| 'What! What did you say? You want to play the marimba?
Where did that come from?'
'I've wanted to play the marimba',
said Buddy, 'ever since we took that cruise to South America.'
His normally sad eyes took on a dreamy look as he contemplated his
'I knew I shouldn't have let you
talk me into that trip. Where are you going to find a marimba teacher?'
Jim lowered his chin to his chest and his head slowly swung back and
forth - a common occurrence when Buddy got a new idea.
'Ha! Already done that. The Penn
Glade Marimba School for Young Boys. In West Chester.'
'How come I've never heard of it?'
'It's brand new. I would be the
'How do you expect to pay for it?
I'm not going to finance a harebrained scheme.'
'I'm to have free tuition because
the owner and principal teacher Juan Paolo wants to get the school
going. He figures if he has a really successful marimba player, then
more students will want to learn.'
'Just one little thing here, Bud. Does the man
know you're a Springer Spaniel?'
How do you think I could hide that? Well, actually, at first, I told
him I was a little kid in a fur coat. He didn't believe me. Told me to
take off the coat. When I told him the zipper was stuck and I couldn't
get it off, he caught on. But then he mulled it over. He thinks it's
pretty cool; that once he teaches me to play, we can start a whole
'This I have got to see.'
'I'll make sure you get tickets for
the first performance,' Buddy promised. 'There's
just one other little bitty thing.' Buddy sat back on his
haunches and held his front paws a short distance apart.
'Buddy,' Jim said, 'don't push me. You're at the limit already.'
'Well, it's not for me.'
Buddy strolled over to where Jim sat in his recliner and placed his
head on Jim's knee. 'See, it's like this. When I was
making the call to Juan, Chessie overheard me and now she wants to be
in the band too.'
He placed one brown and
white furry paw on Jim's hand and turned his head to one side, silently
pleading for his companion Chessie, a calico cat.
'This has gone
far enough. No. What on earth could Chessie do in a band? It's out of
the question. No.'
'Will you hear me out before you
'I've already said no.' Jim
rose from his chair and muttered that he had to cut the grass.
When Jim started through
the door to the garage, Buddy barked and twirled in circles.
'What now? Do you need to go out?
You were out just ten minutes ago.'
'No, I don't
have to go outside. I just want you to hear me out. Chessie could play
the flute. Juan says he could teach her. She could go to lessons at the
same time I go. She really wants to do this. She doesn't ask for much.
Just a little food and fresh water. She's loving and sits on your lap
'Yeah. And walks over my head when
I'm trying to sleep.'
'Just a little transgression.
Surely you can forgive her that. She has senior moments. Remember she's
not young anymore. This may be the last thing you can do for her.'
Jim raised both hands in
the air in surrender. 'All right. All right. She can
take lessons. Now I don't want to hear any more about it. And you have
to practice when I'm at work.'
Buddy sat back and lifted
one paw in the air. 'High five?'
Jim raised his eyes to
the ceiling. 'Good Lord,' he said under his
breath, 'I'm high fiving with a dog!!'
'Enough. I'll be outside. And don't
answer the phone if it rings. I don't trust you anymore on the phone.
Remember when you told the insurance salesman he could come to the
house to sell me a policy?'
I was mad at you at the time. You refused to get me on-line skates for
'The neighbors would run me out of
North Hills on a rail if I let you have on-line skates. You cause
enough trouble as it is. Whistling at Gwennie, that pretty dog on the
corner, when she's out for a walk! Pretending you were vicious and
going to attack that old lady that uses a walker! She couldn't stop
crying for an hour.'
'And grabbing school kids' lunches
at the bus stop! Organizing the squirrels to run in a cadre across
John's roof after midnight. No wonder he moved out. And we shouldn't
forget your jumping in the pond when kids were swimming. Don't try to
tell me again you were saving them from snapping turtles. You should be
ashamed of yourself.'
'Just teen age high jinks. I'm
older now and plan to have a profession.'
'Yeah, sure. This marimba thing
will last as long as your ice skating escapade. Your behavior at that
rink was inexcusable. Why you thought that team would let you play ice
hockey with them is beyond me.'
'I can skate. No problemo.'
'It's against the rules to have a
four footed player.'
Buddy narrowed his eyes
as he looked at Jim. 'How do you know? Have you ever
read the rules?'
'The captain of the team told me
when he was ordering me to get you off the ice or else. And I can't
ever go back to the rink. I'm banned for life. And my granddaughter
Jennifer was humiliated. She can still work there as long as you don't
'I guess I really did it when I
stole the puck.'
'No, I think it was when you slid
into the goalie and knocked him down. I thought he would never regain
'By the way, how did you get to the Penn Glade
School? I didn't take you.'
'Welllll,' Buddy said,
pulling out the word. 'I just walked there.'
Buddy held up a restraining paw. 'Now before you get
all bent out of shape, I was careful and didn't accept any rides.'
Jim ran his hands across his face as though he were washing it. In a
tightly controlled voice, he said, 'We have leash
laws around here. You're lucky you didn't get picked up by the dog
dumb do you think I am? NO!' he howled, 'don't
answer that. I simply carried the leash in my mouth and everyone just
thought my so-called owner was right behind me. I smiled at all the
ladies and they all thought I was cute.'
'You didn't talk to anyone, did
you? That's all I need. For the neighborhood to know you can talk.
Okay, one more question. How do you and Chessie plan to get to this
school for budding marimba and flute players?'
'Well, it's a little tricky. I
called Rainbow Cab and asked about their senior fares. They said if
Chessie and I come in to their office and sign up for the senior
program, they could pick us up and deliver us wherever.'
'You're not seniors, either of you.'
'Yeeeees - we are.' Buddy
extended his first word, which made Jim widen his eyes in alarm. When
Buddy did this, nothing good ever came out of his next statement.
'You see, if you add up Chessie's
age in human years, she'd be one hundred and twelve. I'd be twenty-one.
And since you only have to be sixty to qualify, if I borrow - like
forty years from her, we both slide in under the wire.'
'Do they know you're a cat and a dog?'
'Not just any cat and dog. We're going to be
'Okay, future stars, do they know?'
'Well, not yet. But I figure when
you take us in to sign up, you can mention it.'
'I'm not taking you in there!'
Jim sputtered. 'I can't take any more of this.
Buddy, this has to be the most harebrained scheme I've ever heard of.
You topped all the other crazy things you've gotten me involved in. I'm
going out to mow the grass. And when I come back in, I want to hear
that you've changed your minds. Understand?'
He looked at Buddy with
thunder in his eyes. Chessie hid under the dining room table. Jim
didn't see the meeting of Buddy's and Chessie's eyes and the slight,
satisfied grins that formed on their mouths.
that same night, after the grass had been cut and Jim had worked off a
head of steam, he sat in his recliner and tried to unwind. Just
thinking about Buddy's antics set him off. This latest thing had to
have been the most ridiculous scheme yet.
'I hope, Buddy,' Jim said
when he could be sure of not raising his voice, 'that
I will hear no more of this nonsense about marimba and flute lessons.
The subject is closed. Understand?'
At that moment, the phone
rang. Buddy leapt to his feet and raced to place the cordless in Jim's
'You're with whom? The Philadelphia
Inquirer? I don't want a subscription. Good night.'
Jim slammed the phone in
his hand. Enough, he thought. I've been through enough. I don't need
the phone rang again, Buddy snatched it from Jim's hand and answered in
a deep, well-modulated voice. 'Yes, Mr. Yocum is
here. Yes, this is Buddy. Really! I have brown and white fur and an
engaging look in my eyes. I'm a trifle on the pudgy side, but I'm told
it looks good on me. Yes. I'm a Springer Spaniel.'
Jim snatched the phone
from Buddy's paw.
'This is Jim Yocum. What do you
'Mr. Yocum. This is Red Cross - I
know, don't be put off by my name. This call is legitimate. I got an
anonymous call this evening that you have a talking dog. Is that so? Is
that who I was just talking to? A photographer and I would like to come
to your house to interview you and you dog - say tomorrow.'
'No,' Jim roared. 'There's no talking dog here. The call was a hoax. Not
true. Don't come here. Good night.'
Jim slammed down the
phone and turned to find the room empty. Buddy was nowhere to be found.
Chessie had also disappeared. 'BUDDY! CHESSIE! Where
are you? What's going on? Come here now or I'm putting a sign out front
that there's a cat and a dog available to anyone who wants them.
Preferably someone who needs working pets.'
'Okay,' came a voice from
the bedroom. 'I'm coming. Don't be mad. I can't help
it if someone called the paper ... '.
'YOU called the paper! Don't tell
me you didn't,' Jim shouted when Buddy poked his head around the
'Okay, okay, I called,'
Buddy said in a low tremulous voice. He slowly sidled into the family
room, smiling his you've-caught-me-again smile. 'I
just thought it would help you see that Chessie and I could be stars.
We could earn big salaries and support you and take care of you the way
you've taken care of us.'
'Don't give me that routine. The
you're-doing-this-for-me nonsense. No, forget it. When I come home at
night, I don't want any more hassles. Just forget the whole marimba
thing. It's over. Done. Do you understand?' Jim's face was now
right in Buddy's face, his breath in Buddy's fur, his eyes locked to
'Yes, but ... '
'No buts,' Jim said quietly,
almost a whisper. 'This is the end of this
discussion. I can't take any more. I will NOT take any more.' As
he spoke, his whisper was almost like the hiss of a teakettle with a
full head of steam.
Buddy's eyes rounded in
alarm, his head shifting from side to side, as though seeking an escape
'Yes, okay. No more. No more
marimba, no more flute, no more mariachi band.' His right paw
raised in an attempt to look sincere. 'I swear on my
Boy Scout's oath.'
Jim said through clenched teeth, 'you were never a
Boy Scout. Knock this off. Don't say another word. Chessie, you too.
Don't dare say anything.'
Chessie, on her way to jumping on Jim's lap, turned in mid-air
and streaked from the room.
'Girl never could take the heat,'
'Not a word more.'
Buddy's right paw came up
again. He struck the air several times to show he understood. But as he
crept from the room his head low, almost stepping on his long ears,
trying to present a picture of utter dejection, Jim heard him mutter,
'Chessie, this is not the time to talk to him about tap dancing