Vinnie’s mom stands on the sidewalk in front of the Johnson’s house. She’s waiting for Vinnie’s school bus to drop the neighborhood kids off at the corner of Mulberry and State Streets. Her mind whirls with questions why she hasn’t received an email or telephone call from the school for four straight days. No complaints about Vinnie in four days is his new PR. He’s finally turning into a normal boy, she thinks.
Dexter tugs on the leash trying to reach the Johnson’s lawn. Vinnie’s mom knows Dexter uses the Johnson’s lawn as a dog toilet. Subconsciously she reaches into her jeans’ pocket for a doggie pickup bag. The only thing in her pocket is her iPhone. Dexter turns to look at her. Vinnie’s mom recognizes the beagle look. Dexter’s looks says if you don’t let me go in my preferred spot I will start howling and dancing around in a circle and go in the middle of the sidewalk. Vinnie’s mom looks toward the Johnson’s house. It’s Tuesday, Teresa Johnson is at her weekly civic Save Dry Lake meeting. Three moms gather thirty yards in front of her waiting for their kids. They’re gabbing and occasionally turning to stare at her shooting Vinnie’s mom the evil eye.
Vinnie’s mom gives Dexter all the slack he needs. Dexter proudly trots onto the Johnson’s lawn and begins sniffing. He sniffs the trunk of a small tree and walks away. He walks over to Teresa Johnson’s prize flower garden running alongside the six foot fence blocking the Johnson’s view of Vinnie’s home. Dexter sniffs a rose bush and backs away. He saunters toward a small herbal patch of basil, parsley, oregano, and rosemary. The combined fragrances remind Dexter of his passion, eating. He turns around and faces Vinnie’s mom and gently backs up and centers himself directly over the basil. Vinnie’s mom feels faint. It’s too late, Dexter grunts, squeezes and suddenly is on all fours kicking the ground behind him with his rear feet. Satisfied, Dexter trots next to Vinnie’s mom as if nothing happened. Dexter expects a reward for style, performance, or dog etiquette, he’s not quite sure of the category. When Vinnie’s mom doesn’t reach into her pocket for a doggie treat, Dexter’s small beagle brain cannot compute why Vinnie’s mom doesn’t reward him when he goes on the Johnson’s lawn and Vinnie does reward him.
The vile odor coming from the Johnson’s herb garden causes Vinnie’s mom to begin breathing through her mouth. She scoots ten yards further down Mulberry. The three mothers in front of her scoot ten yards closer to the bus stop. Dexter pulls at the leash. He’s facing down Mulberry toward State Street. Every hunting instinct in him is alive and functioning. In this case, Dexter’s hunting instincts hear the distant sounds of the school bus. Dexter knows that Vinnie is on the school bus and Vinnie will feed him. The bus sounds, still silent to the human ear are playing a Strauss Waltz in Dexter’s ears. Dexter starts barking and howling. The three moms turn and stare at Vinnie’s mom and Dexter. Vinnie’s mom holds her iPhone and pretends to read a black screen.
The school bus comes into view. Orange lights begin flashing quickly turning to red flashing lights. The school bus pulls up alongside the curb and a red stop sign swings out from the driver’s side. A police car follows closely behind the school bus. Happy kids toting backpacks pile off the bus, it’s Friday and they have the weekend off. Vinnie doesn’t get off the bus. The three mom’s stare at Vinnie’s mom. Vinnie’s mom feels the onset of a panic attack. Dexter howls at a fever pitch. The bus pulls away from the curb. The police patrol car pulls up next to the curb. The passenger door opens and Vinnie jumps out. He turns back toward the door, says something and waves. Vinnie turns back toward Mulberry Street, waves to his mom and turns on the jets.
Vinnie runs straight toward the three moms. Vinnie hollers “I’m coming through, I’m coming through.”
Three children jump to the side, Vinnie runs between them hollering, “Thanks, amigos.”
The three moms are frozen, terrified Vinnie will crash into them. Vinnie comes with ten feet of the moms and veers onto Genevieve Crandall’s lawn. The ninety-one year old Genevieve is raking leaves around bushes near her porch. She turns when she hears, “Hi, Mrs. Crandall. I only got five time-outs today.”
Genevieve turns and says, “Good boy, Vinnie. Come by tomorrow and I’ll have some fresh cookies for you. Watch out for my rose bush.”
Vinnie, racing ahead at full speed toward the rose bush, “I got it, Mr. Crandall.” He hurdles the two foot rose bush and comes down running. Vinnie veers toward the sidewalk to get around the Johnson’s fence. Once past the fence Vinnie is on the Johnson’s lawn. Vinnie’s mom holds onto Dexter’s leash with two hands. Dexter is on his hind legs straining against the leash.
“I’m coming buddy. You got to stop me. There’s five second left and I’m speeding toward the goal line.” Vinnie dives head first skidding across the Johnson’s manicured lawn into the front paws of the adoring beagle, Dexter.
“Too bad, Buddy. I scored with one second left. Maybe you’ll do better on Monday.’
Vinnie glances up at his mom from his prone position, “Hi, Mom.”
“Did I hear right, you had five time-outs today? And, what were you doing riding in the police car? Are you in trouble?”
Vinnie is on his knees scrounging around in his backpack. Dexter is sitting on his haunches, his left paw extended, anticipating the command to shake. “Can’t talk now, Mom. Dexter needs food. He’s starving.”
“Dexter is not starving. He is overweight,” says Vinnie’s mom.
Vinnie pulls out a saran wrapped half of meatball sandwich. “He stands up and says, “Sit, Dexter.”
Dexter is already sitting. He hopes the next command is as easy. “Shake, Dexter.”
Dexter’s paw stuck straight out in Beagle handshake position. “Good boy, Dexter. Here’s a half of meatball sandwich.” Vinnie tosses the half sandwich to Dexter who catches it as if he is playing Centerfield for the Red Sox.
“Vincent, where did you get a half of meatball sandwich?” demands Vinnie’s mom.
“I traded for it, Mom.”
“What did you trade?”
“I sit behind Joey and when Mrs. Mavis asked him to name the capital of Japan, I whispered it to him. Mrs. Mavis told Joey he was right and thanked him for reading his assignment last night.”
“Vincent, that is not right. How is Mrs. Mavis going to know if Joey read the assignment?”
“Uncle Mike says what the teacher don’t know won’t hurt anybody.”
“I’m sure he said exactly that way.”
“He did, Mom. Can you ask Mensa to invite Uncle Mike? Maybe Uncle Mike’s like Rupert and too smart for Mensa.
“Mary, please help me.”
“You talking to Jesus’ mom again, Mom?”