Possession is 9/10 of the Law
SundayHarry settled his bulk into the seat of his easy chair. He wriggled his tush into the comfortable cushion and leaned back to enjoy the first of the day’s pre-game shows. His special, super-deluxe, command center remote control was secure in his right hand as his left began reaching for the first beer of what would be many to come.
Estelle meandered into the living room and stood beside the television. She looked at the screen and then at her husband and then at the screen and then at her husband again before finally turning off the TV.
“Estelle!” Harry shouted, nearly spilling his beer as he clutched at his remote control the way a heart attack victim would grab at his chest. “Whatta ya doin’?”
“We never talk anymore,” Estelle opined, transposing her plumpness between the TV and her husband’s suddenly impotent remote control.
“Yeah, sure we do,” he insisted. “Now move yer rump.”
“I’m serious, Harry,” his wife told him. “I want us to talk.”
“Now?” Harry winced. “Why now? Why not when one a your shows is on?”
“Right now,” she said, folding her arms in a manner that made him wince again.
“But…honey muffin,” Harry pleaded, “the game’s gonna start in a few minutes and…and…”
There was something about her expression or perhaps in the way she had stopped blinking that made him squirm uncomfortably. Finally, he let out a defeated sigh as he hung his head.
“OK, whatta ya wanna talk about?” he asked.
Estelle relaxed her stance, unfolding her arms. Her facial expression softened. Before she could utter a word, something in Harry’s brain clicked. It was a something that pushed him to leap at a perceived opportunity to improve his position.
“Does this count? I mean, we’re talkin’ now, right? Do I get credit for--? Hey, where ya goin‘, Estelle? Are we done? Was that a good talk?” Harry called after her as she stomped off to the kitchen, fuming silently. “Are we done? Was that a good talk? Hey, it wasn’t so bad. We could try it again…in a few days maybe, when there’s no games on? Oh, the game,” he remembered, pressing the power button on his control and sparking the TV back to life. “Hey, bring me some pretzels while you’re in there, huh, baby?”
Harry settled back in his chair again his pupils dilating as his eyes fixed on the flickering screen. In the kitchen, Estelle looked out the window over the kitchen sink and allowed herself an indignant huff. She turned her back to the window as she folded her arms again. Not watching where she placed her fuzzy-slippered feet, she nearly kicked Rusty who was resting nearby.
“Hey, watch it!” the small, tan mutt ordered as he leapt aside.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Rus…ty,” Estelle said, slowly coming to the realization that, “You spoke? You…!”
The confused housewife bent over to take a closer look at the small dog. Displaying an annoyed, almost feline level of detachment, the mongrel slowly turned his head to return her gaze from sleepy black eyes.
“No,” she whispered, “you didn’t speak. No, you didn’t, did you?”
“What answer gets me fed faster?” Rusty asked.
“Oh, my God,” Estelle said, almost jumping backward as she bolted upright, though never taking her eyes from him. “You did speak. This is all Harry’s fault. He’s finally made me crazy.”
“If I agree,” Rusty proposed, “will that get me fed?”
“Harry! Harry!” Estelle screamed. “Come here quick! You gotta see this!”
Rusty rolled his eyes and let out a loud sigh.
“Come on, Rusty,” Estelle implored playfully. “Talk for momma, baby.”
“Ugh,” Rusty grunted, looking up into her eyes, “I hate that cloying, baby-talk voice. I’m not a child.”
“Rusty snookums,” Estelle said, standing erect and lowering her voice as it took on a disapproving tone, “that is definitely no way to talk to momma.”
“And I’m definitely not your child,” Rusty retorted. “Look, is it too much to ask for a little basic food? Estelle, right? Estelle, you’ve gotta have something worthwhile around. How about some lasagna?”
“Oh, my God,” Estelle whispered, her hand raising to cover her mouth.
“This has nothing to do with--”
“Harry!” Estelle screamed, running from the room. “Rusty’s been repossessed!”
“Women,” Rusty sighed, rolling his eyes again. “I guess I’m on my own. I wonder what’s in the fridge.”
Estelle heard the van pull into the driveway and hurried from the bedroom. She stopped and looked at Rusty scratching himself on the floor in front of Harry‘s chair.
“You’ll get yours now, you foul little monster,” she said, pointing an accusing finger at the dog.
“Lighten up, huh, Estelle?” Harry asked, his eyes never looking away from the game. “I said ‘Excuse me.’ Whoa! What a hit!”
Rusty burped at her. Estelle shivered and rushed to the front door.
“Thank goodness you’re here,” Estelle said, pulling a man wearing a white jacket and stethoscope inside.
“So, you’re the lady that called for a vet?” the man asked.
“Yeah. God, yeah,” she answered as she steered him into the living room. “He’s right…”
“Uh…your husband, ma’am? I really only handle animals.”
“He was right there!” Estelle insisted. “God, oh, God! He’s on the move! Come on!”
Moving further from the open front door, Estelle led the vet to the kitchen.
“There!” she cried out, unleashing her accusing index finger once more. “You see?”
“I see a pillow, ma’am,” the vet said, “and a half-eaten bowl of dog food.”
“He’s playing some kind of sick game, that’s what he’s doing,” Estelle said.
“Just try to stay calm, ma’am,” the vet said in his most soothing tone. “Where else do you think he might’ve gone?”
“I…maybe…maybe the bedroom,” Estelle said, turning back to the hallway with the vet following.
Down the short hall and back to her bedroom, Estelle flung the door open wide. There, the two found what they sought.
“Rusty!” Estelle snapped. “Bad boy! You know you’re not supposed to be up there.”
The vet looked at the small white mutt relaxing on the bed. The small dog looked back at the vet and yawned.
“Well?” Estelle asked the vet.
“Your dog being on your bed doesn’t make him possessed, ma’am,” the vet said, holding back a chuckle. “It doesn’t indicate satanic involvement of any kind.”
“You’re telling me you don’t see it?”
“See what, ma’am?” he asked. “It’s a dog.”
“Could you two keep it down, please, Estelle?” Rusty asked. “It’s been a rough week. I‘d like to get some sleep.”
The wide-eyed vet’s mouth fell open. Then, his eyes narrowed and he tightened his slack jaw. The veterinarian dropped his little black bag to the foot of the bed and pushed up the sleeves of his white jacket.
“You called me just in time, ma’am,” the vet said, steely determination in his tone. “I’ll deal with Satan.” The vet pulled a cross and a bottle of heartworm pills from his bag and cried, “Wither, spawn of perdition! In the names of St. Bruno and St. Denis, I condemn thee and impel thee return from whence thou hast come! I rebuke thee!”
“Spare me the melodrama, Kildare,” Rusty said. “If I hadn’t had the Sixth Host of Zizzerron at my door, I wouldn’t be trying to lie low on a beach two planes away. Without a pack of red wailing runebeasts coming in the windows, I wouldn’t have miscast the spell and I’d have half-naked babes bringing me fruity umbrella drinks, but what happened happened. Sometimes, magic's like that. Joke’s on me: I’m in a dog and it’ll wear off whenever it does. Now, blow before I bite your ankle.”
“Ain’t ya got holy water or something?” the trembling Estelle asked the vet who was frantically digging through his black bag.
“For the love of…Estelle,” Rusty said, “at least spring for someone to dress up and do it in Latin. In Latin, this’d be hilarious." Rusty paused for a tummy grumble, followed by a loud, long release of gas from each end of his tiny, hairy body, then said, “Ahhhh, much better. Whatever that…meaty stuff was in the bottom of the fridge, Estelle…also not funny.”
“I‘m going to have to try something desperate, ma’am,” the vet said, grabbing a handful of salt and a worn parchment containing the Corruptor’s Salvation chant from his bag.
Estelle braced herself as she trembled in his shadow. The hair on the back of Rusty’s neck bristled.
Harry reached for a handful of pretzels as an explosion rocked the small house. Dark smoke billowed from the bedroom as a screaming man wearing a singed white lab coat and not carrying a small black bag ran out the front door. His van left smoking skid marks in the driveway as it departed at forty-three miles per hour in reverse. Dirty and disheveled, Estelle staggered numbly into the kitchen, a blackened pink house frock dragging the floor behind her.
Rusty trotted back into the living room and curled peacefully at Harry’s feet. Harry sniffed the air and sneered oddly.
“Hey, Estelle,” he called to his wife, “you’re burnin’ sumthin’. That your lasagna?”
“Shut up, Harry,” Estelle shouted back.
“Brimstone,” Rusty mumbled.
“Try to help,” he said, shrugging his shoulders and sipping his beer, “and see what it gets ya. Women.”
“Amen to that,” Rusty said, looking up at the screen. “What’s the score?”