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The Dog That Dumped On My Doona
By Barry Jonsberg
Allen & UnwinCopyright © 2008 Barry Jonsberg
All rights reserved.
I was woken up by a dog taking a dump on my doona.
It was really ugly.
Not the doona.
Not the dump, though that was pale, soft and curled like a meringue.
I mean the dog.
This dog was small and dirty-white and looked as if it had been pumping weights down at the local gym. It had a barrel of a chest and curved legs like you'd normally see on an old sideboard. An oblong head. Small, beady eyes.
We looked at each other.
I glanced down at the pile of poo steaming on my chest. So did the dog.
My first thought was that I was dreaming. I didn't even own a dog. The dog looked like it was dreaming too. It had a glazed expression all mixed up with deep satisfaction. A second or two ticked by.
'What the ...!' I shouted, flinging back my doona and catapulting the poo into the corner of my bedroom where it landed and spread on the carpet with a soft thud. The dog sprang off the bed and glared up at me.
My bedroom window was open only a few centimetres. I found it hard to believe the mangy mutt could have squirmed through the gap.
'Shoo,' I said.
The dog didn't shoo.
'Go away,' I said, waving my arms about in a kind of go-away fashion.
The dog didn't do that either.
I sat on the edge of my bed and put my feet carefully on the floor. I was cold and scared. Even though the dog was small, it had attitude. And muscles. This was not a dog that other dogs would bully in a dog playground. This was a dog that other dogs would hand over their pocket money to. My mum often said that dogs wouldn't bother you, if you didn't bother them. Trouble is, this pooch seemed bothered by everything. Including my breathing.
I tried to hold my breath, but a low snarl told me that bothered him as well.
I stood up. Very, very carefully. Now what?I thought to myself. We could probably spend the rest of the night staring at each other, but I wasn't very excited by the idea. Or I could edge my way to the door, slip out and scream blue murder. Dad could come in and deal with the dog. That's what parents are paid for, after all.
I moved my right foot a few centimetres. The dog didn't do anything. I brought my left foot over to the other. Still no reaction. Feeling encouraged, I did a quick scuttle round the end of the bed. He did the same. It was like he was tied to my legs with a short, invisible cord.
I was so scared that for a moment I thought the dog wouldn't be the only one dumping a loaf. I backed away into the corner. My heart was thumping in my chest. The dog moved slowly towards me. Stopped about a metre away. Looked up at me with hard, pink-rimmed eyes like marbles. Cocked his head to one side.
The word was loud and clear. It seemed to fill the entire room. It even seemed to fill the inside of my brain. I jerked my head around. Where did that sound come from? There was no one lurking in the shadows of my room, yet I had heard the word as clear as day. I looked back at the dog. It hadn't shifted.
Then, with a speed that surprised me, it turned and jumped onto the window ledge, squeezed through the gap and was gone in a dirty-white flash. I started breathing again, the pumping of my heart loud in my ears. Suddenly I felt something wet and squishy under my bare feet. I looked down. A pale-brown mush was oozing through the gaps in my toes.
I'd stepped into something extremely nasty. And it was still warm.
Mum was not happy.
She made me take a shower while she cleaned up the mess on the carpet and changed my bedding. I'd hopped to her bedroom. One foot was covered with pale-brown poo and I didn't want to spread anything on the landing carpet. Trouble was, the hopping movement had splattered it all over the walls. Like those blood patterns you see in CSI: Miami or true murder TV programs.
She cleaned the walls too.
'Only you could do this, Marcus,' she said when I got back to my bedroom. 'Only you.'
'Mum, I didn't do it. The dog did.'
'Leaving the window open. Just asking for trouble.'
This struck me as unfair. Leaving a window open is not an invitation for anything outside to use your room as a Portaloo. But I kept my mouth shut. I get blamed for whatever goes wrong in this house. That's just the way it is. It's always all my fault. Eventually Mum finished making my bed and stomped off to her bedroom, and I snuggled down under the spare blanket.
It was so weird.
But weird things happen to me. They always have. I fell asleep and dreamed of a dirty-white dog with attitude and a bowel problem.
Dad was reading the newspaper when I made it into the kitchen for breakfast. Rose, my sister, sat opposite him. I poured cereal into a bowl, drowned it in milk and sprinkled in two large spoonfuls of sugar. Then I added another, just to be sure. Dad didn't glance at me as I took my seat.
'More protests in Queensland, it seems,' said Dad to no one in particular, head still bent over the paper.
'Really, Daddy?' said Rose. 'What about?' She smiled, flashing perfect teeth, and tilted her head to one side.
'Environmental groups are protesting about the building of more mineral mines out in the bush.'
'But why, Daddy?'
'They argue the minerals mined can only be used in the production of weapons and that therefore the money made is tainted. What's more, they point out that large areas of the bush are being destroyed and that there has been no research done on the effect on indigenous wildlife.'
Breakfast conversations are always this fascinating. Sometimes Dad talks about the stock exchange and I nearly poop my pants with excitement. So I concentrated on shovelling in cereal and tried to keep images of pooping out of my mind. I must have missed the next part of the conversation, because suddenly I realised I'd been asked a question.
'What?' I said.
Rose smiled at me.
'I was just asking you, Marcus, what you know about the butterfly effect.'
'It's an old movie.'
'No,' she said. 'I mean the idea that everything is connected, that you can't change one thing without it having an effect on something else. These mines. We don't know how they will change the environment. So, a butterfly flaps its wings in America and something changes in Australia.'
'It would have to be a humungous butterfly,' I argued. I got a mental picture of butterflies as big as skyscrapers, all beating their wings and knocking down New York City. I kept it to myself.
'You're so funny, Marcus,' chuckled Rose.
'Well,' said Dad, folding the newspaper, 'better get off to work.' As he left the kitchen, Rose gave a small wave.
'Bye Daddy,' she said. 'Have a lovely day.'
Last term, our class did a project on illusions – how some things are not really what they appear to be. I remember one picture our teacher showed us.
When I first saw it, I thought it was a young and pretty girl, her head turned away. But when I looked harder, I saw something else. An ugly old hag. The chin of the young girl became the nose of the old woman. Then it became a chin again. I guess the point is that the picture is both things at the same time. What you see depends upon how you look:
* * *
I looked at Rose.
The sun that had poured through the kitchen window while Dad was here disappeared behind a cloud. The temperature dropped like a brick. An icy chill ran down my spine and the hairs on my neck stood on end. Rose's face twisted. Her smile, which previously looked as if it was going to join up at the back of her skull and cause the top half of her head to drop off, was gone. Now her thin, bloodless lips were a pale gash on her face.
'You woke me up last night, Mucus,' she hissed. If she'd stuck her tongue out, I'd be willing to bet it would have been forked. I tried to answer, but my tongue felt like a lifeless slab. 'I need my sleep, you putrid little toad.'
'A dog dumped on my doona.' I forced the words out. 'Wasn't my fault.'
'It sure wasn't my fault, Mucus,' she snarled. 'And are you certain you didn't just sneeze in the night and dump your brains onto the doona?' She laughed, a hideous cackle, at her own joke.
I sauntered towards the door. 'Up yours, Rose,' I said and legged it. I didn't stop running until I was halfway to school. I'd been here before. If Rose got hold of me, the bruises would take forever to fade.
Mum and Dad think the sun shines straight out of Rose's bum. Only I know that, beneath her sickly sweet exterior, beats a heart of pure evil. The dog turned up when I was halfway to school.
One moment I was shuffling along, seriously considering the theory that Rose's body had been invaded by an alien life form. The next thing, I glanced to my left and it was there, trotting along and keeping pace. Still dirty-white, still the dog version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but somehow not nearly as scary as it was last night.
I stopped. It stopped.
'Whaaaa!' I yelled, jumping up and down and waving my hands about. 'Graaah. Geddoutahere. Scram, ya mangy, scruffy piece of crap. Go on. Clear off.'
Look, I was angry, okay? This lump of filth had broken my sleep, got me into strife with Mum and Rose, and left a smell in my room that was starting to strip the paint off the walls.
The dog didn't so much as bat a pink eyelid. It looked up at me and cocked its head to one side. I could have sworn it was laughing.
The voice was all around. I leapt and did a quick three-sixty. There was no one there. No people. Not even any cars. I looked at the dog. It cocked its head to the other side. That was when I started to get scared again.
'That's right, bozo. Ya moron. Poop for brains. Great routine, by the way. Scary. I'm trembling in my boots. If I had boots, of course. Look, pal. Any more of that kind of nonsense and I'll rip your hamstrings out. You wouldn't like that. Plus, I'm fairly certain I've got rabies. Still, your choice, mate.'
So, I was standing in the middle of a deserted street, having a conversation with a dog. Well, not a conversation as such. More like a one-sided stream of insults. It was a warm day, but I came out in a cold sweat.
'I'm mad,' I said. It was a terrifying thought. I was going to end up like that old woman in the city centre who pushed a shopping cart around and sang religious songs to the pigeons. Or, even worse, like Mr Gaggins, the Assistant Principal at my school.
'You might be mad, matey. Probably are, come to think of it. I can see inside your head and it's a mess. But don't blame me. If you're crazy it happened a long time before I came along.'
I turned away and walked along the road. Head down. Eyes on the bitumen. Don't think about it. Don't reply. I might be bonkers, mad as a loon, one sausage short of a barbie, off my head, one oar in the water, but that didn't mean I had to give in to it. I wasn't going to give in to it. I'd get to school and feel better. Which would be a first.
'No point ignoring me, tosh,' said the dog.
'I'm on a mission from God,' it continued.
'What?' I stopped in my tracks. I couldn't help myself. 'A mission from God?'
The dog also stopped. It sniffed a tree and then cocked its leg. I watched while the steaming fountain seeped into the soil. The hound scratched itself behind the ear.
'That's what I said, mush. A mission from God. He needs your help.'
'Let me get this right,' I said. 'I am having a conversation with a dog that crapped on my bedding in order to let me know that he has come from Heaven because God needs help from an eleven-year-old boy?'
'That's pretty much it, bucko.'
'Okay,' I said. 'I've got one or two problems with that. Firstly, this means you are a ghost dog, but what you did on my doona looked and smelled pretty real to me. Secondly, God – the all-powerful, all-seeing God, the dude who made the world and everything in it in seven days – doesn't send mangy canines on His business. No offence. The normal messenger, I believe, is an angel bathed in light with wings and a halo. Which you are not.'
'You are mad, aren't you?'
'Yes,' I said. 'Obviously. Barking mad. No offence this time either.' I started walking again. So did the dog.
'I know nothing about angels, with or without light, wings and a halo,' it said after about a hundred metres. 'I'm talking about the God in Pet's Heaven. The shop in the city centre mall.'
'God lives in a pet shop in the mall?'
'Last time I checked.'
Of course He does, I thought to myself. Of course He does.
I made it the last few hundred metres to the school gates in blissful silence. No voices in my head. No sound but traffic and the chatter of kids as they got out of cars and school buses. I kept my eyes fixed straight ahead of me. I even began to think that maybe the dog had gone, that if I looked down I'd see nothing. But when I turned in the school gates it was still there, sitting on the footpath. Those pink-rimmed eyes were fixed on me.
'We'll talk again,' said the voice in my head. 'That's a promise, my two-legged friend.'
I allowed myself to be swallowed in the rush of kids heading for the school building. It was official. I was off the planet. I was in orbit at the far reaches of the universe. One short step to singing to the pigeons. Me and the mall lady in a duet. The Space Cowboys. The Loons. The Singing Psychos.
If you want further proof, I was even looking forward to Maths. It was normal. Which is more than could be said for me.
* * *
'I'm mad,' I told Dylan at recess.
'Join the club,' he said.
Dylan is my best friend. But that was only one of the reasons I'd decided to let him in on the business of the talking dog. The main reason was that Dylan is mad. He's the first to admit it. And he has the pills to prove it. So I thought maybe he'd understand.
Okay. I guess it would depend on what you mean by insanity. But Dylan has been told by a whole bunch of experts that he had a behavioural disorder. I once asked him which one, ADD or ADHD? He said it was DAD: Dumb As Dogpoo. Which under the present circumstances was fitting, I suppose. So I thought maybe he'd understand.
The thing is, Dylan isn't stupid. Not by a long shot. But he can't control what he says or what he does. Not really. Not fully. If it comes into his mind to say something – no matter how crazy – he'll just say it. He can't help himself. Same with doing mad stuff. If it strikes him as a good idea to stick his head down a toilet bowl he'll just go ahead and do it. I've seen it happen.
The real trouble is when something comes into Dylan's mind in classes. Like the time we were doing a science experiment involving electricity and he stuck a pair of scissors into a power point, blowing the mains and giving himself an afro which smoked at the ends. It took three teachers to stop him trying to repeat the effect once the electricity was back on.
So I figured that if there was one person in the whole world who'd listen to my story and take it seriously, it would be Dylan. Maybe he could suggest what tablets I could take. Not that he took the ones he was supposed to take. According to Dylan, they made him feel like a shadow.
'Wow,' he said when I'd finished. 'That is about the coolest thing I've ever heard. Can I meet him?'
'You don't get it, Dylan,' I said. 'It's not a real talking dog, ya moron. It's all in my head.'
'Yeah,' he said, reaching for his third can of cola that recess. Dylan doesn't eat, as far as I can tell. He just drinks cola. At any given moment he must be eighty per cent pure sugar. A teacher once told him to drink water and Dylan said he never drank water because fish pee in it. 'But what if, hey? What if? What if the dog can talk to you and it really is from God who does live in a pet shop because, after all, they say that God is everywhere and if He is everywhere then why can't He be in a pet shop as well as a church or in a meat pie or something and the big guy must be pretty busy all the time what with having, like, the whole universe to deal with so it might be right that He needs a bit of help from time to time, so He puts out feelers to find someone He can trust to do some of the small stuff while He concentrates on the big things like tidal waves and earthquakes and making new civilisations up in space which, let's be honest, must be a pretty big project and take up huge amounts of His spare time, so it's not impossible.'
Sometimes it's very tiring having a simple conversation with Dylan. Not that this was a simple conversation.
Dylan finished his cola and tossed the empty can over his shoulder. It hit the teacher on yard duty smack on the head. She had her back to us and the two hundred other kids who were sitting on benches around the canteen area. But, when she turned around, she was in no doubt about who'd done it.
Excerpted from The Dog That Dumped On My Doona by Barry Jonsberg. Copyright © 2008 Barry Jonsberg. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
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