Re-Introducing Colonel Bob, Part 3: From Thereby Hangs A Tail
Bernie searched the cabin, went over it on his hands and knees. Something about Bernie – or any human – on hands and knees always got me going so I had to wait outside with Colonel Bob. We walked around the pond. The sun was hot on my back. I paused for a drink.
“Taste good?” said Colonel Bob.
It did. We walked some more. “This PI gig pay at all?” the colonel said. “That car of his looks pretty beat up.” Huh? He was talking about our car, the Porsche? I glanced up at him, saw the faraway look in his eyes. Sometimes humans got that look when they were talking to themselves inside; I was pretty sure of that. And if no other humans were around, sometimes bits of that talk leaked out. Like now, when he stopped and said, “Saved my goddamn life.” He took out a pack of cigarettes and lit up. I loved the smell of cigarette smoke, but Bernie was trying to quit so I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I’d want. Colonel Bob tossed the match into the pond. “Hell on earth,” the colonel said. The match sizzled. What a sound! The things it did to my ears! Do it again, Colonel Bob!
But he didn’t, just stood by the pond with that inward look, taking deep drags off the cigarette, and soon Bernie came out of the cabin, tucking away the surgical gloves.
“Find anything?” said Colonel Bob.
“Just the spotlessness,” Bernie said.
“Don’t know yet,” said Bernie. He glanced at me. “But something not good.”
Colonel Bob held out the cigarette pack like he knew Bernie would take one, and Bernie did. The colonel flipped him the matches. Bernie lit up. I got ready for another sizzle, but it didn’t happen. Instead Bernie blew out the match, shook it a bit, then put it in his pocket.
“Pack in, pack out?” said the colonel.
“It’s the way to go,” the colonel said. “Wish I had your discipline.”
“Me?” said Bernie. “Discipline?” Was that a new word to Bernie? Sure was to me.
“Yeah,” said Colonel Bob. “You.”
Bernie was silent. They smoked by the side of the pond.
“How’s the leg?” said the colonel.
“Perfect,” said Bernie.
“No ill effects?”
“I was lucky.”
“Sure looked bad that night,” the colonel said. Bernie stayed silent again. “That fuckin’ night,” said the colonel.
“Yeah,” Bernie said.
“Think about it much?”
“Nope,” said Bernie. And then: “Some.”
There was a long silence. The smoke from their cigarettes rose in the still air and slowly mingled. The colonel said, “Life is pretty good.”
“Yeah,” said Bernie.
Pretty good? Life was great! How could anyone miss that? It was right out there every day.
“We done here?” said the colonel.
“For now,” said Bernie.
“Want to fly us back?”
Huh? Bernie could fly the chopper? He looked at the colonel, a funny expression on his face, and started laughing. The colonel laughed, too. They laughed and laughed, doubled over, laughed till tears came.
“Hey, Chet, down boy. Easy.”
That laughing till tears came thing: always too much for me, but I tried my hardest to stay down.
Bernie wants to follow the Iditarod Race. Any suggestions on how?
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