Max and I were both looking at Stewie. Finally, he blurted out through broken teeth, "Aaah, three-of-clubs!"
"Go fish!" said Max.
"Oh yeah!" Max immediately dove down and shoved his snout into a small pile of treats right next to the cards. I couldn't tell if he'd wolfed three or just one.
"Uh, no," I said. "You're supposed to eat the biscuit when you get the card right."
"Oh." He peered out through lob-sided eyes that never seem to quite focus, past a left ear that drooped even lower than usual. "Is dat how it works?"
"Geez, Stewie. How long have we been playing this game?"
At seven-and-a-half, Stewie was the oldest among us, but you wouldn't know it by his behaviour. "You'd think you'd know the rules by now..."
"Your turn Jake," said Max.
"Er, three of hearts." Stew picked out a dog-eared card from his pack and passed it to me.
"Woo-hoo!" I took the biscuit between my front teeth and tossed it in the air.
"Treatie for Jakie!" Then caught it again in one swift flourish.
Felt the sweet, hormone-laced chunks of melted biscuit tickle my taste-buds
as they slid down my craw.
"Your turn, Max."
"Dammit, Jake." Max, with his perky ears and spikey tufts of hair around his jaw and forehead, had the look of someone who should be a barrel of fun.
Instead, the weight of the world seem to drag down his every word.
"I told you not to call Max. It's Maxwell..."
"Yeah, yeah, we know. You don't want to be confused with Maximillian, 'cause every body hates Maximillian. But he's Maximillian, your just Max!"
"Anyways, guys, I think I'm done for the night," he continued. "There's only one treat left and I don't think I can keep myself, 'cause I'm mighty peckish."
"Hey, we don't have to always play for treats, you know." Two heads turned round, looked at me like I was Zaphod Beeblebronx. "What are talking about, Jake?"
"You know, we could just play for intellectual stimulation. I just learned this new game called Gin. It's a little harder than Go Eat the Dog Treat."
"Yeah, what are you talking about Jake?" chimed in Stewie, two minutes off
the draw, as usual.
"Ah, fuck it. Never mind. It's getting late anyways. Caren will
be worried about me."
I ran over to the red door. Gotta remember, the red door, with the fancy
"Hey, let me in Caren!
"Lemme in! Lemme in!"
"Alright, already Jake!" She shoved open the door, distracted, as usual
and I slid myself in.
She was talking to her favourite toy. "I keep telling you, blah, blah, blah..."
What does she see in that toy, anyway? I mean, I'm cute and fluffy,
her toy is hard and _plastic_. I looked at her, expectantly.
Instead, she herded me to the back door.
I sat, dejected for a moment, then wandered over to my water dish.
Reflected back was a strong, square jaw, half grey, half reddish brown.
I was a powerful image of a dog. 120 pounds of part black Lab and golden retriever (with a little bit of German-shepherd mixed in), a ruff of dark, golden-grey on my shoulder and smoothly shaded biege underneath.
I glanced up at the sky.
"Wow! Look at that moon!"
"Jake! Shut up!"
I wandered back to my bowl. "Nobody understands me..."
Caren came to the door. "Jake! What is with you? Enough whining already..."
She pulled me inside, hugging and cuddling. Then scratched me nicely behind the ears. Her toy was still in her hand. She turned away and put it back to her hear.
"I don't know what's with my dog these days..."
"...Yeah, you're right. It's probably time for the old 'snip-snip'..."
Huh? What did she mean?
Later on I went to ask my friends.
"Ahhh, the 'ol 'snip-snip.'" said Max. There was awkward laughter. "I think I know she means. It's all cages and needles and dark rooms..." He stared at me ominously.
"Yeah, you go to hump your favourite post," chimed in Stewie. "And it's just not the same..."
We played a few dispirited games of 20 questions, then retired to our respective houses. I wandered slowly in. What did she mean? The ol' snip snip...
This time, instead of going to the front door, I just wriggled through a hole in the fence.
There, sniffing around in the garden was... a cat! No, it wasn't a cat. It was a tiny bitch--the sleekest and most dainty as I'd ever seen! Like ash on the fireplace, she was as dark as the blackest ebony and white as the cleanest snow.
"Are..., are you a... a vixen?"
She smiled. "You bet I'm a vixen!"
Instead of looking straight at me, she moved towards my back-side. I started to feel the strangest thing...
There was a noise inside. "Hold on, big boy..." she put her sharp face next to mine, then with a single bound, leapt over the fence and was gone.