The New Dog

John’s dog Max met him at the door after work.   “Who’s a good dog?” John said.   “Do you want to go to the park?”   Max barked and wagged his tail.

John grabbed his leash and some bags and they were out the door. It was a short walk to their favorite park. It was dog friendly and had a large area where dogs were permitted to run around off leash. Max always seemed happy to see his friends again.

To his surprise, John saw his neighbor Tim standing next to the off-leash area holding a leash. “I didn’t know you have a dog,” John said.

Tim looked down at the leash and laughed. “Yeah, I just got him a few weeks ago. He’s kind of an odd dog.”

“What do you mean?” John asked. Max barked. John looked down. “Sorry buddy,” he said. He unhooked Max’s leash. “Go play.”

Max ran off. John watched him go. “Which one is yours?” he asked Tim.

“He’s the one coming this way,” Tim said. “Brown with black spots.”

The dog jogged over and dropped a bright red fish on Tim’s shoes. “Where did he get the fish?” John asked. “There isn’t any water anywhere near here.”

“It’s a red herring,” Tim said. “His previous owner was a detective, and there are certain things he just can’t seem to let go.” Tim wrapped his hand in a bag and picked up the fish. He slid the sides up around it and tied the bag into a knot above the fish.

“Go play, Scooby,” Tim said. The dog ran off.

John searched the field to check on Max. Max was running towards him with a stick.   “You want to play fetch?” John asked.   Max dropped the stick and wagged his tail. John threw the stick far out into the field. Max ran after it.

Soon, he returned with the stick and dropped it again and waited. John threw the stick again. “That looks like fun,” Tim said.

“Doesn’t Scooby play fetch?” John asked.

“Sort of,” Tim said.

Max brought back the stick and John threw it again.   While he was gone, Scooby came back.   He dropped a gun at Tim’s feet.   John and Tim began trying to wave away a cloud of smoke. “Is that on fire?” John asked. “Where did it come from?”

“It’s a smoking gun,” Tim said. He poured his water bottle over it and the smoke and steam grew worse for a moment. Tim and John waved their arms and coughed. Scooby wagged his tail. Max returned and dropped his stick and waited.

Finally, Tim was able to wrap the gun in another bag and John threw the stick again. “Go get a stick like Max,” Tim said. “Go on, Scooby.”

“Do you think it will work?” John asked. “Maybe you need to show him what a stick looks like first.”

“He’s a pretty smart dog,” Tim said. “I think he can figure it out.”

Max and Scooby returned at the same time. Max dropped his stick on the ground and wagged his tail. Scooby dropped a peg leg on Tim’s shoes. “Close enough,” Tim said.

Just then, Scooby started to bark at a man walking nearby. He growled menacingly.   “Scooby, don’t,” Tim said.

“What’s wrong with your dog?” the man asked.

“Are you a butler?” Tim asked.

“Yes, how did you know?” the man asked.

“It happens all the time,” Tim said. “He just finds butlers very suspicious. Don’t worry about it.”

“Okay,” the man said. He walked away. Scooby continued to growl until he was out of sight.

Tim threw the peg leg. “Go fetch,” he said. Scooby ran off.

Max barked and John threw the stick. Max ran after it.

Scooby was sniffing the ground and going in the wrong direction. John laughed. “You’re right,” he said. “Scooby’s a little odd.”

“Yeah, but he’s a very good dog,” Tim said. Scooby dropped a clown mask at his feet.   “That one’s creepy. Thanks Scooby.” He scooped it into a bag and knotted the bag. Scooby barked and wagged his tail.

Too Much Help

Clyde was tired of paperwork.  Everything required paperwork.  Well, he had filled out his last form in triplicate.  He was going to make a stand.

As long as he was staging a protest, he might as well enlist some helpful minions.  Clyde put an ad in the paper, and prepared to conduct interviews.  Half of the responses were spam.  He deleted them and scowled.

Most of the other half insisted on benefits like health insurance and dental care and being paid.  Good minions weren’t paid.  That was paperwork.  Finally, he found a response from a college student looking for an internship.  Perfect.

Kevin was early to his first day of work.  Too early.  Clyde opened his front door to get the morning paper and Kevin was standing on the front steps waiting.  He was wearing a suit and tie and grinning.  “Hello, sir,” he said.

“Gah!” Clyde said.  “It’s six in the morning, what are you doing here?”

“You told me to come in the morning,” Kevin said.  “It’s morning.”

Clyde sighed.  “Come in and sit on the couch and don’t touch anything.  I’m going to change out of my pajamas and eat breakfast.”

“Okay,” Kevin said.  “I could make you cocoa.  I’m good at making cocoa.”

“Fine,” Clyde said.  He went upstairs and changed.  He came back down, ignored Kevin, and ate breakfast and read the paper.  He forgot all about the cocoa.

He remembered the cocoa soon after he sat down to tinker with his doomsday device.  The device wasn’t really meant to be used, of course, but it would keep people from showing up asking for donations or survey information or back taxes.  He figured the best defense against all those paperwork pushers was a good offence after all.  Unfortunately, Kevin had left the mug of cocoa on the shelf right above the device.

So, when Clyde was reaching for the screwdriver without really looking up, he knocked over the mug of cold cocoa and it splashed all over the doomsday device.  There was a flash and a fizzling sound and a puff of smoke.

“Kevin!” he yelled.

“Yes, sir?” Kevin asked, appearing at his elbow.

“Eek!” Clyde yelled.  “Where did you come from?”

“I was taking out the recycling,” Kevin said.  “It’s Wednesday, you know.”

“Kevin, why did you leave the cocoa over here?”  Clyde asked.

“I thought you could drink it while you were working,” Kevin said.

“No more thinking and no more cocoa,” Clyde said.

“Yes, sir,” Kevin said.

“Now I’m going to have to start over,” Clyde said.  He stomped over to the table and stopped.  The pile of blueprints and master plans was gone.  “Kevin.  Where are my blueprints?” he asked.

“It’s Wednesday,” Kevin said.

“Argh!  The recycling.  You didn’t!  Go get it all back now,” Clyde said.

“It’s gone already,” Kevin said.  “But I got you a nice surprise.”

“I don’t want to hear about it.  I’m going to see what I can retrieve from my computer.  I think I scanned some of it,” Clyde said.  Was Kevin really his only option?  Maybe he didn’t need a minion after all.

He opened the door to his office.  There was a white fluffy cat walking on the keyboard.  “Ack! Kevin!”

“Did you find the surprise?” Kevin asked.

“There is a cat on my computer,” Clyde said.  He shooed the cat away and began to type and press buttons.  “It erased everything!  Why did you bring a cat here?”

“I thought supervillians liked cats?” Kevin said.

“I’m allergic to cats.  At this point, I’d rather do paperwork than deal with this any longer.  I’m going to call the lab and see if I can have my job back.  Go home, Kevin, you’re fired.”  Clyde sneezed.

“But sir,” Kevin said.

“Go home,” Clyde said.  He picked up his phone and started to dial.

Kevin picked up the cat and left, closing the door behind him.  He started walking home.  Two blocks away, his phone rang.  “Hello, this is Kevin,” he said.

“Good work, Agent K.  One less potential threat to the safety of humanity.  I have the details for your next assignment, are you ready?” a whispery voice said.

“Yes, sir” Kevin said.  The cat meowed.

A Mystery Tale

Little Red was taking the day off from her summer job. The deliveries would have to wait. Recovering from trauma was more important. She was so grateful that her uncle, a woodcutter, had come along to check on Grandma Hood. Things could have gone much worse. Her nightmares had made that very clear.

Mom knocked on the open bedroom door. Red rolled her eyes. “Come in,” she said.

“Are you doing okay?” Mom asked.

Red sighed.   “I think so.”

“Do you think you could go and tell your brother that it’s lunch time?” Mom paused. “If you don’t think you’re up to it, I can go.   You’d need to watch your sister.”

Red stood up and stretched. “No, that’s fine. He’s just up the road.   I’ll go get him.”

Little Yellow was already in her highchair, smashing peas with a spoon. Red waved as she went by. Yellow giggled.

Red trudged uphill to Grandpa and Grandma Riding’s farm. Her brother Blue was working there over the summer. Red scrunched up her nose. Cows and sheep and pigs were a bit smelly. She preferred the delivery business, as long as it remained wolf free of course.

A dragonfly zoomed past her ear, glittering metallic blue in the sunlight. Red turned and watched its path as it flew over the crooked fence of the farm next to her grandparents.

Mr. Crook was hunched over, next to the fence, his hand inside his coat. His other hand held a shovel. He narrowed his eyes when he saw her looking at him. His angry gray cat hissed. It was walking with a limp. It had probably got into another fight with the neighborhood cats.   “Hello, little Red,” Mr. Crook said.

“Is everything all right, Mr. Crook?” Red asked.

“Oh, yes, of course. In fact, I just found a sixpence. I’m going to bury it right here for luck. So I can’t have you watching me. Move along, move along,” Mr. Crook said.

“Bye, then,” Red said.

A few minutes later, she was crunching down her grandparents’ gravel driveway. It was nearing lunchtime, but the sheep were still in the meadow. Usually, by now, they were moved into the pasture that had more trees to shelter them from the afternoon sun. Blue was behind schedule.

Red groaned.   She’d probably have to help him catch up before they could go home. It wasn’t fair. She stopped when she heard crashing sounds to the left. What was that? For a moment she imagined bright eyes and sharp teeth. She froze.

Then Bella stuck her nose out from the tangle of cornstalks and mooed. Red laughed. It was just the cows. But wait, how had they moved from the meadow into the cornfield? Someone had to have opened the gate. Where was Blue? Why hadn’t he blown his horn to call for help?

Red ran straight to the farmhouse. “Grandma! Grandpa! Blue is missing!”

Grandpa Riding ran out of the barn and met her in front of the house. “Red, what’s wrong?” he asked.

“It’s Blue.   The sheep are still in the meadow and the cows are in the cornfield, but he didn’t blow his horn or you would be there to stop them. Where is Blue and why didn’t he blow his horn?” Red was starting to cry. Could the wolf have come this far? It felt like she was stuck back in her nightmares from last night.

“Calm down, Red.   Let’s get Grandma and start looking.   We’ll find him,” Grandpa said.

They started looking. It was Red who was the first to see his legs sticking out from under a haystack. She yelled for help and they brushed the hay off of him. He had a big bruised bump on the side of his head, and there was a loot of blood in his matted hair, but he was breathing.

Red wanted to shake him awake and ask what happened, but Grandma insisted that it was better to carry him inside and call for the doctor. “You both figure out what happened,” Grandma Riding said. “I’ll take care of Blue.”

Red and Grandpa Riding watched her leave. “We’d better catch whoever did this,” Red said. She was so angry it felt like her ears were ringing. No one was allowed to hurt her little brother. No one.

“We will,” Grandpa said. He looked around, and started digging through the hay. “Do you see the emergency horn?”

“No,” Red said.   She started to dig through the hay.   Then she sat back on her heels.   “You know, I did see Mr. Crook burying something by his fence. His cat was limping, too.”

“But why would Mr. Crook take the horn and hit little Blue?” Grandpa Riding asked. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“Someone also let the cows in the corn,” Red pointed out. “Perhaps he caused other mischief that we don’t know about and Blue saw him.   If he thought he killed Blue, he might be trying to hide the murder weapon.”

“I don’t know,” Grandpa said.

“Let’s go dig up what he buried,” Red said. “If it’s the horn, then we’ll know.”

Grandpa Riding grabbed a shovel. They walked back down the driveway and found the patch up turned up earth. Grandpa started digging. Clink.   They brushed away the dirt.

There was the horn, dented and splattered in blood. “Do you have a handkerchief, Grandpa?” Red asked. “There might be fingerprints.”

Grandpa took a clean white handkerchief from his pocket and gently picked up the horn.   “I think it may be time to call the police,” he said.

Mr. Crook confessed to the crime. He’d actually stolen several cows and wanted to make it look like they’d escaped on their own. His cat had been injured helping him herd the cows to his property.

Blue had seen him, and Mr. Crook took the horn and hit him to stop him calling for help.   He hadn’t planned on hurting anyone.   Mr. Crook actually cried with relief when he heard that Blue hadn’t died.

Blue had a terrible headache for days, but he was otherwise all right. Red took over his summer job and was secretly relieved to drop the delivery business for a while.   She was openly relieved that it didn’t take long to get used to the smell of the animals on the farm. The nightmares finally went away.

Winter Square and the Sleeping Giants

One day, when Winter Square arrived at work, there was a message from his former clients the seven very tall brothers. “Winter Square, we have been receiving threats from our friend Mr. Gray’s evil step-daughter. What would you advise?”

Winter Square was concerned. What type of threats? This could be a dangerous situation. He tried to return their call, but no one answered. He called his assistant and asked for their file. Just as he’d remembered, there was a business card inside from their jewelry design business.

A clerk answered and said that the brothers hadn’t shown up at work and they had already missed an important appointment. Winter Square called the police and offered to meet them at the brothers’ apartment.

Winter Square stood back and let the police go first. However, once the first officer opened the door, he slumped over. The other officer automatically leaned forward to catch his partner and instead followed him down.

Winter froze. The officers were still breathing. There was obviously some kind of gas inside the building. Reluctantly, Winter stepped back. The officers were all right for now, but he needed to get help. He called emergency services.

Soon the apartment building was surrounded with police cars and ambulances and crime scene tape. Firefighters in gas masks carried the residents to the ambulances where they were rushed to the nearest hospital. Winter reported the mornings’ events to several different police officers.

While speaking to yet another officer, Winter saw the brothers and Mr. Gray being carried out of the building. Winter pointed out his clients to the officer and asked how soon he could contact them. The officer said that it would probably be several days before an antidote was found for the mysterious sleeping gas.

When Winter Square returned to his office, the brothers’ file was still on his desk. He picked it up and leafed through it. In the rental agreement the brothers had signed with Mr. Gray, Mr. Gray had included his home address and phone number.

Following a hunch, Winter called the number. “Regina speaking, who is this?” a voice said.

“Hello, this is Winter Square, attorney,” Winter said. “Earlier this summer, I wrote up a rental contract for your husband.”

“Ah yes, he did say that he was renting a room from some friends. Is there a problem?” Regina said.

“I received a message when I arrived at work this morning that said your husband had received a threat from your daughter,” Winter said.

“Hmmm,” Regina said. “What kind of threat?”

“I don’t know,” Winter said. “He didn’t answer the phone. When I went to check on him, I found that his entire apartment building had mysteriously fallen asleep. The building is now a crime scene and your husband and the other residents are at St. Michael’s Hospital.”

“Mr. Square, was it?” Regina asked.

“Yes,” Winter said.

“I believe I know what the problem is. I will contact the police immediately. Thank you for bringing this to my attention,” Regina said.   Then she hung up.

Winter Square had an appointment that afternoon, so he put the current mystery on hold in order to review his files and prepare.   Later, he met with a police officer to officially record a statement of his version of the events that morning. He didn’t hear anything more about the seven very tall brothers and Mr. Gray for three days.

On the third day, the oldest brother, Red called him from the hospital.   “Mr. Square,” he said. “I heard that it was you who called the police and saved us. Mr. Gray’s wife brought the antidote, so we’re all recovering more quickly than we would have without your help, too.”

“I’m happy to hear that you’re all doing better,” Winter said.

“Luckily we’ll be able to go home tomorrow. Can you believe it? Mr. Gray’s evil stepdaughter put chemicals that she stole from her mother’s lab into our air conditioner. I hope that she goes to jail for a long time.”

“I imagine that she will be punished for putting so many lives at risk,” Winter said.

“She’d better be,” Red said. “I thought Mr. Gray was exaggerating, but she really was evil. Now that she’s locked up and Mr. Gray’s wife has come and woken everyone up, Mr. Gray can go back home with her and live happily ever after.”

“That’s wonderful,” Winter said. “I’m so happy for you.   My assistant will send you my bill.”

“Of course,” Red said. And Winter Square lived happily ever after too.

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The Story of Winter Square

Once there was a lawyer named Winter Square. He was a very good lawyer and tried to be the fairest in all the land when mediating disputes. He had a great success rate for settling out of court.

One day, he had an appointment after lunch with a group of brothers. When they trooped into his office, the first thing that he noticed was that they were all very, very tall. And then he noticed that he didn’t have enough chairs. “How many of you are there?” he asked.

“Seven,” said the one with glasses.

“Four more chairs, please,” Winter said to his assistant.   Soon every one was seated. “Let’s start with introductions. I am Winter Square.”

The one with glasses stood up again. “I am Red, and these are my brothers Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Purple.” Each brother stood in turn and shook hands with Winter.

“I know they’re unusual names,” Green said.

“Mom really liked adjectives. She named her parakeets crazy things like Shy and Dozy and Grumpy,” Purple said.

“My name isn’t exactly normal, either,” Winter said.   The brothers laughed. “So, what’s the problem?” he asked.

“One day we came home from a busy day at our jewelry design business,” Red began.

“Here’s our card,” Yellow said. Red cleared his throat. “Sorry.”

“As I was saying, we got home, and there was a strange man in our house, washing our dishes,” Red said.

“That wasn’t the first time,” Green said.   “The first time he was sleeping on the couch.”

“No, he was cleaning the microwave,” Blue said.

“In any case,” Red said, “the man keeps coming back.   We changed our locks, but he came in anyway. When we called the police to take him away, we found out that he somehow got the charges dismissed and the officer let him go.”

“I see,” Winter Square said. “This is rather unusual. Does he do any damage? Is anything missing?”

“No,” Orange said.

“Has he said why he keeps coming back?” Winter asked.

“He said he’s hiding from his evil step-daughter who is home for the summer,” Red said.

“And why your house?” Winter asked.

“Our apartment was the first one he saw when he stepped out of the elevator,” Purple said. “He looks normal, really normal and boring, but I think he might be crazy.”

“Do you have a phone number or address where I can reach him?” Winter asked.

“We don’t even know his name,” Blue said.

“Well, the next time he comes, call me,” Winter said.

Three days later, Winter Square left his office to visit the apartment of the seven giants. The strange intruder was there. Winter had the paperwork for a restraining order in his briefcase, but hoped he wouldn’t have to use it.

The man was sitting at the table playing Solitaire.   “So what’s your name?” Winter asked.

He waited. “Gray,” the man finally said.

“So, Mr. Gray,” Winter said. “I’m sure you realize how unsettling it would be to find an uninvited stranger in your home. I understand that you don’t feel safe in your own home. Perhaps we can help you find some assistance.”

“My wife is a queen among women, but my step-daughter is evil. Would you let me stay if I pay rent?” Mr. Gray said. “I feel so safe snuggled into the giant furniture. It would only be on my days off during the summer.” His eyes looked wide behind his glasses.

Everyone looked at each other for a moment. “Well, if he paid rent,” Green said.

“He does help with the chores,” Orange said.

“I guess I’ve gotten used to him,” Purple said.

There was a pause. “Are we all agreed then?” Red asked. The brothers nodded.

“We’ll protect you from your evil step-daughter until you can return to live with your queenly wife and live happily ever after,” Indigo said.

“Until the step-daughter returns next summer,” Yellow said. Everyone looked at him. “Sorry.”

“Mr. Square, please help us write up a contract,” Red said.

A short time later, Winter Square left the apartment, agreement in hand. He had successfully mediated another conflict. He smiled at his reflection in the elevator door. “You’ve still got it,” he said.

“Winter Square, you are the fairest in all the land,” the reflection replied. Creepy. Winter Square decided to take the stairs.
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