Sunday 25 August 2019

Mr Squiggles

by Dawn DeBraal

cherry cola

“Come on Mr. Squiggles!” Chet pleaded as he gently pulled on the leash. They were parked on a busy highway along the forgotten coast of Florida. He pulled over the big F250 and 35-foot camper when Winnie insisted Mr. Squiggles really had to go this time. Chet gave her the look. The dog had been whining for over 20 miles. He pulled the rig over as far as he could off the highway, grabbed Squiggles and marched out to the mowed area. The dog had sloth-like reflexes at 13 staring and sniffing at the tall grass in front of him. No doubt 6000 other dogs had taken a piss on that same poor weed. The sun burned down on Chet as a rivulet of sweat rolled down his face. Winnie rolled down the window of the air-conditioned truck.
“If you drop the leash and step on it, he will think he’s not on the leash and he will do his duty!” she shouted. Chet’s hand snapped up in a sweeping motion to the right with his palm down. It was the signal to stop a crane, and Winnie knew full well after forty-seven years of marriage that meant STOP! Chet retired after thirty-five  years in the construction business. Even though he’d been retired fifteen years, the signals were still ingrained in his psyche. The window of the Ford rolled back up. Chet dropped the leash and stepped on it, wishing he could be smoking a cigar right now. Something he had to give up after the by-pass five years ago. Mr. Squiggles then started to do his circle dance. Damn if Winnie wasn’t right! He chuckled. He looked at the wheels of the camper sinking in the loose sand on the side of the road, and shook his head as he sighed. Mr. Squiggles stopped his dance. Chet encouraged the dog.
They bought the camper to come to Florida to escape the cold Wisconsin winters. They left Sky High camp ground that morning. Too many young people smoking pot. Chet figured that was what “Sky High” meant and not that it was on a hill. Not in Florida. There were no hills; there was low land and lower land. He turned to Mr. Squiggles.
“I’m taking you back to the truck and I don’t care if you crap all over it, you hear me?” he hissed. Squiggles looked properly reprimanded. Winnie was looking out the window shrugging her shoulders. His grade school sweetheart. He still loved her and found her beautiful even after she had put on over a hundred pounds. Winnie turned to food when he could no longer take care of her intimate needs. She had saved herself for marriage, something Chet appreciated about her. She was all for it when the vows were said, and up until the doctor told him, “The little blue pill will kill you!” did he let her down. Winnie turned to food with all the gusto she had she when wanted Mr. Squiggles after the grand kids no longer needed her and stopped coming over.
“I need a baby!” She told Chet as she showed him a picture of a shih-doodl-ier, a combination of a shitsu, poodle, and terrier or some kind of special-order lap dog. Chet finally capitulated and Mr. Squiggles entered their family.
Mr. Squiggles hated men, Chet especially. He served as a permanent wedge between him and Winnie in bed, but since they couldn’t consummate their marriage anymore Chet let that go. The growling though. That ticked him off. He would reach for Winnie and Mr. Squiggles bared his teeth and went into attack mode. Chet secretly hated the dog.
“Maybe if you feed him and walk him, you will grow on him!” Winnie insisted. That was three years ago. The dog still hadn’t warmed up to him and now he was on the side of the road waiting for Squiggles to take a dump! He fantasized letting Squiggles go and seeing him hit by a car. But he knew Winnie would never forgive him. The camper was sinking further into the soft sand. He needed to get out of here soon.  
A small butterfly flew in front of Mr. Squiggles and the dog dove for it pulling the leash out from under Chet’s foot. Bounding across the mowed area Mr. Squiggles ran across the busy highway to the median strip in the middle, narrowly escaping on-coming traffic. Winnie had both windows down now. Screaming.
“Chet he’s across the road!” Winnie opened the door trying to get out of the truck. Her legs were so bad she couldn’t walk.
“Winnie, stay put! I’ll, get him!” Chet picked up the pace and crossed over to the median when the traffic subsided, but Mr. Squiggles had already maneuvered the next two lanes and was in the far side of the road in hot pursuit of the yellow butterfly. Chet called the dog who was oblivious to Chet’s voice. Winnie was out of the truck calling Mr. Squiggles.
“Winnie stop! He will cross the traffic to get to you!” Chet shouted. Winnifred Cotter put her hands up to her mouth in the horror of realization and started to cross the road where she was soundly struck by a lumber truck. Chet heard the screeching tires and the scream that emanated from Winnie’s mouth. He abandoned the pursuit of the dog and raced back to where Winnie lay pinned under the lumber truck. The driver had already called 9-1-1.
“A woman is hit on the highway. She just stepped out in front of the truck, I couldn’t stop!” The driver sobbed. 
Chet came around to the front of the truck. “Winnie!” He knelt down and cradled her head, as tears came down his cheeks. He could already hear an ambulance coming.
“Chet, get Mr. Squiggles! Please!” Winnie cried. She cared more about that damn dog than her immediate situation.
“I will Winnie, let’s take care of you first.” Chet stroked her hair keeping her calm. The ambulance arrived too late Chet thought. But the paramedics kept working on Winnie. Police were taking statements. Chet finally walked back to his rig. Ready to take it to the nearest Emergency Room, back to Winnie who he fervently prayed was still alive. He started up the truck.
Dammit! Mr. Squiggles! He promised Winnie. But his heart was hardened. If it weren’t for that dog, Winnie would be alive today not dying in the hospital he supposed. He put the truck in gear, but the sand had allowed him to sink deeply. Chet got out and put the truck mats under the camper wheels. He got back to the truck and slid it back into gear. The camper rolled forward. He was picking up the truck mats when Mr. Squiggles came bounding back across four lanes of traffic and barked to get into the truck. Chet looked at him wanting to leave him behind but knew if there were any chance that Winnie would make it, Mr. Squiggles was part of that equation. He picked up Squiggles who growled ferociously at him dumping him soundly on Winnie’s side of the truck as he headed north to the hospital where he prayed Winnie was still alive.

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