There are few times in most people’s lives when everything is pretty much on cruise control, and the older you get, the fewer those moments. One such time is the last month or so of senior year in high school. Everyone pretty much knows where they will be attending college in the fall, and with few exceptions, graduating from high school is pretty much a given. It is a time for cutting class, hitting Jones Beach or Half Moon Beach, and just having fun. It is also a prime time for silliness, cutting up with your best buddies and girlfriends, all the time realizing, on some level, that this is the end of one part of your life and the beginning of another. None of us had chosen the same colleges, and though we’d see each other on vacations and summers, things would never be quite the same. We would all meet new friends in college and most of us would not be returning to Port Washington to live after college. Some would get married; others accept jobs in other parts of the country. So this was our curtain call as a group, and though it was never openly discussed, I think all of us, unconsciously, realized this. Unspoken as well was whether the high school romances would survive the long periods of separation of the college years. A few did. Most did not. So with something like quiet desperation, we all went about trying to make every minute funny and memorable.
Frub and I were best buddies senior year in high school and did everything together. Don’t ask where the name Frub came from; I have no idea and I’m not sure he does. His real name was Doug. We double-dated, ate and slept over at each other’s homes, and did many other things that should not be recounted on a blog page or anywhere else. Donny and Paul completed our foursome. All of us had girlfriends, but found plenty of time to hang together anyway. I had ordered a new Firebird, but delivery was several weeks away. My Mother often needed her car, but Doug’s Mom, Fran, could walk to work, so Doug often had the use of his family’s white Mustang during the day. It was driving in the Mustang late one weekday afternoon that we encountered Klebby.
Doug was driving me home from his house and we had taken Ivy Way, a lovely quintessential suburban street. There were fancier homes in Sands Point and Harbor Acres, but the area where Ivy Way is located was always my favorite part of Port Washington. That my home was very nearby probably had something to do with that. Near the end of Ivy Way we passed a beautifully maintained white house with a collie sitting in the shade of a tree in the front yard. With perfectly cut green grass, immaculately pruned flower beds in bloom, the home looked like a postcard. And this was not just your run-of-the-mill collie; hands down, the best-looking collie I had ever seen. He made Lassie look like she was suffering from mange.
“ Frub, pull over and check out that collie,” I said.
We pulled to the curb right in front of the pooch and he thumped his tail happily a couple times in greeting. We talked to the dog for a few seconds with the usual “Hi Boy” and “Good Dog.” Then for reasons I cannot explain, we began to converse with the dog in a tongue that sounded like Spanish, but wasn’t. The reason it wasn’t is neither of us could speak a lick of Spanish. Long elaborate passages of complete gibberish, the collie listening intently, his ears perked straight up. You could see him searching our sentences for a heel, stay, come, sit; anything a dog might have heard from his family before, something that might register. Alas, nothing like that was forthcoming. The collie began to move his head from vertical to horizontal positions, side to side, in confusion. Being mature young men, Frub and I found this hilarious. We stayed and spoke to him for about five minutes and then drove off laughing.
“Let’s call him Klebby,” Frub proposed.
“We don’t know if the dog’s a he or a she,” I said.
“Don’t see that it matters,” Frub said. “Have you ever known anyone named Klebby?”
“Not that I recall,” I replied. “Actually, make that a definitive no. I see where you’re going, though. The Klebby handle really isn’t gender specific.”
“Exactly, “Frub said. “Could be a boy or a girl.”
“Works for me. Kind of has a nice ring to it,” I said. “Klebby it is.”
Visiting Klebby for a couple minutes became an almost daily thing. The collie came to recognize the car, and seemed to almost look forward to our visits. I think he may have felt sorry for these two morons who were unable to communicate effectively even on a collies’ limited vocabulary. The routine never varied. Pull up to the curb, get a tail wag and ears straight up to digest the nonsense he knew was coming.
“Seuntulo byalo della foon? Bassolo selumino,” Frub said.
Klebby’s head shifted to the left, questioning the wisdom (sanity?) of what he had just heard.
“Blapmolencantro chalassimo! Veel plapt unimos leel? I inquired.
Klebby looked from Frub to me, full head shift to horizontal right, confusion reigning. And we’d drive off. Seemed like pretty harmless, if foolish amusement. It might have continued for a long time, but things changed in a hurry.
A day or two later, we were sitting down to Dinner at Frub’s house with his folks, Fran and Bob. My seat in the corner of the kitchen afforded me a view of the front door. When the doorbell rang, I looked up to see two cops at the front door, two of Port’s Finest. Fran and Bob got up quickly and went to the door to let them in, looking a little anxious. Frub and I followed.
The two officers came in. One was a big, red-haired Irish guy, 6’3’ and maybe 240 lbs. His partner was a little Italian guy, slightly cross-eyed, who shuffled his feet nervously and had trouble making eye contact. It was not difficult to establish the pecking order in this particular partnership.
“Sorry to interrupt your meal,” the big guy said. “I’m Officer Mahoney and this is my partner, Officer Riccio. We’re responding to a complaint from a family over on Ivy Way that two males have been speaking to their Collie in alien tongues on a number of occasions. They became concerned enough to take the license plates on the vehicle, and we traced it to the white Mustang in your driveway. Can someone here shed some light on this matter?”
Bob’s jaw dropped in astonishment, but he said nothing. Fran however was rarely at a loss for words. She turned to Frub and me, her face contorted in both anger and confusion, and said “You were doing what?
“Yes, Officer, my buddy and I were talking to the Collie,” I said. “It wasn’t really an alien tongue, it was intended to sound like Spanish. I see your first initial is “J”. Is that for Jerry, like Paul Winchell’s puppet?
Mahoney fixed me with the kind of look one would reserve for a particularly repugnant water bug. “No, my given name is John, my friends call me Jack, and you will address me as Officer Mahoney.”
“Yes sir,” I said.
“Why were you talking to a strange dog in fake Spanish?” Officer Mahoney asked.
“Faux,” I suggested.
“What the hell is faux?” Mahoney asked, his neck turning a little pink.
“It means imitation, artificial,” I volunteered.
“So fake, that’s what I said,” Mahoney said.
“Fake has such a negative connotation to it,” Frub said.
“I think fake works just fine here, and my question stands” said Mahoney.
“Fine, we’ll go with fake,” Frub said. “It’s your syntax.”
“My what,” Mahoney asked.
“Never mind,” Frub said.
“So again, why talk to a strange Collie in fake Spanish?” Mahoney asked.
“Well, neither of us can talk real Spanish,” Frub said.
“And German sounds so harsh and guttural,” I added.
“No,” Mahoney said, his voice rising. “No, you guys are not getting it. Why talk to a strange dog at all? In any language.”
“Well, had we had any idea the dog was strange, we probably wouldn’t have talked to him at all,” I said.
“We’d probably have talked to another dog,” Frub said. “One that wasn’t strange.”
“The dog is fine,” Mahoney said. “What is strange here has nothing to do with the Collie. When I say strange, I mean a dog you didn’t know, had never been introduced to.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been formally introduced to any dog,” I said.
“Me neither,” said Frub.
“But you didn’t know the dog, right?” Mahoney asked, his patience ebbing at a rapid clip.
“Just in passing,” I said.
“Passing in a car,” Mahoney said.
“Right,” Frub and I answered in unison.
“Were either of you under the influence of anything on these occasions?” Mahoney asked.
“I’d had an egg salad on rye and a vanilla Coke at Greenfield’s,” I said.
“I had tuna,” Frub said. He always had tuna.
“I meant drugs or alcohol.”
“No Sir,” Frub and I answered.
“Well, that’s good,” said Officer Riccio, his first words of the encounter.
“You think that’s good, huh Joe? Talking in tongues to a Collie while completely in control of your faculties?” Mahoney said, turning to his partner. His expression said that he felt he had drawn the absolute dregs of the partner pool.
“Well, I just mean its good they weren’t driving under the influence, is all I’m saying,” Riccio said, looking at the floor again.
Mahoney returned his attention to us. “I’m asking you guys to give me your word that you will not revisit this dog or any other. This has been a remarkable waste of time, and if I have to come back again, you guys will not like it.”
“We agree to that Officer, “I said. “We won’t bother Klebby anymore.”
“Klebby? The dog’s name is not Klebby,” Mahoney said.
“He never corrected us,” I said.
“And he is a she,” Mahoney said.
“Never corrected us there, either,” Frub added.
“Maybe if I’d seen her go #1, I’d have figured that out,” I said.
“Maybe,” Mahoney said unconvincingly.
“Officer, can I ask a quick question? I said. “Do you do hard time for talking to collies?
My mind strayed for a moment and I had a vision of doing the ankle-shackled two-step into a maximum security prison, stripping, getting hosed down and issued my sheets and orange jumpsuit. I was then led to my cell. My “roomie”was a shaved-headed, heavily –tattooed, three hundred pound Aryan Brotherhood dude. After the cell doors had clanged shut, I asked him what he was in for?
“I gutted my Mother-in-Law. She griped too much,” the behemoth explained. “How bout you?”
“I was pinched for talking fake Spanish to a Collie I didn’t know,” I explained.
Newfound respect registered in the con’s eyes. “Whoa,” he exclaimed. “Jesus, you are one scary dude.”
I shook off the daydream and returned to real time with a chuckle.
“Something funny?” Mahoney asked.
“No Sir. Sorry.”
“I have no idea what the charges would be against you, should the family on Ivy Way choose to press them, “ Mahoney said. “We can get creative if provoked. But you guys have promised to desist and I don’t see us having to come back.”
Fran had remained quiet for the whole encounter, hands on her hips, looking back and forth between Frub and me with a mixture of disgust and amazement. She spoke up now.
“Thank you for your patience, Officers, and we’ll see to it that they occupy their time with something a little more constructive going forward.”
‘That would include just about anything,” Bob muttered. The Officers left and we returned to the table to finish Dinner.
As we resumed eating, Bob said “I have to say that you two have made it possible to take part in what is probably the stupidest, most inane scene I’ve ever experienced.”
“Yeah, and you know the best part?” I happily asked.
“No, Jud, I did not see a ‘best part’,” Bob replied.
“We’re still young,” I exclaimed.