Dogged

Basil had been a dog groomer going on 20 years. He had started out on human heads but finding them taxing and too talkative he took a short course to up skill. He was inspired after a drunken house party where someone had brought their new Pomeranian and were worried its fluff was getting beyond control.

‘She just keeps getting stuff caught in it’ was the owner’s complaint.

‘Basil’s a hairdresser’ the host told said owner. ‘I bet he could come up with a fresh new do’.

Basil was gathered, along with some clippers and fine scissors. Being buoyed by vodka and sheer idiocy his nerves were non-existence. But, to his credit, the owner was overjoyed with the outcome, despite the dog now looking like one of those weird shrubs your mum likes.

He found it quite different from cutting human hair. The texture, for one, slowed him down a bit. However, Basil was somewhat intrigued by his client who, except for the occasional stealth lick, was very calm and didn’t burden him with its life story.

When he woke up next morning he wondered to himself, as we all sometimes do, ‘Shit did I really do that?’.

Instagram confirmed that he had indeed done that plus #dogsofinstagram #pomeranian #doggrooming had garnered him a considerable increase in followers.

By Monday word had spread. Unfortunately some of that word had reached Basil’s salon, a low class high turn around joint on a certain long shopping strip.

His boss was livid.

‘Basil I’ve been in this industry a long time and have seen A LOT of things. But I’ve never seen something so irresponsible’.

‘I am sorry, it was just a spur of the moment thing’.

‘And what if you had of snipped the dog?’.

‘But I didn’t’.

‘Do you think this is a joke Basil? Because you won’t find OH&S so amusing when you’re out of a job’.

Basil slinked away. His books were full that week and he had been fielding enquiries from dog owners who were impressed with Frou Frou’s new do.

Walking home from work dogs seemed to be everywhere and in differing states of hair. Some were groomed top to toe. Others were more casual.

He got home and had a chat to his mum, who was unusually supportive.

‘Love if that’s what you want to do, you know I’ll always be behind you’ (this wasn’t actually true, she could be pretty lax as a parent).

Basil took this as a sign and, as mentioned, enrolled in a short course where he could study and practice at night. Within no time he had graduated and told his boss he would be retiring from human heads. A farewell party was had, glasses were raised and Basil was on his way. It seemed like yestermaday. But it was 20 years ago.

Basil now commanded his own salon with an exclusive range of clients – AFL and WFL wives, monied gentry, professionals with no time and a lot of money – the usual. No matter what was happening in his private life Basil would put on a cheery face and convince people that working with doggos was all it’s cracked up to be despite the nips and stage mum parents.

And then Toby walked in. A French poodle, Toby had a haughty and entitled attitude, much like our federal politicians.

‘He’s very particular about his fur and we were told you were the man to see. His last groomer unfortunately just committed suicide’ Toby’s mum told Basil.

‘Since then he’s not let anyone go near his fur and now I can’t even walking him for fear of embarrassment’.

‘Well’ Basil said cheerily, ‘Let’s try and put the spring back in his step’.

Basil washed Toby, who made several grunts at him. He was perky whilst trying to be soothing. So far so good.

‘There you go little mate, we’ll have you back on top in no time’.

Basil turned away to reach for the conditioner (it’s vegan, obviously – all of the range at Basil’s salon was). When he turned back Toby was looking straight at him.

‘Look here chap’ Toby said, ‘I’m not used to amateurs but I heard from the King Charles down the road that you know what you’re doing. So have at it and I’ll make it worth your while’.

The bottle of conditioner fell from Basil’s hand and onto the floor where it bounced a few times for dramatic effect. He looked around the salon. Surely this was some kind of prank?

‘Yes, you dimwit, I’m speaking to you’ said Toby. The dog let out a sigh and appeared to roll its eyes.

The next few minutes were taken up with the usual ‘dog starts to speak’ conversation. Toby had learnt English from his old hairdresser but yes it was a secret and no his masters didn’t know of his propensity to speak.

The rest of the appointment went along silently.

As Toby left he winked at Basil, who was wondering if he should up his meds or reduce them. He definitely could do with a Xanax and a lie down either way.

Toby and Basil continued to come together on a regular basis, with Toby bemoaning the stupidity of the human race and how one day he would bring it to its knees.

‘You will be spared for your skills’ he told Basil, who was becoming very uncomfortable.

One day Toby’s mum came in alone.

‘Oh is he sick?’ Basil said hopefully and then regretted thinking so cruelly.

‘Well he’s not fine, but he appears to be physically healthy. I just want to know; have you noticed anything unusual? He’s been avoiding me lately’.

‘Well he does talk quite a bit’.

Toby’s mum laughed.

‘Yes we all think they’re talking to us’.

‘But I mean…’

‘Yes I know what you mean; it’s like they’re human sometimes’.

Basil decided not to take it any further.

‘I’m hoping it’s just psychological and things will get back to normal soon’.

‘I hope so too’.

She went on her way. Basil looked at himself in the mirror. He’d lost quite a bit of weight and had been self-medicating. When not attended to his hair was showing patches of grey. His hands occasionally went into tremor as though they were screaming out ‘STOP’. He picked up the phone and dialed Toby’s mum’s number.

‘Hi, sorry, meant to say; I’m taking a bit of a break from the business to take my mother on holiday. She’s getting on and I thought we should spend some time together before… well you know’.

Toby’s mum expressed the usual empathetic stuff people express when someone’s mum seems vulnerable.

‘I’ll let you know when I’m back’.

He then went through all his upcoming appointments, cancelling each and recommending another groomer. That night as he shut the doors he felt as though Toby-shaped weight had lifted.

Basil went home, booked a flight to a remote island and packed his bags. He was gone by morning.

A few week’s later at stupid o’clock the phone rang in his serviced apartment.

‘Is that Basil Fankanarkle? This is the police’.

The voice sounded empathetic and Basil assumed that Mother may have slipped away.

‘It’s about your salon’.

‘Oh, is everything OK?’.

‘Well sir, I would suggest you sit down’.

Basil sat down.

‘The premises of your building. Well, they’ve been the site of a bombing. I’m afraid there’s nothing left except a message scrawled on the footpath saying ‘Fight the two legged fascists’. We need you to come in and make a statement’.

‘I’m actually in the middle of a much needed break right now’.

‘Ummm, yes, we’re aware of that. We just need to exclude you from our enquiries. I assume the building was insured?’.

‘Well yes of course, I built that business up over 20 years, of course I insured it’.

He drew a quick breath.

‘Wait – you think I was involved?’.

‘As I said sir, we need to exclude you from our enquiries. There’s also the matter of a missing dog, known to your salon’.

Basil was ready to pass out. The officer continued.

‘He was, or hopefully is still, a much valued pet and he went missing about the time of the explosion’.

‘I’m on an island, I haven’t seen him’.

‘So you know which pet we refer to? A French poodle named Toby?’.

‘Yes, of course. But I have nothing to do with his disappearance. I actually closed the salon just after speaking with his mother’.

‘She came in?’.

‘The day I left. She was having issues with Toby and wondered if I had noticed anything strange about him’.

‘And had you?’.

‘Well yes and I tried to tell her but she thought I was joking’.

‘But you weren’t?’.

‘No’.

‘Either way sir, we need you to come into the station and make a statement. If you can book yourself on the next flight out we’ll get this all sorted’.

‘Thank you officer’.

‘Oh and I am sorry to mention, but your mother was also found dead this morning’.

Basil put down the phone.

He thought about his last 20 years at work and how happy they had been, until Toby. Not only was his business gone, but his mum too.

The next morning he walked into the sea, never to be heard from again. A bit like Harold Holt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Zoo

I was going through a tunnel as the news came in. Someone had broken into the Zoo and let out the more dangerous animals: snakes, tigers, bears, oh my. It had been reported that the persons who did it then popped on the 55, yelling ‘Allah is great’ out the windows. They always report that. It’s very rarely true. Humans – not the sharpest.

Upon exiting said tunnel, everyone’s phones were pinging. Mine was the exception. No one cared. But, at least I could check Facebook, and that’s how I saw the news. The zoo is a couple of hundreds of metres from my house, which I was presently headed away from. I love the Zoo. Every few years they’ll come up with a new idea on how to make the animals’ lives more comfortable in a world where they have less and less land to hang out in. Anyways, I digress.

I was on my way to a TV studio to watch some political satire being filmed. Now I wondered – would they let us in? Would they need some time to rewrite a segment? Basically I wondered what the shit would happen and how I would get home considering everyone in my train carriage was now freaking the shit out even though we were A) on the wrong side of the river and B) on a train. Thankfully my pal Coconut was at the station waiting for me. Anticipating her first question I uttered ‘No it wasn’t me. I’m no vigilante vegetarian. But thank you for thinking I could’. For years I’d been wondering what would happen if the animals broke lose (discounting the whole fact that it would be pretty bad – they would get hurt, the zookeepers would be upset etc.) and staged a revolution. Now it was happening. Kinda.

‘Do you reckon they’ll still let us in?’ Coconut asked.

‘Yeah, I don’t know. Mayyyybe?’ I replied.

‘I guess we can just turn up and see’ she offered.

‘Totes, let’s go’.

Outside of the studio… Well, when I say outside I mainly mean the grass out the front… was covered in people. The station’s gate was closed and a few armed guards stood there. ‘Holy shitballs’ said Coconut. And I concurred. Obviously they weren’t letting anyone in. The proverbial crowd had gathered. Apparently the PM was actually inside and been doing an interview for a current affairs program as the zoo drama unfolded. Now they were shielding him. Not sure whether he was being shielded from us or the tigers and lions now roaming the streets, but it looked an expensive venture. I really wanted to yell out ‘Throw him to the lions’ but being arrested for sedition isn’t really my thing; he wasn’t worth it for a start.

It was now that the ‘Should wes?’ began. Could be fucked if I knew what we should do. The trains might be calm due to the predictable nature of humans freaking out. Or they could be delayed with everyone trying to get south, where we were, at once. I just really wanted to go home myself, crack open a beer and watch was going on in my jammies with the cat. There had to be a live stream surely? It was soon revealed to me that this was the same thinking Coconut had, but replacing beer for wine and cat for partner. Question was – could we get back over the river? We agreed to give it a shot. Traffic would clearly be mental so we decided to stick with good old PT.

The train station was the opposite of how I left it; empty and strangely eerie. I guess that happens when there’s just concrete, bright lights and wind. We were the only ones on the platform. A heavily auto-tuned voice cut the silence; ‘Due to delays on the Sandringham line, the 5.40 train to Sandringham will now arrive at 6.20. We apologise for the delay, thank you for travelling with Metro’. Fine, we weren’t headed to Sandringham. It seemed too easy when, with a roar and a rush, an empty train city-bound pulled up next to us. The state government had recently automated the service, replacing the human drivers with robots. It meant transport could run 24-7 and that human emotions weren’t involved, lest someone walk in front of the vehicle and traumatise the driver. Sure it was efficient, if not a little gross. The first people to take advantage of what the government called ‘trauma free accidents’ was a group of laid off train drivers, who stood en mass in front of a peak hour train in order to prove the inhumanity of it all. They were entirely right – many had lost everything, but now they were dead. They had proved their point though.

As we got on the train my phone started going off. Someone, besides Coconut, did actually care. It was my big sister. She had a big arsed car and was not afraid to traverse whatever madness facing us in the city to come get Coconut and me after which she would deliver us to the relative safety of our homes. Apparently the CBD had shut down buuuut if we got off at Richmond she could meet us there. That she was also carrying a slab of beer in the boot made it a viable option. We didn’t talk on the way in; checking news online and from anyone we knew who might be affected. Everyone seemed fine, although parts of Parkville (the next suburb over from me) had been evacuated to a big, apparently lion secure hall at the uni by the police. I wondered how my nephew Hank was dealing with it all. I hoped, as a small child, he thought it was a big adventure rather than being scared by the Police and emergency service workers (he had a thing about humans in uniforms – they freaked him out). He lived very close to the Zoo.

I wondered if I should feel more scared, myself, rather than excited. What if the cat had got out and taken on one of the larger felines? I wouldn’t put it past her. Seeing my sister calmed me the fuck back down. She’s one of those very competent, determined people where the only thing that really bothers her is other people who are shit. And even then she keeps those feelings under control unless at the pub where we can all bitch freely about the state of all of the things. Either way she was the only member of my family, besides my favourite uncle, who calmed me with her presence.

We got in the car and headed north, checking online to see what was happening. After giving me a beer (best sis ever) my sister chided me for my bad timing; ‘Surely you coulda picked another day to cross the river ya dick?’.

‘I just wanted to spend time with you. And here we are’. She LOLd.

The streets were, like the train stations, bereft of people going north. The lanes headed south looked like a disaster. We knew from the internets that people had been warned against travel north-west. But as a big city even after a couple of hours, our friends from the Zoo would hardly have made it that far. If I’d been in a nice, cosy environment where people fed and watered me and was then unleashed into humanity I’d find somewhere to hide and sleep it out until my friendly zoo keepers found me again. Humans? No thanks.

Weirdly it was now coming out that those who did unleash the animals were an animal rights group. I was suspicious of this – being a friend to our furry (and non etc.) creatures I would never put an animal in the face of danger. And for most animals that danger came from humans. Although I did know some pretty militant activist type people and, having gone to a meeting or two, had decided such (or any really) groups were really not for me. They seemed cultish and weird. So maybe it wasn’t such a strange idea. At least it was more original than someone blaming our much set upon Muslim community.

We were travelling pretty steadily but surely through back streets to avoid any police barricades. Were they out there? Facebook totes said so. I really wanted to be home, to be with my feline loved one and get an early night, hoping the other animals didn’t break through my apartment’s flimsy glass (well not flimsy so much as not up to zoo standard) and eat my cat as I slept. They probs wouldn’t eat me since I mostly consist of vegetable matter. OBVIOUSLY.

It took us about two hours to get to Coconut’s. Her partner had been monitoring our progress via text and let us know things their way were pretty quiet. She got out and ran up the stairs, probs most relieved to see her loo again. I totally had to pee too but was pushing it back up so we could get to mine soon as. Thankfully it only took us another half hour, by which time I was fit to burst. I let my sister use the facilities and went in the mop bucket myself. Needs must dude.

My feline overlord was pleased to see me because I represented food. And probs ‘cause she really really loves me deep down inside yeah? Anyways.

It kinda hit me how warm it was. The sun wouldn’t be going down for a while so I was hoping that maybe if one of the lions tigers, or dear gawd my favourite, the snow leopard made it into the court yard I could observe them in their unnatural habitat. Sure, like I said, probably should’ve been more scared. But I wasn’t. I was curious and a little excited. Or, as my sister so lovingly put it ‘a dickhead’. Well this dickhead was going to put her jammies on. Having lent some to my sister we decided to pour some of the beer into a jug and pretend we were down at my local. But with the telly and fans on you understand.

We were well into our second jug when there was a foghorn-like sound. I was thinking I must be kinda drunk as most days you can hear the train horns so that’s probs what it was. But no. Next came a human voice. ‘People of the North as you know, there has been an incident in your vicinity. We ask that you not panic but please remain indoors, with windows shut. We suggest not cooking at this time, until your area has been secured. Water and food will be delivered should the crisis extend beyond this evening’. Tops. Like if I wasn’t feeling like I’d been living in Orwell’s 1984 (thanks federal government), I certainly did now.

My sister and I rolled our eyes at one another. We had food and water. So long as the electricery held out we were pretty damned comfortable… which made me think of the people who wouldn’t be. ‘They’ll look after them, it’ll be fine’ my sister offered, sounding more like she was trying to convince herself than anyone else.

As happens during an ‘incident’ all the TV stations were taken over by news crews offering ‘live’ coverage. We all knew what that meant – repetition and repetition and repetition for hours with no new content. I wished that they’d just go back to their regularly scheduled programs and just use the rolling banners to update us. My sister had dropped off to sleep and was drooling when new news finally came through. They were on their way to herding the animals back to the zoo. Many were traumatised (see: humans) but the powers that be were leaving it up to vets to decide their fate after a nice sedative to the butt area. They had also identified a suspect. A former member of the Conservative Conservatives party, Lowden Puckmore had lost his seat after a scandal in which he had been using racist terms to refer to certain members of the public. In a strange turn of events his electorate, who had voted him in on the promise of some scarily nationalistic platforms, were not down with this. A few, being interviewed on the telly, referred to Mr Puckmore as ‘Un-Australian’ and things of that nature. Puckmore in turn had some kind of mental break and decided he would be able to destroy all those ‘Melbourne leftie, chai latte sipping, single malt drinking, Guardian Reading, Green voting wankers’ by releasing dangerous animals into our city’s (see: my) federal electorate. Obviously his reasoning was totally piss weak and his plan was shithouse. We can say that and laugh as it seemed no one was eaten or even maimed. Seriously; what a tool. But, he had managed to stop the city by rendering it vulnerable. Which is a pretty shit thing to do. Anyways, all this was still in the ‘allegedly’ stage. We were told not to speculate as it might prejudice peoples’ rights to a fair trial and due process, ya know, that stuff which protects us all. I just went along hoping it was him ’cause he sucked.

That done, and with the day’s events finally hitting us we decided to watch some soothing SpongeBob, referring back to the internets for any updates.

When dawn came, the animals were miraculously safely back in their cages whilst Puckmore had been placed in his. We would see what the investigation revealed in due course. In the mean time it had already been a heady week and it was only Tuesday. As they say, things could only be up from there. Or something.