This was written for my cousin Lori because she loves dogs.
The noisy intersection was filled with people hurrying, each in their own world, ignoring fellow travelers. They were abruptly yanked from their reverie when they heard the screech of brakes and a sickening bump!
The victim’s scream was mercifully short! Onlookers were frozen in horror; the victim lay, crumpled under the bus.
“Oh, my God, he just ran out in front of me. I couldn’t stop!” The driver’s hands spread palms out in front of him, beseeching the multitude of witnesses to back him up.
“Someone call 9-1-1!”
Freddy Connely dropped to the ground, peering under his truck, knowing the poor devil pinned there was not alive, but still hoping.
Joe Bannon emerged from the blackness of death, starring down at the man under the bus until he realized he was looking at his own face staring back.
“Wait a minute, that guy looks just like me!” he said one of the bystanders.
No one answered or acknowledged his remark. He slipped between people, and to his astonishment, walked right through a couple of the frozen statues. A young woman clutching her child’s hand yanked the kid so hard its knees hit the pavement as she dragged it around the corner and out of sight.
Joe Bannon couldn’t accept that mangled body, lying bleeding under the bus was him! “There isn’t a drop of blood on my new suit, and what’s this, walking through people?” He tried to talk to the bus driver, but he continued trying to solicit agreement from everyone but Joe, who was standing right in front of him.
The scene faded, and Joe found himself in a lovely green meadow, beside a sparkling meandering stream. Looking into the clear water, he saw beautiful rainbow trout swimming just below the surface. Tearing his eyes from those beauties, his attention was drawn to the magnificent snow-capped mountains, in the distance under the blue skies with fluffy white clouds! Starring mesmerized, he was amused, seeing the clouds shaped like dogs. He had never been an animal lover, he tried the animal thing several times, but it just wasn’t for him.
The scenery was so beautifully soothing, Joe felt tired and slowly sunk down to the soft grass, instantly falling into a deep sleep. He slept peacefully until something wet touched his face. Swiping at the moisture, he continued sleeping, until he felt a wet grainy tongue lap his face.
Startled awake, all he could see was a large pink tongue in front of his eyes; he sprung into a sitting position. He found himself staring into the face of a St. Bernard dog complete with a Brandy barrel on a chain around his massive neck. They sat motionless for several minutes looking at each other, until Joe heard a voice saying, “If you would like a drink, be my guest!”
“Thank you, I think I could use one after the day I have had,” Joe said and proceeded to enjoy sipping the nectar of the God’s. Looking around, not seeing the dog’s master or any other human, he was shocked; the dog was speaking.
“You’re a dog. You can’t talk!” Joe exclaimed.
“In the world, you came from, that is true, but here things are a little different.”
“How different can things be? Where are we?” Joe sputtered.
“Where do you think you are?”
“Well, since I was hit by a bus, figure I am either in Heaven or Hell!”
Bernard lifted his massive head and laughed for several minutes. “You humans are funny creatures!”
Joe was struck speechless, hearing the dog laughing. He thought, “This is the strangest dream I have ever had.” He pinched himself, and feeling the pain, he knew he was awake unless that was part of the vision, too! “When I wake up, I will miss this beautiful valley and not having the chance to catch one of those magnificent fish.”
“What makes you think this is a dream?”
“Well, for one thing, dogs can’t talk, and St. Bernard’s with the Brandy Barrels is a myth. I can accept that I died in that accident, but this isn’t the Heaven or hell I imagined. Which is it?”
“Which do you want it to be? By the way, please call me Bernie.”
“Well, Bernie, at the moment, it feels more like heaven, or would be if I had my fishing equipment!” Joe said, pouring another generous cup from Bernie’s barrel, and taking a long drink, anticipating the answer to his question.
Instantly his old Jebco rod appeared beside him. “Well, hot damn, I guess it must be Heaven, although I am a little surprised I made the cut! I can’t wait to taste those trout. Am I allowed to build a fire?”
Throwing his baited hook in the water, a magnificent trout grabbed his hook and leisurely swam away.
“Wait a minute! You can’t do that! I caught you fair and square and want
you in my frying pan.” He rapidly reeled in his line, but the fish ignored
him, no matter how fast he reeled, and damn, the fish was smiling.
“Dammit! What kind of fishing hole is this? I can bait my hook, dangle it in the water, and the fish bite, but swim away. I love trout, smothered in butter, fried to a golden brown in a frying pan over a campfire!” Suddenly the grief and unfairness of his death overcame him, and he began to bawl big gulping sobs.
Bernie, couldn’t stand his blubbering and said, “Stop that blubbering right now!” It is always a little strange the first couple of days, but there’s no need to get hysterical.”
Joe’s blubbering and tears slowed down.
“I want you to meet someone.” And he stepped aside so Joe could see a puppy standing looking at Joe with a hopeful look on his eager face.
“He’s kinda cute, but I’m not a dog person.” He thought, “Maybe if I ignore it, it will run away. A human companion is more to my liking.”
Bernie said, Joe, this is Rex, he wants to be your friend. Rex jumped up in Joe’s arms, well his chest, and because Joe didn’t move his arms, Rex lingered a few seconds and dropped to the grass. He stood there looking up at Joe with those sad puppy eyes, begging him to pick him up.
Joe wanted not of that! “What’s the meaning of this? I have never been a dog person, they don’t like me, and the feeling is mutual.”
“Wonder why that is? You can see, this puppy wants to be friends.”
“Yeah, right now, it does. But the feeding, the cleaning up after it, walking, and trips to the Vet will take up all of my time. I don’t have time for any complications in my life, I have an important meeting I have to get to… and looking he his cell, he said, “Right now!” Looking around frantically, he remembered where he was and sunk to the ground.
Rex took that as a sign and crawled into his lap, snuggling closer, shining those puppy eyes up at Joe.
“You will have all the time in the world to play. Rex is never sick, he loves to run and chase sticks and is the best cuddler in the world.” Bernie said.
Joe was losing patience, which he didn’t have in abundance. “Alright! Where the hell am I?” He jumped to his feet, dumping the puppy on the grass.
“Joe, where do you want to be?”
“What kind of question is that? I was just in a horrendous accident, and probably in surgery right now, dreaming of this place. It can’t be Heaven, or there wouldn’t be dogs. OMG, I must be in hell! He said, slumping back to the ground. Without Joe realizing it, he stroked Rex’s baby soft fur and couldn’t help noticing the silky feel. He continued stroking the fur, eliciting moans of pleasure and more snuggles from Rex.
“Joe, why do you want to be in Hell?”
“I don’t want to be, but where else can this be? Fish I can only look at, a dog that will hate me, and no people to talk to. What else do you have in your bag of tricks to taunt me for eternity?”
“What else do you want?”
“Knock it off! Answering my questions with more questions!”
“Okay, I will tell you! You are in what I will call the “Inbetween” and will stay here until your character develops enough for dogs and other animals, love you!”
“What do you mean? I am petting it, aren’t I? Can I go the people hell or Heaven, now?”
He started patting the dog’s head with gusto, and right on cue, the puppy growled and moved away, giving him a sorrowful look.
“See, they don’t like me, and I don’t like them much, either.”
“That is too bad. Most of the people arriving here are thrilled with this tranquil meadow, puppies to cuddle, fish to catch, and clouds to watch.
“Didn’t you see that your puppy took an instant dislike to me?”
“Once you get to know the inhabitants of this valley, you will love it here, like everyone else.”
“Everyone else? Where are they? I need people, not dogs!”
“First, you have to learn to be kind to dogs, and if and when they accept you, then you will ascend to the next phase of your enlightenment!”
“What? Give me another drink from that barrel!” Joe said, reaching for the barrel.
“All your needs will be provided for, as long as you stay here, but I will be moving along to greet my next visitor.
Bernie turned, and in an instant, he was running across the field and disappeared over the hill.