Kel and Mort

By JULIE SMITH | Published: February 21, 2010

Mort and I had escaped and been rescued. He looks a lot better now but in the beginning, his once upright, terrier ear, flip-flopped, hanging to one side. The ear muscles were dead. The bandage which covered most of his head hid the other ear. He looked horrible and kept shaking his head complaining of pains inside his skull. But I had problems too. I had the ringing in my head and hurt from the tightening of my muscles – not all the time but I never knew when it would kick in. At least we were taken care of now. While we rested under a tree I remembered how I first met Mort.

When I arrived at the research center, Mort greeted me like a long-lost pup.

“Hey there! Glad to see you. I’m Mort.”

“Hey, thanks. I’m Kel.” We exchanged a few licks, smelled around and became familiar with each other.

Mort tilted his head and asked, “Where did you come from?”

“I was stolen right in front of my owner’s house! It’s about three days walk from here.”

“Really? They took me when I was on my way to the park to meet a nice poodle called Lucy – she was hot.”

“Smelled good, huh?”

“You bet, ripe and ready.”

I was looking around and noticed some cats in cages. “Do they ever let those screechers out?”

“Naw, those cats are in for good. They’re dead anyway…going to ‘the big fire’. That’s where we’ll all end up.”

“Whoa, what do you mean, ‘the big fire’?”

“Burn. That’s where we go when they’re finished cuttin and putting lightening into us. There are bunnies here too. They have it bad. Stuff in their eyes all the time, blind and blistered, but they never complain.”

I smelled a sour odor mingled with the screecher’s. Never smelled anything like it. “What’s that smell near the bunnies?

Mort started shaking his head and his bandage drooped.

“That’s the monkeys,” he whimpered and put his head between his paws. “My head hurts bad, Kel. After they did my head, I ain’t ever been the same. All the time the pain is real bad. If only…”

Suddenly I was grabbed by a man in a white coat. As he took hold of the fur around my neck, I felt a sting. I fought, bit, snapped and yelped and then started to lose my balance and went real weak. I woke up feeling like a Bull Mastiff had chased me all day. I stunk like the soap they used in the vets after somebody tried to run me down in a car. I could hear two men talking.

“Dr Elston, this black Labrador is in perfect shape. I’d like to get him in to the electric shock therapy research arm tonight. Since it’s Friday, by Monday we’ll have some results.

“Sure Tom. Make sure his stomach is empty before we inject him to the convulsive state.”

Oh no! This isn’t good. I just stood there, unable to move. My owner use to call it ‘wharming’ or going into a 'wharm'…that’s what happens to deer at night when they’re on the road and see car lights. Bunnies and racoons do it too. They can still look and listen but they can’t move. Haven’t heard of a dog doing it, but there you go. I was wharming all over.

As soon as Tom touched me the wharming stopped but I couldn’t fight because there wasn’t anything left in me after the needle. I don’t remember anything about that night but when Saturday morning came I felt like shit. All I wanted was a drink and a poo.

“Hey Kel, are you there?” came a whine from outside the window.

“Yea Mort, I smell you. How’s it going?”

“I hear they’re going to stoke up ‘the big fire’ next week. We gotta get out of here. I’m going in for sure; heard that from the monkeys. Bunnies can’t get out cause they can’t see and the monkey’s are locked up pretty good.”

Just as I was starting to get real interested in Mort’s story, my muscles tightened and I went all-over stiff with an awful ringing in my ears. This was different from wharming because it hurt and I couldn’t see anything. Don’t know how long I was out but when I woke, my tongue was bleeding. I tried to rub it on the roof of my mouth but the blood was coming out too fast. Then I couldn’t breathe and started coughing. I could hear Mort barking, asking me if I was alright, but I couldn’t answer him.

“Hey Albert, get the lab out and clean him up. He’s bitten his tongue. That stuff sure works.”

“Ok, Tom.” Albert approached the cage with a bucket and rag. “Come here, Blackie,” Albert said soothingly. Blackie? Who the hell is Blackie…I’m Kel, you dip shit. But like all dumb humans, they just couldn’t listen…except to each other.

The whole time I was inside, Mort would visit me by the window and we chatted away. It looked like the rumour about ‘the big fire’ was just another lost bone. Mort was a good dog, visiting me and we were getting pretty close. He’d always ask what they were doing in here.

“Mort, they’re doing some strange things to me. They shaved a spot on my foreleg and keep sticking needles in it. After each needle sting, I go out. I even had some funny dreams. Last night I dreamed I was sleeping in my owner’s bed with my head on his pillow! Besides his smell, it was pretty good! When I woke up I felt horrible. Maybe three or four times a day my muscles go stiff and the ringing starts.”

“Oh you poor dog, Kel. Smells like a lightening storm in there. We gotta get out. You got any plans?”

“Yea, I need you to find out from the monkeys when they change the man in blue.”

“Oh, okay,” Mort said and left.

The next afternoon, they put me back in the main holding area and it was like running after a screecher through an alley full of trash. Fresh air, good smells and a place to really stretch out; it was wonderful, indeed.

Mort came bounding up to me and we licked each other’s face like we’d been mates for a long time.

“You find out anything?” I asked.

“Yea, the monkeys said they change a blue man just after the sun goes down.”

“Well, that’s when we get out of here. Here’s the plan…” and as I told Mort what seemed a perfectly logical escape, it became harder for me to believe in it. Humans are real smart in some ways and do things to stop what might happen in the future. Dogs don’t ‘do’ future but some can. I’m lucky I can because it’s gotten me out of a lot trouble. We don’t always act or look real smart but we can do ‘past’ real good. And we don’t talk like humans – we communicate through thought. Sometimes we can read human thoughts and that’s what I was hoping for. I was good at that too, but I wasn’t too sure Mort’s could with his head hurting so bad. We’d just have to see what happened. At least the gate would have to open for a blue to leave and another blue to come in.

Saturday went slowly. Mort and I noticed there was a young man in front of ‘the big fire’ with a shovel and a wheelbarrow, smoking a cigarette. He opened the heavy door to 'the big fire’ and went in pushing the wheelbarrow through the doorway. Mort and I moseyed over to take a peek and a sniff. It was the most horrid stench I have ever smelled in my life. We could hear the shovel scraping the floor and after a while he came out with the shovel on top of the wheelbarrow full of ashes.

I looked over at Mort and said, “He’s cleaning up for ‘the big fire’.” Mort started panting.

Before dinner the sun went down and Mort and I were hanging around the gate. The blue was pretty nice, petting me on the head and gave Mort pats on the back. He looked at his watch, pulled a key out on a chain and put it into the lock. Both Mort and I were ready for the big streak. As he opened the gate, the monkeys started shrieking loudly and the blue looked at them in horror. Meanwhile, Mort and I yelped in agreement.

“Mort, run like you’re chasing a big, fat rat and keep running no matter what!”

We both sprang out like greyhounds after a bunnie. There was yelling back there, but we just kept our tails straight and noses ahead. Those monkeys did us a good turn.

We settled into a slow lope, pacing ourselves and headed for the full moon. Everything was lit up and shiny so we didn’t run into anything. Just when we were feeling safe, my muscles tightened and the ringing started. When I woke up, Mort was licking the blood from my mouth. I had bit my tongue again.

“Was I out for long?” I asked.

“Naw. We needed a rest. Besides, my bandage has dropped over my eye,” he said, trying to rub it off with his paw. “But every time I try and scratch it off, it hurts too much. I’ll have to follow you.”

We both looked around and it felt good. It was like when my owner took me and his family to the country to visit his brother on a farm. There were rolling hills, cows, and few lights sparsely set apart; the moon night was full of interesting noises of other animals. We slowed to a walk and sniffed the air.

“Kel, you ever thought about how Dr Elston smells?”

“Yea, but why you brought that up now, I don’t even want to know.”

“He smells bad-bad. I remember a kid who lived around the corner from us who smelled just like Dr Elston. He’d pull the wings off flies and tie firecrackers on screetcher’s tails.”

“Well, we don’t have to worry about Elston now. We got to get some water and food. I’m so hungry I could eat a squirrel.”

“What I mean is, we can scope out a house, smell around, and if it’s not like Dr Elston, then we’re safe.”

“Sounds good to me.”

We found a brook and lapped water till our tummies were bloated. My tongue hurt and I took longer to fill up. Then we sat under a tree and looked at the full moon.

“You ever feel like howling at the moon, Mort?”

“Don’t do it now, Kel. The're other dogs around and we don’t want them to know we’re here.”

We snuck around and investigated a house with wonderful smells of cooked meat. Just as we got near the door, a nasty German Shepherd leaped out from nowhere and thanks to a chain around his neck that was tied to his house, didn’t eat Kel. Off we went, around the house, still headed for the moon.

The next morning we decided to lay low…just hang around and hide out because somebody would be looking for us. We saw a bunch of trees which looked like a safe place to sleep but we had to cross a road to get there.

“Wait, Mort. We gotta be quick going across.” He acted like he hadn’t heard me and trotted towards the road, like he was going to visit Lucy. I just sat back and watched. When he got to the middle, he collapsed and started whining loudly.

“My head is bursting!”

I ran over to him but couldn’t nose him up. He just kept screaming about his head. Then a truck came over the hill and was bearing down on us. I yelled at Mort but he couldn’t move. Then I got the wharms. I was frozen still in broad daylight, not even a day had passed since our escape, and we were going to die under a truck.

The driver swerved onto the soft shoulder and jammed on the brakes. An elderly man bent over to the passenger side, grabbed a cane and limped over to us. The leg of one of his pants was cut to make room for a thick cast he was wearing. He didn’t smell bad.

“You poor pups,” he said as he bent down using the cane for leverage. I don’t like canes – was hit pretty hard by one with an old lady at the end of it. He looked at Mort. Then I went rigid with the ringing.

When I woke up I was in the back of a truck, travelling slowly. I barked and Mort answered me that things were alright. After a while, the driver pulled into a long driveway, stopped, and yelled for someone to come out and help him. An older, good-smelling woman came out, wringing her hands on an apron.

“Alan, what in God’s name is the matter?”

“Look, Emma! It’s that research center. Look what they’ve done to this dog!” he retorted, pointing to the passenger side.

Emma went over and opened the door. “God Almighty, he looks so sad and hurt. Whose that in the back?”

“That dog was having convulsions next to this one when I found them on the road,” he ranted.

“Then you were right all along. That place is torturing animals and it’s illegal.” She paused and rubbed her hand over her chin. “Vets are closed so we’ll have to wait till tomorrow to have them checked out. But we can clean them up some.”

“We can prove it now! Could you carry the little fella in? Damn this broken leg.”

Emma took Mort into the house and after Alan put the tailgate down, I ran after him.

Mort was on a table and the woman was gently cutting away the bandage. He mewled while Emma’s voice soothed everyone, including me. Alan was seated at the table with one arm over me while the other one assisted Emma. When the bandage was removed, Emma started crying.

“Look at that. Looks like two holes were drilled into the poor dog’s head.” She continued her doctoring, shaking her head in disbelief, finishing with a sigh and sat down.

I went over to Emma’s hand and licked it with thanks for helping Mort. I looked into Alan’s eyes and he was smiling and patting Emma on the back.

“We’re going to keep them, Emma?”

“I wouldn’t part from them for all the money in the world.”

That night Mort and I were tucked away in the kitchen next to a warm stove with plenty of water. My tongue was hurting so bad that I couldn’t sleep. I heard some footsteps outside and barked loudly. Alan came down the stairs, thumping his cane every other step.

“What’s the matter, fella?”

The doorbell rang and Alan scratched his head and went to the front door. The kitchen door was half open so I could look through a crack. When he opened it, Dr Elston smiled and introduced himself. Emma came down and introduced herself. I went into a wharm.

“We are looking for two dogs that escaped from the research center. Have you seen any stray dogs around?”

“Hold on a minute, Dr Elston. I’ll be right back.”

Alan went into a back room and returned with a legal pad and a felt tip pen.

“Those two dogs were tortured.”

Emma looked like a light bulb had just blasted ‘on’ in her head. In a controlled and demanding voice she said, “We want you to close down. Write a letter guaranteeing closure within a week, or we’ll bring this to a massive head. My son is the editor of the Golburn Valley News and we’ll go for you as hard as we’ve gone for anything in our lives. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Just at this point, Mort starts to moan and said, “I can smell Dr Elston, Kel.”

I perked up my ears and waited for a long time. Alan was out of control and Emma' voice tried to calm the situation, then all of a sudden, she walked to the phone and started dialing. Dr Elston was shaking and whimpering like Mort without a bandage. Elston yelled, "Alright!" and started writing on the pad. Emma stood over his shoulder, pointing at the pad, telling him the words to write. I waited a long time. Dr Elston didn't look like himself anymore He finally got up and slithered towards the front door like a snake going to shade on a hot day. He opened the door and left without closing it. Emma and Alan had won and it happened just like that. They must have put a big fear in the doctor. The couple came into the kitchen, turned on the lights and were smiling as big as a half-moon.

“What are we going to name them?” Alan asked.

“They’ll tell us as we get to know them.”

Mort looked at me and said, “They smell real good, Kel.”



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