Elena gave her neck a twirl, and a small dog collar with a tag attached to it dangled from her own collar.
“Wow.” I patted her on the shoulder. “But, did you run into trouble? That’s why you came so early?”
“No, no trouble, but kind of a problem. The packing house closed early …”
I butted in. “What I was afraid of when Olaf …”
“Well, let me finish. Sergi was the last courier dog returning for the day, and he overheard Olaf telling someone that he’ll have extra guards patrolling the warehouse during the night. So, we decided to set our plan in motion immediately. And since Olaf checked everybody in and out who left with an order today, there won’t be any late arrivals tonight to mess us up.”
“Have you been waiting here long?”
“Just a few minutes. Now, unfasten Sergi’s collar from mine, and I’ll wrap it around your collar.”
“You want to do it here?”
“We want to avoid making any noise inside the warehouse. Olaf is still at the front door.”
I worked at the clasp of Sergi’s collar with my teeth and nails until it clicked, and the collar dropped down. I picked it up. It was sturdy, but so short, I would have needed two, if not three, to tie around my neck.
Elena snatched it out of my mouth. “Lie down so I can reach you.”
She fumbled around my neck and my collar for a moment. “There you go,” she said, gloating. “I twisted Sergi’s collar around yours several times so it fits snugly. That way, it’ll be easier for you to align his tag with the USB port.”
“Gee, you know a lot about the process of Internet traveling without having done it yourself.”
“Sergi has told me all about it. I asked him so many questions that he got tired of answering me at the end, but I learned a lot about the Internet travels.”
“You know what you’ll be up against and that it won’t be child’s play. Are you sure you want to go through with it?”
Elena nodded her head. “Of course. And believe it or not, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve always wanted to hitch a ride with Sergi, but there was never the right time.”
“OK then, let’s go over everything before we get to the warehouse. We use the computer closest to the trapdoor and the farthest away from the front door. Do you know if the computers are running?”
“Sergi didn’t mention anything about shutting his down. I doubt Olaf would leave his sentry post to do it, if it even crossed his mind.”
“I hope you’re right because those old computers take forever to boot up. Anyway … OMD! How could I forget that? … Do you have Sergi’s Internet ID code? I need it for using his tag.”
There was a long silence while Elena stared at me. Like a scene unfolding in slow motion, her mouth opened and words formed on her lips. As I made out an n and an o, I closed my eyes and ears.
To be continued
Foreign business affairs
A fable by Bruny Hudson
The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.
Hobo: Living forever through his adventures
I had no idea if I could swim, never having been in a body of water that could have swallowed me. The common saying among people that all dogs could swim wasn’t any comfort to me. People just loved the line ‘If I can do it, so can you’ which we dogs knew was pure hogwash, but humans always came up with all kinds of cockeyed beliefs, and sadly too often.
Remembering seeing dogs doing the doggy paddle, I set out to try my paw at it, but before I had a chance, I hit ground. I straightened out my legs, and testing the bottom of the creek with each step, I waded through the now shallow water until I found a slope at the steep bank.
Dripping wet, I slowly climbed up and made sure I wouldn’t plunge back down into the water. Finally feeling solid and level ground under my paws, I gave myself a good shake, and another one, and another one.
It didn’t help to dry me off, but shivering from the wet cold wasn’t what bothered me. What bugged the hell out of me was my stupidity of falling into the water and, to add insult to injury, for an asinine reason. My only hope was that by the time I met with Elena my fur would be dry enough to make our plan work.
I looked around where I’d ended up on top of the bank. It was not the spot where I’d crawled down to the creek, but my sense of direction slowly kicking in led me to it, marked by a long twig pointing toward the bank.
Quickly, I located the next twig. Tracing each one I’d laid out on my way through the woods, I galloped along, doing some extra jumps in between to speed up my drying off.
The tall trees surrounding me made it difficult to tell what time it was and whether twilight was already looming. In any case, everything might turn out all right if I kept moving around airing my fur while waiting for Elena who wanted to show up after dark.
All hopes vanished when I approached the edge of the forest and saw Elena already standing at our meeting place. I became even more dismayed when I saw the expression on her face as I drew close to her.
“Oh no.” I panted. “Did something go wrong?”
Elena looked me over before she shook her head. Then, barely audible, she said, “But you, you’re all wet.”
“I fell into the creek,” I answered sheepishly but shied away from telling her why.
“OMD. I wished I hadn’t suggested you go there for water. I’d rather you be thirsty with your tongue hanging out than soaked to the skin like you are.”
“Hey, come on, you don’t mean that. Being dehydrated wouldn’t get me far.”
“But now, you might not be getting anywhere.”
I frowned. “Our plan isn’t off, is it?”
Elena shook her head again. “It’s just that Sergi always warns me not to get any slobber on his tag or even on his collar when we hug and say our goodbyes before he goes off to the Internet.”
“Oh … Now, I know what you meant. I’m worried too about my wet fur dousing the tag.”
Elena’s face lit up a bit. “Maybe we’ll luck out and there’ll be a rag somewhere in the warehouse and I can blot your fur with it and wipe down the tag.”
“You got it then?” I eyed her neck. “I don’t see it.”
To be continued
I listened to Elena’s account of what she and Sergi had masterminded for my getaway. She was all excited about it, and while I was cautious, I couldn’t see any loopholes or come up with any unanswered questions. She had presented a detailed and well thought-out plan.
“OK, I’m leaving now.” Elena jumped to her paws. “I’ll be back after dark. But it’ll be a few hours after the warehouse has closed down for the day. We don’t want a latecomer to surprise us when we’re inside.”
“Hey, wait,” I said, “what about some food? Can you send someone to bring me something to eat? I’m starving.”
“I’d rather not. The least dogs and cats know about your being here, the better it is.”
“You’re right. But what about some water. Is there any around here, a pond or something like that?”
Elena nodded. “If you follow a straight line through the trees on your left, there’s a creek running along the edge of the forest. It’s not far, we’re at the tip of the woods here. There’s also some grass growing along the bank you can nibble on. But be back here by nightfall so I don’t have to chase you down or have to call for you.”
When Elena had left, I pondered her and Sergi’s plan. It was foolproof as long as nobody saw my disappearing act. Olaf wouldn’t know what had happened when he couldn’t find me and nobody else had seen me. Still, I worried about Sergi. If something went wrong, he would be the one who had to pay the price.
Following Elena’s directions, I made my way toward the creek to tank up on water and to find some palatable grass. Now and then, I picked up a long twig and, using it as a marker, placed it lengthwise right in the middle between two trees. I didn’t want to run the risk of getting lost not knowing how much I had to twist and turn to get down to the creek to reach the water with my tongue.
As Elena had told me, it wasn’t far, and I soon saw a clearing ahead of me. In front of it and winding alongside was a ribbon of lush grass. I hurried to it.
The narrow little stream behind it was barely moving, but its bank was high and steep, cluttered with stones, pebbles and thorny stems. I explored it while munching on the grass, looking for a way to climb down to the water.
It didn’t take me long to find a more gentle slope, and I made my way down to the creek, one paw at a time. Some knobby roots were sticking out here and there. They came in handy and prevented my paws from slipping on the pebbles.
I reached the water unscathed and without tumbling into it and gulped down the refreshing brew until I could drink no more. Ready to climb back up the bank, I raised my nose.
Before I could turn around, I heard a loud splash in front of me. My eyes darted across the water and bulged at the sight of a fish. The creature, bigger than bite-size, was leisurely swimming along. Food. It was the only thought racing through my mind and driving away any precautions and, even worse, any common sense. I lunged at the lip-smacking meal.
It was a big mistake. By the time I’d dived into the water, the fish was long gone, but I couldn’t find any pawhold. Struggling to stay afloat, I kicked my legs in all directions.
To be continued
To read the story from the beginning, click here or go to Fable on the menu.