By Karen Singer
Chapter 21 (Part 2 of 2)
The sound of Janice’s bedroom door opening caught Boots’ attention. The sound of the door opening to his room caused him to get to his feet in his cage in hopeful anticipation. He couldn’t get out of that horrible cage fast enough when Janice finally did open the door. And before Janice could even grab his collar or say anything, he was already moving as fast as he could to get out of that room. He headed for the kitchen where he checked his food bowl first. Empty. He took a quick drink, but the moment he lifted his head he heard the tall thing calling him.
“Boots!” Janice said to get his attention. “Come!”
Knowing that command, Boots headed for the tall thing to see what it wanted.
“Sit!” Janice commanded.
As programmed, Boots immediately sat, totally ignoring now the usual flash of grey at the edges of his vision. He stared up at the tall thing, waiting to see what it wanted.
“Bonjour Boots,” Janice said after a moment’s hesitation.
Boots recognized the phrase as something he should know but he made no other sign of recognition because he didn’t know what he should do about it.
“Can you understand me now?”
Boots blinked, but it was the only reaction he could make at first since it took him a moment to realize that he had actually understood the sounds that the tall thing had made. But when he did fully realize it, he immediately stood up and turned around in a circle. If he was a real dog, his tail would have been wagging furiously. As it was, he happily barked once and he panted a few times in happy realization before sitting back down again. The tall thing had talked somehow in a way he could understand! Why couldn’t it do that all the time?
“I can see that you do understand me now,” Janice said. “Good! And I hope you understand this… your incessant barking is driving us mad! If you don’t stop the noise when we want you to, then I’m going to make sure that this new life you have will be even more miserable! And I do hope you’re not enjoying it much already.”
Boots understood the words, but what was the thing talking about… all his barking? The only time he had really barked much was when they had left him alone… because every time they did that, he had been trapped and unable to go anywhere. And all last night in that horrible small thing they had put him in… he still figured it deserved all the effort he had given it to get their attention to let him out of it. He didn’t like that thing one bit at all! Of course, he didn’t like having something attached to the thing around his neck either that prevented him from going where he wanted. That was just as horrible too… not to mention not being able to get out of the cold and wet. How could anything be more miserable than not being able to go where he wanted to go?
“Just remember,” Janice added, “the more you make us miserable, the more miserable you’re going to be!”
Make them miserable? Boots had no idea how he was making them miserable. But before he could give that much more thought, the tall thing said something again that totally caught his attention… although he didn’t really know what it meant.
“Au revoir Boots.”
Not knowing what the tall thing had said, Boots continued to sit there and stare up at it, waiting to hear more.
“Do you still understand me?” Janice asked.
Boots continued to stare up at the tall thing. It had made sounds again that he couldn’t understand… so he sat there waiting for more sounds he could understand.
“I’m guessing that you don’t,” Janice added with a slight smirk on her face. “Come on, let’s put you back outside for the day.”
Before Boots knew it, the tall thing had grabbed the thing around his neck again and was pulling him in a direction he didn’t really want to go. A minute later, the thin thing was attached and he was being pulled by it… forced by it… to negotiate his way down toward the ground outside. And a few minutes later, he started barking up a fuss again as he found himself attached to the tree and unable to follow the tall thing back inside.
The tall thing had spoken in a way that he had understood. Then it had stopped. And now he was back out in the cold wet place again where he couldn’t go where he wanted and couldn’t get food. So he barked and barked, hoping desperately that the tall thing would come back again and set him free.
Janice entered the house, mumbling angrily at the dumb dog under her breath. It seemed that as a dog, Roger didn’t have the common sense to truly understand anything of what she had just told him. Dumb dog!
Janice took a call a little while later from Elaine Whittaker, accepting Roger’s estimate. Elaine had heard from her friend Rebecca Adkins that Roger was sick. She was very sorry to hear that Roger was still very sick and couldn’t come to the phone. Naturally, Janice didn’t tell her that Roger was chained to the tree outside at that time and had just finally stopped barking to try to get back in the house… for which both Janice and Carol were grateful. Janice purposely left Boots outside for the entire day, and she and Carol paid as little attention to him as possible.
Boots wasn’t allowed back into the house until after they had finished eating dinner, by which time, he was hungry enough that even the dog food tasted amazingly great to him. He ate almost all of it… almost because he had lost one bite full that he had taken into his mouth, and then had to suddenly sneeze… and everything in his mouth went all over the floor. And he couldn’t understand one thing that any of the tall things were yelling at him about after it happened and he ran from the room in terror at their unexplained anger. He didn’t even try to go back for the rest of his dinner until a short while after they had seemed to calm down… and even then, he went back to it somewhat frightened that they would yell at him again.
But shortly after he did finish eating, he again heard one of the tall things making that soft thing that he liked to play with make that odd sound. And he happily ran to play. Boots loved it when the smaller tall thing played with him with the soft thing that sometimes made the odd noise when he chewed on it. It was the greatest thing in the world to be played with and petted… not to mention not being hungry… especially not to mention being cold and wet and stuck where he couldn’t get warm and comfortable. But the play time he loved so much didn’t last very long, and before he knew it, he was being forced again into that small thing that he couldn’t get out of… for which he again desperately barked his displeasure… despite the yelling that both tall things were doing at him for it.
All night long he again had to endure being stuck in the tight confines of the small thing he was inside of. And once again, early the next morning, he got taken straight outside again and was fastened to the tree… and again left alone… where he again barked his displeasure.
He never did hear the sound of Janice and Carol getting into the car and driving to church without him.
Ted Jacobs only slowed down a little as he drove past the house. From what he could quickly see, it still looked exactly the same… right down to the battered old car sitting out front. He continued on for a short ways past the bend in the road, then carefully pulled his car off the side of the road where hopefully, no other cars driving by would hit it. Wearing a camouflage patterned poncho to protect him from the light rain that was still falling, he walked back toward Roger Brinkley’s house. When he started to get closer, he entered the woods where his poncho let him blend perfectly into the background. Slowly and cautiously, he made his way closer to the house.
He had two simple goals in mind for this visit… get a better lay of the land, including the inside of the house if possible… and to try to find a good spot where he could come back to in the future to observe anything he could. For this trip, he wanted to try and see if he could look through any of the windows to see what he could of the inside. That little information alone could often tell him many things. Of course, if it looked like there was nobody home… well he figured he would have no problem at all getting into the house… one way or another. But the sight of the battered old car sitting outside wasn’t giving him much hope of the house being empty.
He was just starting to pick out bits and pieces of the front of the house when the sound of a car approaching caused him to stop dead so he could remain hidden better. He expected the car to continue on past the house, but a moment later, the small gaps in the tree branches showed him a black SUV turning into the driveway… and he was very surprised to see the garage door opening and the black car driving inside. After which, the garage door closed again. Roger Brinkley had gotten another car! Not really surprising given the obvious state of the junker sitting out front of the house. But now he knew that the garage wasn’t filled with junk at all. Unfortunately, he also knew that he wasn’t going to get his chance to look inside the house today either. But that had always been a major possibility. His chance to do that would come soon enough.
After seeing the new car, and then thinking about things for a moment, he reversed his tracks and made his way back to his car again. He opened the trunk and found one of several tackle boxes he kept there for handling any kind of situation. From the box he pulled a small round disk and a small electronic device with an antenna. He turned the device on and checked. Yes, it was working perfectly. If Brinkley had another car, then most likely he was letting Janice Stokley use his old one. The small tracking disk he had in his hand now would let him keep an eye on just where she went all the time.
Heading back toward the house again, he entered the woods at the same point he had earlier, and slowly continued on closer and closer to the house itself. Still hidden in the trees, he headed deeper until he was even with the front of the house, then quickly, he dashed out to hide against the side where he couldn’t be seen from the windows. Crouching low, he made his way around to where he would be closest to the battered old car. This would be the trickiest part. Praying he wouldn’t be seen, he ran the short distance and hid behind the battered vehicle. He removed the tracking disk from his pocket and crawling under the car, attached it to the bottom of the gas tank.
He was just crawling back out from under the car when he heard someone’s voice yelling from behind the house… and then he heard a dog start barking continuously. Cursing his luck, he made a mad dash for the side of the house again where he couldn’t be seen from the windows. A damn dog in the house would make spying on Janice Stokley that much more difficult!
Cautiously, he made his way around the side of the garage toward the back of the house. The dog was still barking… but it sounded like a very strange bark to him. He didn’t know what breed of dog he would be up against, but the dog certainly wasn’t a Chihuahua that was for sure! It had to be something much bigger. But the barking sounded… simply strange! He also realized that it sounded a bit hoarse! The hoarseness most likely meant that it was another one of those stupid dogs that barked too much, which made things that much worse for him in the future.
Halfway along the side of the house, he froze as he heard someone’s voice in the backyard again… the daughter he quickly figured. And then he heard a big sneeze… and another big sneeze. Not just the girl, but someone else too since the sneeze didn’t exactly sound like something a teenage girl would do. So most likely Brinkley himself was out there with the girl… and the dog. Slowly and even more cautiously he continued down the side of the house toward the backyard. He just wanted to catch a glimpse of the dog he would have to deal with later.
“Ready to come back in the house, Boots?” Carol asked, for which she got more enthusiastic barking… and another sneeze which was quickly followed by a second one. She untied the rope from the chain instead of the dog’s collar and using it as a leash, led him toward the house… where the dog was pulling all too enthusiastically to go. “Slow down Boots!” she yelled… to no avail. The dumb dog had a mind of his own, that was for sure.
Jacobs reached the back corner. He could just see the chain attached to the tree. A fairly heavy chain! That didn’t bode well. A big chain like that meant a big dog. He could hear the daughter still in the backyard, now going up the steps. He waited as long as he dared and then quickly poked his head around the corner for a brief glance… and all he could see was the daughter just entering the house and closing the door behind her. He hadn’t seen the dog at all, but another longer look at the size of the chain only solidified in his mind that the damn dog had to be a big one. Not good. Whenever he came back, he would have to be more cautious than ever!
Knowing he didn’t dare look through the windows now, he made his way cautiously back to the woods near his car… where he quietly hunted around for a while, and found several possible positions he could come back to later… just to watch.
Janice was in the kitchen and watched as Boots practically ran into the room the moment that Carol let go of him. But she also watched as the dog paused to sneeze several times before continuing across the floor to his water bowl… and drinking deeply. And after he sneezed several times again, Janice knew she had another problem now. Boots… or rather Roger… had a cold! Well, she would just have to deal with that as well. The dog was wet! She could also see that he was shivering uncontrollably as he drank deeply from the water in the kitchen. She or Carol would have normally dried him off right away, but this time that wasn’t going to be necessary. “Boots!” she called in a commanding voice.
Boots, once again hearing his name called, made his way back toward the tall thing… where he again sneezed violently. Still shivering with cold, he sat and looked up at the thing, hoping that once again it would make sounds that he could understand.
Janice was disgusted to have her leg sneezed all over by… Boots. Ugh! She had planned on turning him back into a human much later in the day, but she and Carol had simply had enough of his dumb dog incessant barking! Plus, now that it looked like he had a cold, that was another major consideration. Roger had to go to work tomorrow and teach! She looked down at the human-turned-dog. His nose was running horribly. His beard that hadn’t been shaved in several days now made his face look awful. He was basically filthy all over. He looked simply… disgusting! And then he sneezed again – all over her foot! Ugh! Wasting no more time, she said, “It’s time for Boots to be human.”
Roger’s head went spinning again and he had another brief vision of filing cabinet drawers… this time opening. As the dog programming in him rapidly fell away, he fell to the floor and rolled in misery for a few moments as all the memories of both Boots and his real life began to merge together. His hands unbound themselves and he stretched his fingers painfully. Still shivering, he sneezed again… and then again.
His brain and memories finally fully merged. He looked up at Janice from the floor as he realized how grateful he was to be back to himself again… to be human. He sneezed rather violently again before looking back up at Janice… and as much as he hated saying the words, he had no trouble getting them out of his mouth. “I’d rather be a woman,” he managed to croak out… before sneezing once again.
Janice smiled down at him. “I thought you might feel that way.”