Henry found a dog. It wandered in from the dusty streets, sniffed around the trashcans. From his screen-door Henry whistled. The dog came right away, sat on its haunches, head crooked, awaiting a command.
It wasn’t Henry’s first dog, but it was his best. Australian Cattle Dog, spotted randomly, patches of strange color, odd and unique. Bright green eyes. He named it Luther because the eyes reminded him of Kryptonite.
It surprised him to see how readily Luther followed commands.
“Sit,” Henry said. The dog sat.
“Roll over,” he commanded. Luther rolled over.
The man did that all day. Every command was met without hesitation.
Henry showed the dog off with pride to his friend Carl.
“Fetch a stick!”
The dog did it.
“Get my slippers, pal,” Henry was just screwing around, he didn’t own any slippers. But to both their surprise, Luther bolted through his doggy-door—sprinted like mad down the street.
“Guess your great command following dog just ran the hell away,” Carl said gruffly.
Henry shrugged, what was he supposed to say?
Half an hour later, Luther appeared with a pair of brand new pair of luxury silk slippers clutched lovingly in his fangs. Tags still on them.
The man told the dog to feed itself. To give itself a bath. To take its heartworm pills. No issue. Command received. Action taken.
He was very pleased. He gave the animal more and more sophisticated commands, all met unflinchingly.
“Pick your dog crap up off the lawn.”
“Take the trash out.”
“Do the dishes.”
“Mow the lawn?”
The man couldn’t believe it. Luther got the lawnmower out of the shed, checked the gas and oil. Pulled the chord, began to mow.
He described to his friend Carl, how expertly Luther had done all of the yard work. How the dog had even edged the front walk. “Then, the dog bagged the grass clippings.”
“Get outta here …” Carl said, impressed.
They sat in the air conditioning while Luther weed-whacked the yard in the squelching heat.
“He’s gonna wash my car next,” Henry said with pride.
Carl finished his beer, burped, crushed the aluminum can on the floor with his foot. “Oop, now we’re outta beer.”
“Alright, let’s send the dog.”
They did. They sent the dog. The first time Luther trotted down the sidewalk. The next time, Henry let the dog borrow his bicycle.
The man put the dog to very heavy use, but he also rewarded the dog well. He fed the dog thick steaks every night, took the time to pat its head often. Luther slept at the foot of the bed. Often on a sandy beach, a tennis ball was heaved into the surf. Luther chased, his pink tongue flopping in the wind as he sprinted forward in glee.
The two were very happy to have met each other.
Carl dropped by again. He was drunk and had been thinking about things. He was out of work and about to miss his mortgage payment again.
Luther was working. Up top laying shingles. Henry would’ve helped, but he was afraid of heights. Luther didn’t seem to mind working alone anyway. He was quite comfortable on the extension ladder and a real pro with the nail gun.
“Tell your doggie to go get us some money.”
“I don’t think so. I don’t need any more than I have.”
“Don’t be like that … pal, don’t be like that.”
Henry refused. Carl was being unreasonable. He kept insisted in his gruff way about sending the dog to knock over a jewelry store. Surely, Luther was capable, he could do anything. The pup would come back loaded with diamonds.
A heated argument broke out. It got bad fast. Soon fists were flying. Kicks. Screams, red faces. Carl’s hands were around Henry’s throat.
The dog didn’t even know what was happening. It was operating some air powered tools on the roof. The compressor too loud.
Henry somehow slipped out of the choke hold and slammed Carl’s head into the ground.
Carl lay there lifeless.
Dead. Just like on TV.
The man called his dog inside. He packed his things. The two of them got into the car and drove feverishly. The man was terrified of jail and he had just killed his friend. The farther he drove the more upset he got. By the time he crossed state lines, the police were aware.
The man pulled over. They switched. Now the dog drove.
The first of the police cruisers appeared in their rear-view. Luther stomped the gas but couldn’t shake them. His nose got wet. His ears flopped down in fear.
A helicopter rose over the highway infront of them
“We’re in it now,” Henry said.
The police bullhorn said: “Pull over. There’s nowhere to go. We have you.”
Luther just howled sorrowfully.
The man nodded. The dog pulled the car onto the shoulder, dust plumed up. The police swarmed. It was all over.
But a solution to the problems occurred to the man as the police approached the door. He knew how to solve it.
He said to his dog that would follow any command, “Bring my friend back to life. Raise Carl from the dead.”
Luther closed his bright green eyes, lowered its head—began to quiver and shake.
In the the morgue, Carl sat up, coughing and wheezing.
The blood suddenly flowing through his heart.
Everything was OK.
The police vanished. The helicopter vanished. So did; the worries, the threat, the fear, the unquenchable terror of a fate worse than death.
Henry and Luther exchanged a long glance. Then the man opened the passenger side door, stepped out of the car. “Goodluck,” he said to Luther. His dog barked hard at him three times, then drove away down the highway.
Henry watched the car disappear on the horizon and felt relief.
Henry and Carl sat in the air conditioning, watching the ball-game.
Carl was feeling better, he wasn’t dead anymore.
It was just like old times. Carl, crushed the last beer can. “Oh, we’re outta beer … need to go to the store.”
Henry got his car keys. He’d have to go and get the beer himself.
Carl pointed to the man’s new cat, a calico named Wiley.
“This new cat of yours doesn’t do anything. You couldn’t even make him if you tried.”
“It’s for the best,” Henry said.