We walked toward the pet-shop, laughing and joking around as boys do. Arriving out the front, we drew straws to see who would go. I lost.
Animals sat in the window, staring out at reality like they hoped to be rescued from their captivity sometime soon. Their hour had arrived. I walked through the front door dressed as a jester, drawing curious glances from the shopkeeper and the girl he had in his employ. I walked up to the counter. “Pardon, Monsieur and Madame. I am seeking a dog that speaks. It must be fluent in both Russian and English, and be fairly well-versed in Latvian as well. Can you help me?” I asked with a straight face.
“What? We don’t have anything like that here,” the shopkeeper said with a puzzled look on his face. “Do you think you could order me one in, preferably by the end of the week?” I asked .
“Listen, mate. I dunno what game you think you’re playing, but we haven’t got time for any of this nonsense,” he said, growing red in the face.
“I’ll have you know that the Russian Ambassador is coming for high tea on Saturday, and I boasted that my dog is fluent in those languages,” I said. “Now I have to put up or shut up, and I can’t bear the thought of being made to look the fool.”
“Listen, mate, you can get the hell out of my shop…” By the time these words had left his mouth, I’d turned and walked over to a display full of cocker spaniel pups, opening the gate on the side and shooing them out while quizzing them in both Russian and Latvian. The two staff hurried to try and round them up, but the puppies scattered like drug dealers upon the arrival of a police-car. I next opened three bird-cages while stating at the top of my voice that I would settle for a budgie that knew sign-language, and the clamour grew as the suddenly-liberated birds started flying around the shop. I had the opportunity to release three more sets of dogs, a cage of love-birds and a huddle of scared kittens before the owner, a large and florid man, tried to grab me by the arm.
I ran from the shop quoting Marx and Nietzsche as the two workers stood silently puzzled in the midst of animal mayhem. I rejoined my friends, almost doubled up with laughter as George moved to go inside and add to the furore: between the four of us, we’d have a grand time.