A Star studded day
By Sirius Dogfire
Beyond the village of Avonne, amidst the hills and conifers of Star Provincial Park, a hare and two dogs were seated just below the sunny side summit of a tussock coated knoll. The hill's north face overlooked Star creek. Which lent it's name to the park. At the base of the knoll's south side, lay a dirt road. A yellow Citroen belonging to someone else was parked some distance away.
They had hiked in from Avonne. Paying no mind to the parked Citroen. Focusing their attention to ascending the knoll. Near the summit, the three settled in. One sat up, taking in the sights while the other two lay on their backs. Eyes closed. Napping under a fine Sunday morning in late spring.
Almost, but not quite middle aged. The trio were an odd combination. A brown, lanky hare in dirty green overalls laid on his back, chewing on a grass stem. A front pocket patch identifying him as an employee of the Avonne Department of Maintenance. One of the dogs, a slim built, brindle greyhound was dressed in beige slacks and short sleeved plaid shirt. He napped with a somewhat sad frown on his muzzle. The tallest sat upright, erect, as if at attention. A tan and black alsatian clad in naval 'casual' khaki shirt and blue trousers. Dark eyes and muzzle scanning the nearby terrain of mixed grass and forested hills beyond.
"Rather nice of you two to meet up with me after all these years," Axel proclaimed to his napping companions. Former school chums. Axel had just moved back to Avonne after a career in the Navy. His manner of dress reflecting his reluctance to part with the regimented dress code and organized, military life of the Navy. He continued. "It's like nothing has changed."
"Things rarely change around here," replied the reclining Sike. Greyhound eyes still closed. "Avonne remains pleasant enough in Spring and Summer. Winters are misery. And the local economy, except for the summer tourist trade, is still in a permanent stasis of recession."
Gast spat out his grass stem and yawned, exposing a set of huge jackrabbit incisors, the hare opened his eyes, "Hey, this beats sitting on a bench in front of the Pub all day." He slowly sat up, extended his arms in a slow stretch.
"We used to wander around these hills when we were in secondary school," he added.
"Skipping class as I recall," Sike replied. He reached up to scratch the side of his long, brindle colored muzzle.
"I certainly didn't," Axel noted.
Gast snorted, "You were too busy being a Crossing guard and Hall monitor. Goody two paws."
"It prepared me for the rigors of the military," Axel glanced back at Gast's dirty overalls. "Unlike you I had no intention of downgrading my career sights to becoming a day laborer for the village."
"Village maintenance has put me everywhere." Gast raised his voice, mimicking a faux Rutger Hauer tone, "I've..seen things you canines wouldn't believe. Gossip in Village Hall corridors while painting trim molding. I've fixed pipes glittering about in the dim depths of subbasements. You'd be astonished at what's buried down there."
Axel shook his head, muttering, "Trash bins and storm sewers?"
Gast chortled. "At least I came in contact with water. You spent what...twenty-five years in the Navy? A seaman clerk in a land locked naval records warehouse."
"I'll have you know I made Petty officer!" Flustered, the black and tan dog added. "First class! And I've just retired with honorable discharge and pension."
Gast's nose wrinkled. "Piffle. A petty rank for a petty job. At least Sike went off into the big city for adventure."
Sike finally raised himself up into a seated position. "It's all a matter of perspective. It's true, I set out from Avonne as a young dog. Bright eyed and waggly tailed. Off to the high speed rat race at a telecom company. Married and divorced in record time..."
He paused to swirl a pattern in the grass with a clawed finger. "Worked ceaselessly. Trying to be a rising star. Only to be downsized after high management voted to follow the latest MBA trends and ran the firm, like the Titanic, against the iceberg of incompetence."
"So what brought you back here?" Axel asked.
Sike's partly folded ears sagged. Muzzle crinkled in a frown. The greyhound sighed, "Cost of living. Not only did the company go under. So did my pension and stock fund."
Gast patted Sike on the back. "Cheer up Sike. I told ya I'd put in a good word at the Provincial DOT."
Sike's teeth parted in a light smile as his tail swished the grass in a slow wag. "My thanks. I got the job application form. There's just one hitch."
Gast leaned forward. "What's that?"
"Specific instructions require an updated photo to be sent in with the application. And I quote 'A recent printed photo or the preferred method, a Polaroid snapshot, of the applicant must be clipped to the application.' No exceptions."
Axel's ears splayed sideways. "Polaroid instant snapshot? They've been obsolete for years. Not to mention the company. You'd think the DOT would notice the passing of the twentieth century."
"Coming from the Navy, even you should be aware of the importance of following bureaucratic instructions to the letter."
Gast asked Sike. "Got a regular camera?"
Sike shook his head. "No. And the application is due Wednesday. Three days from now. But I'm not going to worry about it right now."
The hare turned his head sideways, staring at the yellow Citroen in the distance. Sike's muzzle followed Gast's gaze. Followed by Axel.
Alsatian, greyhound and hare pondered the yellow Citroen parked on the dirt road below.
Gast suddenly spoke. "That's Walter Loup's car. What's he doing up here?"
"Walter Loup? Doesn't he run a curio and antique shop on Main street?" Sike replied.
Axel frowned. "Walter Loup. Barely four and a half feet tall. Stubby Walt he was called at school. He never struck me as the outdoor type."
Sike's arms reached skywards, stretching as his long jaws gaped wide in a might yawn. "Hyah! Perhaps he's out clearing his lungs after dusting off antique highboys in his shop."
Gast tugged on Axel's shirt sleeve. "Hey, there's a trail head near that car. Leads around the knoll to Star creek. Let's peek over the summit and see what he's up to."
Axel rolled his eyes. "It's none of our business what he's doing here...then again."
The trio turned over and crawled up the final few yards to the summit top. A pair of canid snouts peered over rock studded overlook while a brown hare's face lay next to a large rock, long ears pinned down to avoid being seen.
Below, lay Star creek. A meander of clear water babbling over gravel bars. Low cedars, spruces and dwarf Douglas firs dotted the bottom flood plain. By the sandy shore at the foot of the knoll, someone had laid a bright red, gingham patterned picnic cloth near the stream's edge. A woven picnic basket lay atop it. Next to it, stood a short, bushy-tailed gray lupine wearing brown slacks and a yellow shirt patterned in plaid stripes that were nearly day glow bright. Pointed ears stuck up comically on either side of a black beanie cap jammed atop a canid head. He held an odd shaped camera. Squinting through it and motioning to someone dimly seen under the shade of a fir tree.
"Hallow hallow." Gast whispered to his friends. "That's Stubby Walt all right. He's with someone."
From under the tree, emerged a willowy tall female. Very tall. Of Llama extraction. Long necked in a pelt of alpaca brown and dusty white. All very noticeable as she was wearing very little while posing by a pile of shed clothing in front of Walter Loup.
"Oh my," Sike muttered. He flinched when Walter's camera flashed. Even at the top of the knoll, they could hear the odd whine of the camera mechanism as it spat out a square bit of paper from it's front. "He's taking a nude photo shoot with a Polaroid."
"Good gracious, she's tall," Axel gasped. "A bit young too."
Gast cackled softly. "Hey, it's her! The cashier at the grocery store! Ho ho. I bet Walt's wife doesn't know about this."
"Keep your voice down, " Axel hissed.
Gast drew away from the summit. He backed down the knoll. Axel and Sike followed. They sat a few yards down from the knoll's summit. Gast leered, "If you ask me, she can ring my register anytime..."
The alsatian rolled his eyes. "Pull your tongue back in. You're drooling all over your overalls."
The brown hare pointed back towards the summit. "You call that carrying on? Picnic and photo shoot? If I was Walt, I'd be rolling with her atop the picnic cloth by now!"
Axel motioned with his hands and arms. "Quiet. They'll hear you."
"Quit flapping your arms." Gast gazed down at the car. Lost in thought. He smiled and stood up. "Come on, we're taking a hike back to Avonne. The long way."
A few hours later, the trio trudged along a little used trail which abruptly terminated against the dead end of a paved alley in Avonne.
Axel puffed his cheeks. Panting and thirsty. "Gast, why did we come back the long way?"
"To give him time to return to his lair." Came the reply.
Sike looked ahead. "Isn't this Teal Alley? Goes right up to Main street."
The overalls clad Gast nodded his long eared head as he pointed to a slate brick clad store flanking the alley. The shop's alley facing loading door was painted in prominent letters. [i][b]Loup's Antiques and Curios[/b][/i]
They made their way to where the shop's street facing glass curved around a side frame against the alley entrance. In the shop window front, they could see yellow shirted Walt Loup placing a vase in the display case.
Gast sauntered up to the window. He tapped it, making a rude face. Walt looked up. The gray wolf laid his ears back. Annoyed countenance gazing back at the hare in green overalls.
Leaning forwards and using his hands as a funnel cupped against the window, Gast spoke. "We saw you. By Star creek."
Walt mouthed a glass muffled 'what?'
Gast answered through cupped hands. "You were photographing her! From the Grocery store!"
The wolf's ears shot up upright. Eyes wider than saucers. Lower jaw dangling like a flag in a dead calm. Walt's grey pelted arms waved, gesturing towards the direction of the alley loading door. He darted away from the shop window.
Gast cackled, motioning to Axel and Sike. "Let's pay him a visit."
Axel stared at Gast. "Did you have to embarrass the poor wolf?"
"I have my reasons."
They returned to the alley in front of the loading door just as it opened. Walt stepped out. The short wolf looked up at Gast, Sike and Axel.
"Could you three keep mum on this?"
Sike patted Walt on the side of his arm. "Relax Walt. We're not saying a word on what's been seen."
Walt sighed. "She's just a shy, little thing."
Gast snickered. "Little? She's so tall she can change a street lamp bulb without a ladder."
Axel barked at Gast. "We don't wish to know that!"
The khaki shirted alsatian leaned forward, speaking to Walt in a low voice. "Don't worry. Your secret is safe with us."
Gast gazed past the open door. "Say, ah Walt. Sike and me need to step inside and discuss something a bit further. In private."
Gast turned around. Facing up at Axel.
"Stay out here," he commanded. "That's an order."
Flustered. Axel stood by while the pair entered the shop. The door closed.
A short while later, the loading door opened. Sike stepped out, holding two Polaroid snapshots in hand. Gast followed, carrying a bag.
Walt's muzzle hung in the dimness as he called out. "Mum's the word now?"
"We never saw a thing," replied Gast.
The loading door closed.
Sike's tail wagged. "How fortunate that Walt had a stack of working Polaroid film for his antique SX-70 camera."
Gast looked over Sike's shoulder at the snapshots. "That's a fine likeness of you. Put one on the application and frame the other on your mantle."
The hare looked up at Axel. He held the bag up to the alsatian.
"And for your patience. A gift."
"For me?" Axel took the bag. He opened it and pulled out a folded, blue, navy dress jacket.
"I don't believe it...it's..."
Gast finished for Axel. "An old naval dress jacket. With [b]Senior Chief[/b] Petty officer markings."
"I don't know what to say. How much did you pay for this?"
"Not a penny. A bit of barter for our silence."
Sike smiled, losing his sad frown for once. "Gast, you're the center of the underground economy around here! A pole star of untaxed commerce."
"You mean blackmail," Axel countered.
Gast chuckled, "I charge very reasonable rates."
He pointed towards Main street. "Hey, I'm footsore and thirsty. Axel is going to buy us all a round of Ale at the Pub to celebrate his promotion."
The brown hare glanced up at the alsatian. "For receiving a Senior Petty officer's dress jacket. Wear it at the Pub and start telling naval war stories worthy of Horatio Hornblower."
The trio strode out of the alley, heading towards the village Pub.
© 2013 Sirius Dogfire ("SiriusDF"). May not be reprinted, reposted, or redistributed without permission. First appeared in the June, 7 2012 Thursday Prompt series hosted on FurAffinity by Duroc.
Taking place in an imaginary land resembling Canada. Three middle aged former school chums, two dogs and rabbit, meet up after many years. And notice something odd down by the creek bed...
The story takes it's tropes from an old Brit television series.
A question for Huskyteer, can you recognize the trope?