsy had their names and knew they worked the midnight to seven a.m. shift. He also ID’d their scent. His nose picked up the strange boiled cabbage and potato vodka stench that had been excreted all over the area. Satisfied, he trotted off for his lunch and an afternoon nap.
He first ran over to the vacant lot on 16th street, dug up his stash, plucked a twenty from the huge bag of notes and then buried it again. He ran through the alleys over to 24th street, arriving at the ‘Ya’ll Come Diner" run by James “Bubba” Turnipseed. Bubba was a native Georgian turned restauranteur in the nations capital. Muggsy dropped the bill in the usual place and woof-woofed for Bubba to bring his lunch.
“Well hey there Yankee dog, what ya’ll been up to?” drawled Bubba. “I got you a nice Salisbury steak, mashed taters, a mess of beans and corn bread. What do you think boy?”
“I think I’ll eat now, that’s what I think” woofed Muggsy as he dived in on the well filled plate.
“Man, you shore are some ol’ yankee dog." Bubba said, stooping with difficulty over his ample belly to snatch the twenty. “Wished I knew where ya’ll got this money. I shorely, and sorely wished I knew.”
“Wish away” Muggsy woofed.
“Funny” said Bubba and went back into his diner.
Muggsy finished his lunch and wandered over to the park making for the far trees to his favorite napping place. He crawled into the cool shade and was completely enveloped by tall, full, junipers. Breathing a great sigh, he passed out, like only dogs can do.
He awoke suddenly, but silently. It was late afternoon. The shadows had grown long, and there were many dark areas in the park in which to get out of sight.
Two young men had taken cover in the shadow of his Junipers to get high.
“You got the lighter?”
“Yeah, give me the rock.”
Muggsy ambled away unseen. He couldn’t stand the sight or the smell of what came next. It sickened him. These humans had perfectly good minds AND opposable thumbs for goodness sake yet, and all they could think of to do was cook their brains with chemicals. He often wondered how they came to be the dominant species. But he couldn’t dwell on that now! He had work to do.
By lunch time the next day Muggsy’s work had been completed. Three events made the news. One was 2nd page and the others were deep on page seven and nine respectively, of the Washington Herald.
First: A very strange accident made the second page. William Fulem III, a senior partner at the Law Firm of "Lyon, Fulem, and Steele" had a meeting scheduled with what his secretary had reported was a prospective client. He never arrived at his destination. About 50 feet from the client meeting at a nearby coffee shop, Mr Fulem apparently tripped over a stray dog. Angry, Mr. Fulem kicked at the dog, which turned and attacked him forcing him off the curb and into the street, where he was struck by a delivery truck. One of his own firm’s paralegals were nearby and called the police and ambulance service, but sadly, the honorable Mr. Fulem was pronounced dead at the scene.
Second: Apparently, two young men known in the area for petty thefts, purse snatching, and other miscellaneous smash and grabs, had somehow managed to break their necks falling down not one, but three flights of stairs.
The police got the story from several building residents. They all agreed. The pair of had been just about to kick in the door on old lady Jensen’s third floor apartment when a flash of snarling fury launched itself at them, biting and tearing with amazing ferocity, causing them both to stumble and go tumbling backward down the first flight of stairs. After that the story gets murky. Some say they saw a large man with an ample belly pick the two up by the scruff of their necks and hurl them down the second flight. Where apparently, some saw an old man and woman kick and roll the semi-conscious men down the last flight into a broken heap at the bottom. No two accounts were exactly the same. The police pursued the case for a few days gaining no new information, then moved on to other, more pressing matters.
Thirdly: Two Bulgarian men later found to be living in the U.S. illegally, were crushed to death when the brakes failed on a piece of parked heavy equipment. Free rolling down the incline, the coal loader’s bucket sliced through an office trailer like butter, carrying it, the unfortunate men, and a portable toilet into the steel boxcar behind. Investigation efforts have been hampered by the presence of sewage spilled at the site. It was determined that the loaders brake lines had been chewed through, most likely by rats. Rail officials claimed no knowledge of the Bulgarian illegals. ”We have vagrants in our yards constantly. These two must have been squatting in one of our old office trailers. K&J Railroad is extremely saddened by last night’s tragedy.”
Muggsy was heading over to the “Ya’ll Come" diner. In his mouth he carried thick stack of twenties in a greasy take out bag. He dropped the bag in the usual spot and woofed for Bubba. He emerged from the back of the diner with a nicely grilled T-bone steak, grilled mushrooms, and apple pie.
“Woof-woof-woof” Muggsy said.
“Yeah I heard you, I‘ll be celebratin’ too once I count my money.
“Whats that? When did I learn to understand Dog?" Said Bubba. “I already tole you. I was no more than 4 or 5 year old. Our ol’ hound dog Lollie, would talk up a storm and tell me some amazing things. Soon I was listening to dogs talk all over creation. But I never had one understand what I was sayin’ back. Til' you that is. You is one smart yankee dog, I’ll give you that. One day I’ll learn where you get all this money and then you and me is gonna have a serious conversation.” He smiled then. “Enjoy your steak.”
Muggsy finished his celebration meal and headed over to the park for his nap. He was tired and a little depressed. He was happy for those who would not be hurt any longer by evil men. But he was uneasy about the killing. Last night’s work made a total of eighteen so far this year, and it was only April.
He knew he was probably insane but then again he had very little to measure his sanity against. He breathed a great sigh and passed out, like only dogs can do.