Doggoned Bullseye excerpt

Chapter 1 

     I’ve always said, “It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.”  I should have asked permission.  I didn’t, and trouble followed.  Like a curtain call after the play.

     I have no artistic talents.  I can’t dance, draw, and couldn’t carry a tune if it were Superglued to me.  So how did I end up working back stage at a local college production of Oliver?  I have Bull Terriers.

     In the green room of the theater, I put the final touches on Gambler’s eye make up while listening to the music piped in from the stage.  Gambler is an all white dog who doesn’t have an eye patch so I put one on.  “Hold still, pup, or you’re going to smear this again.”

     Elliot, a stagehand, popped his head in the door.  “Ms. Lowell, Oom pah pah!  Better get him to his place.”

     I laughed and said, “He knows his cues.  He’s been whining and trying to haul me out the door for the last five minutes.”  We followed Elliot down a short hall and entered a small elevator.  The door slid open on the next floor and we stepped into the hall.  I removed Gambler’s collar and lead, checked his slip lead for the millionth time, and placed it around his neck.  “Okay, kid.  Here we go.  Please don’t fall off the set.”

     We trotted down the narrow hallway, walked through a door and entered into the controlled pandemonium of the world behind the stage.  I ushered Gambler to the steep steps that led to the upper level of the set.

     “He looks great, Linnie.”  Jake took the lead from me and prepared for his entrance as the villainous Bill Sikes.

     I followed them up the stairs and waited behind the black curtain, near the top step, with a dog biscuit in hand.

     Jake and Gambler walked on stage for their scene Jake slid the lead off and secreted it in his pocket.  My dog stood on a balcony with no leash or collar to keep him back from the edge.  At the end of the scene, when Jake said, “Bullseye, go home!”  I held out the treat and whispered, “Gambler, come.  Cookie.”

     My Bull Terrier stood with his toes on the edge of the raised platform, peered down at the actors below, and wagged his tail.

      “Cookie.”  I repeated a little louder and held my breath.  Gambler did a slow turn, followed his nose off stage to my outstretched hand, and gobbled his reward.  “Good boy!”  I whispered slipping his collar over his head.  I picked up the connected leash, and led him down the steps to the floor. 

     We walked through the cramped backstage area and out the double doors to the hallway.  I knelt down and took Gambler’s head between my hands, kissed his wide forehead and scolded him in a soft voice.  “You scare me every time you do that lean.  I wish you’d stop it.”  Then I stood and turned toward the elevator.

      Gambler whined and charged past the elevator doors pulling me along with him.

     “What’s wrong?  Time to go out?”

     He dragged me to the exit.

     “Goodness, you must really have to go.”

     Gambler barked and jumped on the door.

     “Shush, they’ll hear you onstage.”

     Another stagehand, recognizable by the all black garb the director required non-cast members to wear, entered through the door.  Gambler almost bowled the guy over in his haste to get outside.

     “Why don’t you keep that mutt under control?”  The stagehand muttered as he hurried past.

     Gambler’s hackles rose.  He imparted a deep, menacing growl, whirled, and lunged for the young man who had already beat a swift retreat down the hall.

     “Gambler!  No!”  With one hand, I grabbed the door before it closed while hauling back on Gambler’s leash with the other.  “Sit.”

     Gambler complied and sat by my side giving me a rather sheepish look and a quick wag of his tail.  He normally loved everyone he met.  However, the hair on his neck, shoulders, and along his spine stood on end.

     “You never act like that.  What got into you?”  I wondered at his strange attitude, he never growled, and never ever went after anyone.  I continued through the door with Gambler and he immediately jumped ahead, straining at the leash.  “What the heck is wrong with you?  Heel.”

     However, Gambler didn’t return to heel position, instead, he yanked me onward.

      “Damn it.  I said heel.” 

     With his nose to the ground, snuffling and tugging me along for all his worth, Gambler led me to the end of the huge lawn, that surrounded the college theater, and into the thick underbrush at the edge of the woods.

     “We’re not supposed to go into the woods.  The director specifically said no one goes in there.  You can pee at the edge but that’s it.”

     Gambler continued to ignore my commands and dragged on the leash.

     “All right, have it your way.”  I settled into an uncomfortable trot behind my dog.

     Tripping and stumbling over exposed roots and rocks, I tried to slow him down.

     He didn’t stop until we arrived at the base of a large Tulip Poplar.  Then he began to whine and dig in a deep pile of moldy leaves.  His frantic excavations kicked leaves and soft ground on my legs.  The appearance of a hand forced a shriek from me.  Shaking, I hauled him out of the woods and dashed back inside the theater.

     Breathless from the strain of dragging Gambler clear of his gruesome discovery, I grabbed the first person I saw, a young woman dressed in black, and gasped, “Call 911, there’s a dead body in the woods.”

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