Miller Time
The $10,000 Pooch (Part 3 of 4)
By Grady Miller
Aug 1, 2007 - 5:10:26 PM

Rodrigo, the peacemaking hairdresser with the Farah Fawcett bangs, placed his hands between the bickering couple and gently pushed them apart.  Valeria glared at Norman, who in a burst of angry energy, had pried his hand, along with a linoleum tile, from the floor.  Before anybody could say a word, Norman's mobile phone did the cha-cha-cha, and caller ID flashed the letters: M*r. B*i*g*

        "Valeria, get that," Norman barked.  "It's awkward with a floor tile super-glued to my right hand."

        She took the phone from its holster, and said, "Hello."  Rodrigo watched, alarmed as Valeria's expression underwent a drastic change.  She gulped, her face turned ghost-pale, and beads of sweat formed on her unlined forehead.  Slowly handing the phone back to Norman, she said, "If we don't have the money by noon tomorrow . . ."   That's as far as she got, before sobs truncated the thought.

        "It's too awful," she wailed.  "I can't tell you."

        "Why can't you tell me?" Norman said.   "There are no secrets between us."

        Valeria took a deep breath and relented, "Mr. Big said they'd lock us in a room, alone, with Dia and Ray, the Hollywood Hills' hottest real estate team.  He also promised a visit from a hooded stranger selling toupees."

        "Nooooo!" Norman shrieked.  "Mr. Big must have seen my therapist's files.  He knows my phobia of signing disclosures and my recurring nightmare.  As a child, I was deathly afraid of going to sleep.  I had this frightening dream that the earth is attacked by giant toupees that terrorize the population and kidnap all the bald men on the planet.  Telly Savalas would knock on our door, 'You've got to protect me kid.  And whatever you do, don't let the toupees know I'm here.'  One of the toupees came knocking at our door.  They asked if there were any bald men in our house, I said no, cross my heart and hope to die if I should tell a lie.  Then the toupees gave me some Tootsie Rolls, and I snitched."

        Valeria looked at Norman is if he were the guy in the bus, wearing a beanie with a propeller on top and spouting verses from "Howl."

        "I thought there were no secrets between us," Valeria said.  "I see I was sadly mistaken.  It seems you like Tootsie Rolls."

        "I didn't say that.  I was a kid, and it was a dream. . ."

        "The father of my children could never condone Tootsie Rolls.  I'll tell you that right now, Norman," she said curtly. "We're wasting time.  Rodrigo, get me the flyer for the dog." 

        She snatched it with impatience from Rodrigo's hand, and glared at the phone number and name of the dog's owners.  Mr. Big's phone call had prompted an about-face in Valeria, who suddenly turned from  this venture's number one doubter to its greatest booster.

        "I think the dog's owner must be Armenian," she remarked, punching the numbers into Norman's phone.  ". . . Hello, Mr. Fallopian, yes.  We saw a flyer for your lost dog in Runyon Canyon.  I think we may have him here.  Me and my boyfriend found him. . . Are you all right, sir. . . Hello?  Hello?"

        "Please come to the house at once," Mr. Fallopian said between coughs and assurances that he was O.K., and gave Valeria an address in Echo Park.  After a few minutes of searching and questioning children on the street, they located the house, a modest bungalow.  They rang the doorbell and waited.  Again, they rang the doorbell.  Finally, shuffling and coughing resounded through the nether regions of the house.

Norman's phone.  ". . . Hello, Mr. Fallopian, yes.  We saw a flyer for your lost dog in Runyon Canyon.  I think we may have him here.  Me and my boyfriend found him. . . Are you all right, sir. . . Hello?  Hello?"

        "Please come to the house at once," Mr. Fallopian said between coughs and assurances that he was O.K., and gave Valeria an address in Echo Park.  After a few minutes of searching and questioning children on the street, they located the house, a modest bungalow.  They rang the doorbell and waited.  Again, they rang the doorbell.  Finally, shuffling and coughing resounded through the nether regions of the house.

        "Yes," said a rusty, hostile voice from behind a closed door.  Zoe, the painted shih tzu, made a low growling sound and bared her teeth.  Nervousness oozed from their every pore; soon Norman and Valeria would be naked and vulnerable before the appraising eye of Boku's original owner.

        "Whatever it is, I'm not buying," continued the voice behind the door.  "And if you're these Jehovah people, you can pick up some mail from me that's going to my neighbor's house."

        "Sir, we're here about your lost dog," Valeria said.



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