Fort Collins is a dog town. It has great, fenced-in dog parks. People take their dogs everywhere, especially to open-air music venues, like Odells or Maxline Brewing. We were at Maxline yesterday to see Drifting West, sharing the patio with several dogs, many of whom arrived in bike trailers. The folks wheel in trailing a toddler carriage in which sits a grinning kyoodle. We always have three dogs, young, middle, and old, so that when the old one dies, we have two more to tide us over until we get a new one.
Bohemian Nights, a three day music festival that was shut down by the virus two years ago, had almost as many dogs as people. I wouldn’t subject my dogs to one hundred and twenty decibel rock performances, but perhaps the dogs enjoy it.
Right now, Freddy is the new dog, a tan mutt fro the Four Corners region. Freddy is a great dog. Then comes Bob, who looks like the ancient Egyptian god Anubis, whom we got from another animal rescue outfit. At the top of the totem pole sits Mack, a once ferocious Boston Terrier/pug mix we got from a veterinarian friend. Mack has mellowed. She loves to lick. Every day we go to the dog park. In a few minutes, the dogs will gather around, wagging their tail, pawing me, and barking, demanding to go to the dog park.
My sister Jill has always had two Labradors, always gets them from the animal shelter, and takes them everywhere. Since Sis works in Rocky Mountain National Park, those dogs have seen more of the great outdoors than most people. A couple years ago, when her set of Labs was getting old, they took them on a road trip to several national parks including Yellowstone and Crater.
Thirty years ago, I had a big black mutt named Lucy. Lucy grabbed big air when I tossed the Frisbee. I thought about entering Lucy in competition, but that requires a small dog you can catch on the fly, not a seventy-pounder. I wrote a novel about disc dogs. It’s called Disco. It’s out of print, but a handful of copies remain.
When we moved to Fort Collins, I would put on a pair of sunglasses, carry a cane, and got Lucy a harness so I could take her into restaurants. That didn’t last long. I tried to order her a beer and the bartender demanded to see ID.
Juggling all sorts of project while working on my second NEXUS NOVEL: THE SHADOW OF THE OLIGARCH. While much of it is grim, some ain't. Here's a chapter.
CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE “Ragtime Girl”
A single spot hovered over the front of the stage. Curtains parted to Nexus’ right and out strode a cadaverous green figure wearing black swallowtail jacket and a top hat. The lizigator stuck his hands in his pockets and slouched, trying to penetrate the gloom. He was about six feet tall.
“That’s not Clonezone,” Nexus said.
Jugason put a finger to his mouth and winked.
“When I first arrived on Hendereath, I was told that no lizigators were allowed” Klonezone drawled in a sepulchral voice.
He stared around, impassive.
“I was questioned for hours by a man with thick lips. He looked like a Venusian fly trap. I pulled out a handful of dead insects and dribbled them around the desk. I had him eating out of the palm of my hand. I told him if he didn’t let me in, I’d bite his head off.”
“He laughed so I bit his head off. They threw me in a fridge and beat me with truncheons for eight hours. They ground me up and fed me to the dogs. They used my skin to make boots. They had to piece me back together for the proctology exam.”
“HAR!” someone boomed from the back.
“It was so cold in the interrogation room I went into hibernation and woke two hundred years later. They were still asking questions.”
Laughter, polite applause.
“They asked me where I’d been last night.” He drew himself back and looked down his snout. “With yo’ momma!”
He crossed his arms and drummed his fingers. “A broken down old miner goes into a bar on Rand. It’s filled with big, beautiful, beefy blonds. He sits down at the bar and orders a beer. The bartender looks like she can bend ingots with her teeth. She’s got a Punisher tat on her arm.
“‘You wanna hear a joke?’ asks the geezer. “They stare at him. You know that stare when you’re trying to make something disappear. The geezer is emboldened.
“’This blond goes into a bar…’ he says. The bartender cuts him off.
“’Wait a minute,’ she says. ‘I was Titan wrestling champ. You see that woman over there?’ Points to a tall but curvaceous blond with a long ponytail. ‘She’s a professional wolf wrangler.’ The wolf wrangler saunters up…” Legs akimbo, Klonezone illustrated her swagger.
“’And Minnie there can bench press a thousand kilograms. Now are you sure you want to tell us that joke?’”
“’Well no,’ he says. ‘Not if I have to explain it three times.’”
The audience roared, including several attractive blonds.
“And now, I’d like to introduce a very special guest and one of my closest friends, or he would be if he weren’t an impostor like me, a man who has literally killed on planet after planet…”
The corner of Nexus’ mouth turned up.
Klonezone whirled, throwing out his arm as the spot changed to Nexus. “THE GREAT NEXUS! Let’s give him a big hand, folks!”
The applause went on and on, and suddenly everybody was standing. Nexus stood, and nodded. He started to sit but Jugason poked him in the ribs. “You should say something.”
Nexus held his hands up in appreciation. “Thank you! I never dreamed I would receive such a warm welcome. We were on our way to Skyrizi when we were struck by alien debris. Truly a stroke of luck. The Infinite Spirit works in mysterious ways.”
Applause lasted five minutes. Nexus wondered what he said that was so droll.
Klonezone reclaimed the spotlight. “Is it true some poltroon has taken my name and gives performances duping billions of people?”
Nexus smiled. “I think I have some tapes in my ship. I’ll send them to you.”
A barstool with a bottle of bourbon and a glass appeared. Klonezone poured himself several fingers and tossed it back. “Ahhhhhhhhhh.” His whole body wound up, tail to jaws and he belched
The ship shook like a maraca. The room erupted in laughter and applause. Klonezone stalked the stage, hands clasped behind him, looking up from time to time, waggling his eyebrows, and belching. Jugason laughed and gasped. Lucy and Uma convulsed. Nexus shook his head. Sundra told him he had no sense of humor.
Klonezone lit an enormous cigar. “It’s hard to make fun of some of these species… Nevertheless…”
“Take the cuttlefish. Please. Jerome Jerome is the most famous cuttlefish. Likes to drink. And whatever you do, don’t bring up the Gazornin Olympics.”
Uma leaned in. “He’s awful.”
Nexus smiled. “Ain’t he?”
The audience lapped it up. He took on the Giz, the Thune, and the frogs. He paused, tapped ash on the stage and looked around. “Any quatros in here? Yes? No? Good. Let’s make fun of them.”
“Quatros got no sense of humor. I asked a quatro once if he ever got a manicure and he beat me with truncheons for eight hours.”
“HEY!” boomed from the back of the room. The spotlight shifted, quavered, centered on an immense quatro, seven feet tall, wearing a black tux and a cummerbund as he strode toward the stage, left hands pushing up the sleeves on his right arms.
Klonezone tilted backwards and marched toward the exit, waving his hat. “Thy-th-that’s all, folks!” The quatro lunged for him as he disappeared behind the heavy curtain, leaving his top hat on the floor. The quatro crouched and picked it up. The quatro smiled at the audience holding the hat jauntily over his head. The quatro marched from right to left waggling the hat and singing, “Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal, send me a kiss by wire, by wire. Baby, my heart's on fire!”
Nexus and the girls stood along with everyone else applauding. When the applause died down, the quatro took the spotlight and looked around with one enormous eye. “Are there any lizigators in here? No? Let’s talk about them!”
Nexus turned to his host. “Where did you find a quatro with a sense of humor?”
Jugalo winked. “A magician never gives away his secrets.”
Nobody was all good or all bad. Nexus was torn. Touching the prime minister, he had learned of atrocities, deserving of execution many times over. But Nexus was there by accident. He’d never dreamed of Jugalo. He’d never dreamed of a funny quatro. He wondered if they’d fallen into a virtual reality, that this entire episode, from crash landing to the dinner, had taken place in a nanosecond between the time they had the accident and their deaths. He turned to Uma.
“Would you switch places with Lucy for a minute?”
Quietly, they switched places. Lucy flopped down smiling. “What?”
Nexus held out his hand. “Tell me if I’m dreaming.”
She took his big hand in hers. “No, it’s all real.”
“How do I know you’re not part of the dream?”
“Do you want me to smack you?”
Jugason noticed the little girl sitting next to him. “Well hello, Lucy! How are you enjoying the evening?”
“Oh Mr. Jugason! I can’t remember when I’ve had a better time! I only wish Bob and Shiloh were here too!”
Jugason set his hand paternally on Lucy’s face. She turned ashen. She shivered, then colored. She stood. “I’m sorry. I have to go back to my seat now.”