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A duel at dawn

Mom has started putting on real pants every morning and going to an office again, so we’re back to waking up early and patrolling My Trail before I have to report for duty at the front window and bark at every noise in the neighborhood till she gets back. It’s a funny feeling to explore all 8 states in the country, and then to come back to My Trail and find that everything from before is still there, including my least favorite person in these 8 United States: The Upside-down TV Man.

He used to have a fat and boxy body and skinny little stick-like legs so he looked like an old TV flipped upside-down and walking on the antennae, but he’s evened out a bit over the years and now he’s shaped more like a celebrity chef. I hate that guy so much, and in my absence he has made himself a little too comfortable on My Trail. Sometimes I can’t be bothered to bark at other trail users, but I never miss a chance to bark at the Upside-down TV Man louder and more emphatically than even the Unauthorized Trail Users. In the winter when it’s dark I can bark at him good because he doesn’t use a flash light so Mom doesn’t see him coming, but now that it’s light in the morning I don’t have that advantage.

This morning I faced off with him on a long bridge with tall fences on either side. Perfect! He would have nowhere to hide. You could cut the tension with a knife as the two baddest men on the trail walked toward each other from opposite sides of the bridge. Mom clutched the leash, held me close and started talking in an excited voice to try to distract me. I smiled at her to humor her, but once The Upside Down TV Man came within range, it was ears back and time to work. “Hey! You lousy hunk of junk!” I yelled at him. “This trail ain’t big enough for the two of us!”

Usually when we pass him, Mom holds me close and sprints out of there as fast as she can, but today she did something different. She yanked me by the neck until I was really close to her, then she stepped over my back and clamped me between her legs. She had her back to the trail and pinned me so that I was facing the opposite direction from my opponent. Who ever heard of a duel where the hero gets grounded by his Mom?! “No! Mom! I can’t see him!” I barked, wriggling around to try to get free and wrenching my neck around to see if he was satisfactorily scared by my spastically assertive barking. If he pooped his pants in fear, I missed it. “I’m coming back for you!” I shouted over my shoulder as I struggled to get free. “I challenge you to a duel! Just as soon as Mom lets me…”

A few minutes later we turned around and I got ready to take another run at him. This time we were sneaking up behind him, so he was the one showing his back. We caught up to him right before he was about to go into the tunnel that’s as narrow as my leash, where he would have nowhere to escape! I was coming within range right as he was entering my trap, when all of a sudden Mom slowed down. I looked back at her, “What the heck are you doing?!” I said. “I’ve got to go mess that guy up.” “Oscar, I’m sick of you terrorizing that man.” Then she about-faced and dragged me in the other direction for about 100 yards. “But! Where are we going?” I asked. “Every day I try to plan our route just so you won’t see that poor man. He’s scared of you.” “You do?” I had no idea. I just thought that I had made the streets safe and My Trail needed less patrolling. “I have to bark at him BECAUSE he’s scared of me, Mom,” I explained patiently. “I’m irresistible, so obviously if someone doesn’t like me then there’s something wrong with him. And I can tell by his face every time I see him that he’s just waiting for a fight.” “That’s because he thinks you’re going to attack him!” Mom said, turning us back around and resuming the chase. “Can’t we just have a nice run without threatening to duck anybody up?” “Sure. As long as the Upside-down TV Man stays home.”

We caught up with him again right before he was about to walk across another narrow foot bridge. This wasn’t as great a tactical fighting position as the tunnel, but there was still nowhere to escape so it was an okay place for a cage match. I was gaining speed for our first tilt when… Mom stopped running! “What the heck are you doing?” I said. “He’s going to miss his date with destiny!” “We’re going to run past him at a wide spot in the trail so that we can give him plenty of room.” “Aaaah. I gotcha,” I said. “Increase the challenge so that I can be the undisputed champion.” “Can’t you just leave him alone?” Mom whined as we started running again. Mom can be so dumb sometimes.

We started running, and then we kept accelerating to a fast run, and then an even faster run, and then almost a sprint. “Go! Go! Go!” Mom said, trying to distract me. But now that I was within 10 paces, time had slowed and all I could see was my quary. “Hey!” I barked. “I’m comin’ for you, and hell’s comin’ with me!” The Upside-down TV Man cringed in fear, and Mom tried to keep sprinting out of the duel zone, but she needed to slow down to balance against the awesome strength of my lunging attack. “You called down the thunder. I’ve got your thunder right here!” I thundered as Mom caught my leash and redoubled her efforts to flee. “You want a piece of me?! Don’t make me come over there!” I screamed at him. He cowered while we ran by, just out of leash range. “Oscar! Ducking stop it!” Mom growled in that way that all women fawn over the victor of a duel. “And don’t you let me catch you on this trail again!” I yelled over my shoulder as we pulled in front of him and started running away in triumph.

For as long as he was visible, I continued to check over my shoulder at him. I didn’t like him seeing my back (even though I’d already won the duel, obviously). Every second or two, I barked real scary, just to make sure he knew who was top dog around here. “I’m letting you live this time, fopdoodle!” I shouted. “But don’t let me catch you on this trail again, or next time you won’t be so lucky!” “Why are you such an asshole, Oscar?” Mom asked. “Oh, Mom! We were just playing,” I grinned at her.

-Oscar the top dog


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