TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
Her shoes clip-clopped along the concrete like a sticky metronome. Approaching a hot dog vendor, she said, “What types of mustard do you have today?”
He responded, “I had a pure-bred Schnauzer but now he only has three legs.” He then handed her a sweating bottle of water before turning away.
A few feet away, a metal newspaper dispenser reflected the harsh sunlight. She stepped closer, blinking at the headline…
(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)
Otto came from an esteemed lineage. He had grey, white hair that was kept well groomed, and rich, dark brown eyes. Measuring in at exactly one and a half feet tall, Otto thought himself to be, overall, a very grand looking Schnauzer.
As per a typical weekday afternoon, Otto was resting on his comfortable bed in the back of the food truck. Many would have thought him asleep, but he was actually fairly alert, ready to jump into action at any moment. Or, attempt to jump, rather. He had a lot of trouble keeping balance these days. But that was fine. It was probably better that he stopped chasing those cars after the incident, anyways.
Hearing a strange sort of ticking nearing the truck, Otto perked his head up to see a woman approaching. Master Hank greeted her with a gesture only a human could call friendly – a perfunctory nod of the head with a smile like hardened clay plastered onto his face.
“Hello,” he almost definitely greeted her. He didn’t actually use the word ‘hello’ (one of the few human words Otto knew), but Otto was familiar enough with the process to know that that’s what Master Hank would say in a situation like this. Even before the food truck, Master Hank had always been a seller of things. It used to be things such as couches. Then it was bunches of paper bound together, which were called “magazines”. Now, as Otto understood it, Master Hank sold water bottles, paper plates, and condiments, and gave out free hot dogs along with them.
“What types of mustard do you have today?” The woman probably asked something like that, sparing a glance at Otto. Dogs have a harder time understanding strangers. Body language can’t be read as well, meaning that Otto had to rely on human words he already knew – which weren’t many. He did think he caught the word “mustard”, though. Master Hank laughed in response to the woman’s question before responding. This time, Otto was able to pick up on two words: “Schnauzer” and “legs”.
Perhaps the woman was actually talking about Otto. In that case, Master Hank was probably saying something like, “I had a pure-bred Schnauzer but now he only has three legs.” Master Hank loved talking about Otto. Otto knew this, because if Otto could speak, he would love talking about Master Hank.
Once the business transaction had been completed, Hank handing the woman a water bottle and the woman handing Hank some red dollar bills, Hank turned his attention from her almost immediately to scout for more customers, and the woman went over to check out some newspapers. Before long she was replaced by a man and a young boy on his shoulders, who ordered two hot dogs, then a bicyclist, then Otto’s good old friend Mr. Nibbles and his elderly mistress. Customers dropped by like this, until finally a customer in a stiff looking uniform with a golden pin on his chest came over to the truck. Otto thought the customer must have been pretty rude. He didn’t buy anything, and Master Hank moved his truck almost immediately after talking to him. Master Hank seemed a little down about all of that, giving Otto a few head pats, so Otto gave him an encouraging woof to let him know everything was okay, and that Master Hank’s pets were still good.
After a long day at work, Master Hank parked the truck and headed back to the apartment with Otto. Otto bounded up the stairs in the usual way, losing balance and tripping over every three steps until Master Hank picked him up and carried him the rest of the way.
The apartment was not as nice as where Master Hank and Otto used to live before. That place had been so much bigger, with a nice lawn and lots of pleasant smells. It had also been much more lively, with a head mistress to accompany Otto’s master, and two little mistresses who had loved to play with Otto. Otto missed them, and didn’t understand why he was here now instead, but it didn’t matter. Otto was happy just to be with his master.
Master Hank wasn’t the same way. When Master Hank was sad, he would forget which bottles were good to drink, and which ones could make him sick. As much as Otto hated it, he couldn’t stop his master from drinking those bottles once they were out. Instead, Otto decided that he would make sure his master was happy by helping out as best he could. That way, he wouldn’t forget to not drink the bad bottles. For example, if his master dropped food on the floor, Otto would eat it up right away so his master wouldn’t have to clean. If Master Hank looked sad while watching that black box, Otto would jump up onto the couch and give him a friendly lick. And every night, Otto would bark to be carried up onto Master Hank’s bed so he could lie on his feet and keep him warm at night. And the next day, Otto would be sure to jump all over his master and lick his toes to get him up to face a new day, even better than the last.
Dogs live their lives very simply, and they have a very simple understanding of human lives. Conversations hold little meaning for dogs. Dogs don’t understand complicated chains of events. The griefs of the previous day don’t weigh on them. For the rest of his life, all of Otto’s days were exactly like this one, spending time with and helping out Master Hank. And it was a happy life.