SMUT HAMS IT UP


Mischief and I took a walk this afternoon. It was cold, wet and entirely uncomfortable, the kind of day Mischief favors. She is a Labrador retriever, and revels in cold weather, and finds the cold water of the Neuse River in December to be pleasant.

“Let’s go in the house,” I suggested after about ten minutes.

“Come on, let’s stay out a while,” she responded. “I haven’t identified all the new smells here since I returned from Greenville. Why did you dump us there last week?” she asked.

“Will and I wanted to eat oysters at home without your friend Smut competing with us for every one of them, so we left both of you in Greenville for a couple of days. But then I had the accident, and couldn’t fetch you for a few days.”

“Oh, yes, the accident,” she replied. “You fell off a pier and bumped your head, as if humans don’t do that every day. And except for a little cosmetic deterioration, you don’t look bad. You weren’t pretty to begin with. So don’t start again. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but I—and probably everyone you’ve talked to over the past week—am fatigued at your constant talk about ‘the accident.’ Please just shut up about it. It’s over.”

“Point taken, Mischief,” I replied, a little annoyed that she would be so blunt. My human friends, of course, are too polite to tell me to shut up, even though they should, according to Mischief.

We walked a bit more, then I told her that I was cold and was going back to the house. “You can stay out by yourself,” I said.

“Okay, we’ll go back,” she said, sulking. “Guess we’d better check on Smut, anyway. No telling what he’s gotten into.”

Smut is my other lab, a sneaky and resourceful old dog who is a brilliant particle physicist, but in all other ways just a typical old lab.

As we entered the living room, I saw Smut scoot through the kitchen door and quickly flop into his easy chair. His fez was askew, and his smoking jacket was awry, but the look on his face was lazy and unconcerned.

“What are you up to, you old mutt,” I asked with acid suspicion.

“I was just getting some water,” he replied. “Why do you look so suspicious?”

“Because I know your tricks,” I said.

While Smut straightened his fez and adjusted his jacket, I looked in the kitchen. There on the floor in front of the refrigerator was a bone—all that was left of half a country ham.

I angrily returned to the living room and found Smut leaning back comfortably in his chair, legs crossed, puffing on a cigar, a glass of my 16-year-old Lagavulin in his other paw.

“You ate my country ham, you nasty dog,” I shouted at Smut. “That was going to be breakfast for days to come, and it’s gone! No grits and country ham with red-eye gravy! No country ham biscuits! No eggs and country ham!”

While he finished a swallow of whisky and exhaled a puff of smoke, Smut said calmly, “Well, you know I don’t like grits. And that ham was too salty for you.”

“But you didn’t leave me any,” Mischief whined at him.

Why can’t Smut just stick his tail between his legs and hang his head in shame like other dogs, I thought.

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