So, when I left off, I had set the scene, as it were, for you to understand why poor unmedicated Phil was in a bit of a mood.
So, that morning, sunny but with dew still on the grass, I took the dogs out for their midmorning cavorting and unloading. Phil glared at me as I brushed past the table he and Willard shared, set by the stairs. I didn’t think anything of it, really, since he’s normally so
stonedlaid-back. Dealing with the slavering concrete mass that is Willard daily can put a dent in even the sunniest attitude, and sometimes before his morning toke Phil’s comparable to me pre-coffee.
Had I stopped to think, I would have noted it was awful late for Phil not to have a smile and a slow “hellllllooooo” for me.
Anyway, the dogs did their pre-unloading dance, finding exactly the right places for whatever they wished to unburden themselves of, then there was some yapping and chasing. Odd finally decided enough was enough, and signaled so by choosing the one place in the yard Miss B will not dare to bark her play-demands at him–that is, for those who can’t guess, firmly between my ankles. Miss B did a few more laps around the yard, denned a bit by the backdoor to the garage, then trotted up to me with a self-satisfied post-extrusion smirk.
I shepherded them up the stairs, Miss B jostling and herding Odd, and Phil’s glare became furious instead of just curmudgeonly. He snapped something I didn’t quite hear over the clicking of nails and Odd’s wheezing. (Stairs are Odd’s nemesis.) All I caught was something about “mother” and “cat” and “army boots.”
Odd is a marvelously sweet dog, with not a single mean bone in his body. There is only one thing that will drive him into an explosion of rage, and that’s an insult to his bipedal mum–namely, yours truly. Phil kept yelling, and I heard “Your mom!” again.
This was too much for Odd, who at first cocked his head as if he couldn’t believe anyone would be so crass (or stupid) as to utter such blasphemy in his presence. Then he charged.
Unfortunately, his feet got tangled, because as sweet as he is, there’s only room for one thing in his head, and he was still a few steps below the deck. He can climb stairs, sure. He can charge at an offending gnome, certainly. He can also hipcheck a certain bossy Australian shepherd.
But Odd cannot do all three at once. The result is a furry meltdown.
First, he hipchecked Miss B, and then tripped over the top step. Phil made the mistake of screech-laughing, and Miss B, who had, I suspect, not heard Phil correctly the first time, nipped at Odd to remind him that she was the one who would do the herding around here, thankyouverymuch. Normally, that’s the end of it, and Odd submits to being nose-bonked, sidled, and basically bossed around with good grace. (Let’s face it, he needs the help. His two brain cells are occupied with breathing IN and breathing OUT, and keeping the two separate as much as possible.)
“YOUR MOM!” Phil screamed, and Odd found himself on the level ground of decking, with a clear objective–to go into battle for his lady’s honor.
Which he did.
There was a scrabble of paws, a cascade of chesty bulldog battlecries, and I just began to realize there was a problem. Miss B lunged, since Odd was going in a direction she hadn’t approved first, and she crashed into the table just a moment after Odd did.
I ask you, my dear Readers, have you ever seen a concrete gnome fly?
Poor Willard, who had been busy chewing at his beard and contemplating the gutters (he thinks they’re made of concrete, being white) described a low arc right into the railing, bounced off, and headed straight for me. Phil, being of lighter resin, described a much higher arc, and went screaming into the yard, narrowly avoiding taking out a hosta Odd had already tried to kill by overwatering. (I’ll leave with what to your imagination.)
Odd, trapped in the table, surfaced from his fury straight into blinding terror. Miss B pranced backwards, shaking her head–she’d been clocked a good one by said table. I let out a “JESUS CHRIST!” and skipped sideways, running into the railing and ducking, but thankfully avoiding Flying Gnome #1. Willard rolled past me and fetched up on the landing, moaning his high-pitched distress. Phil began using language extremely unbecoming of gentleman or gnome, and I checked to make sure I was wearing shoes.
Which I was, thank the heavens and all the damn angels.
I got Odd out of the table and Miss B dragged inside, checked them both for damage and found none except to what little dignity creatures who lick their own asses possess. (Odd can’t reach his, but he has no dignity anyway, and besides, he’d do nothing BUT lick his genitals all day if he was built to permit such a thing.) I then had to maneuver past them and get outside, extremely difficult because Odd was still determined to avenge me and Miss B, of course, will not let me stir a step without her if she can help it.
I picked up Willard, who was still making that rusty moaning noise, and held him at arm’s length until I got down the stairs. (He’d put a divot in the decking, dayum.) Phil was rolling in the grass, in a frothing, towering rage, because he he’d landed in a recent dog extrusion.
“SONOFABITCH!” he yelled, and other things.
“It was still warm?” I offered, almost in a spirit of mollification, getting Willard next to a tulip under the pine tree of SQUIRREL DEATHRIDE 5000 fame and grabbing a pebble to pop into his wide-open mouth. He started crunching it, and the groaning stopped.
He’s like a toddler. Put food in the pie-hole to distract it.
It took me a few moments of looking to find a handle on Phil that wasn’t bespattered with dogshit or foaming with gnomish rage. I carried him to the side of the house, then was faced with the problem of cleaning a spluttering, biting, writhing mass of definitely unstoned gnome. I finally just attached the hose, backed away, and sprayed him.
“I’VE ALREADY BEEN TO COUNTY!” he screamed.
“You’re no Vincent Vega,” I snapped back. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
That’s when I heard, from behind me, a very small voice say “UH…”
I swung around, hose in hand, while Phil frothed behind me.
“Oh, for GOD’S sake.” I might have tried to put my hands on my hips and soaked my jeans, I was that out of sorts. (Translation: I DID.) “Joe, we talked about this!”
“DUDE, MY BAD. HE JUST…WELL, WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE SEVENTIES, AND HE SAID DISCO WAS DEAD, AND–“
“Joe?” I even managed to say it kindly. “Please shut up. I will deal with you in a moment.”
“OH, MAN.” Joe hung his head and hid in the lavender.
Meanwhile, Phil, now soaked as well as daubed with, erm, stank, let forth another torrent of abuse. I turned back and turned the hose on him full bore.
It took a while.
I finally hauled a dripping Phil over to Emphysema Joe, and stood there while they lit up. Phil, halfway through his first serving of greens, looked at me and his face sort of melted into slack jawed wonder. “OH MAN,” he kept repeating. “I’M SORRY, DUDE. SO SORRY.”
I magnanimously refrained from pointing out I was not a dude, made sure Joe gave Phil a supply for the rest of the week, and carried Phil back to Willard. I settled the table over both of them to keep the rain off.
Then I went back to Joe, and gave him to understand that under no circumstances EVER AGAIN was he to cut off supply to Phil, or I would make Phil and Willard the keepers of the green and put Emphysema Joe in the front goddamn yard for kids to steal. I may have waxed a little furious on the dangers of being stolen by stupid preteens, because Joe went white.
Or, um, as white as a skeletal hippie gnome can get.
And that, my dears, is how there was a battle involving flying gnomes on my deck. At least I was wearing my shoes.
After all that, I trooped back up the stairs, shook my head at the crime scene, and went back inside. Miss B had her nose pressed to the French door, patiently waiting for me, and danced attendance as I looked all over for Odd Trundles. Finally, I heard him snoring.