Human Man
Chapter 42

Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik

Sunday morning, Scott packed up the Brute and the puppy, and headed north. The weather was perfect. When he thought about it, he really only missed his two Friday classes. He would like to have checked on the Black Horse during the peak of the Jazz Festival, but between Shirl and the other employees, the place ran itself. His presence would have been purely selfish. That was a perk of ownership, but he wondered if his employees thought he didn't trust them? Something to think about, he decided.

The puppy was enjoying his new bed and chew toy. Scott had stuffed the bed into the passenger side footwell. The pup could jump from the bed to the passenger seat by using the lip of the bed and the center console as a springboard, but he was well behaved.

He could easily forget that there was an alien intelligence welded to the dog's mind.

Rolling through Big Spring halfway to Levall, the phone rang.

"Hey," Janie said.

"Don't tell me I forget something at the house?" he asked.

"No," she replied. "How's the baby doing?"

"The dog's fine. Are you suffering separation anxiety, already?"

"Very funny. You pick a name?"

"Nothing yet," he said. "Mr. Piotrowski named Jobe. He said you should wait for the animal to show you what it should be named, but I've got zilch."

"What about something biblical?"

The dog jumped into the passenger seat, within reach of Scott's hand. He reached over and scratched the puppy's ears. "You're the good Catholic girl. Did Job of the Bible have children?"

"I have no idea."

"I'm going to call your priest and complain about your poor biblical education."

"Hey, I've got enough guilt without you egging my priest on. Hold on, I'm looking it up."

Out of habit, Scott reached for the information to check for himself. There was nothing, beautiful wonderful nothing. He smiled. Driving back to school, just another normal college kid, mostly, dependent on his own memories and knowledge - he liked the feeling.

"Oh, dear," Janie said. "Job's wife and children all died, but he started another family ... and the names are awful."

"Scratch that idea," Scott said. "Maybe another 'J' name? Jasper, Jack, Jake, Jumper, Jupi—"

"Don't you have enough 'J' names in your life?" she asked.

"Think I'm going to get the two of you confused?"

"Har har, you're so funny."

"Got any better ideas?" he asked.

"What about him grabs your attention?" Janie asked.

"He's male, energetic, has a mischievous look, he's red—"

"Red?"

"His coat is red or reddish, at least."

"So," Janie said, "What about Red?"

He rolled it around in his mouth. "Here, Red. Fetch, Red. Bite the bad man, Red."

"What are you doing?"

"Trying it on." He rolled down the window and shouted. "Here, Red!"

"What was that?"

"Me, yelling out the window."

"You're crazy," she said. "What's the puppy doing?"

"Looking at me as you probably are," he said. "What do you think pup? Does 'Red' suit you?"

The puppy yipped and started rolling around on the seat.

"He's not complaining," Scott said. "Red it is. That okay with you?"

"As long as his middle name isn't 'Neck, ' it sounds fine to me."

Scott laughed. "Consider it settled. What else do you want to talk about?"

"When will you be back?"

"As soon as the semester is over."

"I'm going to miss you," she said.

"We can survive another month. You think any more about what you're going to do for school?"

They talked until his connection started to drop out. "I'm about to drive into a dead spot, I'll call you later."

"I want lots of pictures," Janie said.


The Jazz Festival was long over by the time Scott returned to Levall. The barricades were gone and there was no sign of the crowds that had descended on downtown.

He parked in the garage and let the dog out. Red trotted around the courtyard, sniffing the cracks while Scott dug the leash he'd bought out of the sack of pet supplies.

He whistled and Red scampered to him. "Okay, so this is a leash. It hooks to your collar. City living is a little more complicated than what your father was used to. No running around on your own, and—" Scott grabbed a plastic bag. "—I get to pick up your poop. Sound fun?"

Scott took Red through the pass-through gate and into the park. They made a quick circuit to conduct business.

Scott took him off the leash when they returned to the courtyard.

"So, this is where we live," he said.

The puppy trembled with excitement as Scott took him through the garage side door. Red was off like a shot, sniffing every inch of the ground floor.

Scott scooped him up and carried him to the main floor, explaining that stairs were going to be a problem until he was larger. He put him down and Red was off again.

Scott piled the accumulated pet supplies in the kitchen, listening to the click of Red's nails as he pattered around. He heard a muted thump.

"What are you doing?"

Scott walked out of the kitchen and Red came running from the guest bedroom. The dog had discovered the fun of slick wood floors. He scrambled for purchase, but slid right into the back of the couch.

Scott laughed and shook his head. "You are going to be so much trouble. Have you seen everything? This is the living room, guest bath, bedrooms, laundry, kitchen, ready for the next floor?"

The puppy trotted to the foot of the stairs.

"Yeah that's going to be a problem." The dog was different though, he thought. "Let's try something."

He took Red to the elevator and pressed the call button. The doors opened immediately.

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