Monday, April 7, 2008

A Wolf in Mutt's Clothing

Diner Prompt #28: Due to health code restrictions, the only animals in the Diner are supposed to be Seeing Eye dogs. What do you do when the "blind" customer with the badly behaved Seeing Eye dog reveals that he or she is not blind? What is really going on?

As you can tell so far, we get all kinds of characters (sometimes quite literally) walking through the doors of diner. That's never more so than when there’s a full moon out. Let me tell you about a particularly interesting couple we had in here not too long ago…

There I was, working the weekend shift. It was a Saturday night, the time of evening after the early birds have flow back to their the nests and before the happy hour crowd stumbles in with the after-buzz munchies. Most of the tables are filled with our loyal regulars, enjoying Francesca’s wonderful blue plate specials.

Then they walked in.

Normally the diner has a seat yourself policy, but the attractive blonde woman with the backpack and dark sunglasses stood at the door, waiting. Her companion was large and furry, of the four-legged variety, and wearing a service dog harness. I figured she might need help finding a table, but before I could get to her, the dog tugged her along, guiding her between the booths along the windows and the tall chairs lining the counter to the last empty table in the diner. A table in my section.

As I made my way over to them, I couldn’t help but notice the dog wasn’t your typical service dog. He was huge, with a shaggy brown coat and long, floppy ears. Not the typical German Sheppard or Golden Retriever you’d expect in a service dog, I couldn’t begin to fathom what breed he was--somewhere between a wolf and the hound of the Baskervilles would be my best guess. But as I got closer, what I noticed the most was his eyes--one blue, one amber. They weren’t warm, scratch-me-behind-the-ears eyes, but intelligent and penetrating as he watched me approach, the kind that could see right through a person to their very soul.

Instead of resting on the floor by her feet like most guide dogs do, the hound padded around to the other side and jumped up to sit on the bench seat across from his mistress. The wolf-dog arched a furry eyebrow at me, as if waiting for me to comment on it, and I arched mine right back at him.

Okay, I mentally told him, you can stay there, as long as you don’t start licking things you shouldn’t. This is a family restaurant, buddy.

He cocked his head at me, and I could have sworn he smiled, but it was hard to tell through all that fur.

“What an interesting dog.”

The lady smiled. “Yes, he is.”

He angled a paw the size of a sledge hammer up and proceeded to scratch an itch on his neck just below the collar. Man, I sure hope he doesn’t have fleas.

“Not your usual breed for a service dog, is he?”

“No, he certainly isn’t.” She shook her head. “He’s special.”

“So, would you like me to tell you about our menu?” I made a mental note to suggest to Debralee that we should have some braille ones printed up.

“No thank you. Rex can pick for us.”

“Rex?”

“My dog.”

“Oh.”

I watched as the wolf-dog appeared to read the menu lying on the table before him, then he placed his mammoth paw on one column.

Not quite believing what I was seeing, I looked and read the item he seemed to be pointing to. “The double-decker cheeseburger?”

“Oh, Rex. Not again. You had a hamburger last night. How about something else?”

The dog whined, then did a big canine huff and glanced at the menu again, shifting his paw to another item.

“Roast beef?” I said, then looked at the woman. “Good choice. It’s one of our specialties.”

“Wonderful. We’ll take two. And a slice of blueberry pie for dessert, if you have it.”

“We sure do. Comin’ right up.”

I went to put their order in, but couldn’t help glancing over in their direction every now and then. The blonde carried on a one-sided conversation, but the dog appeared to listen intently to every word she spoke.

When Francesca called “order up,” I took their food over to them, setting a plate in front of her and then the dog. He wasted no time diving in, slurping up roast beef, gravy and mashed potatoes with a gusto that would do a Hoover vacuum cleaner proud. I was surprised he didn't belch afterwards.

No sooner had I left them to their dinner when I spied the lady scooting the pie over to the dog. He devoured it in three bites. Imagine that. I didn't know dogs liked pie.

After a while, I made my way over to check on them. “How’s everything?”

“Delicious.” The woman felt the face of her watch with her fingertips. “Oh, dear. Just look at the time. It’s almost sun set. We need to get going.”

I looked at the half-eaten meal on her plate. “Would you like a doggie bag?”

“No, thank you. I think he’s had enough. Could you point us in the direction of the restrooms?”

I did out of habit, belatedly realizing she could not see the motion. Rex jumped down off his seat and bumped his cold, wet nose against my leg before going around me to her side. The lady picked up her pack, scooted out of the booth, and she and the wolf-dog made their way to back.

I was just refilling a cup o’ joe for one of my regulars at the counter when the woman came out of the ladies room, followed by a tall, handsome man dressed in thigh-hugging jeans and a light blue button-down shirt, the cuffs rolled up to reveal strong, tanned forearms. He had dark, wavy hair and a face that could make a nun take a second look. But it was his eyes that had me nearly dropping the coffee pot. He had one blue one and one amber one. Just like the dog, which was now no where to be seen.

“The pie was excellent,” the man said as he paid the bill. “Blueberry is my favorite.”

I glanced from the empty booth, to the rest rooms, to the couple standing before me. “You were…and now you’re…”

“I told you he was special.” The lady tucked an errant lock of hair behind the man’s ear and he arched into her touch as if begging for more.

As they turned to leave, the man placed his hand at the small of her back, guiding her toward the door with loving care. He opened the door for her and she paused, turned back to me and smiled.

“While I may not be able to see…” She pulled down her dark glasses and winked at me with a cloudy, sightless eye. “I’m not blind.”

Amazing what a full moon can do.

4 comments:

  1. I want a pie-eating, menu-reading dog too. ;)

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  2. Very clever and funny, Lori! Exactly where can I get one of these dogs anyway?

    ~Maggie

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  3. This might also explain why the other customers ran screaming out of the ladies room in prompt #11...

    Jody W.

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  4. Lori,
    I love this. I was reading this in the library and a reader asked me if I was reading something funny. I said yes. Great short short!

    Francesca

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