Several heartbeats before Pack Leader realised it, I knew Computer had quit.
My big furry semaphore ears, damaged as they are by a life spent with humanity, had detected the loss of one thread of sound, one tiny voice, well before Pack Leader exploded.
Credit where credit is due: humans curse more colorfully than any animals I know, except ravens.
Your mouse is dead, I yawned at Pack Leader. It has stopped squeaking. You need batteries.
In wolfish terms, it’s all rather amusing, isn’t it? Humans thinking a piece of plastic with chemical batteries in its tummy is anywhere near as interesting as a real, live rodent?
Pack Leader shook the mouse in my face. “Hear that?” she snarled in her best imitation of Alpha Wolf. “See that? Blue light! I may have lousy ears compared to yours but I assure you, Mr. Big Bad Wolf, this mouse squeaketh just fine!”
I shrugged. Okay, the keyboard, then. Somewhere, the batteries stopped singing.
Pack Leader stopped yelling at cantankerous old Computer and returned to her Chair of Pain and Pleasure. She picked up the keyboard, turned it upside down and shook it, while yelling at it: “You lousy piece of….” You get the idea.
The keyboard must have been scared enough to loosen its sphincter muscles, because it dropped the equivalent of 59 gourmet mouse meals on the desk.
“Holy—!” said Pack Leader.
Nope. I moved close to inspect. Not holy—just nasty. Let the mice have it, because if there’s one talent real mice have, it’s turning nasty old bits of cuisine into fast food on four feet.
“Maybe I should take this opportunity to clean the keyboard,” said Pack Leader. “Since I must wait until tomorrow to buy new batteries. It does look a little…gross.”
Ya think? I commented, turning around three times on my cushion. There would clearly be a delay before our Salute to the Stars, a.k.a. evening w-a-l-k-i-e-s.
She took the keyboard off into the kitchen for a good drubbing and scrubbing with cloths and brushes. “Did I ever tell you,” she yelled from there, “that studies show that one of the most bacteria-laden places in the average house is the computer desk?”
You needn’t have spent a year’s milkbones on that research, I told her. My nose could have told you any day that your keyboard was beginning to smell like an old refrigerator.
An increasingly ominous silence ended with Pack Leader emerging from the kitchen all quiet-footed. Adopting her best low, lethal tone, the kind of voice cougars use just before jumping some poor creature and tearing its throat out, she said, “And just what…is the meaning of this?”
In one paw she held aloft the offending keyboard. In the other…a black wad of doghair. My hair, seeing I’m the household’s only brunette.
“There’s enough here to build another dog,” she menaced. “So that’s what you’ve been doing while I’m sleeping the sleep of the innocent and the just! Typing!” She waved a long, sharp pin in my direction, obviously the tool that had found me out by lifting those webs of wolfy fur from between the keys.
I can’t help it. I waved a strikingly beautiful silvery front paw at her, a trick which usually disarms her instantly. Not guilty! No opposable thumb, remember? And yet, like you, dear Pack Leader, I must write! Here I lie, and shed fur while dreaming stories—I can do no other!
“You are so full of it,” she said. “How am I going to stop this mess you make, you filthy old wolf?”
A quick quid pro quo was needed. Have you any idea, I asked her, how much I clean up after you and your apish friends? I check out the toilet to be sure the water is fresh and good. I check out the Garbage Gift to be sure you didn’t waste any edibles. Remember that pan of soup you elbowed off the counter yesterday? Whose tongue cleaned the cupboards and the kitchen floor? Speaking of that floor, thanks for switching to organic cleaners, because I voluntarily sort out the crumbs you drop on the floors and choke down whatever’s edible. Have you really no idea that everywhere you big apes go, you leave trails of stuff behind you?
Pack Leader looked thoughtful. She’s not the dumbest ape I ever met.
Emboldened, I continued. On top of all that, I kiss your sore feet. I lick your wounds. I nuzzle your weary hands. You love that—admit it!
“I read somewhere,” Pack Leader waxed philosophical, her way of losing gracefully, “that dog saliva actually contains healing substances.”
Duh. I leaned into her so hard she had to put the dead keyboard down. I licked her free hand. For good measure I nosed the foot she limps on, suggesting it might be time to pad around outside under the stars.
“So, Mr. Furry, if I clean up after you, you’ll clean up after me? Is that it?”
I bunted her knee affectionately. Like pups and packmates, some apes can be licked into submission. Cleanliness, I said, is next to dogliness. Didn’t your dam teach you anything?