Henry & Biggs:
Adventure Blog of a Literary Agent and His Beagle
Chapter 5: The Beagle has Landed
Date: February 9
Time: 9:15 p.m.
The Snow Kings Plowing and Removal Service is not the best snow removal company in Great Neck. But it is among the cheapest, which is why the Bigelow Literary Agency has a contract with them to plow the parking lot. They are tolerable at plowing, as long as you do not expect them to show up sooner than two days after a serious snowfall. It’s the removal part of the arrangement that has always needed work. Snow Kings likes to push it all into big pile in the southwest corner of the parking lot and then just leave it there, taking up parking spaces. That has always been just fine for me and Tink since a big pile of snow attracts a visit from every dog that has slipped a leash. It also makes for some convenient digging, just to keep the old tunneling muscles in shape.
But tonight, the Snow Kings’ want of a working dump truck has literally saved my life. Just clearing the roof of Melissa’s F150 pick-up – vanity plate, XBOOKS – I plunge tail first into the small mountain of snow. I am buried up to my neck, which hurts like it has been flattened beneath a car tire, but I am alive. The snow is falling harder than ever and I know that the part of me that is not buried soon will be. With some difficulty, I claw my way out of the heap and then half swim, half climb my way to the top. I shake and get my bearings.
The building from which I was thrown is easily five hundred feet away. Through the curtain of blowing snow I can see a large, dark figure – a colossal man with a large bald head – moving like a moose, slowly away through the strip of trees. His enormous arms, rather unlike a moose, hang at his sides like uprooted trees, root-fingers reaching for the snow-buried soil.
My noble heart floods with rage and I head after him. Whatever he is and whatever his purpose, he will rue this night.
Running down the mountain of snow is no easier than running up. In the end, I succumb to gravity just to get to hard ground. Not graceful, ass over ears, but efficient. I shake the snow free and tear off across the parking lot. Every hair is up and ready for battle.
Biggs’ angry shout takes me by surprise. He is so rarely assertive, let along blue in the face angry, that I almost do not recognize him standing there pointing at me, rapidly gathering snow on his head and shoulders.
“Henry! Sit! I said Sit!”
It is a curious command and I have to think about it for a second. I’ve never been ordered to sit in the middle of a dead run. It would be the equivalent of someone ordering Biggs to step out of a moving car. I conclude that even if such a thing were possible, it would have to look ridiculously cartoonish and would entail the loss of ass-cheek hair, both of which are beneath the dignity of my pedigree.
So I decide to pass on the whole sitting thing and keep going.
But just thinking about the command is enough to slow my pace and Biggs is able to intercept me at the corner of the building. He slips an arm between my front legs and pulls me up to his chest. I trust that he is not going to hurl me across the parking lot like the last time I was lifted off the ground, but for a split second I cannot help but brace myself for another cannonball flight through the storm.
“Damn it, Biggs!” he scolds. “You can’t just run off to attack the snow berm any time you like! You trying to get yourself killed?”
First of all, that is not what happened.
Second, even if that is what happened, I fail to see the mortal danger. The parking lot is empty except for two cars and I think I can hold my own against a pile of snow, thank you very much. The mortal danger was in taking flying lessons from Baldy Sasquatch.
Biggs turns sharply and heads back inside. Melissa is waiting at the door, still holding Tink, who is jutting her face towards us as we approach, stretching her neck like a giraffe going for the top leaves. She licks my nose and mouth as we pass and I can feel that she is still excited.
“You guys are trouble tonight,” says Melissa as Biggs steps inside.
“You know, I could just leave you at home in the garage,” says Biggs. “There’s nothing that says you have to come with me to the office.”
He is an atrociously bad bluffer, my Biggs. He’s too guileless and honest to get away with it. He knows and I know that he will never, ever, just leave me home in the garage. He already tried that once. All of those shoes. Such a shame. And the neighbors are still talking about the hours of piteous wailing.
Melissa comes in and closes the door behind her. She drops Tink to the floor and Biggs does the same to me. Tink is instantly giving me the olfactory once-over, trying to figure out what the hell happened out there in the snow. The humiliation is suddenly more than I can bear. I sulk into Melissa’s office and lay down.
Up on the television, Rachel Maddow is making cocktails so that the nation might nurse its way through the recession. As a Beagle, I am not especially partial to alcohol, except bourbon, but I wish I were. A bowl of martini might really help put tonight into perspective. Hair of the dog indeed.
Melissa comes in for her coat and purse. She powers down her computer and turns off the television and then crawls over to me on all fours. She nuzzles me behind the ears and I roll over on my back in spite of my mood.
“You’re a naughty little Beagle, you know that?” she asks. “I like naught little Beagles. But maybe you should give it a rest for the balance of the week.” She cuffs my face and stands up. “Okay. I gotta get out of here. Tinkles! Let’s go.”
Tink comes running and they are suddenly gone. Quiet floods in, filling the building like a kind of viscous liquid, and I can listen to the world without distraction. I can hear Melissa closing her car door and driving away. I can here Biggs down the hall doing his nightly ritual: cleaning up the desk, packing up his bag with his laptop and a manuscript, turning off the lamps and putting things away.
But that is all I hear. The big, bald, odorless dog-throwing Sasquatch is gone.
“Okay, Hellion,” says Biggs appearing in Melissa’s doorway. He is dangling my leash and collar with an expression that says his trust in my self-restraint will be a long time in coming, even for the thirty-seven steps between the front door and the car. We are right back to the day I busted out of the car at the dump to go after that raccoon. I get up and present myself for shackling like some sort of violent convict headed for the big house. Biggs hooks me up, turns out Melissa’s light and opens the front door.
Both of us are taken completely by surprise.
“Mr. Bigelow,” she says calmly with an unsettling smile, as if she has been standing there for hours, just waiting for someone to open the door. “I thought now might be a good time to finish our conversation.”