Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Vanishing 

Our league hosted an Ultimate Frisbee tournament on Sunday. After the games were finished I decided to drive back and get the dogs and let them run around on the fields while we cleaned up, which is perfectly within the letter, if perhaps not the spirit, of the contract I had to sign banishing Billy Jack from all Frisbee tournaments. Elizabeth drew up this contract (which is legally binding, according to Foxylawyer) because the last tournament he went to he barked and squealed and had a noisy tantrum each time I went on the field. Besides the horrible noises he made, he was also an all around dangerous nuisance, tearing into other people’s bags and stealing sandwiches and Power Bars, shredding other dogs' toys, “marking” backpacks, and just basically leaving an endless swath of destruction and annoyance. We had even resorted to “aversion therapy” by making him wear a collar which delivered an electric shock to his neck every time he barked. Billy deviously thwarted the collar by raising his bark into this castrato high pitch which is just outside the range of the collar’s triggering device, but well within a particularly painful and damaging section of the human ear.

On the way back I gave Billy his ball (his preeecccious) to occupy him while I drove, which is sort of like handing a ADHD child a Gameboy so he won’t bother you in the car and you can concentrate on the road. I heard him worrying and playing with it and all seemed fine. When I arrived at the fields I parked the car and opened the door to let the dogs out. Spoonie trotted out but Billy was nowhere to be found. It was as if he had vanished. I knew this could not be possible - all the windows were sealed, no doors had been opened. It was just like a locked room mystery scenario, or the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock, and I was convinced I was losing my mind. After running up and down the car and shrieking his name like a hysterical ninny I finally heard a faint wheezing whimper.

I followed the sound and, incredibly, it seemed to be coming out the side panel speakers near the back seat, sort of like Carol Ann’s voice emanates from the television after she disappears into another dimension in Poltergeist. Before I made a fool out of myself and began sobbing, "Billy, are you in there?" into the speakers I saw the tiniest tuft of white fur protruding from beneath the back car seats, which had been flattened so we could load all of the equipment for the tournament. His ball had apparently dropped down beneath the front passenger seat and he had flattened all 30 pounds of himself – perhaps by collapsing his ribcage like a rat – and squeezed himself through a crevice that was only several inches wide. Then he had squirmed and twisted his way down to the air pocket between the flattened seat and floorboard like a drain snake and then had wedged himself good and tight in there. The ball remained under the front passenger seat, just out of snout reach.

His breathing was faint but labored and I was convinced that he was suffocating and there were only seconds to spare. After wailing for help with the car seat, which I couldn't figure out how to lift because I was in a such a state of useless panic that I probably needed a good slapping, we finally managed to lift seat up off of him. When the weight of the seat was lifted Billy gasped a few times and then immediately resumed his mission and began barking and digging at his ball. Now that he wasn’t being crushed by the weight of the collapsed back seats he managed to reach it. He snatched it in his mouth, jumped to his feet and then ran out of the car in a blur like the bat out of hell that he is.

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