Monday, March 7, 2011

How not to start your day

It’s early morning, too early to be awake, and certainly too early to be dressed and struggling into my boots. Night still drapes heavily over the house, blackness pushes in at the windows.

Morgan closes the door behind him, heading outside to start the car as I sit on the second step in the entryway and pull on my boots. Titus turns from the door and barges past the duffle bag I have unceremoniously dumped at the bottom of the stairs with my toque and mitts perched on top. He shoves his big pumpkin head between my arms and then turns his tiny brown eyes, each beneath a rich golden brown polka dot, to stare into mine. I scratch his ears roughly and kiss the top of his wide head.

“Thanks for coming to stay Titus,” I say. “Sorry I won’t be here for the rest of your visit.”

I grab the wet towel I washed that morning after Cleo peed on it for whatever purpose she deemed reasonable, and push past Titus to hang the towel on the line by the woodstove. Murdoch lies in front of it on Titus’s bed, his black shape a solid shadow in the dim light from the stairs. I take a step in his direction as his head dips to his paws frantically and I know he's stuffing something into his mouth. Of course, it’s my toque.

“Thanks Murds,” I say, trying to sound cheerful as I reach for the scrap of fabric sticking out the side of his mouth. Sometimes that is all it takes for him to loosen his jaw and let me ease his latest prize from between his teeth amidst great gobs of goober. But this morning, while I’m on a tight schedule to catch a plane, he decides to hold on tighter.

“Okay Murds, mine!” I say forcefully. His eyes goggle up at me and seem to say: “You don’t want to mess with me lady, I’m crazy!”

“Mine!” I try again and tug a little harder. In my bleary-brained early morning stupor and my rising panic to get out of the house on time, a window that is quickly closing, I don’t really notice Titus creeping up beside me.

If I hadn’t draped the towel over Murdoch’s face to try and trick him into releasing my toque, perhaps I would have left the house that morning with my sanity in tact. Instead, I am suddenly standing with a wet towel in one hand and a soggy, limp toque in the other, stunned in the wake of an explosion. The entryway shrinks instantly, every square inch of breathing room swallowed up by a manic swell of energy. Titus and Murdoch bash into each other, locked chest-to-chest. They are the same height standing on hind legs and their heads blur in a frenzy of sharp, snarling strikes. Gleaming white teeth snap and grab at necks and shoulders.

“HEY!” I yell in my now signature ‘voice from hell’ that will leave my throat rough and raspy for most of the day. “STOP!” I smack them both with the wet towel, directing its long, limp form like a whip, hoping to get their attention. Nothing.

They tumble into the corner, Murdoch flattening Titus with a sudden surge forward. I search frantically for the spray bottle then grab it from the top of Murdoch’s kennel, sight down the length of my arm and pull the trigger in quick, sharp bursts, again and again, sending a jet of water straight into their faces. They continue fighting for a moment amidst the barrage, but with less focused energy and then step apart, squinting as the water hits each of them between the eyes. “That is enough!” I continue to pull the trigger as they circle each other warily.

“In kennel Murdoch.” I say with venom dripping from each syllable. “Titus, on your bed.” I have to spray him once more before he goes.

I lock Murdoch’s kennel against the still-charged atmosphere. He peers out at me with big round eyes while Titus perches on the very edge of his bed. I glare at them, throw on my jacket, wipe slobber from my toque, snatch up my bag from the floor and step out into the darkness while stray bolts of adrenaline snap at my heels.


  1. Eeeek, that sounds scary! What's a "toque?" A hat maybe? I'm going to have to google that one...

  2. Actually it was more shocking and disappointing than scary. The pair of them had already had a couple of scuffles and I thought they'd worked it all out. They're just a couple of macho bruisers.

    And, yes, a toque is a hat, a winter one (pronounced tuke, if you were wondering).. a bit of a Canadianism :)