Dog and His Boy
Chapter 6: New Friends And Old Enemies
Copyright© 2011 by TC Allen
Henry drove carefully as he followed the directions relayed by Gage's mom. The adults discovered although they were from very different backgrounds they had many things in common and enjoyed each other's company. "Too bad we had to come down here for medical reasons," Henry Storm remarked. "You are some of the easiest to get along with people I have met in a long time. Ever since I got back from the Middle East I have had to stick close to the Veterans' hospital in St Cloud. Now even those treatments aren't working like they did, I am afraid we are going to have to sell our house and move down this way. I can see Vikki won't really mind. Her two older brothers will not like to leave their friends behind and start all over in a new community and school."
"Do they play ice hockey?" Gage asked.
"Jason, my oldest son is captain of his hockey team and Mark, the youngest by ten minutes, plays guard. They are the most rabid hockey players and fans you ever saw." Henry was very proud of and close to his family.
"Oh, give them a week and they'll forget all about living up there in Frozen Brains, Minnesota. We have more championships than any other school district in the state." Gage was also very proud of his school teams.
They pulled up in front of a large home on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis. The neighborhood was in one of the wealthier parts in a newer subdivision. "Nobody here on food stamps," Steve remarked. Well, everybody out."
Peg came running out of the house and hurried to meet them. "Linda, Steve and Gage. You made it. And this must be the Storm family. She shook hands with Henry and Ellen. Vikki just stood there, dumbstruck.
Peg put out her hand to shake Vikki's and the girl just stood there. Gage said, "Hey, beanpole. Shake the lady's hand." This startled Vikki and she grabbed Peg's hand and shook it.
"I have wanted to meet you ever since you spoke at our school last year. We all just loved you." She was obviously in the throes of hero worship.
"Why thank you." Peg was obviously pleased at the adulation. "I like to get out and talk to kids when I can."
Then Peg looked around, "Where is Dog?" she asked.
Linda started to say they had left him at home when they heard a "Woof." Dog sat up and grinned at them from inside the van. He awkwardly worked the inside door handle, opened the van door and stepped out with all the dignity of a visiting diplomat. He walked slowly up to Peg and held up his paw to be shaken.
Peg Milton was pleased at the recognition Dog was showing her. "You have to be the smartest dog in the world."
"Or any other world," Dog told Gage smugly.
"Oh, puleeze," Gage thought back at him and visualized a dog patting himself on the back while his head kept getting bigger and bigger until it exploded. This surprised Dog. Gage's mental picture was correct in even the smallest details. Individual blades of grass under the dog's feet and the clouds in the sky were very realistic. Most of all, though, the whole mental picture was in color and not the shades of gray most people thought in.
Gage caught a mental glimpse of Dog's amazement and gloated right back at him, "I got talent too."
Peg was unaware of any of the communications that went on between Gage and Dog. "Well, come on in, you guys. You have to meet my wild half. He's watching the steaks. I hope nobody here is a vegetarian."
Nobody admitted to being a strict vegetarian. Peg led them through the house and into the back yard where a hulking big man wearing a chef's apron was presiding over the grill. "Hi folks." he greeted them in a hoarse voice.
He nodded his hellos to them as he watched over the meat. "These are my favorites, buffalo hump steaks. Tell me how you want 'em." Everybody put in their order and he nodded again and concentrated on the steaks as if they were the most important things in his world.
As soon as the meat was removed from the grill he turned the food detail over to his wife and became the friendly host. He led them into the dining room where a long, heavy table was set for eight people. They sat and ate. Dog lay on the floor next to Gage. Vikki sat next to him and slipped Dog bites of meat off her own plate. Not Gage who was hungry. He cleaned his plate and looked around for more.
"Glutton," Dog thought at him, sending a picture of a humungous fat boy with Gage's face.
"Hey, I'm just a growin' kid. I got to eat to grow," Gage protested.
After dinner, Ralph Milton gave his guests a tour of his home. He showed them the various trophies he had won in a lifetime of sports including even the ones from junior high. He took them to his glassed in out of doors work out area. Gage looked around and saw Vikki was still with Peg. She was listening to every word the older woman spoke as if it was the New Gospel straight from Heaven.
Ellen saw where her daughter was and laughed. "Well, at least she picked someone respectable for a role model. You have no idea what this means to my daughter to not only have the opportunity to meet your wife, and to actually eat with her in her own home."
Ralph Milton laughed, "Oh I know, every time Peg makes one of her speaking tours she gets flooded with fan mail from teenage girls. Me? All I get is hate mail from blue haired old ladies." They all laughed.
"Say, Mister Milton," Gage said, "If you ever have the time Dog wants to wrestle with you."
"What? Dogs can't wrestle." Ralph Milton laughed at the idea.
"Well, he pinned the high school state wrestling champ," Gage told him proudly.
"No way." the Minnesota Monster said. How can a dog pin anybody?
"I bet you he can pin you in two minutes." Gage told him confidently. "He's a tricky old dude."
"Tricky old dude? How corny can you get?" Dog snorted his derision.
"Like I told you before, I never tried to reach my corny limit," Gage answered him smugly, and then added, "Yet."
Mangling Milton the Minnesota Monster stood up straight, showing his five inches over six feet height. In build he resembled a younger Jesse Ventura who was a good friend of his. His muscles weren't the ones like the hard and chiseled pretty boy muscles which were gotten from taking water pills and lifting weights all day in a gym and were good for nothing practical. His were the muscles seen on gymnasts, swimmers and wrestlers, which were conditioned to be strong and functional. Those kinds of muscles were also on Navy Seals and other great hand-to-hand combat warriors.
He looked down at Gage and Dog and laughed, "You must have a pretty good dog there, Gage." He was trying to joke with the boy and not hurt his feelings.
"Oh, he is, Sir. In fact, if you'll step right over there," he pointed to a space of grass between the pool and the Universal Exercise Machine, "Dog will pin your shoulders to the ground for the count. Now I don't mean to insult you, Mister Milton. Dog is unbeatable by anyone."
Ralph Milton smiled and stepped over to the indicated spot. "Okay, here I am."
"Are you ready to be pinned?" Gage asked.
"More than ready, let him go." Ralph had already decided he would scoop Dog up and toss him in the air. He had done this when a pit bull attacked him. He was able to free himself without hurting the dog.
Ever the ham and show off, Gage raised his hand in the air, held it for a moment and brought it quickly down, shouting, "Now."
Suddenly Dog sprang through the air. He smashed into Mangling Milton and knocked him to the grass and draped his black, furry two hundred and fifty pound body across the stunned wrestler.
Gage gave the count and slapped the grass. "Pinned!" he yelled gleefully. Dog jumped off and sat on his haunches, laughing a dog laugh, tongue hanging out. The big dog thoroughly loved to play this trick on people.
Dazed and surprised, Ralph Milton got to his feet and said, "You taught him quite a trick. I don't think I have ever seen a dog do anything so amazing before."
Gage smiled modestly, "Oh, he's got a whole bunch of tricks he knows. If you want to go again, he'll pin you another way." Then, unable to not show off when he had the chance, "The Art Of War' explains these tactics and others in quite a bit of detail." He grinned smugly.
Peg, Linda, and the parents had come outside again just in time to see the Minnesota Monster's inglorious defeat. "What I just saw was for real, wasn't it, Ralph?" Peg asked him.
"Hon, this is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. That dog is not only sneaky, he's also smart to the point I'd say he is brilliant." He had trouble believing what had just happened to him.
Peg Milton said, "Why not have Dog give a demonstration in the ring? The fans would love it." She turned to the Larsens, "Do you think something could be arranged? This would be the greatest gimmick ever."
Linda looked doubtfully at Gage. "Would it be safe, do you think?"
"Sure, Mom." Gage reassured her. Dog thinks it's great to beat people at their own games.
"What do you think, Steve?" she asked.
"Hon, I say go with Gage's judgment. He's still on a roll." He grinned at his son.
Vikki had been watching quietly. She called Gage over to her. They stood together away from the grown ups. "You didn't teach him did you?"
Gage looked at her, he was surprised she was so sharp. "Nope, he taught himself."
"He also plays chess, doesn't he?" she asked carefully. She was afraid of sounding like a nut case. She knew there was something way out of the ordinary going and she just didn't quite know what it was. She was determined to find out what it was if she could.
"He's pretty good," Gage admitted.
"He was calling those moves you made, wasn't he?" she asked triumphantly. She just knew she had found the answer.
"Yeah, now you know how I cheated. Now you know are you mad at me?" Gage looked up at her. Her opinion of him was very important, he realized.
"No, Gage, I am not mad at you. I am proud of you because you showed you have the honesty to not cash in of someone else's ability. Most kids would have claimed the prize money and never thought twice about it. Most grownups would too, I bet. Yet you are just too honest to make money on a lie." She patted his shoulder and smiled affectionately at him.
"I'm glad 'cause I'm really starting to care what you think of me," Gage told her in a serious way. Gage suddenly realized he wanted her as his best friend and something more. He wasn't too certain what that "more" consisted of though.
"Not yet," Dog told him. "When you find out what that 'more' is you'll be very thankful."
"Okay, tell me now, how do you two do it?" She stared at Gage hard, almost willing the answer out of him. "You guys got signals of some kind, like Morse Code or something, what?"
Gage shrugged his shoulders in a "who me?" sort of gesture and shook his head. He looked down for a moment and then answered, "We read each other's minds," Gage told her simply. "Now don't go blabbing it all around. Even my folks don't know the whole truth. There are some things best not talked about too much and this is one of them."
She looked at him incredulously, "You mean you actually read each others' minds? Like in 'I know what you're thinking in three D?"
"Yeah, only it's more than just reading a few thoughts. You don't know what it's like. I can't explain it to you 'cause I don't know the words to say it. Maybe there aren't any words."
While the adults were making plans for the debut of "the world's first and only wrestling dog," Gage and Vikki began the process of very carefully opening up to each other. He explained how he first met Dog and how scared he had been. She laughed when he told her how Peg picked the guy up back in Arizona and then told him she was a lady and put him back down. When Gage finished telling her about the chess tournament and how Dog wouldn't beat her in a hurry because she was a nice person her eyes got very big.
"You mean he is really so good he can pick and choose when he defeated me? You mean he can just beat anyone any time he wants to? Oh wow." She was so used to winning without any problem it never occurred to her there was anyone in the world who was a much better chess player than she. "I have to play Dog straight up. I am the most intelligent person I know." She was so amazed she just stood there, not saying anything else. Dog smiled a fierce dog smile at her and winked.
"Dog is better than you can imagine. He's smart, he's strong and he knows stuff nobody else on Earth knows. He is totally awesome."
Vikki told him urgently, "Gage, listen to me. Shut up. Don't say another word. We'll talk about this later when we're alone. For right now, shut up. She hurried to where her parents were talking with the other adults.
Her mother told her "Peg and Ralph have invited us to see Dog's debut as a wrestler. Would you like to attend?" She gave her daughter an affectionate smile, knowing what the answer would be.
"Oh wow," was all Vikki could say.
At nine o'clock, Gage's mom called a halt to the fun. "We better think about getting home. Gage has school tomorrow." Minutes later they were out the door and back in the van.
Gage and Vikki spent the time getting better acquainted. Even though Vikki had much the greater intellect it didn't bother Gage. He was thankful to have the chance to know her this much better. Then she surprised him. "You really don't know who or what you are, do you, Gage?"
She surprised him. "Uh, well, yeah, I'm me. What're you getting at?"
"I'll have to talk to my father because I think you have a heritage paralleling my own. You just might be a space kid yourself." She seemed dead serious.
"What are you talking about? I was born right here in Minnesota. And I got the great brain to prove it," he tried to answer with a joke.
"Vikki," her mother said, "I believe you're going too fast."
"Mother, Gage is very special, I can see it." Vikki wanted to continue the conversation with Gage.
"Tell her to wait till tomorrow. Ask them to spend the night," Dog suggested.
"Look, if you guys can stay all night with us, we got a lot to talk about after Dog and I discover the Viking stuff and some other stuff," Gage interrupted.
"What are you talking about, Son?" Gage's dad asked.
"Well, tomorrow morning Dog and me, we're going to dig a hole and discover a bunch of Viking stuff and some other things the Vikings stole from somebody else. We'll all know more afterward."
"What's this about 'stuff the Vikings stole from somebody else?" Henry Storm had been concentrating mostly on his driving until then.
"Ah, I just told you all I know," Gage answered helplessly. "Dog will help me locate the stuff. You better stay and see what it is. Dog says..." Gage shut his mouth.
"Is this for real, Son?" his dad asked seriously. "Is this more of what we been talking about, about you and Dog?"
"Uh, yeah, Dad, it is."
"When you're on a roll, you're of a roll, Son." He turned to Henry Storm and said, "If Gage says it's important, maybe you better stay over with us. You and your wife can take the guest room. Gage will sleep on the sofa and Vikki can have his room."
"What do you think, dear?" Henry asked his wife.
"I have a feeling about all this. Let's do it," she answered without hesitation.
"Great." exclaimed Vikki and Gage at the same time.
"Very good," Dog growled in Gage's mind. Gage could tell his friend seemed to be satisfied.
"I bet tomorrow when we get the hole dug we'll see the answer to a lot of questions." Gage was the most excited he could ever remember being in his life.
"What's in the hole you haven't dug yet?" Vikki asked him.
"How would I know? I haven't seen what all's there. It will be huge and super mondo, just you wait. Dog says..." His voice trailed off as the big beast growled in his ear.
"Gage Larsen, you are the most exasperating, the most irritating little boy I have ever known. You make my brothers look almost intelligent by comparison." Vikki took a deep breath and asked, "Why do you have to be so evasive in what you say? Wouldn't a straight out statement suffice?"