Bernie and the Little Bird
A short story by JoAnn Chateau… humor, dogs, a tiny bit of politics…
Augustine Ambrosi, known to most simply as Gus, was tall, lean and muscular. Yet he lumbered to his living room recliner. It was a wonder he could walk at all. No knee caps.
The TV was on. MSNBC. Not so Progressive anymore, he reflected. But he could stand Rachel Maddow.
Chester hesitated nearby. He was unsure if he should make himself comfortable in the other armchair, or hop into the Big Guy’s lap. It was the first time he had been left on his own to keep Gus company.
Gus pointed at him. “Lie down,” came the gruff command. Oh… the floor.
Hunkering down with his belly to the carpet, Chester continued to scrutinize Gus. What, if anything, would be required next? Would treats be involved?
Operating the remote, Gus found a recorded past-episode of Maddow. While he got it going he glanced at Chester, who was watching him. “Why you staring at me? Don’t you want to watch TV? High definition.” Gus sighed. It was one thing to babysit a dog. Must he entertain it, also?
Chester wagged his tail and smiled agreeably. Briefly assessing the dog, Gus decided the bared teeth were not aggressive. He returned his eyes to the television.
What the hell was this? Bernie Sanders had a little bird on his podium. The crowd was going wild. Sanders was smiling beatifically.
Gus sat up straighter and hurriedly grabbed the remote to back-track the recording. From his floor position, Chester observed the Big Guy’s animated movements with interest. He perked his ears, ready for anything. Did Gus need a walk?
Grinning, Gus now pointed at the TV. “Freaking Saint Francis of Assisi!”
“Look!” He gestured. It was an unfamiliar command to Chester. What did the Big Guy expect him to do?
Abruptly, Gus leaned over and reached for the dog. Matching his speed, Chester rose and stepped back, just out of reach. “Come here, come here,” Gus waggled his fingers.
Was Gus ready for therapy? If that’s all he needed…. Chester approached readily (Gus was a war vet, not the pokey kind). He was prepared to be petted.
But therapy was not it. Gus raised him up, all right, then put him straight back on the floor facing the opposite direction. Chester craned his head over his shoulder to look at Gus inquiringly.
“There!” Gus waved one hand in the direction of the TV. No longer held in place by two hands, Chester immediately turned around to face the Big Guy, to better attend his every word.
“That’s not right. Here, here.” Gus stretched forward from the recliner to get a firm grip on the thing. It felt warm, and surprisingly sturdy, under that fluffy white cushion of fur. Maybe it was useful… as a living dust mop?
Chester was lifted awkwardly from the floor, his hind quarters higher than his head. But he didn’t complain. It looked like he was getting the lap position!
Once in the lap, he was set to observe Gus’s face for further cues. But the Big Guy only turned him around again. Facing outward, away from Gus, Chester wondered if he was supposed to be on sentry duty. Normally, Alphas didn’t do that job.
“Look,” Gus repeated. “Here, I’ll rewind the show again. You’re missing it.” Gus worked the remote. “Look, Bernie Sanders,” he pointed with the remote. “A foot away from him, a birrrd,” he intoned with emphasis. “Right on his podium. In the middle of a huge rally. A little birrrd.”
Chester quivered with anticipation. A bird? Indoors?
Gus saw Chester understood. “That’s right. On the TV. Bernie and a little bird.” He added with a chuckle, “An ordinary sparrow, I think.” He gave Chester’s back a rub.
He was on the lap and the Big Guy was in a happy mood, Chester noted with satisfaction. Maybe there would be snacking later. Or sooner.
Relaxed, Chester quickly figured out the “bird” was only a small, fuzzy, gray blob on the TV screen. The Big Guy seemed to think it was important. Chester didn’t intend to burst his bubble. He settled into viewing the show with Gus, content.
Now, the man on TV, the guy Gus called “Bernie,” he was the real star, mused Chester. Of course, it takes one to know one; probably why Gus didn’t get it. But this Bernie guy had a special “something” blasting out of him…. He was good, Chester decided.
Bernie was talking about free school. Chester had attended school. He had rapidly excelled, only needing to go once. The instructor had called him Mr. Congenial. His human, Lacey, had gushed, “He always listens to me at home.” A fond memory.
The bird again. (Gus kept replaying the scene.) Now Bernie was talking about world peace. Chester drifted into a peaceful snooze… that did not last long.
By the tone of his voice, Chester gathered that Gus had entered lecture mode. It was only polite to listen, so Chester dutifully roused himself.
Seeing he had the dog’s attention, Gus continued enthusiastically, “Bernie Sanders… a political revolution… yada… get money out of politics… restore democracy… yada, yada… universal health care… together, we can do anything….” And on.
Chester got it. Gus liked Bernie, too. Chester beamed at the Big Guy – for catching on.
Unaware he was beaming back, Gus noted, “You seem to agree, Little Guy.” He added, “You’re really smart.”
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