Einstein put the sheets in his closet before I had a chance to roll in them. Darn (clean sheets stink) and double darn. I'd caught a glimpse of Einstein's computer screen. He had opened the picture files from the camera he'd found. The woman in the photo was huge. Einstein plopped down in his chair and rolled up to the computer.
He scratched behind my ears. "You're a bad dog and not very trainable, but I love you. See the spaceship in the background? She's an alien. I'm going to find her and prove it."
"Your spaceship looks like a smudge. The woman probably has a glandular problem. I think doctors have a special name for it: gigantism," I barked.
Einstein continued. "I bet she can even shape-shift. And I bet her ship is hidden in the woods. Check out these last three photos. They're of the guy who owned this camera."
The pictures were creepy self-portraits of a pale guy with vacant, zombie like eyes. (This expression is common among Excitement Land Amusement Park employees and every member of Einstein's family.)
"You have not thought this through," I barked. "Why would a shape-shifting alien choose to walk around looking like a giant? If I were a shape-shifting alien, I'd be a squirrel. Okay, not a squirrel, but something, anything, less conspicuous than a giant." If you're a dog you'll know that conspicuous means attracting notice or attention.
At this point, I started laughing so hard my eyes watered. It sounded like awooooo, awooooo. Einstein draped his arms around my neck and gave me a big hug.
"That's right boy. We're going to find us an alien and then get rich."
I sighed. He's an idiot, but at least he's interesting. Not like Rover's human, Ben Dover. I think I've mentioned him. Ben is six. That's forty-two in people years. He lives with his mother, Eileen Dover. Sometimes Einstein goes over there to LARP. Dogs will know that LARP is an acronym for "live action role play," also known as dress-up or make-believe by children everywhere. The game usually involves costumes and plastic swords, but my human has referred to me as his "mighty steed" after putting a cardboard saddle on my back. (Reason number fifty-six why I'm the best dog in the world.)
Suddenly, Einstein grabbed my collar. "You stink. Let's get a bath."
"Nooooo!" I yelped.
I dodged, hopped onto the couch and jumped over the back, bolting into the kitchen which smelled like Boston Market roasted chicken. My nose is never wrong. A bag filled with potatoes, gravy, coleslaw and a steaming chicken sat on the counter next to the sink. I snatched it to the floor and tore through the plastic, paper and Styrofoam, woofing down some potatoes and gravy. Mrs. Angleton rushed into the Kitchen, arms flapping like a chicken trying to fly.
"Oh, stop! EINSTEIN!!!" She squawked.
I decided to take the chicken to go and bolted down to the basement, bursting into Einstein's room and plopping onto his bed. Mrs. Angleton's cries of woe carried down the stairs, but she had stopped at the top. Einstein has told her that if she enters his room without permission, he will move out. (As if that would ever happen.)
"Mom, I can't hear myself think! Meat Head, get off my bed!" Einstein jumped out of his computer chair, or tried to. The seat—I love to shove my nose there when he's not home because it smells like stale farts and Doritos—stuck to his butt. He stumbled and fell face first into the carpet. The chair extended from his butt like a strange, fifth limb, wheels spinning fast and then slowing.
"Sexy." I barked as I gulped down the rest of the chicken. The bones made a lovely crunch, crunch. "When your chair gets stuck, that means you've been sitting and playing computer games too long."
"Your dog ate our dinner," Mrs. Angleton snarled. "I told you to shut the solid door!"
Don't worry. She yells a lot about everything. You should have heard her all the Thanksgivings and Christmases I ate the turkey and the ham.
"What am I supposed to do about it now?" Einstein growled back.
"Don't whine to me later that you're hungry." Mrs. Angleton slammed the door.
Her footsteps thundered over our heads as she stomped angrily about the kitchen. I licked the chicken juice from my muzzle and the bed sheets. Then I jumped from the bed and nosed around Einstein.
"Bad dog," he said, pushing me away as he removed the chair from his butt. Then he climbed awkwardly to his feet and hulked over me, finger pointed. "You need to stop stealing food."
"Bad human," I barked. "You need to start exercising yourself."
I turned my attention to the staircase, snuffling around for any chicken crumbs I might have dropped.
"My bed is all messed… is that chicken grease? Oh no, you tracked that stinky dirt everywhere." My human whined and then yelled, "Mom, I need new sheets!"
Overhead came the stomp, stomp, stomp of an angry mother. The basement door burst open, and Mrs. Angleton hurled a fresh set of sheets down the stairs, slamming the door, whap!
I pretended to be asleep so he could wake me up. Then I would jump on him and knock him down. It was our after-walk tradition. Instead of the latch on the tailgate clicking open, I heard the screen door snap shut. What? Wait. My eyes sprang open. Einstein had forgotten to roll up the tailgate window so I leaped over it, bounded around the car and up the porch steps. My human was retreating down the hall as I skidded to a halt at the screen door. I whimpered.
He stopped and turned to face me. "You're not coming in until you've had a bath. But first I'm going to find out what's on this memory card—proof of aliens."
"Oh, right, because aliens always drop their cameras in the woods," I barked. (Later, you might think that perhaps I have underestimated my ability to see the future. I was just being sarcastic, honest to the Great Paw Above.)
"Oh, and don't break that screen or you'll be in bigger trouble than you already are," he warned.
"Hey!" I howled as he disappeared into the basement.
Most humans assume that dogs don't like being left alone because we are needy. Not true. All animals, except humans, can see ghosts. I don't mind when a dog drops by for a woof, but cats drive me barking mad. However, apparitions from the animal kingdom are rare. Most specters are humans who have some kind of unfinished business they want help with. I wouldn't mind lending a paw in exchange for unlimited access to refrigerators, but every pup, kitten, squirrel and chipmunk knows that you never talk to human ghosts because you'll get roped into demon worship or something worse. (Like a conversation. The horror.)
Vinnie, also known as the Nuisance, had appeared two weeks ago talking about supplemental insurance. He sandwiched this information between a long speech about the president and how he missed a good bowel movement. Who would want to hear about that? I'm referring to the president. Poop is always interesting.
Anyway, I had spent the last two weeks strenuously ignoring the Nuisance and didn't feel in the mood for more work. Also his scent, like damp air just after a summer rain, made my nose itch. I backed up, dusted off my paws and charged through the screen door. Easy enough. The hard part was dodging Einstein's mother.
She's about ten years old. That's seventy if you're human. She's a gray haired, droopy eyed woman with a penchant for housecoats. (The housecoat is an unfortunate fashion statement. Since I'm the best dog in the world, I have kindly chewed designer holes in all of them. That evening she wore a blue one that was extra holey.)
"Out! Out! You mangy thing! Einstein, get this dog out of here. He's dirtying up my FLOOR!" She shrieked as she chased after me.
The car door snapped shut. I sat up, ears perked, blinking sleep from my eyes. We were parked at a strip mall in front of Einstein's work place. I saw him talking to his friend and co-worker, Ben Dover, through a large glass window with a sign that said:
Film Developed Here
One Hour Service
Ben lives across the street from us. He and Einstein are about the same age. They also both live with their parents in a basement and enjoy playing together.
After forever, Einstein exited the store with a tiny screwdriver. (Going forward, forever will always be defined as five minutes. Remember that now.) He plopped into the driver's seat and started taking apart the camera. I could think of a thousand things to do with Einstein's day off, but monkeying with a broken camera wasn't one of them. It seemed to me we both ought to go home and finish the day napping on the porch—Einstein on the porch swing and me on my wonderfully smelly rug.
"The camera is busted and there isn't any film inside," Einstein sighed. "I guess the aliens must have taken the photos."
"That's right Meat Head, aliens don't want anyone to have pictures of them."
"Oh, Great Paw Above, the aliens didn't steal the film. It's a digital camera. Get the memory card out and you'll see that it belonged to a human." I jumped into the front seat and directed him with my nose. "Here, let me show you."
"Meat Head, get off! You're smearing dog snot all over." He pushed me away.
"You need to be the positivity you want to see in this world. I read that somewhere. "I barked, jumping into the backseat, where I paused for a good shake. Particles of dirt flew everywhere.
"Great! Now, this car is going to smell like manure for months."
"I don't smell any manure," I barked. "But if you've got some, I'll be glad to roll in it."
"Stop whining and get in the back, you stupid dog. Oh, look, it's a digital camera. Don't I feel like an idiot, ha, ha."
"Restate 'I feel like an idiot' with 'I am an idiot' and you'll hit the nail on the head." I poked my head over his seat and licked his face. "It's okay, I will always love you. We're growing old together, though you're already pretty old."
He laughed, pushing me off and getting out of the car. "Quit. I need to return this screwdriver. I'll be right back. You be good."
"I'm always good."
I jumped from the backseat into the station wagon's rear where I settled onto my comforter. After taking forever inside the store, Einstein drove us home. That also took forever. He parked in front of a green house, what humans call ranch style—that means it has a porch—and got out. Einstein lives with his mother, as I mentioned before, at 567 Barry Schmelly Road, Hinckley, Ohio.
"Hey, are you alive?" I barked. "How'd you get down there? What's the meaning of life?"
"What has gotten into you?" Einstein snatched up my leash. The camera dangled from a strap around his neck. "Bad dog, Meat Head. Bad, bad dog."
Using both of his hands and all his strength, my human dragged me away. Just before the hole disappeared out of sight, an arm punched free of the soil. It was dirty and stark against the blue sky.
Ooooo scary. (I'm being sarcastic in case you didn't know.)
It would be twenty-four hours before I met my first zombie. In the meantime, Einstein spent the whole trip back to the car, quite a walk as it turned out, repeating, "Bad dog, bad dog."
"That's annoying," I barked. I was trotting beside him down the main trail, tail waving like a flag.
As we rounded a curve and the parking lot came into view, we encountered an attractive couple (by human standards), the guy muscular and tall, the girl curvy but slim. They stopped to ask about me, commenting on my size and how beautiful and well-behaved I was. Einstein frowned at this last bit. He explained that I'm only good when I want to be. This is true; I run the house.
Laughing, the couple continued down the trail holding hands, and, unaware that Einstein had lingered to watch them, kissed gently. My human's shoulders sagged, and he turned back to the car dragging his feet. Over the last year or so, he smelled lonely and sad every time he saw a couple. Loneliness smells a lot like moldy bologna. I sneezed.
"Don't be sad. You have me as a friend," I woofed.
Einstein's mouth twitched, almost smiling. He patted me and then trudged across the parking lot to a green station wagon, lowering the tailgate and slumping onto it. I jumped up beside him and licked his face to let him know I still loved him even though he had interrupted my digging. Human skin often tastes like soap or moisturizer. (Have you ever tried to eat that stuff? Well, I have. Trust me when I say it's not very tasty. That doesn't mean I won't eat it. I'll eat anything.)
I also took the time to investigate the camera around his neck. It smelled like a camera.
"What have you been in?" Einstein pinched his nose. "You stink like a ten-day-old roast stuffed with rotten cottage cheese."
"Don't I smell goooood?"
"When we get home, you're getting a bath."
"Don't bet on it." I walked a circle, messing up my blanket until it was piled just right. I dropped into the middle. Einstein shut the tailgate, got into the driver's seat and pulled onto the road. "Don't forget to roll the window down," I barked.
As the air began to blow, I had what we dogs call a conundrum. Dogs will know that conundrum means a tough decision. Did I stick my head out the window or go to sleep? Was there a way to do both at the same time? After much thought—ten seconds—I stretched my neck out like a giraffe, laid my head on the rim and closed my eyes.
Despite the enormous odds against being located by my human, Einstein found me. He approached slowly and not so quietly, however my focus was the dirt under my paws. It felt soft, like the outer skin on week old Jell-O. Too late, I caught a flash of an arm out of the corner of my eye. I tried to duck but he fastened a leash to my collar.
"I'm busy," I barked, lunging for the hole.
"Bad dog, bad dog!" Einstein skated on the dirt-coated grass.
My collar pressed against my windpipe and, unable to breathe, I started wheezing and coughing like Papa Angleton. I stopped to vomit a mouthful of drool.
"Hey, a camera," Einstein said.
The leash slacked as he bent to retrieve it. This camera would cause me lots of trouble in the future. But I didn't know that yet. Seizing the opportunity, I jerked free and raced back to the hole. Fingers poked out of the dirt! And they wiggled!
I'd been in this particular meadow before. During my lap around the perimeter, I spotted a freshly turned patch of earth in the center. I hopped over to investigate and because a mound of dirt was the perfect place to cool off after running and jumping, I threw myself on top. A tantalizing scent wafted from deep within the soil. Dogs will know that tantalizing means the dirt smelled delicious. The odor was human except not like any person I had ever sniffed before. It smelled sour with fear and a lot like dirt. I turned an ear to listen for Einstein. There were lots of angry squirrels, a few birds, an irritated rabbit and--
"Meeeeat Head! Meeeeat Head! STUPID DOG, I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!"
Humans stink, especially after they shower. Einstein doesn’t shower as often as most humans, but I can always smell him from afar unless the wind is blowing the wrong direction, which it was. Unable to detect my human, I was left with one option: investigate the best smell ever! I pressed my nose close to the ground, breathing deep that special aroma.
"Oooooh!" I sneezed the dirt out of my nose. Smells like that were once in a lifetime, I tell you. I sniffed again. "Double, oh my paw!"
"Meat Head, you come on now or I'm going to leave you!"
Ouch. On one paw, I didn't want to be left behind and the owl had said not to dig. On the other paw, I knew the way home. And what if the thing under the dirt was dangerous? Could I, in good conscience, leave that thing buried? No! Only a bad dog would have left that hole filled in. I even made up a little song while I worked. It went like this:
To dig or not to dig?
What a stupid question.
I dug happily, front paws to pulling the earth from the hole and back legs kicking the soil onto the grass.
"Hey! That's my dinner," a deer shouted.
"You're welcome," I barked.
"I mean the grass, not the dirt, you idiot," he said. "Hey, don't kick that in my face or I'll give you an antler in the--
Einstein crashed to the forest floor. The tweet-tweet of terrified baby birds and chatter of traumatized woodland creatures filled the air.
"Ah! It might be a lion." The buck shrieked as he bounded across the clearing into the woods.
"In Ohio? Are you serious?" I barked after him.
I didn't think that Einstein would spot me. Finding one dog in the woods can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Einstein has a hard time locating his car keys which are a lot bigger than a needle (especially after Mrs. Angleton attached a block of wood to them.) I returned my attention to the hole. It was about a foot deep, and the aroma permeating the air smelled extra awesome. I jumped in and dug some more, tail wagging like an airplane propeller.
Part 1 is here
I stopped. There was no point in making a fool of myself over a squirrel. Plus, my human had reached the top of the gully. I turned to him and beat my tail on the ground, shuffling dry leaves and twigs. Einstein stumbled forward. I sniffed the air. He smelled like black bananas, moldy tuna and vinegar. That meant he was angry enough to tan my hide and had enough energy left to do it. (By tanning I mean a bath. Double the horror.)
"Meeeat Heeaad, get over here!" Einstein shouted.
"You need more exercise!" I flattened out into a headlong gallop, ears flapping in the wind, tail streaming out behind.
His demands for obedience faded as drew further away. I burst through a bush, sprang over a small creek, and galloped up a hill and down the other side, swerving around trees without slowing and startling a fox napping in a thicket. It warned me to slow down before I hurt myself. Ignoring him, I barreled toward an enormous tree that had fallen many years ago. The trunk was covered with a thick carpet of moss dotted by colonies of mushrooms and fungus.
"Weeeeeeeeee!" I leaped, ears spreading out like wings on a plane.
I hung in midair and crash! My head hit the tree. I tumbled to the ground and, because the wind had been knocked out of me, remained on my side while all the nearby critters chittered with laughter.
"You're too fat," the fox said smugly as it trotted off.
"Fat?" I jumped to my paws and shook off the pine needles. "I eat well is all."
A wise old owl poked its head out of its burrow located in the treetop of an overarching and ancient pine. It hooted eerily, "I’ve seen the future. Don’t go into the meadow. Don’t dig."
I’ve heard humans say that if you listen to advice and accept instruction, you will be wise. I’m the best dog in the world. That means I was born wise.
"Oh, I’m scared. Just shaking in my paws, I am." I dashed around the tree that I’d crashed into the tree that had attacked me and burst through some brush into a little meadow.
Einstein would die here in three days, but I couldn't know that. Not then. I hadn't been born with an ounce of clairvoyance. Dogs will know that clairvoyance means having the ability to see the future. Furthermore, there were lots of meadows and the owl could have meant one to the north or south.
Where was I? Ah, yes. Tall grass swayed in a slight breeze fragrant with moldering plants and earthy dirt. I hop-hopped rabbit like around the meadow.
"Weeeeeeeee!" I howled. "Awooo weeeeee!"
I've heard humans say that hindsight is twenty-twenty. I don't know much about that. What I do know is, if I hadn't taken my human on a run through the woods, a zombie formally known as Hubert Pines would still be buried and my favorite person would have a pulse.
"Meat Head! Meat Head!" Einstein Angleton shouted and stomped his foot. "MEEEEEEEEEEAT HEAAAAAD!"
I plopped down on a pile of leaves across from my favorite person. He was other side of the gully shading his eyes as he searched for me among the trees. We were in Hinckley Park, located in Hinckley, Ohio, in case you didn't already know. I'm Meat Head. Nice to meet you. I'm mostly Great Dane with a little of this and a lot of that thrown in for good measure. I have a nose like a bloodhound and a of pair ears that go on for miles. I'm the best dog in the world.
My problems started that Sunday in Hinckley Park and ended on Wednesday a mile from where I sat down to wait for Einstein. Despite his name, my human is an idiot. I guess his parents thought he would be smarter if they gave him a smart name. Well, he's seven. That's forty-nine if you count in people years. He lives with his mother and works at a camera shop.
Humans are practically blind and as you probably already guessed, this fact was extra true for Einstein who had yet to locate me.
"I'm right here, you idiot."
"Meat Head, get your butt over here. I'm not climbing up and down mountains after your sorry hide."
I sniffed the air. Sweat has different smells depending on how mad your human is at you. My human always gets angry when I exercise him. I try to tell him, "It's good for you," and that sounds like "woof." Going forward, anything I say always sounds like "woof". Unless you're a dog. Then it sounds like an intelligent conversation.
Where was I? Ah, yes. Einstein smelled darn mad, so I didn't want him to catch me until he felt too tired to torture me. Dogs will know that torture means being tied outside or stuffed into one of those pet carriers. The horror.
I barked again and pranced in a circle. He slapped his leg and whistled. I wagged my tail. He hurled a few bad words in my direction which sounded like, "blah, blah, blah". I loped out of sight, but stopped at the nearest moss-covered log and raised my leg to water it. I knew that Einstein had started after me because the forest rang with the tale-tell crashing of a person tumbling down the gully. He sounded like an elephant. Several birds cursed me and all my relatives as they fled the nearby trees. A deer stuck his tongue out at me before bounding off. How rude! But not as rude as the squirrel who bit my tail.
Meat Head the Worst Dog in the World will be posted here in easy to read increments. Read for oldest to newest if you haven't been following along.
Can't Wait to find out what happens next?