It was the last day of summer, and Joni was getting ready to start hosting the big friends and family barbeque. She bought the plates, forks, knives, corn, meat, meat, napkins, meat, sauce, buns, condiments, and meat.
“It’s going to be a hella barbeque, huh boy?”
Her dog Ernie barked in agreement. He started to pant.
“What’s wrong, boy? You need water?”
A spark went off in her head.
“Water… MELON! Ernie, we forgot the watermelon, and they’re going to be here any minute!”
Ernie began to tip-paw away. She’d done this to him before.
“Ernie, here’s a twenty. Get a big fat watermelon, okay? And bring me the change!”
He knew it. Joni was always making him run errands for her. Nevertheless, if he didn’t go, he’d never get a scrap of meat all day from her. Maybe from a clumsy kid, but they were learning to be careful around him.
Joni tucked the bill into his collar and sent him on his way.
On the way to the store, he passed a homeless man.
“Spare some change? Oh wait, dogs don’t have money. But that crisp twenty on your collar must be itching you…”
Ernie barked loudly at the homeless man.
“Okay, can’t blame a bum for trying to bum from a dog!”
Ernie continued on his way when the man jumped on him.
“I’m not eating gravel pie again! I can’t live like this!”
Ernie bit him and left a mark on his skin. The man failed to steal the twenty, but chased him all the way to the store.
Ernie turned the corner to enter the store and made it past the manager who waved to him. The crumb bum was stopped by the manager.
“Sir, do you have any money?”
“Er… that dog stole my twenty!”
“Nice try, sir, but Mr. Ernie has been coming to Stop & Shop for two years on behalf of his mistress. Please come back with money.”
“Stupid Muslim whore,” he grumbled.
She called security.
In the store, Ernie scoured the aisles for a watermelon. Finally, he found a rather large one for the right price and took it down with his fore-paws. He urged it along with his snout and got it to a very long checkout line. Some people were confused by the dog with a watermelon, while others were used to it by now.
He listened to the many annoying sounds of the store. An older couple arguing about the lack of instant noodles, the screaming of the shabby homeless man from outside, the slicing of his watermelon… HEY!
“Just making it easier to bring home, Mr. Ernie,” explained the manager. “I’ll wrap these in plastic for you and you can carry one in your mouth and the rest of the pieces around your neck.”
He barked in gratitude.
Finally, it was his turn. He placed his watermelon slices on the belt and…
Ernie played dead in frustration. He grabbed his things and ran to the self-checkout line, where he was the first one there.
A man with spiky black hair impatiently tapped his foot. “Why do I get stuck behind this dog every time?” he growled.
Ernie barked viciously at the man.
“Okay, okay! You have only the one thing, I have many. It’s only fair.”
Finally, he got the machine to scan his watermelon slices and ran out of the store, but not before licking the manager’s hand.
Then the homeless man showed up.
“Give me your change, doggie!”
Ernie bit him again and ran for his life, but the man was faster.
“If you don’t give me change, I’ll take your watermelon,” he said, sitting on top of the dog.
That’s when Ernie had a brainstorm.
He chewed the man’s pant leg and nudged him in his direction.
“What? Are you trying to take me to jail? At least they eat.”
The smell of grilled meats flared in his nostrils.
“Is that… a barbeque?”
Joni waved to her dog and everyone else at the party followed suit.
“Ernie, you brought the watermelon and… uh…”
“Ted’s the name, homelessness is my life. Your dog brought me and–”
“Hold on, I’ll give you some coins so you can leave.”
“Actually, I thought maybe your dog was inviting me to the festivities–”
“Yeah,” said Joni, “but he’s a dog and this is my party. Here, seventy-five cents. Bye, Ned.”
Ted took the coins (she dropped them into his hand) and he left, grumbling.
“Ernie, you have to be more careful. Did you bite him? What if he had AIDS? Anyway, have a burger.”
Ernie ate the whole burger, but as usual, his mistress’s lack of good will let him down. The burger tasted not of victory, but ashes.