The Soupster hears about charlatans, wrongly accused.
The Soupster stepped out of the rain and into the lobby of Our Town’s airport to pick up an express shipment. He hoped that someday the animal heads and fish lined up along the front beam could be made animatronic, like something out of Disneyland. Visitors would take it as noteworthy, the Soupster surmised, if a 70-lb. king salmon winked at them and said, “Welcome to Our Town!” or “Please come visit Our Town again.”
The gangway swung open and passengers spilled out. The serious travelers flowed right out the front door, having whittled their fashion and toiletry needs down to carry-on size. The rest of the crowd oozed slowly toward the luggage carousel. At the front counter, the Soupster was told he could retrieve his package in a few minutes.
“Hi, Soupster!” said Skye Claire, sideling up next to him. Skye was a professional entertainer who holed up in Our Town periodically to hide from her adoring fans. “How’s my favorite purveyor of miscellaneous items soaked in rainwater?”
“And my best wishes to you, Miss Skye,” the Soupster said with a barely perceptible bow. “What’s new in the entertainment business?”
“I met a talking dog,” said Skye.
“I’m listening,” said the Soupster.
“So, I’m in the office of a talent agent in Seattle who’s trying out new acts for the annual Rainier Review,” she recounted. “I’m standing by the door filling out some contract forms, when the agent lets in the next act for an audition.
“’Spartacus, the Wonder Dog!’ trumpets the owner of a speckled black-and-white, longhaired medium size hound. ‘Spartacus will now answer three questions.’”
“What was the owner like?” asked the Soupster.
“A bit forgettable,” said Skye. “Plus, me and the talent agent are busy staring at the dog.
“’Spartacus,’ says the owner. ‘What do you call the material on the outside of a tree?’
“‘Bark!’ yelps the dog enthusiastically. The talent agent raises his eyebrows.
“’Spartacus,’ says the owner. ‘Name a three-masted wooden cargo ship from the 19th century.’
“’Barque,’ yips Spartacus. The agent crosses his arms and looks stern.
“’Spartacus,’ the owner says a third time. ‘What is the best brand of root beer?’
“’Barq’s’ Spartacus says.
“’That’s enough, you charlatans!’ says the talent agent, who comes out from behind his desk and scoots both man and dog out of the office. I slip out with them. The agent goes back inside and slams his door.
“Spartacus looks up at his owner. ‘Henry Weinhard?’ Spartacus says. I almost fainted.”
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