Terry was sleeping like a volcano when his pup Mitzy crept out of the hallway and into the living room.
Terry was a big man by any style of measurement, and even the double wide, 4-person sofa couldn’t contain him entirely. He had fallen asleep with his black jacket and work pants on, belly to the sky, with his left arm and leg falling over the sofa edge and onto the floor. Dinosaur snores drifted out of his mouth and up into the ceiling fan, and were then dispersed to all corners the living room.
Mitzy the poodle was nearly weightless in comparison to her master. Her grey paws stepped lightly across the carpet, as soft and deliberate as an olympic gymnast.
At the base of the couch, near Terry’s limply hanging arm, sat the remainders of his uneaten dinner. Mitzy smelt, and then saw, a plastic bowl full of Lay’s potato chips, two 12 oz. beer cans (one empty and half full, now warm) and lastly a plain white plate, which was mostly bare, but did contain a number of discarded sandwich crusts.
Mitzy eyed those sandwich crusts with unabashed lust. She imagined their texture, how proportionately salty and sweet they might be, and how they’d soon be squishing like gum between her molars.
Her wolf blood was rising now. She crouched low and moved in for the grab. But suddenly a loud clanging noise rang out from the kitchen.
Mitzy froze mid-step. Terry coughed and sputtered, but did not wake. Inside the kitchen, two boys stopped what they were doing, barely daring to breath, much less move.
After a minute, when Terry’s snores had resumed, Max poked his head into the living room to make sure his father was still asleep. Then he turned and berated his friend, “Watch it, man!”
“Sorry, jeez,” said Trevor, “the stupid jar tipped over. I barely touched it.”
“Gah,” said Max, “do you see it anywhere? It’s brown, leather, just looks like a normal wallet. It should be here.”
“Not yet,” said Trevor. “Didn’t you say he always leaves it by the refrigerator?”
“Yeah,” said Max, “it’s around here somewhere, don’t worry.”
“Is it in the fridge?”
Max stared at his friend, “Why the hell would it be in the fridge?”
“I dunno,” said Trevor. He opened the refrigerator door and looked inside anyway. “Nope… not in here.”
“I got it!” exclaimed Max in a loud whisper. He stepped away from the cabinet, holding the wallet delicately in his hands, as if it might fall apart at any moment. It was bursting at the seams with credit cards and receipts, but Max knew right where to look for the cash.
“Let’s see here…” he said, “80 bucks in 20 dollar bills, and… three 10’s, and… six ones.”
“My brother said that six dollars can get us a six-pack,” said Trevor.
“But is one six pack enough?” asked Max.
Trevor didn’t know, but he did his best to sound knowledgeable. “Um, yeah, we’ll probably need two.”
“Alright,” said Max, “I’ll just take a twenty.”
“Hold on,” said Trevor, “What about snacks?”
While the boys were busy discussing their plans in the kitchen, Mitzy the poodle was busy executing hers.
She had made quick work of the sandwich crusts, which had not disappointed her. One of them even had even contained a bit of peanut butter! She attacked the chips by upending the bowl and using her snout against the floor to lick them up. The half full beer can she tipped over, so that it spilt out onto the rug. She lapped up a bit of it, and was beginning to lose interest, when suddenly she caught wind a delightful scent coming from higher up on the couch.
She stood up on two legs, with her front paws propped agains the sofa, and craned her neck to examine Terry’s sleeping body. And there it was! An entire HALF of a sandwich! White bread, peanut butter and jelly, a perfect triangle. The sandwich was resting on Terry’s belly, over the zipper of his black jacket. It rose and fell along with Terry’s breathing, and Mitzy’s snout followed along. Up. And down. Up. And down.
Mitzy braced her poodle knees and in one swift jump she was up on the sofa. She perched precariously like a mountain goat on the small bit of space that she had. Her master was a heavy sleeper, that was to her advantage. But still, her next move would be a dangerous one.
She turned her head sideways and stretched her neck as far as it would go. She would have to clasp the sandwich with her front canines and pull it toward her, where she could then get a better grip.
But something went terribly wrong.
It’s possible that Terry was in the middle of a bad dream. Or, one of his snores got stuck and jammed halfway through his throat. Or maybe it was just fate – but something caused Terry to take a quick inhale of breath.
His stomach withdrew, causing the level of the sandwich to change, which caused Mitzy – in the middle of her snatch and grab – to grossly miscalculate the distance. Out of shock or fear she clamped her jaw tighter than she had intended. Not only did she miss her mark, but one of her teeth became snagged in the zipper of Terry’s jacket.
Mitzy yelped and began twisting to free her head. Terry shot out of a bad dream and into a bad situation. Mitzy was now on top of his stomach and running in all directions to try and free her tooth.
“Wooooagggh!” Said Terry as he rolled up onto his side.
Finally Mitzy came free and, now that Terry had rolled up onto his side, she collapsed in a heap to the floor.
Terry sat up, swinging his legs down to the floor and rubbing his dead. “Damn dog!” He shot a leg out to kick the little grey poodle. But Mitzy had regained her balance, and she leapt back, just out of reach of the attack.
Terry braced himself for another kick, but stopped. He was suddenly aware of some suspicious whispers coming from the kitchen.
“Max – you in there?” Terry yelled.
No answer from the kitchen. Only the sound of shuffling feet. Terry listened, now he could hear the screen door beginning to creak open.
He jumped off the couch with surprising agility and strode across the living room floor and into the kitchen. “Max? You in there?”
Terry came into the kitchen just in time to see Max and Trevor sneaking out the side door together.
“Stop!” was all he had to say. The boys froze. “Max, get in here.”
“Oh hi Dad,” said Max, as if he hadn’t heard a thing till now.
The boys had rushed out in a hurry and left the wallet sitting open on the counter. Now Terry picked it up and examined it. Terry took an impossibly long breath, set the wallet back down, and aimed a heavy gaze at his son.
Max stared back. The young boy was better under pressure than a Navy General. He wasn’t about to out himself. He was going to let Terry make the first move; only then would he react.
“Dear God,” thought Trevor to himself, “it’s a stalemate. Who’s going to crack first?” He closed his eyes tight and tried desperately to make himself disappear. The room was getting hotter and hotter. The smallest spark could set it all to hell.
Back in the living room, Mitzy the poodle had recovered her wits. She gathered her prized sandwich in her teeth, the one she had risked life and limb for, and carried it out of the living room, down the hallway, through the garage door that she had to nudge open herself, down the steps into the garage, and underneath the long, wooden workbench on the far wall.
Using her grey paws, she nudged the sandwich up against the wall. She gave a low snarl and looked around the garage, but there were no predators to be seen, just dusty tools and cardboard boxes and the lawnmower in the corner.
The smell of the peanut butter and jelly was so potent, she was nearly drunk with glee. She could delay the pleasure no longer. She opened her mouth.
The sandwich never stood a chance.