A CHANGE OF LIFESTYLE
Got up this morning and couldn't take it anymore. I'd had all the cutesy words and hugs I could take from the old bag, and I'd also had it with my food. She thought that just because I liked something once, I couldn't wait to have it every day.
'Course, it beat hell out of that McWhipple burger I got out of the next-door neighbor's trashcan. I saw him toss it out, and as I recall, he was looking mighty green and holding his stomach. Didn't bother me none, though; I'd eaten out of his trashcan before. (He even took a shot at me one night on account of it.) But this McWhipple burger would have made a vulture choke! Must've been kangaroo meat or something. Or maybe the burger had just been lying on the assembly line too long. In any case, it sure made me sick, and up until then I could eat anything short of strychnine.
See, that's part of the problem. Suddenly I couldn't stand the way I'd been living. Just came over me, you know? One day I was fine and happy as a tick in an armpit, and the next day things were no longer hokay-by-me. I wanted a change of lifestyle.
It was all so goofy . . . the way I was feeling in the head, I thought maybe I'd got some medical problems, you know? So first thing I thought of was to go see the doc. Figured I ought to do that before I made any drastic changes—changes like getting the old lady out of my life, finding a new place to live, that soft of thing. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't having a spell of some sort, one of them metabolistic shake-ups.
So the doc was the ticket. I mean, he'd always been nice to me. A few pills and needles, but that's to be expected, right?
Next problem was getting out of the house without making a scene. Old gal treated me like some sort of prisoner, and that didn't make it easy.
The window over the sink was open, though, and that's how I plotted my escape. It was hard for me to get my body up and through the opening, but I managed. Made the six-foot drop without so much as a sprained ankle.
I got my thoughts together, charted out the doc's office, and set out. On the way, I noticed something weird: not only was I having this change in attitude, I seemed to be having some physical problems, too. I could feel stuff shifting around inside me, the way you feel the wind when it changes.
When I finally reached the doc's, man, was I bushed. Caught this lady coming out with a white cat under her arm, and she looked at me like I was the strange one. I mean, here she was with a cat under her arm, things hanging off her ears and wrists and wearing as much war paint as an Indian in a TV western, and she looks at me like I'm wearing a propeller beanie or something.
I slid in before she closed the door, and I looked around. People were sitting all over the place, and they had their pets with them. Dogs, cats, even a pet monkey.
I suddenly felt mighty sick, but I figured the best thing to do was to hang tough and not think about my problem. I decided to get a magazine down from the rack, but I couldn't get one down. Couldn't seem to hold onto it.
People were staring.
So were their pets.
I decided the heck with this and went right over to the receptionist. Standing on my hind legs, I leaned against the desk and said, "Listen, sweetheart, I've got to see the doc, and pronto."
"Oh, my God!" she screamed. "A talking Siberian husky!" Then she bounced her appointment book off one of my pointy ears.
Was this any way to run a veterinarian's office?
Man, did that place clear out fast. Nothing but a few hairs—dog, cat, and blue-rinse—floating to the floor.
The doc obviously wasn't the ticket. I cleared out of there myself and ran three blocks on my hind legs before I realized it. I felt good, too. Problem was, it tended to stop traffic.
I got down on all fours again, and though it hurt my back, I walked like that until I got to the park. As soon as I reached it, I stood up on my hind legs and stretched my back. I tell you, that felt some better.
There was a bum sitting on a park bench tipping a bottle, and when he lamped me coming toward him, he jumped up, screamed, and ran away, smashing his bottle on a tree as he went.
Sighing, I took his place on the bench, crossed my legs, and noticed that a fleshy pink knee was poking up through a rip in my fur. Man, what next?
There was a newspaper lying beside me, and having nothing better to do, I picked it up. Didn't have a lick of trouble holding it. My toes had lengthened now, and my dewclaw could fold and grasp. The hair on the back of my paws had begun to fall off.
The paper was the morning edition. The first article that caught my eye was about this guy over on Winchester—and why not? That was right next door to where I'd been living with the old hag. It was the fellow who'd tossed out the hamburger.
Seems he went weird. Woke up in the middle of the night and started baying at the moon through his bedroom window. Later on he got to scratching behind his ears with his feet, even though he was still wearing slippers. Next he got out of the house somehow and started chasing cars. Lady finally had to beat him with a newspaper to make him stop—at which point he raised his legs and peed on her, then chased the neighbor's cat up a tree.
That's when the old lady called the nut-box people.
By the time they got there the guy'd gotten a case of hairy knees, a wet nose, and a taste for the family dog's Gravy Train. In fact, the man and the dog got into a fight over it, and the man bit the rat terrier's ear off.
Yeeecccchhh—fighting over Gravy Train! They can have the stuff. Give me steak and 'taters.
Lady said she didn't know what had gone wrong. Said he'd gone to bed with a stomachache and feeling a bit under the weather. And why not? He'd got hold of a week-old hamburger from McWhipple's that she'd set on top of the refrigerator and forgotten about. Seems this guy was a real chowhound and went for it. Ate a couple of big bites before his taste buds had time to work and he realized he was chomping sewer fodder.
Ouch and flea bites! That must have been the same green meat I got a bite of.
I tossed the paper aside and patted my chest for a cigarette. No pockets, of course.
Just then, my tail fell off. It went through the slats in the park bench and landed on the ground. I looked down and saw it turn to dust, hair and all, till a little wind came along and whipped it away.
Man, some days the things that happen to you shouldn't happen to a dog.
"A Change of Lifestyle," co-written by Joe R. Lansdale and Karen Lansdale, originally appeared in 1984 in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine. It later appeared in A Fist Full of Stories [and Articles], a collection of Lansdale's writings published by CD Publications. It is currently available in Bumper Crop, a collection published 2004 by Golden Gryphon Press. "A Change of Lifestyle" © 1984 Joe R. Lansdale and Karen Lansdale.
If that ain't Happy Meal enough for you, head on back this way Thursday, August 06, for another dose of that Mojo magic that could only be the work of Joe R. Lansdale!