There was a scratching at the back door

As I understand it, they stick straws up your nose, I said. No way, Michelle said. There was a scratching at the back door. I looked over and saw Ralph the retriever standing on the other side of the door. Michelle, hold on a second, I have to let my dog in, I said. Tom, I can’t do the latex mask thing, Michelle said. I don’t want straws in my nose. What if I have a cold? What juicy couture for cheap if they fall out? How am I going to breathe? Michelle, let me just, oh, just hold on a sec. I placed the phone down, ran over the door and slid it open. I ran back to the phone. Ralph walked through the door. Michelle, you still there? I asked. I’m not going to do it, Tom, she said again. I’m claustrophobic.

I can’t even put a blanket over my head without freaking out. I don’t care if they fire me or not. Don’t say that, I said. Listen, when are you supposed to have your mask made? A week from today, she said. 3 in the afternoon. I have to go to Pomona. Damn, I said. That’s the same day as your reading. Well, then, Michelle said. I can’t get the mask made. Ralph walked over to me and sat. I started knuckling his head, absently. How about this, I said. I’ll go with you to both. I’ll pick you up, we’ll go to the reading. Once the reading is done, we’ll go to have the mask made, and I’ll make sure the straws stay in place. Okay? Tom…, Michelle began. Come on, Michelle, I said. We’ll go to Mondo juicy couture daydreamer bag Chicken afterwards. I’m buying. Oh, all right, Michelle said. You always know the right thing to say, Tom.
That’s why you love me, Michelle, I said. I hung up, set the phone down, and knelt down to rub Ralph’s ears and coat. Hey, there, Ralph, I said, in the goo-goo voice you use with dogs,.Where’s your little friend Joshua? Yeah? Your little friend? The one that I’m gonna kill for heading off into the woods when I told him not to go? Huh? Where is the little bastard, Ralphie? Why the hell are you asking me? Ralph said. I’m just a dog. I screamed for a really long time. Chapter Twelve Eeyow, Ralph said, after I stopped hollering. That hurt. I would have been happy with a simple ‘Welcome back.’ Joshua? I asked. Of course, Ralph/Joshua said. But I’m also Ralph now, too. Ralphua. Joshualph. Take your pick. Joshua, I said, What have you done? Tom, snap out of it, Joshua said, irritably. It’s obvious what I’ve done. Look, I’m a dog! Joshua barked. Convinced? Or do you want me to hump your leg? I know what you are, I said. Now I want to know why you did it. I thought you liked Ralph. I thought he was your friend, Joshua. And now look what you’ve done.

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