Potluck

 

T H I S    W E E K

Poems by Taneum Mariah Bambrick

 

Mixed Breed

 

Vern and Fran sat under a shady tree next to their rig in the Yogi Bear RV Camp & Resort in the New Hampshire White Mountains & Lakes Region. It was a busy fall weekend; there were few vacancies to be had. That day, the couple had perused all the other rigs with license plates spanning nearly twenty states. The most prominent state was their newly adopted “home” of South Dakota. Vern and Fran, who were life-long Illinois residents, had switched just last year.  South Dakota was known for its lack of state tax and easy mail forwarding, along with a host of other pluses that lured retirees to switch their residency.

 

Recently retired, the couple had sold their ranch home and bought a 42-foot Newman Mountain Aire diesel pusher. It sported a Jeep tow vehicle, four slides, and a motorcycle lift. It even had a stacked washer-dryer so they wouldn’t be at the mercy of the expensive camp Laundromats. Their rig was the envy of many at the RV campgrounds where they stayed.

 

“Yep Fran, I’d say we take the prize this weekend. Haven’t seen anything bigger ‘n us so far,” commented Vern. The two had just returned from walking their two small dogs, a young Chihuahua named Elizabeth, and an aging Pug named Livingston-Maxwell.   

 

“C’mon, Max, up you go!” urged Vern. The pug snorted intensely, then it sneezed. After Vernon encouraged him a few more times, Maxwell leapt with all his might, and almost succeeded in making it up one of Vernon’s legs and onto his lap. Vernon grabbed onto the aging mutt and hauled him up the rest of the way.

 

“Good boy, good boy!” Vern exclaimed. Maxwell reached up and licked Vern’s face in a show of adoration.

 

Fran brought out a pitcher of tea and set it down on a foldout table.  They didn’t even have time for a sip before a glint of light caught their attention.  A new rig was pulling into the camp.  They stared at it in disbelief!

 

It was an odd-looking affair; long, silver in color, sporting aerodynamic features. Vern reckoned it to be least a 50-footer, and then some. It was eerily silent. There were strange do-hickeys spaced at regular intervals along its base; he had no idea as to their purpose. The windows looked more like portals, and the front windshield resembled that of an airplane’s. There were no visible manufacturer’s markings to be seen. The rig’s wheel wells were completely covered, giving it the appearance of floating along the road. It proceeded slowly for another hundred feet and pulled effortlessly into one of the park’s remaining, empty spaces.

 

The couple continued to stare.  “Would you look at that, Vernon”?  

 

***

 

Eventually, curiosity got the better of the two, so after supper Vern and Fran decided to take a walk down the road to see the strange rig up close.  They brought Livingston-Maxwell and Elizabeth with them.

 

As they approached the silver monstrosity, Vern and Fran could see its two occupants enjoying a meal outside. The man and woman appeared to be in their early twenties. Both wore short-cropped, blonde hair. They had a small animal at their side; at first, Vern mistook it for a hairless cat but upon closer examination, it appeared to be some sort of Chihuahua-mixed breed. It was acting excited; upon seeing Vern and Fran’s canines, the critter emitted a high-pitched yelp and proceeded to jump several feet into the air. In response, Elizabeth also pranced around excitedly.  The woman shot her animal a stern stare; it immediately sat on the ground and looked at her obediently. The old dog, Maxwell, simply stood there and drooled.

 

“Hello!” the man called to Vern and Fran. “Would you like to sit and talk?”

 

“Thanks. Don’t mind if we do. I’m Vernon Stockwell. This is my wife, Fran.”

 

The two newcomers introduced themselves as John and Jane Doe. They were from Las Vegas and had recently taken up the RV lifestyle. The Does offered Vern and Fran some lemonade.

 

“I hope you don’t mind me sayin’ this, John, but you two look awfully young to be retired,” chuckled Fran.

 

John smiled.

 

“No, we’re still . . . working. We’re just taking a break from things for a while. You see, Jane and I work for the government at a . . . an engineering facility. Occasionally they let us out for good behavior.” Jane laughed at his joke.

 

“I see. They must treat you pretty well out there.”

 

Vern looked again at the silver bullet.

 

“This is quite a rig you got here, John. I was tellin’ Fran, I ain’t never seen one quite like it. Who makes it, anyways?”

 

John paused to take a sip of lemonade.

 

“It’s a custom job, Vern. You see I, ah . . . I like to design things in my spare time. Jane and I had this vacation planned for some time, so I had the folks in the machine shop at work construct this recreational vehicle to my specifications. I guarantee you, you won’t find another one like it anywhere in the . . . on the planet.”

 

“Can I take a look at the controls?”

 

Susan shot John a peculiar look. Fran thought that she could detect a look of embarrassment on his face.

 

“Ah, perhaps tomorrow?” Susan asked. “It’s been a long . . . drive and things are pretty messy right now.”

 

“Oh sure, no problem, folks,” Vern replied.  “We understand. Livin’ on the road things can get pretty disorganized. Especially when your pets are running all over and . . . “

 

Just then, the couples heard a howl coming from behind the Doe’s rig. It sounded like something between fear and ecstasy. The Chihuahua, Elizabeth, came running from around the corner, followed in hot pursuit by John and Jane’s dog. The animal caught up with Elizabeth; he mounted the small dog and proceeded to hump it frantically. Elizabeth howled some more.

 

“Zyforg!” shouted Jane. She pointed at the ground next to his chair.

 

The dog immediately stopped its mating, and trotted over and sat under the chair.  Vern couldn’t help but notice the dog’s enormous, erect penis.

 

“I’m so sorry!” said Jane. “When our animal gets ‘excited’ it can sometimes misbehave around other animals. I hope your dog wasn’t traumatized.”

 

Vern and Fran exchanged glances. Fran said, meekly, “No harm done. She’s been spayed.” Vern added, “It’s a doggie’s nature, I suppose.”

 

The two chatted about their respective pets. Vern and Fran told them that their Pug, Livingston-Maxwell, had been in the family for almost ten years. They had picked up Elizabeth at a pound in Santa Fe last year to keep Maxwell company. Max didn’t cotton to the younger pup at first, but the two were now best of friends.

 

“What did you call your dog? Ziferg?”

 

“Zyforg,” said Jane. “It’s a rather unusual name. You see, John is an amateur astronomer. He named the animal after a distant planet that orbits Sirius.”

 

Huh, that’s odd, Vern thought. Didn’t they give all those exoplanets names like Keplar 69-c and such?

 

“I see. And what kind of breed is your Zyforg? Looks like he’s got a little bit of Chihuahua in ‘em. And, no offense--he looks like he’s got more ‘cat’ in ‘em than dog.”

 

“Well, he’s a special breed, very unique. It’s called . . . “

 

“Jane interrupted. “ . . . It’s called ‘Azawskrozi.’”

 

“Yes,” replied John. “Azawskrozi. You see, we picked him up on a trip to . . . the Galápagos Islands several few years ago. There are all sorts of animal breeds living on the island that can be found nowhere else.  Are you familiar with Darwin’s theory of evolution?”

 

John and Jane proceeded to lecture to them about Darwin’s early work on the island and all of the mysterious creatures he had encountered. Vern and Fran were quite impressed by the lesson but also, a bit overwhelmed. It seemed that the young couple possessed considerable knowledgeable about a great many things. But there was one thing that Vern and Fran knew a lot about, too—dogs, and dog breeding.

 

“Now, this critter of yours,” began Vern, “‘Zyforg’--you say he’s a pure breed ‘Azawskrozi’? Have you ever thought about entering him in competition?”

 

John and Jane exchanged surprised looks.

 

“No. Please tell us more!”

 

For the next fifteen minutes, Fran and Vern discussed their favorite pastime: being on the dog show circuit. They had been quite active until just a few years ago, up until they sold their home and hit the road. The couple had placed in numerous small breed competitions throughout the south and the east coast. They described to John and Jane how thrilling it was to watch a judge come up and handle their animal, observe its good grooming, and how obedient and conforming it was when put to the test.

 

“And, you say these contests are held all over the United States?” asked Jane.

 

“Oh sure,” replied Fran. We used to load up our dogs in the van and travel to a show nearly every weekend. Why, this weekend you’ll probably find . . . well, let’s see . . . “

 

Fran pulled out her smartphone and Googled a schedule of upcoming shows.

 

“See, here,” she said. “Tomorrow morning, there’s a big one sponsored by the American Kennel Club in Richmond, Virginia.”

 

Jane looked at the phone and then she glanced anxiously at John.  “We have to do this, John. This is exciting!”

 

“Whoa, folks! There’s a lot of training and preparation involved,” said Vern. “You have to start with the basics. Now, this here show in Richmond--it’s pretty advanced. And besides, Richmond is a far piece from New Hampshire. Even driving nonstop, it would take you the better part of thirteen to fourteen hours to get there--unless, of course, that rig of yours can sprout wings.”

 

Vern laughed at his own joke. At first, John and Jane looked blankly at one another. A second later, they, too, laughed.

 

“Of course, you’re absolutely right, Vern,” replied Jane. “I guess I let myself get carried away there for a moment. Virginia is awfully far away and besides, we’d need to ‘train’ our animal to be more obedient, wouldn’t we?” She winked at John.

 

“Yes, that’s a lot of driving,” replied John. “I don’t think we’re up for that challenge.  I am actually feeling a bit tired.  So if you folks will excuse us, I think we will tidy up a bit, and turn in early. But thanks so much for telling us about the dog shows.”

 

*    *    *

 

Vern awoke with a start. At first, he was confused. Their bedroom was bathed in an intense light coming from outside the rig. It penetrated their custom, room-darkening blinds.

 

What the--!

 

He looked over at the clock on the dresser; it displayed 2:27 AM.

 

“Wake up, dear! Something’s going on.”

 

“Fran rolled over and opened her eyes; she, too, was instantly awake. They both rushed out of bed and nearly tripped over one another as they made their way to the outer door.

 

“Would you look at that?!”

 

Fran, Vern, and dozens of other residents of the Yogi Bear RV Camp stood outside and shielded their eyes, as they looked skyward at the brilliant flying object hovering almost directly above them. The thing hung in mid-air for another twenty seconds, then it blasted off in a southerly direction at an incredible speed. The entire time, it was completely silent. After only a few seconds had elapsed, it had shrunk to a small pinpoint of light.

 

Moments later, after his vision had returned to normal, Vern started a conversation with their neighbors in the RV next door. The husband and wife, who were from Oregon, were also baffled by the unidentified flying object. Johnny, a retired Marine “Gunny”, boasted that it was one of those Army stealth helicopters “like the one that took out Osama bin Laden.”

 

“Well,” Johnny’s wife remarked, “It sure did take off like a ‘bat out of hell.’”

 

It was then that Vern happened to look down the road and realized the Doe’s rig was missing!  

 

*    *    *

 

The following morning, Fran and Vern rose from their slumber. Fran was still rubbing the sleep from her eyes and wondering if they had imagined the whole episode with the UFO, when she heard peeping sounds coming from the living room. Fran put on her slippers and walked the short distance from the bedroom to the couch. There she saw another incredible sight.

 

“Vernon . . . you better come in here. You’re never going to believe this!”

 

Vern joined Fran.  Both peered behind the couch at the source of the sound.  Their two-year-old Chihuahua, Elizabeth, was nursing a litter of six newborn Azawskrozi-Chihuahua puppies.

***

 

Phil Temples lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, and works as a
computer systems administrator at a university. He has published over
eighty works of short fiction in print and online journals. Blue Mustang Press recently published Phil's murder-mystery novel, “The Winship Affair." And his new paranormal-horror novel, "Helltown Chronicles," has just been accepted by Eternal Press.