Chetspeak on Sunday: PAW AND ORDER, Ch. 1, Excerpt 4
There’s a kind of silent excitement that can spread quickly through a group of humans. It’s got some sweat in it, the sour kind, plus a funky part, male and female. I smelled it now, and the fur on the back of my neck rose up. Ferdie got to his feet, and I smelled one more thing: he had a gun in his pocket, recently fired.
Ferdie—even huger than I’d thought, now that I saw him up-right—gazed down at Bernie like he hated him, which made no sense since they’d hardly even met. “Willing to bet I’m too drunk to beat you to a pulp?” he said.
Bernie got a distant look in his eyes, the way he does when he’s doing his deepest thinking.
“Yellow, huh?” said Ferdie, which I didn’t get at all, Bernie’s skin being tanned and a bit reddish if anything.
“It’s more the syntax,” he said.
“A little tricky, took me a moment,” Bernie said. “But sure, I’m on. Although why don’t I just take the money and spare you the pain?”
Ferdie roared. More bull than man, but the sound didn’t scare me. I’d seen enough fighting—and done plenty myself—to know that when it came to humans, the silent ones are the most dangerous. Did Ferdie flip the table right onto Bernie and come swarming in, throwing heavy roundhouses with his huge arms? Possibly, but I was on my own feet now and facing away from the action, setting up a friendly little boundary, just making it easier for everybody. From behind I heard a thump thump, and maybe one more thump, Ferdie still pounding away, and then came a brief pause followed by a snap that reminded me of wishbones on Thanksgiving—my favorite holiday, but no time to go into that now—only much louder, and right after that there was a horrible cry of . . . how to put it? Agony? Not Bernie’s of course, but it really did scare me just the same.
I turned. Bernie was on his feet—the money already tucked into the pocket of his Hawaiian shirt—setting the table back up in the proper way. Ferdie lay on the floor kind of . . . how to put it? Writhing? That was as close as I could get. His arm was at an angle you never see. Just the sight of it made a big bearded biker a few tables back puke all over a paper plate stacked with cornbread. I came close to losing my appetite, and in that moment of not concentrating on my job, almost missed Ferdie’s biker gal—the one with the thick neck, even thicker than his, I now saw: what a time we were having!—whipping a little pink-handled gun out from under her bra. Luckily for me—and I’ve had so much luck in my life, starting with flunking out of K-9 school on the very last day, which was how I met Bernie—I can go from just standing around to flying through the air in no time flat, always the best time there is. The next thing I knew I had that little pink popgun in my mouth and the thick-necked biker gal was holding her wrist and calling me names I’m sure she didn’t mean.
“Nice work, big guy,” Bernie said, taking the gun. A breeze sprang up behind me and after hardly another moment went by, I realized it was my own tail in action. Was I cooking or what?
– from PAW AND ORDER, on sale Aug. 5 (but already available at Eight Cousins in Falmouth Mass., where Spence launched it last night.
Welcome new friend Linus.
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