"WTF" was my initial reaction. I mean what warrants waking a poor man up this early in the morning after a night out of heavy drinking? 'Nothing' is the obvious and only answer.
Before responding, I focused my eyes on the clock which read 10:27. Still too Damn early in my mind. I really need to move out of my folks house. Only two weeks to go.
I quickly dragged myself out of the bed and opened the door.
"About bloody time." Dad raged. "Hurry up, get dressed and get upstairs, we have a family emergency."
Before I could ask what was going on, Dad immediately turned on his heel and disappeared up the stairs two at a time. I had not seen Dad move this quick in years so I knew right away something was very wrong. I threw on some clothes and rushed to find out about the emergency, a million horrible potential scenarios rushing through my mind.
I got to the living room and found Dad and his friends 'Old Pete' and Billy huddled around the dining room table. They turned quickly as I entered the room.
"Is Mom ok, Dad?" I asked, fearing his response. "Where's Mom?"
"Your Mother is fine, boy." Dad responded sharply. "She is out shopping or at church or something, I can't recall where she said she was going. I am too shaken up right now. Charlie has gone missing."
For those of you new to reading my weekly ramblings, Charlie is my Dad's elderly demonic dog who Dad raised from a puppy around 100 years ago. I am actually unsure how old
this 'cast-off from Hell' is, as the nasty thing has been around here ever since I can recall.
Dad refers lovingly to this fiendish animal as the 'best pet ever' and babies the damn thing at every opportunity. Charlie however took an instant dislike to me from day one and has made my life miserable by either biting me whenever the mood strikes him, destroying my property by chewing it up or deciding to urinate on my shoes should I actually leave them unattended at anytime. To me, this dog is Satan in fur.
Before I continue, let me make it perfectly clear that I really like all animals and get along great with all of them. Well all of them with the exception of Devil Charlie.
"Joe Barnes is also on his way over." Dad advised the group. "Joe is a retired RCMP officer, he has expert knowledge in tracking down runaways. 'Project Charlie' begins now."
I looked down at the table where Dad had a rather large map of the city unfolded and it was marked off in sections to search. He had evidently already 'assigned' Pete, Billy and Joe their areas to drive around and look for this filthy old canine and announced that he would stay behind at 'Home Base' to both coordinate the search and call all the local radio stations to assist in this emergency.
Dad then swung around towards me and snarled "By the looks of you it is obvious you are still hung over from your late night. You shouldn't operate any vehicle in your state so I want you to start checking all the back alleys on foot. There's a chance Charlie may still be close by, albeit slim, since he has been missing for hours."
I looked around and couldn't believe the ridiculous situation which was unfolding before my eyes. My father and his elderly retired buddies had become some 'Geriatric A-Team' with plans to search everywhere for some dirty old hound in a pseudo-military operation foolishly dubbed 'Project Charlie'. This was totally insane.
Before I could protest aloud against this stupid charade, I looked at my aging father and noticed the stress and sadness in his eyes at the loss of his 'beloved' dog. I decided that I would pretend to go along with these plans and remain silent despite my numerous misgivings and my total hatred for this wretched animal.
I headed out behind the house and turned down the back alley, casually strolling and looking around, not really scanning for Charlie but rather just looking at the scenery in general.
As I contemplated that Charlie may well be lost and gone forever, I realized immediately that a world without Charlie was indeed a good world. This sudden realization resulted in the air smelling fresher and the birds chirping happier than I had noticed in many years.
Sure Dad would be upset for a couple days, but he would undoubtedly get over it. I mean not only was Charlie old and miserable, he does absolutely nothing. Sleeps 20 hours, wakes up and eats for 4 hours (he only has like 5 teeth so his meals take a long time) and then repeats the process. Completely useless. I would go out and buy Dad a new dog, one that was normal and not possessed. Yes, this missing Charlie business was a Godsend in my book.
Thinking more about Charlie being gone forever put a little bounce in my step and my hangover seemed to suddenly vanish and I was feeling better than ever.
I turned down another alley and then out behind the strip mall where the neighbourhood pub was just opening for the day. I looked at my watch that read 11:15.
"It's time for a little break from all this searching and maybe a bit of lunch." I thought to myself as I stepped through the patio gate of the pub and sat under one of the umbrellas.
This was not the pub I usually go to, Hell no! This one is in my parents neighbourhood and caters to an 'older clientele', however they are known to serve a good lunch and I was also feeling a little parched on this rather beautiful hot summer morning.
Still feeling great, I ordered a nice big T-bone steak with baby potatoes as well as a pint of Guinness, just to 'wet my whistle'.
"Hair of the Dog" I muttered out loud as I took a huge swig. This was an especially funny line to me since I had been drinking Guinness last night and now was actually looking for a dog. Rather clever comment on my part I thought - HAHA!!
I sat at my table contemplating how good life currently is with a Guinness in hand and no Charlie to be found. Yep, life was sure sweet.
The waitress reappeared once again & brought over my huge T-Bone, which I paid her for and ordered yet another Guinness. As I carefully cut into the tender meat set before me, I suddenly heard a familiar and unsettling noise coming from across the street.
A cold shudder went down my spine as I recognized this horrid 'noise' as actually a bark from that missing hound from Hell - Charlie.
I looked up & then across the street and there he was. The demon Charlie was sniffing around some garbage bins barking wildly for no apparent reason. Obviously his dementia combined with his cataracts was probably causing him to think he was sitting in our kitchen beside his favourite dog dish demanding to be served his mid day meal.
I slowly put my fork down, the meat still untouched. My cold and hateful glare staring directly at this Cujo clone.
My initial reaction was to pretend I did not see the filthy Charlie and focus all my energy in devouring this beautiful juicy steak however I kept thinking about my father and the sadness that his eyes conveyed at the loss of his pet.
"Damn it" I said aloud as I stood up and began calling Charlie to come over with absolutely no success, as I am sure he is probably deaf as well as dumb.
I then ran out through the gate and across the street. As I was picking him up he immediately attempted to bite me. Wow, what a surprise, never saw that coming.
The dog smelled terrible, as he had clearly been rolling around and eating garbage since his so-called disappearance earlier in the day.
I quickly grabbed him and was returning to the pub to finish my untouched steak when the waitress blocked my entrance.
"You can't come in here with that animal." she declared, her face twisted in disgust at his evident foul stench. "Health regulations prohibit animals on the premises."
"But my steak, I need to get my steak." I blubbered, pointing to the now empty table I had vacated minutes ago. "I already paid for it and was sitting right there."
"I thought you had left as you had paid your bill and disappeared." The waitress responded harshly. "Your food has been thrown in the trash already, which by the smell of you and that
animal, seems to be where you two have just come from."
With that she abruptly turned around and walked back into the pub, leaving me hungry, broke and holding a dirty and foul smelling elderly dog in my arms.
I angrily turned towards home, my eyes now watering from the stench emanating from this animal. I was now definitely hating life.
We finally arrived home and were eagerly met by Dad at the back door.
"Charlie, oh Charlie." Dad gushed. "I am so glad you're home safe and sound. I have been so worried about you."
"What's that foul odour?" Dad finally declared, his nose twitching from side to side. "You will need to get cleaned up."
"Yes Dad." I responded. "I know, I am going to have a shower right now."
"I was not talking to you." Dad replied to me. "I was speaking to poor old Charlie here, we will have to give him a bath right away. Won't we old man?"
"And after that" Dad continued. "I will barbeque you up a nice T-bone steak. It's the very least I can do for you."
"Well thanks Dad" I replied, now starting to feel a little better. "I am actually pretty hungry. That sounds really good."
"I was not talking to you, Boy." Dad replied gruffly. "I was speaking to poor old Charlie. Only the best for our Charlie. If you're hungry boy, I think there is some leftover baloney in the fridge."
I stared at him in disbelief for a moment, not knowing how to respond. I figured I just better keep my comments to myself, as I have learned never to speak in anger. Silence is golden during these situations.
"Ah, no thanks Dad." I responded dejectedly. "I am going to have a quick shower and then go back to bed. It has been a rather stressful morning."
I headed downstairs towards the shower muttering 'Project Charlie' would be better named as 'Project Screw Me Over'.
Dad suddenly yelled behind me "Well keep your door closed, I'm calling the boys back and we are going to be having a little celebration party and it may get a wee loud."
With that Dad turned to Charlie and happily declared "Yes, a little celebration party just for you Charlie. Welcome Home, old man."