Buddy & the Flying Circus
by Mary Ann Smyth

'Hey, Bud, where are you going with my work gloves?'

'Jumph tumph dem mmmph.'

Jim stood in front of his Springer Spaniel as Buddy tried to inch by him to reach the back door.

'Spit those out and talk to me, Buddy.'

Buddy dropped Jim's heavy gloves on the family room carpet, where they landed with a soft plop. 'I'm just taking them outside for a minute.'

'Two things wrong with that. Those are my gloves, not yours. And you don't go outside alone. You know that.'

'Yeah, well, I thought you weren't home,' Buddy muttered as he started to pick up the gloves again.

'What was that? I couldn't hear you.'

'I'll put them back,' Buddy said. 'I'll put them back. Okay? They're going back.'

'What did you intend to do with them?'

'Just a little yard work.'

'Buddy, I wasn't born yesterday. My Mama didn't raise no fools. What were you going to do with those gloves? And while we're at it, a few other things are missing.'

'Missing? What do you mean missing?' Buddy dropped the gloves again and sat on his haunches, the picture of complacency. 'Nothing's missing that I know of. Probably don't remember where you put whatever it is you're looking for. A senior moment, hunh? Don't worry. We all get them as we age.'

'Buddy, don't try to dance your way out of this ...'

At the word dance, Buddy rose on his hind legs, twirled in place and then pantomimed dancing with someone else. His arms enclosing an invisible partner, he hummed as he dipped and spun.

Jim couldn't help himself. His laugh only encouraged Buddy and the dog flew around the room at a faster pace. As Buddy segued into a waltz, Jim gained control of himself and stepped up to Buddy. Tapping him on the shoulder, Jim spoke as the dog switched to a rumba, 'May I have this dance?'

'I'll have to check my dance card, but I think it'd be okay.'

'Do that.'

Buddy opened his arms and embraced Jim, expecting to go on dancing. Jim planted his feet firmly on the floor and brought Buddy to a stop.

'I almost fell for that, Buddy. But I still want to discuss what's missing with you.'

Buddy shook his head. 'Thought I could get to the door and just scoot right out. Can't blame a guy for trying.'

'Sit, Buddy.' Buddy dropped to the rug and laid down.

'Just a little tired after that workout. It's tough dancing on a rug. Really slows you down.'

He stretched out on the floor, his chin on his constant companion Bear, a floppy stuffed toy. His eyes slowly closed.

'Buddy. Stop it! Don't give me that exhausted routine again. You know I don't buy it.'

'Okay! Okay!' Buddy sat up and focused his eyes on Jim's, intent on appearing alert to whatever was to be said. 'Sheez. Nothing works anymore.'

'You'll have to come up with something new, Bud. I'm on to you. Now. Down to business. I want to know what happened to my Cross pen.'

'No! Don't tell me! The pen the company gave you on your fifteenth anniversary with them? Oh, what a shame. I'm sorry, Jimbo.' Buddy's head shook in commiseration and a small sudden tear appeared in the corner of his right eye.

'Shut up! Just shut up and listen. Crying cuts no ice with me. So don't bother to work up a good sob. Not another word until I tell you to speak.'

'Yessir!' Buddy's right paw shot up to his forehead and he snapped a salute.

Jim's eyes raised to the ceiling and his fists curled in exasperation. 'Buddy, not another move. Don't talk. Don't salute. Don't cry. Sit and listen to me or you're grounded.'

'But Gwennie's yard sale starts in a few minutes ...  Uh, oh. Now I've blown it.'

'Yes, Buddy. Now you've blown it. Now things are clear. My belongings have been going to Gwennie's for you to sell in her yard sale. My pen. My gardening gloves. The drip pan I use to change the oil in the Packard. The big pot I use for the clam bake. How did you ever manage that one? No, don't tell me. I'd rather not know.'

'That's a big sucker. I had to roll it, Dad. Got a few dents, but still shines like new.'

Buddy's paw crept slowly to his mouth and he mimed pulling a zipper.

'Is that where my new shirt went? And the new juice glasses Carol gave me? I want all these things back. But first I want to know why you wanted the money from selling MY possessions.'

 'We'll discuss this later. I'd better get to Gwennie's before she sells out.'

'Somehow I don't think a dog's yard sale is going to sell out. WHY??'

'Why? What.' At the look of fury in Jim's eye, Buddy relented. 'Okay. I wanted to raise some money of my own so you wouldn't have to support me. I think it's time I started to pull my weight around here.'

'And you were going to take the burden off me by stealing my things and selling them. The logic of that escapes me. What's the real reason, Buddy?'

'Wellllll, I heard you on the phone with Carol and you said you were going to drive down to see her in Virginia next weekend. I wanted to take another ride in her biplane at the Flying Circus. And you said you would never let me go up again. And Carol said she wouldn't give me another ride - ever. I thought if I could pay for it, she'd let me go.'

Carol, a captain with United Airlines, owned her own Stearman Biplane and flew it Sundays at the Flying Circus in Bealton, Virginia. She lived in Leesburg and it was a three hour drive for Jim, so he usually stayed overnight. Buddy loved the ride there and her hundred-year-old house. He could sit on the front porch and watch the traffic go by on Route 15.

When he was alone out there, he could whistle at the girls and yell at the cars that sped too fast going through town. No one ever suspected that it was a dog that was making the noise. He loved it. The only thing he didn't like about it was the leash that kept him tethered to the porch. Like he was a piece of the wicker furniture or one of the potted plants Carol kept there.

But most of all, he loved flying in that great little open cockpit airplane - up above everyone, skimming the treetops, the wind blowing his ears, pretending that he was flying the plane. Once Carol had let him make it look as though he was actually handling the controls. The crowd went wild.

'You're darn right you won't get another ride. Not after the last time. What ever possessed you to take water balloons up with you?'

'I wanted to see if I could have been a World War I bomber. I wanted to drop the balloons on a target. And I did it. It was great.'

'One landed on the target. The other one landed on that poor old lady. Drenched her. She was one mad senior citizen.'

'Ah, she had no sense of the skill needed to do what I did.'

Jim shook his head, remembering the white haired woman screaming at Buddy until she realized he was a dog. Then she turned on Jim. But he wasn't in the plane. And Carol was obviously flying, so no one ever did figure out where the balloon came from.

'That was one cool day,' Buddy said. 'Really cool.'

'Maybe so, from your point of view. But, Buddy, did you have to put red ink in the balloons? I'll bet it took weeks for that woman to turn back to her natural color.'

'She did look funny, with the red coloring all over her. I just wanted to be able to be sure I hit the target, so I added a touch of ink. Just a touch. And I couldn't use that red vegetable dye. It's supposed to be unsafe for your health.'

Buddy's smile was broad as he remembered that day. One of the best in his career as Adventure Dog.

'Well, you're not going with me this time, Bud. You're going to your doggie hotel.'

'Noooo!' Buddy wailed and held his head in his paws. 'Not there. Not again. Please. Oh, please, please, please. Don't send me there. Not the doggie hotel. It's not a hotel. It's a labor camp. I have to sweep out my own cage!'

Buddy's paws wrung together. He sobbed and threw himself on the floor to cover his head with his blanket, the fleece one with the big teddy bear on it.

'Please, Dad. No. I'll be so good you won't even know I'm there. That place is evil. Evil. Do you hear me? Evil.'

'That's not what you said the last time you were there. That's where you met Monica, that white poodle.'

'Yeah, well, I thought she was cool. But she was only using me to make that Jack Russell Terrier jealous. Broke my heart. I won't go back there. Humiliating. That's what it was.'

'You have no choice, Buddy. You're going and that's that.'

Buddy sat with his head leaning on the window ledge of the 1956 Packard, Bear close by his side. His ears blew in the breeze flowing in the open window as the car sped along Route 15, heading South.

'Buddy, telling the toll collector on the Turnpike that you thought it was outrageous to collect money from such a fine antique car was way out of line.'

Jim smiled at the memory but still bristled from the embarrassment. The man in the booth thought he had said it, and he had to suffer a lecture on the whys and wherefores of the Pennsylvania Turnpike system.

'And now that I've calmed down enough, tell me why the kennel told me that you were no longer welcome there.'

'I thought you were a little strung out there, Daddy O.' Buddy shifted a little in his seat and edged Bear closer to the window so he too could enjoy the breeze blowing his ears. 'Those people at the 'doggie hotel' are hard to read. I didn't think they'd get so shook up just because all the dogs in the place started howling.'

'Buddy, what did you do to make them all howl?'

'Me? Why Me? Why is it always me that's doing the wrong thing? Why am I always being accused? Any little thing goes wrong, and everyone turns to me. I just don't understand it.' Buddy had turned his head toward Jim, his eyes full of question.

'Do you think,' Jim asked, 'that maybe it's because you are always the cause of any problems?'

Buddy waved a paw in the air as though to brush away any lingering guilt that might be looking for him.

'I didn't cause the 'problem' that you're talking about. But I got the blame. That Jack Russell -  name's Barney, can you imagine. A little squirt like that being called Barney. Should be something like Melvin or Ernest.'

'Buddy! Get on with it.' Jim swerved in time to avoid a hunter green Jaguar that whooshed by. An upraised thumb recognized the beauty of the old car Jim drove.

'Hey, Dad, why don't we get a car like that? Sure is cool. Look at the way it hugs the road. Not that there's anything wrong with this beauty.' Buddy patted the padded dashboard with a gentle paw. 'But we could have both. Boy, Monica would be sorry she threw me over for that little jerk if she saw me riding in that fine car.'

'Buddy, tell me about the kennel. NOW!'

'All right. All right. Okay. Sheeze. You have no appreciation for the finer nuances of life. This Barney was ignoring the poodle - her last name's Windsor! Can you believe that? A regal name for a regal lady.'

'Get on with it,' Jim growled with a threatening edge to his voice.

'I AM getting to it. Don't get your pants in a twist.'

Jim's breath escaped in a hiss. Buddy took a startled look and decided he had maybe pushed one too many of Jim's buttons.

He continued in a hurry. 'Well, you see, here was Monica on one side of me, flittering her gorgeous long eyelashes. So thick and curled on the ends. And there's this idiot on my other side, just ignoring her. Turning his back on her! Can you imagine?'

'So I started to flirt back, but vocally, figuring dum-dum would hear us. See, at first I was trying to help her. So, I said, 'Monica, where do you live? Maybe we could get together sometime for a biscuit.''

'Then I lost it. I looked into her lovely dark eyes and fell deeply in love. This was my soul mate. The one I had been looking for all my life. I sighed deeply and with great passion and that's when the Jack Russell woke up to what was happening and turned on me.'

'Told me to leave his girl alone. Who did I think I was to elbow myself between a man and his woman?'

'So I asked the rest of the kennel to show me support. I asked for a yeah for me and a boo for the brain dead. Everyone started answering and I guess it sounded like howling and I was told to shut up or else. Imagine! I was a paying guest. Well, anyway, you were paying for me. And that's what happened.'

During this recitation, Jim hadn't said a word. Just listened and concentrated on his driving. Bear's paw had reached for Buddy's and he clasped his dearest friend in support.

 'Are you finished?'

'Yes,' Buddy said with a self-righteous air.

'Okay. Now tell me what really happened.'

'I got bored and decided to liven up the stuffy place with a few singing lessons. Believe me, there wasn't a hound in there that could sing on key.'

Buddy stuck his head as far out the window of the antique turquoise and white car as he could without falling onto the road. He didn't care to hear what Jim might have to say about the music lesson.

Buddy fancied himself back in the fifties, cruising the town, looking for a hot date and treating that date at the local ice cream parlor to a double fudge sundae.

Bear looked out the window and wished his twin brother Grin had lived. He thought Grin would enjoy knowing Buddy and they could all hang out together.

Jim just kept his eyes on the road ahead, trying not to think of anything.

'Buddy, I'll take you up again.' Carol stood in front of Buddy, hands on her slim hips, golden red hair framing her face and a stern look she directed at Buddy's averted eyes. 'Look at me, Bud. I said I'll take you up again but you have to promise me you're not carrying any balloons.'

Carol, Jim and Buddy were together by Carol's '41 Stearman, it's yellow paint glistening in the sun. Buddy had Bear clasped firmly but gently in his jaws. He lowered Bear to the ground.

'Thank you, Carol. I do want to have another ride. May I take Bear with me? He'll just sit with me. You can strap us both in.'

Jim looked at Buddy with suspicion. He was being too docile. Maybe the three hour ride to Leesburg and the extra hour ride to the airport tired him out and he was on good behavior only because of exhaustion.

'Okay. Okay,' Carol said. 'I'll give you one more chance.' She patted him on the head and Buddy slid his nose in her hand for a fond touch. 'But I'll have to go through your backpack. What do you need a backpack for, anyway?'

Buddy didn't answer.

Her long fingers unzipped the pack that was strapped to Buddy's back. Jim had had it personalized for him with his name in yellow on the bright red fabric. The colors stood out against Bud's dark brown and white fur.

'What's this, Buddy?'

She pulled out a folded white linen dinner napkin.

Bear's body jerked on the grass. Buddy nuzzled Bear and said comforting words to him.

To Carol and Jim, he said, 'That's Bear's security blanket.'

'That's no blanket,' Jim said with narrowed eyes. 'That's a good napkin from the linen drawer in the dining room at home. Buddy, what in blue blazes are you doing with it?'

He reached for the napkin and Bear again jerked spasmodically at Jim's feet.

'Bear borrowed it. He misses his twin brother and his mother and he needed something of his own to cuddle when he sucks his thumb.'

'Buddy! Bear has no thumbs. What are you up to? What's going on? Carol, are you sure this is a good idea?'

'Yeah, it'll be okay, Dad. He doesn't have anything here that could cause a problem. And he does love to fly. Here, Buddy, put this on.'

She pulled a leather aviator's helmet from her pocket. His ears fitted easily through holes cut out for that purpose.

'Hey, this is neat. Where did you get it? Thanks.'

Buddy grinned as Carol fastened the helmet under his chin. 'I had it made for you. It looks great, Buddy.'

'You're a good sister, Carol.'

Carol flinched at the word sister, but kept her cool and placed goggles over Buddy's eyes and wrapped a long white silk scarf around his neck.

'Hey, Pops, how do I look?' Buddy asked Jim. 'Am I cool or what?'

Jim ignored Buddy and again asked Carol if she was sure she wanted to do this.

'Sheeze, can't you trust me, Dad? I said I didn't have any balloons. And I don't. Even though you felt it necessary to frisk me!'

Buddy managed to look indignant. Even with his helmet and goggles. 'How do I look, Bear? Are you ready to go up in the wild blue yonder with me?'

Even after Buddy and Bear were strapped in, Jim still had misgivings. As Carol taxied down the short grass runway, Jim tried to quell the feeling of unease that had settled in his stomach.

'Carol, this is supreme. How do you like it Bear?' The speed of the airborne biplane kept Buddy's ears streaming straight backwards.

Buddy spoke over the internal radio that allowed Carol to hear his reactions to the trees and stream speeding by, the blue of the sky punctuated with fluffy clouds, the crowd below that still lingered though the Flying Circus had finished for the day. Many in the throng below had signed up for rides in one of the eight planes that had performed earlier.

As Carol banked at nine hundred feet to make her final approach to the airstrip, she realized that fingers were pointing upwards from below. She could hear a low murmur that rose to a crescendo of screams.

'Look. Look. Something's falling from that plane.'

'It's small enough for a child.'

'What can it be?'

'Ohmigod, it's going to hit.'

As Carol saw the tiny object free falling through the air, she tried to swoop under it to catch it with one of her wings. Jim just stood in disbelief as he watched Bear plummet to earth.

Just as it seemed that there was no hope, 'HEW HAW' rang out, a white dining room linen napkin opened like an umbrella, and Bear drifted slowly to the ground.

He held a tiny American flag in one front paw and a bouquet of lighted sparklers bristled from the other. Somehow he had managed a broad smile around the banner that hung from his mouth. The banner read 'Buddy's Flea Market'.

From the gasp of horror that had permeated the field, now arose cheers and hurrahs for the diminutive creature and his daring.

Carol landed the plane and turned on Buddy.

'Boy, are you in for it now. Wait 'til Dad gets his hands on you.'

Buddy pulled his goggles off as he said, 'Don't sweat it, Kid. I've got the old man under my thumb.'

Jim sat on a folding canvas chair on the sidelines. His head sunk low, his chin resting on his chest, as it swung back and forth. Jim's usual position when Buddy had jumped the bounds. Buddy watched in alarm as Jim's fingers curled into his palms. A sure sign that he was trying to control his temper.

Buddy observed the wan figure in that chair and said to Carol with anxiety in his voice, 'I think you're right this time. If you don't want to contribute to my early demise, let's get out of here, Lady Pilot.'


'Don't care. Just keep me out 'til Daddy O calms down.'

The plane rose again in the air. As Jim watched it go, his fingers uncurled and he walked onto the field to retrieve Bear.

Note; The author retains all rights to this story.