Great big men holding tiny little dogs seemed more common in Our Town, the Soupster mused as he encountered his friend Arlen with his dog outside the restaurant. Max, the miniature mutt in question, lifted his wee head and bared his tiny teeth as though the Soupster was treading on controversial territory just by looking at him. The dog emitted a growl, barely audible.
“Maximus!” Arlen scolded, “Stop growling at the Soupster like that. We like the Soupster. The Soupster is our friend.” Holding his dog closer, Arlen stopped strolling out to his parked pickup.
Maximus quit barking and pretended to relax in Arlen’s arms, but when the Soupster came within striking range the little dog leaped — a five-pound ball of fury that lit into the Soupster’s cuffs.
“Maximus,” Arlen sighed, a little too languidly for the Soupster’s taste. “Let go of the Soupster’s pants.” The big man reached down and retrieved his dog. The Soupster heard cloth ripping and a cold wind against his left shin.
Arlen walked over to his parked truck and put Maximus inside. “Sorry, Soupster,” Arlen said. “I don’t know what got into Max today. I think I may have over-trained him.”
“We worked on his tricks all morning,” said Arlen. “Today, I was teaching him to open and close the locks in the truck.”
“Why ever would you do that?” asked the Soupster.
“In case I ever locked myself out of the truck, Soupster,” said Arlen. “And say I locked Maximus in the truck with the keys in the ignition – that would be no problem.”
“That happen a lot?” asked the Soupster.
“Not yet, thank goodness,” said Arlen.
The two men heard the distinctive “clicks” of two pickup truck door locks snapping into place. Maximus stood with his front too legs pushed against the truck window, looking proud.
“Now he went and locked it,” said Arlen. “My keys are in the ignition. You better light out, Soupster. I want Maxie in a good mood so I can get him to open the doors. He’s not as good at unlocking.”
“But before I go,” said the Soupster. “tell me how Maximus got his name.”
“He’s named for Russell Crowe in Gladiator,” said Arlen. “You know, the movie about the Roman general who was supposed to be Emperor but saved the Republic instead and was an enormous hero.”
“Has the dog ever seen Gladiator?” the Soupster asked.
“Me and Maxie watch it together all the time,” said Arlen. “How did you know?”
“I was just thinking that might be the case.” said the Soupster, who made hay even though the sun didn’t shine and escaped. “Good luck with those locks!”
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