Authors: Chris Kurtz
It's all over.
I stop barking. My thoughts echo inside my head. No more road trips in Mona's sporty car. No more exercise runs around her apartment. No more crunchy doggy chow Nibbles and Nuggets all the same size.
Step by step the wolves close in on me. There is no hurry, no doubt in those six yellow eyes about how this is going to end. I have eaten my last doggy biscuit. I have felt the last rush of wind in my ears out of a car window. I have enjoyed my last tummy party.
I also think I have seen the last surprise of the day.
A flash of green suddenly falls out of the sky in between me and the wolves.
The wolves stop their stalking. We all stare at this strange fluttering collection of bright green leaves. It's flopping around on the ground in a circle.
As I watch, it flops under the feet of the wolves and makes them jump back. They sniff at it and get a snoot full of dust for their trouble.
It flops over to me.
I sniff at itâand catch sight of an eyeball.
“Split!” whispers the collection of leaves with an eyeball. “Run!” Then in a louder voice it moans, “Oooh, my stomach. I think I'm dying.”
That is no collection of leaves. That is a bird. My powerful reasoning ability tells me this.
“Call a doctor,” it screeches.
A poor diseased bird. An unfortunate traveling parrot that has been blown off course and has chosen the exact wrong spot to get sick.
I sniff again at the bird and get punched in the
nose by a wing for my trouble. “Go home, you walnut-headed dingbat,” it whispers.
Huh? A sick bird that still has enough pep in it to be insulting? I back up a step to put a little distance between me and this crazy thing with the spicy tongue and the good, strong left hook. The sick bird flops and flutters back over to the wolves, who seem more and more interested.
As I stare, the bird flaps helplessly downhill toward the meadow. The wolves cautiously follow.
” the doomed bird squawks. “Get out of here, you bug-eyed mutt!”
Now, most bug-eyed mutts wouldn't know what to do in that situation. Most bug-eyed mutts
would have no idea what their next move should be. But I have no such confusion.
I charge out of there as if I'm on fire. I tuck tail and run just as hard as I can in the direction of Mona and the motor home and darling Alexandra.
I don't lope. I scamper. Honestly, I'm not concerned about how I'm moving. I'm just dashing and dodging in a way that gets me gone from that meadow as fast as possible.
There is no thundering of feet behind me. There is no hot breath on my hindquarters, no snapping of teeth. It doesn't matter. I keep dashing.
There's one thing wolves don't know about Chihuahuas. Parrots don't know this either. Or rats. Chihuahuas don't even know this about Chihuahuas. If there are wolves behind them, they can move very fast!
Safety. Shelter. My poor brain whispers to me over and over. Mona. Humans. Motor homes with big butts and cars with the windows rolled up. It all seems wonderful to me at the moment. I'm moving faster than a New York taxi on a day with no traffic.
I hope Glory is waiting back at camp.
I stop running. In a Chihuahua-sized cloud of dust, I pull up short. My brain starts an argument with my legs. My legs want to keep going. They are
just trying to do their job, I suppose, and they won't stop dancing around. But my brain has cleared in a snap.
Que stupido! Que problema!
I know that voice. I know that phony Spanish accent. That is no stranger in green feathers behind me. The truest, bravest friend I have is about to be torn apart by big and unforgiving teeth. And all because she got sick in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I can't let it happen.
I have to go back. I have to try and save her. But how did Glory get sick so quickly? When we left camp, she was fine.
I turn around. I get those legs moving the other way.
Suddenly, something dive-bombs me from above. A large, dog-eating bird of prey swoops down on me, screaming and aiming its giant beak at my eyes.
I fling myself on the ground as low as I can. But I know it isn't going to do any good. I'm not going to be able to rescue anybody. I am about to be carried away and fed piece by piece to young, hungry eagle babies.
To escape from wolves and end up as eagle burger is the worst thing that I can think of. I crouch and wait for the claws to seize my body and lift me into the air.
“Run, you fool!” The screeching turns to wordsâwords in a fabulous, dear, familiar voice. “They're right behind you!”
My legs push off. My toes dig in. No scrabbling and slipping over hardwood floors. My ears fly back, and I glue my eyes to the green flier ahead of me. I never look back. In a short time I can see the road. I can smell the hot dogs and spicy mustard from the campers.
Don't stop. Don't even slow down
, I tell my legs.
I dash. I streak. I burn through the grass.
Once on the other side of that road, I know I'm safe. Glory flutters down and I leap up to meet her. We roll over each other on the ground laughing and celebrating like wild things.
“How did you get away?” I ask Glory when I'm too tired to jump and celebrate anymore. “And how did you get well so fast?”
She falls to the ground in a heap of feathers. “Call the doctor!” she moans.
“Oh, Glory!” I say. “How did you know the perfect thing to do?”
Glory picks herself up off the ground and shakes off the dust. “You don't get to be as old as I am without tucking a few tricks under your wing. If you pretend to be sick and helpless enough, predators don't think they have to rush in for the kill, and you can distract them.”
Glory is smarter than us all. For a moment I wonder what she would do if I were to give her a big, wet, slobbery kiss. “Those aren't just tricks. Those are wild tricks, Glory,” I tell her. “Those are jungle-bird, fly-in-your-face, don't-even-think-about-sticking-me-in-a-cage tricks.”
“Well, let's not get carried away.” Glory shakes the dust off her feathers. “I like my cage just fine and I don't need any extra excitement.”
We start walking toward the motor home. Glory has a long, striding, side-to-side, swing-your-tail-back-and-forth sort of walk I have never seen before.
Then I stop. “Glory,” I say quietly, “no one made you come save me. You could have just let me run off on my own and let me get snapped up in the wilderness. It would have served me right.”
Glory gives her feathers a shake. “Oh, I would have to agree with you. It definitely would have served you right. I probably should have.”
She chuckles. “But what a glorious escape we had. And my goodness, you were a little blur.
I don't know where it came from, but I do believe there is a bit of wild-wolf speed in those little legs of yours.”
A few moments later, we reach the motor home. From the way Glory hunkers down as she creeps toward the steps, I know we are thinking the same thing.
Alexandra could be waiting. Make a quiet entrance.
But it isn't meant to be.
We hear a screech. “Glory and Lobo came home!” That's Alexandra. I brace myself for the attack. But it never comes.
Because Mona beats her to it.
She scoops both Glory and me up in her arms before Alexandra can get to us, and twirls around and hugs us. I even get a kiss on the nose.
Truthfully, I don't mind. Maybe I even like it.
When she is finally done hugging and kissing us, she puts us in the motor home.
Alexandra tries to get past, but Mona playfully grabs the monster, gives her a noogie, and tells her that we have had enough loving to last us for a while.
I have to agree.
Quite a while.
The door closes. The footsteps and whining noises fade, and for a long moment I listen to the quiet and look around. Glory's cage has been shined up and cleaned. My pillow has been brushed.
Wow. We came so close to leaving Mona all alone.
I glance inside Hector's cage. Seeing it empty makes me sad. Someone has cleaned it out and put in fresh sawdust.
I wander over and sniff the bars up and down. “He'll never come back,” I say.
“True. And thanks to you, he's not causing indigestion, rolling around in some wolf stomach.” Glory flutters up to her cage and climbs in. “One
question. What on earth made you turn around and head back toward that meadow?”
“When I figured out it was you who was sick â¦ even though you weren't reallyâI had to go back for you.”
Glory shakes her head. “You are brave,” she says, “and a good friend.”
I make a few circles.
She turns around and pokes her head out. “Now, enjoy your peace and quiet. I know I will.”
I settle down on my own beloved pillow and try to enjoy the quiet.
But the quiet feels all wrong. “Actually, I kind of miss him,” I say. “I wish I could tell him that.”
Glory cracks open a few seeds. “I miss him too. Although heaven knows I won't miss all the squabbling and fighting around here.”
“He's probably out there with a girl rat right now,” I say. “He'll never give us another thought.”
I hop up on the seat and looked out the window.
Stars are beginning to shine through.
I close my eyes.
“Lobo,” Glory says softly. I look up. “I'm sorry your lifelong dream of finding your pack wasn't meant to be.”
It's true. If there was ever a time to feel sorry for myself, this is it.
I feel mixed up or dizzy or sick. I feel â¦ I don't know what I feel.
Tired. That's one thing I feel.
Maybe after I get some rest I'll know what I'm feeling.
I close my eyes again and just start to doze when a happy scream from outside makes my ears shoot straight up. I leap to my feet and run in circles.
There are a few more shouts and then the door of the motor home bursts open. Mona hurries in and slides a fat little white rodent into his cage.
“Heckles?” I leap for joy and circle and bark and bark. Okay, I yap. I can't help it. I'm so happy.
“Thank goodness my family is all safe tonight,” Mona says. “I don't know how I could go back to the city without you guys. Sweet dreams, everyone.” She closes the motor home door.
I run up to the cage. “You came back. I can't believe you came back!”
“What a day.” Hector flops down in a corner. “And what a night.”
“Did you find a girl rat?”
“There was a girl rat on the other side of every dark tunnel,” he says. “Those country girls love a party rat, let me tell you.” He wiggles his toes.
“Then why did you ever come home?” I ask.
“Did I tell you it was dark? That's exactly the problem. It's dark down in those underground rat holes. I'm not used to creeping around in tight places.” He rolls over and comes up to the side of his cage. “Especially if you happen to be carrying around a few extra love handles.” Hector pinches
the extra fat on his tummy. “You can't even turn around in some of those rat highways. It's oneway traffic all day, every day, for a skinny country rat. But for a fat city rat, it's no-way traffic.”
“So that's why you thought it was a good idea to hop out of your nice, safe hole and go strolling around in broad daylight,” Glory says.
“Hey, you were right.” Hector sighs. “No question about that. The minute you poke your head out for fresh air, it's nothing but teeth and claws and sharp beaks. Especially if you're a plump, tasty, good-looking fellow like me.” He fluffs up some sawdust and flops back down.
I lie on my pillow and listen to the peaceful night noises of crickets and frogs. “Heckles â¦ I mean Hector, I'm glad you came back,” I say softly.