Front Porch Deductions
The next day, of course, was Sunday. And after Sunday School and Church, Bobby knew exactly where to find Horatio. It was a screen porch with room enough for two rocking chairs, a futon couch/bed foldout, an old easy chair, and a small table for iced tea, lemonade, and the checkerboard. But there was also a spot on the homemade rug in front of Grandpa’s rocking chair where the sunbeams converged and made a warming zone that was absolutely perfect for warming arthritic dog joints and soothing old-dog complaints that needed to be soothed to allow half-day-long naps.
“So, Horatio, here you are!”
The elderly collie yawned. “Yes, Bobby. Here I are.”
“Silly old dog! You’re supposed to say Here I am.”
“Yes, I know that. You must remember, every time you hear me speaking like this, the voice is actually coming out of your own imagination.”
“Sure, and I guess I must’ve made you say it wrong on purpose for some evil reason.”
“Not an evil reason. A familiar one. Grandpa Butch makes that kind of joke by mirroring the things you say as if they were incorrect on purpose. It’s the way his sense of humor works, and you are really smart enough to know that, though you often pretend that you aren’t. Your mind filled in the blanks in a way that sounds right to you, even when there’s joking involved because that’s the world you’re used to.”
Of course, Bobby knew one hundred percent that he was writing the entire discussion in his head because he wanted Horatio to talk like he knew Sherlock Holmes probably would.
Bobby sat on the porch floorboards in his short pants and buried his right hand in the silky fur of Horatio’s neck.
“Why do dogs make such good friends?” Bobby said more to himself than to Horatio.
“Because dogs love their chosen humans. And a dog knows how to listen to people much better than any cat or parrot, or goldfish. Dogs may not know the words you are using all of the time. But they know your smell. And they know how to read what you are thinking and feeling because the see it in your face. No stupid cat can do that.”
“But cats are better at catching mice and rats,” said Shane, while stepping out on the porch with a piece of Mom’s cherry pie on a small plate that he handed to Bobby.
“You’re welcome. I had mine in the kitchen, and Mom asked me to bring yours out here.”
“It’s good,” Bobby said with the first bite in his mouth. “But, hey, wait. How did you know what Horatio said about cats?”
“And how did you get the information so wrong, too?” added Horatio.
“It wasn’t Horatio talking. It was you.”
“See, my dear Robert, I told you my words all come out of your imagination. And sometimes your mouth,” said Horatio.
“Did you hear Horatio say that last thing?”
“That thing he said about where the words come from?”
“I didn’t hear the dog say anything,” said Shane.
“I told you, dear boy, it’s only in your head.
“Well, of course, it is.”
“Is what?” asked Shane.
“You shouldn’t be holding two conversations in your head as the same time. You are confusing your brother Shane,” said Horatio.
“Yes, see. Only I can hear the dog talking.”
“You’re weird,” said Shane, grinning at Bobby as he left him to enjoy his pie with Horatio as company.
Then, something in the yard caught Bobby’s attention. Out between the porch and the barn, on the gravel drive, a large rat was slinking along doing rat business as if he didn’t care who or what saw him.
“Who is that, Horatio?”
“That, dearest Robert, is Whitewhiskers Billy. He’s an evil, egg-sucking rat.”
“So, that’s Whitewhiskers Billy, is it?”
“Why would that rat be Whitewhiskers Billy?” asked Grandpa as Bobby realized that Grandpa Butch had suddenly appeared at the doorway between the porch and the house.
“Did you hear Horatio call him that?” asked Bobby.
“No, I heard you say it,” said Grandpa.
“Oh. So, why is he called Whitewhiskers Billy?
“Because his whiskers smell white. He eats chicken droppings. It makes them sort of bleached white,” said Horatio.
“Because his whiskers smell white,” said Bobby.
“Smell white? Horatio tell you that?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Well, I think we should put some rat poison out, maybe in the barn and under the hen house..” said Grandpa. “That will give old Whitewhiskers Bill something to think about.”
“Will that kill him?” Bobby asked.
“It should. But we will have to be careful that the dog and the stupid turkens don’t get into it. We would hate to lose any of them by being less than careful.”
Bobby nodded wide-eyed. He certainly didn’t want Horatio to get poisoned. Of course, if it got a turken or two, he wouldn’t be too upset.
“I need to check the flyer I got from the hardware store in Clarion. I think I remember a sale on a good poison to put in the barn.” Grandpa left the porch again too.
As Bobby continued to sit in the warm, yellow sunshine with Horatio, he began noticing his bare white legs, how girlish they looked in the sunlight.
“Can you tell if Blueberry is a girl or a boy by smell?”
“She definitely smells girlish. No boy smell. No boy pee. Lots of girly flower smells.”
“I have always believed she is a girl.”
“Yes, and you kinda like her too. It’s a shame she already has a boyfriend.”
“You know I can tell how you feel about her by the scent of romance whenever you’re around her. And I know that whatever gender-irregularities she may have, you are convinced that she must be a girl. Remember, I will always know what you are thinking because…”
“Because you are the world’s greatest dog-detective with your all-knowing sniffer.”
“See there? You are a lot smarter than you let people think you are. And you are a great imaginer too.”