Saturday, March 7, 2009

Toby and Ozymandias

A lot of things go through a man's head when he's standin on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence in his skivvies lookin down the barrel of a couple of toy poodles. The first of those things, in my experience at least, I don't wanna pose like I'm speakin for everyone here, is that it's kinda cold outside. I'm standin out there gettin them bumpy things all over my legs so it looks like I got myself a set of chicken legs, only bigger. So maybe it looks like I got a set of ostrich legs, except my knees is the right way round. Right way round for me, that is, not for an ostrich. Though if my legs was the right way round for an ostrich, I might be able to run my way outta this situation faster. The only problem with that is that them dogs got one set of legs the right way round for a man and one set right way round for an ostrich, so they got an advantage over each. I know you're sittin there thinkin, "But Pat, there's no way a toy poodle is gonna out run an ostrich" and I'd tell ya, under normal circumstances, you'd be right. But these ain't normal circumstances. Let me tell you a bit about the dogs I was facin in that compound.

First of all, one of them dogs is named Toby and the other is named Ozymandias. When they was just little puppies, just barely past openin their eyes, their mom saw a wild streak in Toby and drove him out of the litter before he devoured the rest of his brothers and sisters. But little Toby had a soft spot in his heart for his brother Ozymandias for reasons known only to himself. I always thought it was because of the great name, but I got no evidence to back myself up there. So, with their mother's blessing and insistence, Toby and Ozymandias lit out for the territories. They spent some time on the street, lookin cute for money, cleanin windows when they needed, and slowly driftin towards a life of crime. That didn't last long; three, maybe four hours at the outside. In that time, they'd become hardened and jaded by all the horrible things they'd seen and done. Killin a man and eatin him in desperation does funny things to puppies; and not funny ha-ha stuff. They were veterans of the street by early evening when they were picked up by Texas Jake, the ostrich farmer.

Now the name Texas Jake is a bit of a misnomer, bein as he was named Phil and he was actually from Delaware. But you try gettin anywhere in the ostrich farmin business with a name like "Delaware Phil". The ostrich business is all about respect and no self-lovin ostrich respects a man with a state north of the Mason-Dixon line in his name. Phil tried to change his name to Texas Phil, but there was already three Texas Phils in the ostrich farmin business and one lived a block away from Phil, so he really had to change both his names. After a quick trip to the courthouse to officially change his name to Texas Jake, he stumbled upon a couple of toy poodle puppies that was adorable on the outside but had the cold gleam of killers in their eyes. He knew these two pups would be perfect ostrich wranglers, so he scooped 'em up in a burlap bag and went on his way.

Over the next couple of years, the tiny pups grew into two slightly less tiny dogs. Texas Jake used to like to describe them as fifty pounds of danger in a five pound sack. Sometimes he would drink a little much and snatch the dogs up in that same burlap bag so he could tell himself he had fifty pounds of danger in a five pound sack in another five pound sack. He would laugh and laugh at this until Toby and Ozymandias chewed their way out of the sack and set to work on his ankles. The only way he could calm them down was to share his whiskey. The booze got right to the heart of the little dogs, makin' 'em even meaner than they'd been before. That meanness was a boon in the ostrich farmin business because ostriches themselves are right ornery creatures and dumb as a bag of hammers to boot. From what I hear, wranglin ostriches would be like if you took that guy down on the corner, you know that one that did a little too much in the 60s and now just ain't never gonna be right again. Take that guy, hit him in the head a couple of times to dumb him up even more, then shoot him full of steroid so he gets mad at everything all the time and then hand him a couple of sabers. Now replicate that guy about a thousand times and you got a typical day on an ostrich farm. In this kinda situation, them little dogs grew up to be fast, smart and meaner than a fat girl that can't remember where she hid the cookies from herself.

This worked in their favor. The meaner they got, the better they were at wrangling ostriches. Eventually, they just had to glace sideways at one of the big, dumb birds to get it to run wherever they wanted it to go. They even learned how to rope, which is quite a feat when you ain't got no thumbs. I knew this cowboy once that'd lost both thumbs in a bet in some back alley in Bankok who still tried to rope. He could usually get within five feet of the sheep he was ropin in he had a couple buddies holdin it still for him and someone got the rope goin for him. It wasn't practical for him, but it was fun as the dickens to watch. These toy poodles could rope better than any man after some practice. The secret, so I hear, was that they'd pretend they was ropin their mother's heart so she'd let them come home again. It was either that or they just really hated ostriches.

After three years of livin a comfortable life with Texas Jake, the brothers felt it was time for them to hit the ol' dusty trail again, so they hopped a train and rode the rails for a bit. They got hooked up with some nasty people and, after spendin six months in the pen on a smash and grab, they decided to lay low for a bit. They spotted a Russian circus that was in town that'd been advertisin a new bear wrangler after their last one got a little too far into a bottle of vodka one night and mistook the bear for his coat. When Toby and Ozymandias showed up for the job, the owner of the circus just laughed. By the time they got the bear to cry, he'd stopped laughin. After they'd got the bear to play Air on a G string on the piano, even though the bear hated Bach and all things associated with it, Toby and Ozymandias had a job for all the kibble they could eat.

They spent 4 years with the circus, travelling all over the world, seein and doin things most toy poodles only dream of. Toby and the bear got along real well, and forged a great relationship. Ozymandias, on the other hand, didn't want to get too close to an animal they may be forced to put down one day. This put a serious strain on the brothers' relationship, especially during their tour of China. Toby and the bear spent their nights in the famous oriental opium dens, falling deeper under the influence of the poppy. The final split came one night when Toby came bursting out of a den filled with scantily clad Shih-Tzu screaming, "I'm a bear!" It seems a combination of opium addiction and bear head-games had convinced Toby that he wasn't just a bear handler, but a real bear.

From then on, the bear became harder and harder to control. It's a little known fact that all bears are psychologists deep down. They're masters at playin head games with other animals. The most manipulative of all bears is that there Winnie. Look at the facts. He got a nine year old boy to believe he was livin in a magical world where his stuffed animals would come to life. He even got poor Christopher Robin to laugh when he gorged himself on honey and then spent days throwin twigs into a stream. Eventually, Winnie twisted little Christoper Robin's mind to the point that the poor kid worshipped the bear as a god and did anything he was ordered, including killing all the animals of the woods in what the boy believe to be the "cleansing fire of the almighty pooh." Poor kid. He spent the rest of his life in an asylum for the criminally insane, alternatively muttering about the Pooh Paradise and wailing for Tigger. And the Russian circus bear was no different.

The bear had planned to keep Toby under the haze of opium addiction long enough to convince him that the bear was his god and only master. He would test his bounds a little more each show. At first, it was little things, like playing a flat note or two. Then, it became bigger, like refusing to wear the little hat while he rode the unicycle. After months of manipulation, the bear was ready for his final test. He was hopin to kill an audience member while Toby stood and watched. The bear knew full well that, with Toby on his side, he would be an unstoppable force and ruler of the entire circus. He hadn't counted on Ozymandias.

On the night of the show, the bear got Toby to unlock his chains, "Because it's chaffing." Just before he sat down to play his dreaded Bach piece, he broke free and charged the front row, where the local charity to help one-legged orphans who also happen to be burn victims had brought their little charges to be entertained. As he got three feet from the audience, he was tackled by a little white fluffy blur. It was Ozymandias. The little dog took down the bear by the throat, putting it in the dreaded poodle sleeper hold. When the bear had passed out, Ozymandias trussed him up like a thanksgiving turkey, making sure to bind his mouth.

After the panic had subsided, the circus manager called the brothers into his office. He let them know that, while he and the one-legged burn victim orphans appreciated Ozymandias' help with the bear, all the circus folk knew that Toby was really the one who had released the chain. He gave Toby the boot and Ozymandias the option to stay, but he wouldn't. The two little dogs walked out into the cold Iowa morning, not knowing where to go or what to do then, when they were picked up by Sheriff Tom. He convinced the dogs to turn over a new leaf and use their strength and lassoing skills for good. Over the next couple of years, they became a regular addition to the police force, used mostly as impound patrol, which is how I found myself facing them.

I thought of all this in a split second, but none of it helped me find a way out of the situation, so I did the first thing I thought of. I kicked them. They are only toy poodles, after all. They're tiny and I'm a big ol' grown man. Plus I was wearin my big steel toed boots that day. I don't care how mean a two and a half pound dog is, it ain't gonna be in one place long when it meets a steel toe. I knew they wasn't gonna be gone for long, even with the good kickin I gave 'em, so I had to get to the van fast.


poodlepaw said...

A scantily clad Shih Tzu? Oh, Lord have mercy. I can't even imagine. Her name wasn't Winnie, was it?
I hope you didn't kick Toby and Ozymandias too hard, them being so small and whatnot.

kaploy9 said...

Bear Psychologists? Whoa, didn't see that one coming.

Anonymous said...

Holy Crap,

I can't believe that they let children read the Winnie the Pooh Stories and have the stuffed animals!

gandy said...

I thought they thought they were gorillas? Hmm, maybe Toby's a gorillabear. I hear they're mighty dangerous.

Pat O'Neil said...

Thank you for the continuity tip. I've gone back and fixed it in "In the impound and my undies", to read "bear" instead of "gorilla". I'd originally meant it to be bear, but gorilla is a much funnier word, and I fell for it's soft siren song.

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favourite ones yet. Sorry Pat, I go for a few months without reading, then I catch up in a few weeks, so my comments are quite out-of-date. But seriously, you really need to publish this stuff once you're done. It is often brilliant. Go back and correct some of the typos here and there (NOT things such as leaving the "g" off of words like "singing", but unintentional stuff - I'm sure your readers will gladly help), and publish all of this via something like CreateSpace. I recently bought a very nice trilogy of books called "Dispatches from Wondermark Manor" by a guy who did that exact thing.