Launch! Prince Arthur Hotel! September 5. 6:30. Cake and beverage. Meet the Authors.

Launch! Prince Arthur Hotel! September 5. 6:30. Cake and beverage. Meet the Authors.
Prize Winning Stories from NOWW

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dogs in the Box, a short story by Paul McCreary

Don't let us creep you out but one day, in the 1950s, an ocean side town near Jacksonville, Florida, receives a visit from a long forgotten inhabitant.

The wild-eyed, unshaven, electric-haired man stood transfixed, watching eight puppies sleeping in a box on the oceanside home's porch. The man moved spasmodically toward them, grinned vacantly, then retreated.

The Trumbulls, the house's owners, were gone. Their maid, Geneva, had not noticed the man as she performed her household chores. Black and round, she whistled “The Red, Red, Robin”.

Hearing Geneva through the screen door, the porch man hummed the melody in a rumbling, throaty way. He began zipping and unzipping his pants with the beat. Instead of following the maid’s whistling, he followed one in his head. Johnny B. Goode. Chuck Berry's guitar pounded and the zipper flew as the man burst into loud, staccato laughter.

Geneva dusted, singing a blues song, Big Woman, Don’t Fall on Me. Hearing laughter outside, she stopped.

Snapping back to reality, the man pulled his zipper to the top, before reaching for the nearest dog. Precisely then, Geneva glanced out the door.

“What is you doin’ on the porch?,” she fearlessly inquired.

Peering at her with a half-psychotic quizzical stare, he leaned sideways as if looking around a corner. Another song began playing in his inner sanctum.
Come along baby, we got chicken in the barn,
Whose barn, what barn, my barn.
We ain’t fakin’, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.

Imagining Jerry Lee Lewis’ piano pumping in high octane rhythm, he stared through Geneva. Reaching again for his zipper, he followed the thumping beat. He shook his legs like a rock star and the zipping increased to a frantic pace.

Geneva had never seen anyone quite like the man.

“I said, what is you doin’ out here? I’m talkin’ to you.”

The man focused upon Geneva, speaking in a fine, measured, deferential manner. “Why, madam, I live here.”

“You don’t live here. Trumbulls live here. I live here. You don’t live here.”

“Pardon me, my lady, but I do. It was my place of birth half a century ago. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Claudius Blackwell. The Third. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. I have been away for a time. I was preparing to . . perhaps examine . . these canines here on my porch.

“Them is not your dogs. This is not your porch, and you ain’t no doctor.”

“Oh, but I am, Miss . . .”

“I am Geneva. Geneva Washington. I work here. I live here. You need to get off these folks’porch, or I’ll sweep you off.”

“My lovely, that will not be necessary. Will you join me in a dance? The Viennese Waltz.

“I don’t dance with no stranger man.”

Fixing upon her for a long moment, Claudius assumed a distinguished courtliness.

“I assure you that my intentions are strictly honorable. I would not force the dance upon you, unless you desire. Certainly, I would accept an invitation to your chamber.”

“You ain’t gettin’ into my chamber, or nothin’ else!,” declared Geneva, her bosom thrust forward. “Now put down them dogs before I call the police and Mr. Trumbull.”

“I never have and never shall refuse a lady’s request. It is nearing time for my bath. If you would kindly draw some hot water, I will join you in sweet bliss and ecstasy,” Claudius pronounced. “Allow me to carry you over the threshold.”

Before Geneva could protest, Claudius lifted her. Laboring, he fell as Geneva sprawled on top of him. Vigilant neighbor ladies came to their windows, binoculars trained.
“Why, my lovely, are you resting upon me? Never have I experienced such pulchritudinous felicity.”

Geneva looked into Claudius’ now clear blue eyes. He stared at a cloud, wondering at its metamorphosis, from a sailing ship to a snow lion, then a polar bear. “Your soft form is comforting. Shall we move to the parlor and talk of romance?”

Again, he attempted carrying her, struggling towards the door. The neighbor ladies were fixed at their thinly veiled windows. Desperately wanting to call each other, wild horses could not have pried them away from their voyuerism. Claudius finally carried Geneva inside. The neighbor ladies rushed to their telephones, frantically dialing each other.
Geneva realized that Mr. and Mrs. Trumbull may arrive home at any time.

“My lady, we are in my castle of love,” said Claudius. “Now I shall draw my bath so that I can be …pristine for you. You may await in your chamber, or mine.” Claudius walked toward the winding stairs, stopped, then pulled his zipper to another tune.
You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain,
Too much love’ll drive a man insane . .

Forgetting the next words, he mumbled some do-do-dos, then collapsed into a large chair. Arising, he announced as he ascended the stairs, “I am off, madam. We shall meet in the boudoir.”

In about ten minutes, Geneva heard the slamming door of an automobile. She was besieged by panic and fear. Anything but Mr. Trumbull’s Lincoln, she hoped, then looked out the window. It was indeed R.T. and Violet Trumbull.

“Lord, Mr. Trumbull’s here. I hope Miz Trumbull's not with him. Pleeease,” she prayed. “Mister . . . Doctor . . . Whatchamacallit . .” Geneva called up the stairs in a loud whisper, attempting to warn Claudius, now immersed to his chin in the tub. He created hurricanes and tidal waves that crashed into bars of soap, which were ocean liners and islands at his mercy.

A puppy had followed Claudius. Imagining it a great whale, he lifted it into the tub.
“You have come to join me. Perhaps Geneva would join us. I shall make an inquiry.”

Downstairs, the Trumbulls had entered the foyer. Geneva was there to greet them.“Good afternoon, folks.” she said. She was certain that the Trumbulls could hear the water splashing in the tub. “Uh, it’s good to see you home.”

“It is good to see you, too, Geneva. How has your day been?” asked Mr. Trumbull
.
“Oh, fine. Very fine,” she replied, trying to disguise her traumatized state.

Exiting the bathroom, Claudius heard voices downstairs. Looking into the hallway mirror, he nodded approval before proceeding. Geneva heard him coming, and hoped to stall the meeting. It was too late.

“I see guests have arrived,” said Claudius, paused at the landing. “Geneva, be so kind as to fix them a drink on this lovely day. This is the South.”Clad only in a towel, Claudius continued downward. Recalling the hurricane he had created, he whirled slowly like the wind. He imagined the Trumbulls as swamped by the storm. Concerned that they needed something to dry them, Claudius was in a quandary. His training as a gentleman made the choice easy. Whipping off his towel, he offered it to Mrs. Trumbull with a bow."My lady, allow me,” he said, as she ran shrieking.

In a state of frozen incomprehension, R.T. asked, “What, Sir, are you doing here?”

“This is my home, lad. You are always welcome,” said Claudius, offering R.T. his towel. “You must have had an ordeal on the seas.”

“What? I . . you . . who are you?” asked R.T.

“I am Dr. Claudius Blackwell the Third. Veterinarian. Is there an an ill animal on your boat? Rains must have been torrential. Bad for animals. Very bad.”

Claudius began spinning and waved his towel. Tying it to his waist, he grabbed Geneva, waltzing to some lost, fleeting tune. The waltz was overtaken by Johnny B. Goode’s pounding guitar. He had an irresistible need to play his zipper, but his pants were upstairs! Frantically, his eyes searched the room. Ah, hah! There was R.T. Trumbull! Must be a zipper on his pants somewhere, Claudius reasoned. Releasing Geneva, he strutted toward R.T., following the beat. Claudius grasped the unsuspecting man’s zipper like a pit bull as lyrics came to him.Deep down in Loosiana close to New Orleans, back up in the woods among the evergreens . .

The guitar rocked and rolled, crescendoed, then reverberated throughout the doctor’s acoustically padded mind. R.T. was unsure how to react. Claudius became alarmed because R.T.’s hair was turning to flames! He had a solution. There was a pail near the bathtub. He tore up the stairs, filled the pail and raced back down. Terrified of Claudius’ intentions, R.T. ran out the door.

Claudius saw flames climb higher from R.T.’s head as he chased him across the lawn. R.T. hoped to reach his Lincoln before the doctor caught him. Violet sat in the car, suffering an anxiety attack. R.T. signaled her to open the door. Unsuccessfully.
Claudius was relieved to be gaining on R.T. The flames were out of control. Just as R.T. knocked on the driver door window, Claudius swamped his head. The flames died right out.

“I am pleased that the fire is extinguished, “ Claudius exulted. “Please take my towel.”
R.T. wiped his face in bewildered anticipation.

“Good sir, I shall return to my bath and prepare for the day. Ms. Washington may join me. Please bring your lovely wife for a return visit. My home is your home.”

With that genteel and hospitable invitation, Dr. Claudius Blackwell III walked back to his home, in the Southern breeze.

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