Tommy and the Talking Dog

Lewis Shiner

Talking Dog

By Lewis Shiner
Distributed under Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.
"If you can answer three questions," the dog said, "you can wear the magic shoes."
Tommy looked up and down the deserted street. "Did you ... say something?"
"That's right. Didn't you hear me?" It was a gruff voice, with just a trace of an English accent, and it was definitely coming out of the dog.
"You're a dog." In fact it was a huge, fat bulldog, with big flaps of skin hanging off the sides of its face. From where it sat, on the front steps of the abandoned motel, it looked Tommy straight in the eye.
"That's correct," the dog said.
Tommy stared hard at the dusty windows of the motel office. "This is a trick, right? There's a TV camera back there and you want to make me look stupid."
"No tricks, Tommy. Just three questions."
"C'mon," Tommy said. He deepened his voice. "Sit up." The dog stared at him. "Roll over. Play dead."
"Cut the crap, Tommy. Do you want the shoes or not?"
"Let me see 'em."
The dog shifted its weight to one side, revealing a battered pair of red Converse All-Stars. "Yuck," Tommy said. "Those are gross."
"Maybe," the dog said, "but they're magic."
"What are the questions?"
"Which of the following presidents died in office? Lincoln, McKinley, F.D.R.?"
"C'mon. They all did. That's the same dumb question they use when they're trying to sell you a free portrait on the telephone."
"Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead?"
"They both weigh a pound. This is stupid. Next you're going to ask me who's buried in Grant's Tomb."
The dog narrowed its eyes. "Have you done this before?"
"Ulysses S. Grant," Tommy said. "Lemme see the shoes."
They were just his size and felt pretty good, even though they were scuffed up and the metal things were gone out of the side vents. "I don't feel any different," Tommy said.
"You need the shoes to look for the treasure," the dog said.
"What treasure?"
"When you're wearing the shoes, you can open the doors of the motel rooms."
"Uh uh. No, sir. My parents told me not to go in there. Besides, they're all empty anyway."
The dog shrugged. Tommy had never seen a dog shrug before. "Suit yourself," the dog said.
"Hey, wait a minute. Tell me about this treasure."
"You have to find that for yourself." The dog started to walk away.
"Hey!" Tommy said. "Come back here!"
The dog kept on walking.
Tommy flexed his toes inside the shoes. Magic. He looked at the row of motel rooms, their dusty tan walls almost golden in the late May afternoon. He would already be in trouble if his folks knew he was hanging around the place.
He went to the first door and opened it.
Inside a woman sat in a chair, watching TV. Tommy felt a hot flush go up his face. "Jeez, I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't think there was anybody here."
"It's okay, Tommy," the woman said. "Come on in."
Tommy took another step into the room. "You know me?"
"Sure," the woman said. "You're wearing the shoes." She was a little older than his mother, and very fat. An open Whitman Sampler box sat by her thick right arm.
"Who are you?" Tommy asked.
"Nobody. Just a mother." The room was bigger inside than out and didn't look like a motel. There was a playpen in one dark corner with two kids in it. One of them hit the other with a plastic rattle. A third kid crawled around on the floor, dragging a blanket. The place smelled bad, like sour milk and old coffee and the bathroom at school.
A man's voice on the TV said, "Susan's going to have my baby."
"What are you watching?" Tommy asked politely.
"Nothing. Just a show."
The kid who was getting hit started to whimper. The woman put a chocolate into her mouth with a quick, almost guilty snap of the wrist.
"Well," Tommy said. He felt the way he did when he'd been looking forward to going swimming and it rained. "I have to go."
"Shhh," the woman said. "This is the good part." Tommy went out quietly and closed the door. He wondered what the dog had expected him to find. He went to the next room and knocked gently.
"Come on," said a big male voice.
Tommy opened the door and found himself in front of a long wooden desk. Behind the man at the desk was a window with narrow blinds, slanted to let the sun in. It made it hard to see the man's face.
"Tommy!" the man said. "Come right on in!" He stood up and held out his hand. Tommy shook it and backed away. "How in the world are you?"
"Fine," Tommy said. "How come you know who I am?"
"The shoes, son, the shoes! Now what can I do for you?"
Tommy hoisted himself up into a chair that was too
Continue reading on your phone by scaning this QR Code

 / 4
Tip: The current page has been bookmarked automatically. If you wish to continue reading later, just open the Dertz Homepage, and click on the 'continue reading' link at the bottom of the page.