A knock sounded at the door and the children raced to greet it, for today was the day they’d received this year’s dogs. When the elaborately wrapped box was opened, out stepped three dogs, each slender as javelins and just as pointy.
These perfect canine specimens each bore a nametag. The black one's read “Caesar.” The white one’s read “Kaiser.” And the brown one’s read “Tsar.” Clearly, this was the best batch of dogs yet. But the horrible daughter crossed her sausage-arms in dismay.
“This is only three dogs. One, two, three. Every other year we got four,” she proclaimed in her peculiarly baritone voice.
It was then that the fourth dog emerged from behind the phalanx of Caesar, Kaiser and Tsar. He was a round little thing, the color, shape, size and density of a potato, and he had a tongue that would always be slightly too large to fit entirely within his mouth. He walked cautiously to the center of the room. Stuck to his back was a post-it note stuck to his back that read “Durrangelo.”
The horrible daughter clomped over to the fourth dog and plucked off the post-it. “His name is Durraneglo,” she said, but by then everyone else had already read the note when it was still on the dog, and they all resented the daughter for talking.
The father shrugged. “Maybe he snuck into the crate,” he offered as an explanation how Durrangelo came to be in his house.
By then, it was time for lunch, and the dogs followed the family to the dining room, where an extensive sandwich bar had been prepared by the family cook. It had both salami and salumi. Soon, everyone had assembled a sandwich to their liking and sat at the table, save for the second-youngest son, who sat on the floor to be near the new dogs. The three pointy ones stood in a row, with perfect posture and without any indication that they wanted the family’s sandwiches. But little Durrangelo felt differently, and as the son looked at the various sandwich elements he’d collected, momentarily boggled by the act of assembling them into food, Durrangelo hurried over to the plate and plopped himself onto the bottom half of the bread.
“I’m going to need a new sandwich now!” the son cried, and all the family members turned to see why. The father erupted in a hearty laugh. “Why, that little dog wants to be food,” he said. And soon the entire family was laughing and continued to do so for roughly five minutes, because humorous moments were hard to come by in this house. The laughter only ceased when the horrible daughter spoke. “Yes, I’d say he certainly wants to be food!” she said for no reason. The family glared at her. “We tell people you are our niece,” the mother hissed.
Eventually, the son did get a new plate of sandwich fixings, but what neither he nor anyone else knew was that the father — and to a negligible extent, the daughter too — was right: Durrangelo truly did want to be food. It was the only wish he carried in his little heart, which was also potato-shaped.
Five full minutes of laughter proved taxing to a family unaccustomed to the act, and when lunch ended, they agreed that they might as well just turn in for the rest of the day, to sleep the clock around.
Durrangelo knew that this provided him a second chance at realizing his dream. “Surely,” he thought (because he was not a talking dog), “if I can crawl into the snaggletooth maw of that horrible daughter, she will instinctively eat me.”
Before long, each of the family members retired to their sleeping quarters upstairs — and the daughter downstairs, to the doorless storage room where a futon mattress had been slung on the floor for her. And Durrangelo was off, plip-plopping his little feet away as the three superior dogs watched, not comprehending his scheme.
The daughter’s “bedroom” smelled unpleasant, even to dogs, but Durrangelo steeled himself and crawled onto the daughter’s chest, which heaved mightily as she snored. “If I can just clear those tooth-like protrusions,” he thought (again, he didn’t talk), “I can fling myself down this creature’s gullet, and finally realize my dream of becoming food.” Struggling to maintain his footing while atop the dozing thing, he carefully watched how long her mouth opened each time when she sucked in more air. Alas, her incurable apnea made her breathing irregular, and when Durrangelo dove toward his dream, her mouth shut suddenly. He crashed into her full moon of a face, and the daughter snorted herself awake.
“Durrangelo! You’ve come to sleep in my bed with me because you like me best!” she cried, although at this point, even she knew that she was making a lot of assumptions. But regardless, she churned over onto her side and cradled the hapless puppy in her arms, where he would spend an agonizing sleepless night.
When the family rose the next morning, they noticed none of familiar, breakfasty smells, and when they ventured to the kitchen, they found only Caesar, Kaiser and Tsar, already standing at attention, and a note on the icebox. It was from the cook, and it read as follows: “Dear sir and madam, though I have the utmost respect for you both, I cannot continue in this household any longer. You know why. Sincerely, Cook.” After the mother and father read this, they glanced down at the daughter, who was still wearing her burlap sleep-sack. Yes, they did know why. It had been harder and harder to keep help for long with that monster toddling around their home’s bottom story, smearing everything she touched with her jammy fingers. Where was she getting the jam, anyway?
“I suppose I can fetch my gloves and drag that futon mattress into the cellar,” the father offered.
“That won’t solve this breakfast problem,” the wife responded. “We’ll need something to eat.”
Durrangelo stood up on his hind legs and twirled about in a vain effort to get the family’s attention. The daughter also stood up on her hind legs. “Sometimes when I feel hungry I go to Mother’s art studio and steal some of the modeling clay. It’s quite filling. Shall I go fetch it?”
The mother rubbed the side of her head. “Oh, just don’t say anything,” she pleaded.
“I know Cook left the potato room well-stocked,” said the father. “We could eat potatoes for breakfast.”
“I suppose we could,” said the mother, worriedly. “I mean, I’ve heard of people eating potatoes. Surely one of Cook’s books can direct me how to make a potato-breakfast.” With that, it was decided, and while the father collected thirty of the largest potatoes into a pot, the mother collected endive, cloves and hickory chips to toss into the pot in her best attempt at re-creating a recipe she’d had explained to her as a child.
What the family didn’t know was that Durrangelo had already escaped, unseen, to the potato room and hopped into the pile, where he could be collected into the morning’s ingredients. Oh, how his heart quickened as he was dumped into the pot and covered with the endive and the cloves and the hickory chips. Durrangelo felt true joy as the mother poured a bottle of gin into the pot — “Sometimes people cook with the alcohol, I’ve heard” — and in minutes he felt the potatoes beneath him begin to warm. “Soon it will be my turn!” he thought.
The father, however, was not convinced of this plan, and he noticed that the pot wasn’t smelling like anything Cook had ever made. “Here, wife, I’m going to make sure the potatoes are all bursting in good time,” he said as he moved the contents around with a wooden spoon that he’d seen Cook use before to perform this action. “I just want to see if the potatoes are heating evenly and — well, I’ll be. Family, come here and have a look at this: That little scamp of a dog has hidden himself in our breakfast!” He plucked Durrangelo by the scruff and held him for all to see. “He really did want to become food!”
“Durrangelo!” the family said altogether (though the daughter was a beat late). “Here you go, little fellow,” the father said as he sat Durrangelo down. “You’ll enjoy the floor more. You can play floor games.”
But no! This was too much for poor Durrangelo. He felt in his tiny potato-shaped heart that he would he would be forever foiled in his attempts to live out his dream. And as the daughter and her jam-covered hands lurched toward him, he raced out of the kitchen, down the hall, past the potato room and the ladder room and the stuffed panda room and the one-and-three-quarters bathroom. He skidded into the foyer and then leapt with all his might into the front door mail slot, which he squeezed through with minimal effort. The family raced after him, but by the time they opened the front door, he was already on the far side of the lawn, past the lesser gazebo. Potato-shaped though he might have been, he could motor like a motherfucker.
“Family, I fear Durrangelo has left us,” the father said. (Everyone on some level presumed that this was the daughter’s fault.)
Little Durrangelo raced and raced across the property, though the game preserve and past the retention ponds, until he arrived at the estate’s private beach, where he could go no further.
“What will I do?” he thought. “When and where will I get to become food? Why do I have this dream? Is this, perhaps, a foolish dream? Well, Durrangelo, let’s think about this. You’ve not really examined why you’re so dead-set on becoming food. It could be that this isn’t the best possible life plan. Maybe I should become a racing dog! Yes, that’s it. I’m a good enough runner that I can probably make a decent living at the dog track. Hmm… I wonder where the bus picks up.”
But just then, a hawk swooped down and snatched up little Durrangelo. In mere moments, he was high in the sky and could see lands far beyond the family’s estate. “This will do,” he thought. “Yes, this hawk will surely take me somewhere fun and exciting. That’s where I’ll find out what I’m supposed to do. I guess that was a pretty dumb plan. Ha! Becoming food. Durrangelo, you’re a knucklehead.”
~ EPILOGUE ~