Present and Unaccounted For
By Sirius Dogfire
You can never depend on good things occurring on Saturday mornings, Sike thought to himself as he carried a broken spoked bicycle wheel in his front paws. Formally dressed and wearing a vest, the brindle greyhound padded down the sidewalk next to the cobblestone lane on a summer mid-morning. The main street of the little town of Avonne nestled within forested hills and trails of nearby Star Provincial Park.
The little tourist town boasted a picturesque main street lined with shops, antiques and a curio place or two. Along with a grocery store and a mountain bike shop for the summer tourist trade. And of course, Hera's Pastry and Donut shop. Which was closed.
Odd, Sike thought to himself again as he passed the Closed sign hanging behind a window. Hera kept the place open on Saturday. Oh..that's right. The funeral. But she's not likely to be invited. Especially by Joyce.
Ahead, striding in the opposite direction, was an imposing middle-aged Alsatian wearing a naval dress jacket. Since Axel had taken early retirement from the Navy, he rarely wore it.
"And how goes the state of Dogdom today?" Axel asked Sike.
"In the Present, it's all broken spokes and funerals." Sike replied. "Poor old Tex."
Axel nodded, "Very sudden I heard." The tan colored shepherd aimed his dark snout at the held bicycle wheel. "You're not presenting that thing at the funeral?"
Sike glanced down at the wheel. "Oh no. I'm taking it to the mountain bike shop around the corner. Front wheel broke when I took my bike out early this morning to get the mail."
From a side street emerged a tall, lanky brown hare dressed in green overalls that were freshly washed and pressed. A prominent patch was sewn on the front pocket. Identifying the wearer as belonging to the Avonne Department of Village Maintenance. He waved.
"Aye up all!" Gast called out. He walked up to the pair. Glancing down at Sike's bike wheel, he leaned forward. "I hate to break this to you Sike. But everyone else brings just flowers to a funeral."
The inside of Sike's ears flushed. Axel rolled his eyes at Gast's work clothes appearance. "You're not going to the funeral dressed like that?"
"Of course not. I can't go anyway. I'm on a service call to unclog a septic tank at the counsel hall. But I'm delaying the job so I can see Tex up at the house."
"Up at the house?"
"Aye. Joyce, Tex's missus, said the three of us could come up to take a gander at him. He's lying in state at their home. It'll be a mini wake before they pack him out to the church."
Axel glanced up at the town square clock. "Right then, let's not tarry. Sike, dump that wheel off at the bike shop and let's go."
Pine Ridge street ran atop a low ridge overlooking Avonne. Containing the smartly built and upper class homes of the village's mayor and magistrates. Joyce Hilbert, the daughter of a wealthy province judge, had her home up there.
The trio stood before the sheltered mahogany door. Though the late Tex was a successful proprietor of a machine shop. The house was in Joyce's name. And being married into a dynasty of stern cattledogs had placed him at the bottom of the social heap for the well-heeled.
Axel rang the bell. To the tune of Westminster chimes, an elderly brown furred poodle of a maid opened the door and let them in.
They were led into a drawing room of high plastered ceiling, overstuffed furniture and inlaid wood wall panels. Atop a table pedestal lay a simple, but elegantly furnished oak coffin. Fully opened and lying in state was Tex Hilbert.
In life, he had been a tall, brownish red doberman with ruggedly handsome features. Laid out and dressed in a fine pin-striped suit and wearing a spotted red tie. Eyes sewed closed and muzzle having the oddest of expressions placed on a dead dog. His light colored lips were pulled back in a peculiar manner. An impish, fang exposing smile.
The maid had left, leaving Sike, Axel and Gast alone with the coffin. The three stood solemnly in a line overlooking Tex.
Axel sighed and muttered in a low voice, "Typical of the funeral industry. Can't even present a corpse properly."
Gast turned his head and whispered in Sike's ear. "Do you see that grin? Is he laughing at us?"
Sike whispered back, "You know, it's been rumored he was ill for a while and didn't die of a heart attack in his bed here but elsewhere..."
Gast snickered, "It's no rumor. I know where he kicked it. In bed with Hera, the owner of the pastry shop."
"Quit speculating," Axel growled.
"It's true. He's been carrying on with her for years. Once a week, spent the night over at her place. She's a right voluptuous jackal, Hera is. Looks like Tex died with a smile on his snout."
"Be quiet. Joyce will hear you!" Axel hissed just as a dark dressed and veiled figure came into the room.
The three bowed politely. Joyce Hilbert stepped into the room. Of medium height, dark furred, tall long ears. White speckled arms and neck.
Sike humbly said. "We bring our condolences."
Joyce drew back her mourning veil. Revealing the face of a long muzzled, black and white cattledog. Bright brown eyes spoke of stern authority and a focused determination that could and would seize any annoyance by the neck and throttle it good.
"Good Morning." She said with an austere air. "It's customary to have a wake, but I'm making an exception to keeping it short and limited."
Gast looked over at Axel and Sike, then at Joyce. "Excuse me, but is it just us three?"
Joyce nodded. "The three of you. I don't want his herd of business cronies tramping all over my best carpets and draining the wine and whiskey. So I settled on this informal event. And you three are the best behaved of the lot."
She strode over to the coffin. Leaning over it and staring at her late husband. "Well I hope you're satisfied you damn dirty dog."
Axel's jaw dropped. Stunned at Joyce's language. He closed it and sputtered. "Ah, is there anything we can do?"
"Like bring his things round from Hera's?" Gast added. He ooofed as Axel drove his elbow into the hare's ribcage.
Joyce smiled grimly. Exposing her sharp fangs. "You might as well hear the full story from the horse's mouth and not from the jackass rump of rumor."
The ebony dressed cattledog eased her way to the head of the coffin. "Three weeks ago, he had to go into the hospital. Rheumatic fever. Damaged his heart. Just this Wednesday, the Doctor let him come home with a list of medical Do's and Don'ts till they could schedule a proper bypass operation."
Joyce looked down. "And on Wednesday night. We had a row over one of the Don'ts. He could accept the no fatty foods restriction. But whined like a spoiled pup over the no fornication note. Said it was my suggestion to put it in the list, not the doctors."
She paused for a while.
"Well, maybe it was the medication," Sike suggested. "He didn't sound quite right in his head."
Joyce looked up and snorted. "Oh he was in a right determined state of mind all right. Started grumping that if all bad things should be cut out for medical reasons, why wasn't I put on the list? And later that night he snuck out to her place."
Joyce's white tipped, thick black tail swatted as she leaned over the coffin again. "You thought it was a good idea to sneak off that Wednesday night with a ticky heart. How do you feel about it now?"
Axel muttered. "Oh dear."
Sike shook his head. "Launched himself like a high cliff diver and left you to pick up the pieces at the bottom."
Joyce looked up and replied. "Well, I'll give that jackal bitch at the Pastry shop credit for keeping this out of the newspapers and for persuading the coroner to record Tex as dying in bed here at home than over there."
Just then, the mantle clock chimed the hour. Joyce stood tall.
"The Wake is over," she announced. "See you at the funeral this afternoon."
A lone, plump figure in a dark dress and veil stood by the back door of an old stone church. Voices singing the Doxology drifted out of the open windows. The door opened and an elderly Sexton beckoned the jackal woman inside. When the service finished. She left via the same door.
Later, Sike was the first to leave the small gathering clustered around the grave site after the final clogs of dirt were thrown in. Axel stayed behind, thanking the minister and giving more condolences to Joyce before leaving. The shepherd strode down the hill to Main street and met up with Gast. The hare's work overalls now a bit oily.
Axel's nostrils twitched, he gruffed. "I hope you washed up after crawling around in a septic tank."
"You're lucky. It was only a balky circuit breaker afflicting the pump." Gast proclaimed. "A simple reset."
The hare looked behind Axel. "Where's Sike?"
"He left early. Been acting rather odd lately." Axel replied. Alsatian and Hare walked down the sidewalk adjoining main street.
"Sike is always odd after a funeral. Funerals are depressing." Gast said. He raised a dirt stained fist skywards. "They make me want to live life to the fullest. Like going into the Pub and getting roaring drunk!"
Axel paused. "After today, I tend to agree."
Gast's smiled, exposing huge yellow lapine incisors. "Great! Does that mean you're buying us a round?"
"That was quick."
By then, the two had reached Hera's Pastry shop and noticed it was open. Pausing by the window, Axel pointed to a familiar figure huddled over a table inside. Sike.
The pair went in.
Hera's pastry shop was a throwback to earlier times. A glass covered, stainless steel front counter lit by crinkled copper light fixtures. Contrasting blonde colored, faux wood paneled walls. Six round, white tables took up space in the customer room. Metal legged, stool like chairs in cherry red vinyl padding ringed the tables. Each table had a plastic vase with an array of flowers. Native wildflowers, daises and a few greenhouse varieties.
A large sign hung over the front counter. It read [i][b] Pastry Counter closed for today. Free Coffee! Help yourself. For emergency service. Press the Service Bell.[/b] [/i]
A row of coffee dispensers and stacks of Styrofoam cups lined the counter. As the pair helped themselves to a cup, they noticed Sike leaning over and nuzzling the flowers. The greyhound was mumbling soothing words.
Axel tapped Gast on the shoulder and mouthed a wordless, 'WTF'. The hare shrugged as they approached Sike's table.
Axel barked. "What are you doing?"
The seated Sike raised his head, still clutching the flowers. A wicked smile on his long muzzle for the briefest of moments, then replaced by a serious frown. "Shhhh! Your overbearing military voice is disturbing them!"
"What are you talking about?"
"Haven't you read the latest pop-sci article about Plants being sensitive to voices?"
Gast snickered. "Sounds like talk from a right daisy."
The pair took up chairs while Sike spoke.
"It's true." The greyhound announced. Voice low and soothing as he leaned over. Snout hovering over the leaf of a wild flower. "Plants respond to emotions around them. Take these native wildflowers. They grow in fields and are then cut loose to live a short life as a floral presentation. If you want them to thrive, you must speak soothing words and stroke their leaves gently."
Gast's long, long ears snapped upright. "What a load of rubbish!"
Axel shook his head, "We were going to invite you over to the Pub. Now I'm wondering if we should present you to the District Mental Health clinic."
Sike sat upright, raising a brindle pelted arm. "Hear me out." He glanced briefly over at the counter, then faced his companions. He reached into his vest pocket and extracted two ten dollar notes. Holding up the multicolored notes with the stern, ferret face of a former prime minister.
"I am willing to bet, " Sike continued, "Two tenners. If you two will counter bet one ten note each. All to prove an experiment."
Gast and Axel leaned forward. "We're listening," they replied.
Sike laid his notes down, "If you two start stroking the leaves of these wildflowers and speak soothing tones. I bet that something surprising will happen!"
Hare and german shepherd looked at each other, cracked toothy grins and then both pulled out a ten note from their respective pockets and laid them down atop Sike's notes.
"Done!" Gast announced. "Easy money."
"What do we do?" Axel asked.
Sike slid his chair back a foot towards the counter. "Lean forward. Present yourselves properly. Now, extend one digit of your index finger and begin gently stroking a flower leaf. And start saying soothing things to the flower pedals. You know, sweet nothings and the like."
Reluctantly, Axel and Gast leaned towards the vase in the center of the table. Two clawed index fingers touched a few leaves. A short lapine and a long dark canine snout eased up to some flowers.
Sike's thin tail wagged. "Go on, say some soothing tones."
"Mumble....sweet gal..mumble..oh what a good girl..." muttered the voices of Axel and Gast.
Sike watched the pair. He slyly slid his chair back against the counter. Turned around and raised his arm. He pressed the service bell button firmly. In the back kitchen, it rang.
Several seconds later. A white aproned, heavy set yellowish jackal woman opened the kitchen door. Coated in flour dust.
"Hold your horses, I'm busy in back. What's up?" Hera barked as she leaned over the counter and froze. Her eyes popped open at the sight of a seated hare and german shepherd stroking her table flowers like lovers!
"What are you weirdos doing to my flowers?!" She shouted, "OUT! OUT! OUT!"
From the entryway to Hera's pastry shop, a hare and alsatian darted outside. A few moments later, Sike eased out, he folded four ten notes into his pocket. Hera tapped him on the back.
"Sike Preston, you hang out with some mighty strange idiots."
Sike turned around and patted Hera's shoulder. "It's alright. Life presents you with all kinds of entertainment."
He started down Main street, calling out to the fleeing pair. "Wait up! Drinks are on me!"
© 2013 Sirius Dogfire ("SiriusDF"). May not be reprinted, reposted, or redistributed without permission. First appeared in the December 27, 2012 Thursday Prompt series hosted on FurAffinity by Duroc.
7 December 2013 at 12:30:56 MST
Taking place in the little tourist town of Avonne in a fictional land somewhat similar to Canada.. Following the events in A Star Studded Day
Semi retired trio of two dogs and a hare encounter funerals, rumors and flowers.
For Huskyteer, name the BBC telly trope this is based on.