Nearly a third of our gathering had now scattered to the wind, as the remaining contingent was continually encircled by our new furry attendees. Contrary to my previous thoughts, I was now hoping that Vinny would now brandish his sidearm and handle this problem accordingly. In fact, I was now irritated enough to be fairly lenient at the thought of arbitrarily executing people around the garage. Richie, on the other hand, was calmly attempting to approach the darker-colored shepherd when a woman’s thick German accent came from nearby.
“Ve are zo zorry! Zey are zo bad sometimes…but, do not vorry. Zey are very nice dogz. Just move very slowly around zem.”
A tall, pale lady of slender build and an older Arabic gentleman walked leisurely towards us, smiling and waving to everyone present. If they descried the annoyed looks on all of our faces or were aware of the present canine menace, they gave no indication of it. Their expressions seemed both affluent and a tad aloof, especially when it came to any inclination towards controlling their animal companions. They stopped near the loquacious dog who was continuing to proclaim his inherent dislike of Babbu, and the emaciated banshee focused her gaze on the two men in the center of this group.
“Allo, everyone. Und now I should introduce us, yah?” began the apparition, who had to raise her voice in order to compete with her barking wards. “Ve live in ze penthouse, and ve are…”
Up to this point, Richie and Raymond had kept a cool candor in the wake of the loonies’ procession, but there was no mistaking that their shared shroud of patience was beginning to wear thin. I assumed that we were all experiencing similar feelings, but it was the acerbic Babbu who took hold of the diplomatic mantle and spoke assertively on our collective behalf.
“Hey! Bitch! Get a hold of your stupid dogs! Before we have to shoot them!”
“Or get stabbed!” interjected Mike, motioning at Babbu. “Use your knife, bro!”
Sans her valiant steed, the vision of Famine opened her mouth in shock, placing a hand over her wounded heart. I was confident that her face would have become flushed if her thin frame had possessed enough blood to do so.
Donning a scowl, her husband stepped forward with a finger raised against Babbu. “That’s completely uncalled for, sir! You should show some respect to my wife…”
“I don’t give a shit! I’ll sue you if that dog gets any closer!” interrupted Babbu.
Along with the dogs, all became silent and turned to face a flustered Raymond, whose tone indicated that any and all patience had left the garage tout de suite. With a flushed face, he rolled one hand into a tight ball at his side while raising the other open, and he cleared his throat in a visible struggle to purge any hostility from his voice. As to where it went from his throat, my guess was that he was attempting to strangle it in the clenched fist at his side.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank all of you for coming…but I’ve decided to postpone this meeting for now. We’re now missing a considerable number of people, and it wouldn’t be fair to them if we continued it in their absence. So, I propose that we try again next week. Same place, same time. How does everyone feel about that?” When nobody responded after several thumping heartbeats, Raymond took the lack of response as an affirmation. “Very well. God bless all you. Richie and I will see you next week.”
With the stated sanction from Raymond, people suddenly snapped out of their shock-induced coma, and realizing their chance to escape, the crowd began to rapidly disperse in various directions. Even the dogs adapted to this new ambiance within the garage, and they lazily trodded back to their clueless owners, who were now chasing down Raymond. I grabbed Rhonda’s hand again, and I pulled her towards the nearest stairwell. “Come on, let’s get back upstairs before the National Guard shows up. Plus, this floor is turning my toes into icicles.”
She nodded her head as we both started walking towards the stairs. “Okay,” consented Rhonda. “But that’s why you should listen to me and start wearing two layers of socks. When are you going to realize that I’m always right?”
“Ven you make ze shoes for me from ze dogs,” I replied. “And did I hear her call one of them ‘Hasselhoff’?
Rhonda laughed. “Yes, you did.”
As we approached the door to the stairwell in order to leave the bleak interior tundra of our garage, we passed by one parking space that happened to be vacant. The clear space provided me with an unobstructed look at the garage’s concrete wall, and with only a passing glance, something caught my eye that was barely distinguishable. A miniscule spot blinked at me from the wall’s grey skin.
“What is it?” posed Rhonda, with a slightly concerned tone. She tended to be spooked at the possibility of any and all surprises.
I started in the direction of the blinking spot. “I don’t know…let me see…”
Colors and shadows flashed through the thin mark as I began to identify the linear nature of its overall shape. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the portal to an alternate dimension that I had been seeking most of my life. “It’s a crack in the wall…all the way through! It’s thin…but I can definitely see the street on the other side. I’m able to spot cars and people. Jesus…this building is supposed to be brand new. And it’s already starting to crack?”
“Don’t be so down on the place,” chided Rhonda. “New construction ends up cracking a bit and making odd shapes in the walls. It’s called ‘settling’. It’s totally normal.”
“Maybe you’re right…” I replied with a pensive shrug.
“I’m always right…”
With a flick of the wrist, I gave her a quick smack on the ass as she yelped in surprise. I couldn’t help but smile as she stabbed me with a questioning look that demanded answers.
“Where I come from,“ I explained, “there are penalties when a woman lies.”
“Can you not quote Princess Bride at every opportunity?” she inquired with some annoyance.
As we opened the door to the stairwell and entered its dark confines, I couldn’t help myself. “As you wish.”
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.