SHINK! THONK! Wheeeeze! SLAM!
Dwight "Rumbles" Malino rolled off the couch in a panic, screaming and farting.
"Jesus! God! Jesus! It's the cops!"
"Christ, Rumbles, it's me," said Adam Farnon, switching on the living room light. "You gotta do this every goddamn night? Just 'cause the door makes a racket when you open it?"
"It's not my fault, Adam," Rumbles moaned from the floor. "You know the cops are after me."
"The cops aren't after you," said Adam. "The fucking EPA is after you for ruining the air quality in my house. What the hell have you been eating?"
"Beans," said Rumbles. "Holy crap, did you find another dog?"
"Yeah," said Adam. He held up a squirming burlap sack. "I think it's a dachshund."
"Why ain't it barking?"
"I bought a muzzle, remember?" said Adam. "No more damn dogs barking and chewing up my car seats seats for half my shift. It might've crapped in the bag, but I don't know if that's you or the dog I smell."
"It ain't me," said Rumbles.
Adam looked in the bag. "The dog's clean. It is you, dumbass."
"Oh, yeah, I guess it is."
Adam fished the dog out of the bag, holding it around its middle. It was a dachshund, mottled brown coloring with cloudy eyes and lots of white fur around its muzzle.
"It's fucking elderly," he said. "I shoulda looked at it closer before. Found it right before my break was over, so I had to get back in the warehouse before Mr. Dowelson docked my pay again."
"People sure like dumping their dogs out in the country by that warehouse," said Rumbles.
"People are assholes," said Adam. "Doesn't mean we can't use 'em to make some fucking money."
"How you gonna sell a dog that old?" asked Rumbles. "And how you gonna get enough to buy more beer? I've been drinking skunk beer for days."
"Let me fucking worry about that," said Adam, shoving the dog into a battered plastic dog carrier in the kitchen. "And don't fucking complain. I let you sleep on that fucking couch and eat my fucking food for free."
"That's 'cause I got primo weed," said Rumbles. "And we wouldn't have to sell abandoned dogs if you got a better job."
"Serves me right for going to college," said Adam. "They shouldn't have made European Folklore the easiest major. If they'd made Business Administration the easiest major, I'd own a Burger King by now."
"God, we'd be set for life if you owned a Burger King," sighed Rumbles. "No one needs European Folklore."
"Fuck you, you freeloading shit," said Adam. "You don't pay for anything."
"Maybe you can sell it as a rat catcher. Didn't weiner dogs used to be rat catchers?"
"People get cats for that," said Adam. "And let me worry about how I'm gonna sell it, alright. Go the fuck back to sleep, fatass."
In the morning, Adam had a classified ad ready.
"FOR SALE TO LOVING FAMILY:
Bereaved family seeks new owners for beloved family pet.
We cannot care for Violet, our late grandmother's dachshund, any longer.
She has always been a warrior for our family.
Please help see her to the end of her final hunt.
Not bad. Might pull on some heartstrings, maybe snag at least $50 if he can sell some sucker on doing it for his sainted granny's memory. He dropped the ad off at the local paper on the way to work and paid $15 for a week. That'd mean he'd be on the hook for seven days of generic-brand dog food, 'cause god knows Rumbles would never have money for anything. And if he couldn't sell the dog by then, he'd feed it some rat poison and pitch it in the garbage with the other rejects.
After five days, no one had called for it yet. And the entertainment value of watching the damn dog shit on the floor and get kicked into the corner by whoever was on the way to the toilet was wearing awfully thin. Adam had already bought some extra rat poison in preparation for offing the fleabag.
And on the evening of Day 6:
SHINK! THONK! Wheeeeze! SLAM!
"Jesus! God! Jesus! It's the cops!"
"Christ, Rumbles, it's me," said Adam. "Why the fuck you do this every night?"
"It's not my fault, Adam," Rumbles farted from the floor. "You know the federales are after me."
"The federales are not -- never mind," said Adam.
"Oh, hey, we got a call for the dog," said Rumbles.
"You serious?" asked Adam. "Fuckin' A. And they'll pay for it?"
"Yeah, sounded like he'd give us whatever we want."
"Sounds good," said Adam. "If he means it. When's he coming by? Is he gonna at least wait for the weekend? I don't think I can get off early this week."
"He wants us to meet him," said Rumbles, digging in his pocket for a scrap of note paper. "I mentioned you don't get off 'til midnight, and he said that was cool."
"He wants me to bring the dog to him after midnight? They usually freak out if you're not waiting at the front door for them at 6 o'clock, right? But hell, I can leave the dog in the car and take it to him after work, no problem."
"Uhh, he said he wants both of us there," said Rumbles. "I thought it was weird, too, so I asked him. He said me and you both, along with the dog."
"Some kinda fucking weirdo, but fine," said Adam. "You got a name and address?"
"Mr. Hunter, I think. Some Swedish or German first name, all Hyernde Yernde, blah blah. Said he'd meet us out at Munder's Thicket north of town."
"Ahh, dude's probably a farmer," said Adam. "No wonder he wants to meet us so late. Probably doesn't get done with work 'til almost that late. Okay, I can get off work an hour early tomorrow, so try not to be sound a-fucking-sleep when I come pick you up, alright? And no fucking beans tomorrow, okay? You'll ruin my goddamn car."
As it turned out, Rumbles didn't stay awake, and he didn't lay off the beans. But he did give the dog a bath and tie a disturbingly proper bow around her collar, so Adam had to give him points for that.
And now they were out in the boondocks, freezing their asses off on the outskirts of Munder's Thicket.
"Where the fuck is that fucking farmer?" fumed Adam. "Jackass hillbilly better not have fucked us over on this."
"We just got here," said Rumbles. "And you should've worn a heavier coat."
"Fuck you, all that fat keeps you fucking insulated," said Adam. "And if that farmer doesn't show up soon, I'm gonna stomp this dog to death right fucking here."
"I am here," said a deep voice, and a man stepped out from the darkest part of the thicket.
"Oh, hey, how are you, sir?" said Adam. "We brought, um, Violet right here."
"Bring the dog to me," he said. He didn't budge from where he stood. He was so deep in the shadows, Adam couldn't tell anything at all about his appearance, other than him being an incredibly tall son-of-a-bitch.
"Uh, sure thing," Adam said. He pulled on the leash, and the dog followed behind him, with Rumbles bringing up the rear. "Really glad you could meet us tonight. Hope we're not keeping you up."
"This is the hunting dog?" said the man. He bent down and scooped the dog up, and Adam wondered why he still couldn't see him clearly. "This is not a hunting dog."
"I looked 'em up, actually," said Rumbles. "Online, I mean. Dachshunds were bred to drag badgers out of their dens. Badgers are fucking huge, scary critters, right? It's in their genes. They know how to go to war."
"This one has never been to war," said the man. He sniffed the dog's fur. "And her name is not 'Violet.' She was called Ellie."
"Whoa, dude," said Rumbles. "Is that a horse back there? Did you ride here on your horse?"
"I brought horses," he said. "And my dogs. This dog is not a hunter. But her life has been hard, and her heart is still strong. She yearns to hunt -- it is in her bones." The dog growled unexpectedly loudly. There was less white around her muzzle than Adam remembered, and more muscle, and sharper teeth. "She does not like to be kicked," the man said.
"Listen, can we hurry this along?" said Adam. "We got people waiting for us. They know where we are. We just wanna get paid and move along. That cool with you, sir? Mr. Hunter, wasn't that it?"
"I am a hunter," he said. He moved his head in the darkness, and a stray wisp of moonlight highlighted a massive rack of elk antlers rising almost ten feet high. "I am called Herne."
"That's a lot of horses you got back there, mister," said Rumbles. "And a lot of dogs."
"You can keep the dog," Adam whispered. "Keep the money. Okay? We can go?" He wished he'd never studied European folklore. He wished he owned a Burger King. Restaurant owners don't do dumb things like go to the woods at night or write term papers about the Wild Hunt.
"You can go," said Herne. "But I want to see how my new hound hunts."
He lifted a ram's horn from his belt and blew a clear note. The note and the howls that accompanied it were heard for many miles.
For ReQuest 2018
("I request jet-poop write a non-metrocity story involving a missing dog with an unexpected owner.")