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A fable by Bruny Hudson


The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.
Vladimir Nabokov

Part 71

 
I had a restless night, plagued over and over again by the same nightmare that the owner grabbed me, put a chain around my neck and dragged me inside the bazaar to a dark corner where he sold me to a drug dealer.

Each time I woke up panting and ready to escape my dooming fate, I realized it had been a dream. Afraid that it might turn out to be a prophecy, I finally scrambled to my paws and squeezed my body between Ludwig and the door. It didn’t give me much room but offered me a running start when I heard the owner.

I spent the few hours left of the night between dozing and listening. To my surprise, Ludwig woke up before I even heard the slightest stir, telling me it was time to leave.

“He’ll be in the kitchen in a couple of minutes,” he said. “Get moving, and just sit tight out there behind one of the bushes. If I can, I’ll sneak out some breakfast for you.”

Already halfway out of the door, I gave out a quick yap and scurried toward my assigned hiding place. It gave me a clear view of the backdoor and a peek into the alley I slinked along in the dark last night.

Now that daylight started to come up, I saw the grimy path hemmed in by tall, drab buildings and ending in the shrubbery in front of me. It was an ominous sight, and I shivered, not so much because it fitted the backdrop for a trap but of how close I had come to missing Ludwig. Had I arrived here a few hours earlier at dusk and saw what it was, I might have chickened out, ignored the Searcher’s signal and turned away.

Everything was quiet except for some traffic noise coming from the main road at the other end of the alley. I crawled a bit farther into the bushes, flopped down and kept my eyes and ears wide open.

To stay alert, I occupied my mind and went over my new business plan. What if there was no way to get our paws on some spices without running into trouble? Maybe that was why Ludwig didn’t even come up with a quip for a solution. 

After brooding over it for a couple of minutes, I decided to revise the plan, as much as I hated to do it. The idea of a spice trade had come to me long before the valuable commodity practically fell into my arms but nevertheless remained out of reach. 

There had to be something else here besides spices that would attract the American consumer and that Ludwig and I could easily and innocently scoop up. 

The only thing I could come up with was the stuff I was sleeping on in the bazaar, some exquisite fabric people used for fine and luxurious clothing. Unfortunately, it was out of the question because we would need to sell it in rolls or bolts which would be far too bulky.
 

To be continued
 

Part 69


I stared at Ludwig. “Are you sure the smell is coming from me? What about all the spices up there on the rack? You said the chef is using a lot of them.”

“Yeah, he does, but he’s very fastidious about them, tightly closing each jar to make sure they don’t lose their aroma. When he was cooking, I only got a quick whiff of one spice at a time.”

“You think I picked it up at the bazaar? There was this weird smell I couldn’t make out. Now it makes sense. How did you figure out it comes from spices?”

“The first time I went there with the restaurant owner, he stopped at a stall to buy spices. So, it was a dead giveaway.”

I ran my nose through Ludwig’s fur and inhaled but only smelled dog. “Why aren’t you wearing that fragrance? We both were inside the bazaar.”

“I guess because I didn’t spend a whole night in there but moved around constantly and only for a short period at a time. And the sheets of fabric you said you were sleeping in were probably already smelly. Your fur soaked it all up. It’ll stay with you until you get a bath.”

“Oh no, no bath for me.”

Ludwig wrinkled his nose and stood clear of me. “Then, our own are going to shun you and boo you, and people will mistake you for a walking spice rack.”

I pricked up my ears. Ludwig’s tease had a ring of truth. Not what he’d said about us dogs which was a no-brainer. We don’t shame each other, but Ludwig had it down pat about the humans.

“What a clever advertisement that would be,” I said. “Walking around and promoting my own bouquet of spices, the goods we’ll be offering for sale.”

“Come again?” Ludwig’s eyes bored into mine. “What on earth are you talking about? Has all that smell you’re carrying around messed with your mind?”

“No.” I smiled at him. “It had a kind of hypnotic effect on me, though, earlier at the bazaar and made me nod off. But listen, I have a fantastic proposition for you.”

“Why do I get the feeling I won’t like this?”

“Because you’re becoming like my brother Wylie. He shies away from any deal that sounds avant-garde.”

“I think I’ll like your brother.”

I squinted. “That’s right, you haven’t met him yet. His clear-cut business ideas are dull and won’t turn any substantial profit. Now, here’s the perfect kibble maker, and I want you to think of yourself as a free spirit.”

I broached the idea about a spice trade with the American market to Ludwig. To make him buy into it, I played up Americans’ love for scarce delicacies and explained that we would acquire the expensive spices here and then send them via the Internet to the customers in America who would be only too eager and happy to part with their money for something they craved.
 

To be continued
 

Part 70


Ludwig listened to my sales pitch without saying a word. When I had wrapped it up, he kept sitting in silence, and his eyes drifted toward the spice rack.

“From where will you get the spices?” he finally asked. “You’re not thinking of robbing the restaurant here, are you?”

“Certainly not. But focus on the bazaar. We both know there’s a cache of it around there. You yourself stopped at one of the stalls and got the gist of …”

“Oh, no.” Ludwig bawled at me. “Stopping by and taking a good look is not stealing.” He took a deep breath. “And to say the very least, there’s no way to take that stuff from any of the stalls without getting into trouble. The sellers or patrolmen will catch you.”

I nodded. “And I don’t want to rip off anybody, it’s not my style. We have to engineer some kind of exchange, fair and square. Think!”

The moment I said it, I knew it had been a mistake. Ludwig started to run in circles and kept going and going, a sign that he was thinking long and hard, and like always, it was driving me nuts.

Usually, he generated a brainstorm—no matter how ludicrous—with his ritual, but it distracted me from putting on my own thinking cap, and I was tempted to resort to my old standby of tripping him. It usually pulled him out of his trance, but it might also cause a ruckus and probably rouse the owner. Instead, I joined Ludwig on his rounds, and gently pushing him sideways, I made his circle smaller and smaller until there was none.

That did the trick. He stopped and, without making a fuss about the interruption, said, “Nothing.”

I groaned. “Maybe I’ll come up with something. But what about it, are you game for a lucrative business venture?”

“You mean to stay here and do it from here? I don’t know.”

“Not staying here for good, just for the time being while we wait for an opportunity to get out of here. You yourself said it won’t be that easy. It would also give us a chance to test our tags.”

“Let me get a good night sleep. This is weighty, and I’m kind of tired. I need a clear mind to come up with an answer for you.” Ludwig staggered toward the back door and curled up on the rug in front of it.

I followed him. “What about me? The restaurant owner will have a fit if he sees me here in the morning.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll know when he wakes up, and you’ll have enough time to go into hiding.”

“But where?”

“Outside, behind the bushes. There are some nice high and thick ones that’ll give good cover. Just stay there until I come. Good night.”

Ludwig had barely said the last two words when he started to snore. I watched him and listened to him for a while before I reluctantly rolled into a ball behind him, trusting him to wake me in time.


To be continued