Back again, this time with something a little new. Below is a slightly-touched-up version of a story I wrote in college for funzies that was a riff on the Fluffy Dog Joke (which, if you haven’t heard it, I link to after the story). It’s replete with dumb jokes that only I find funny, so I think its value is more as a window into my soul than as an entertaining story.
Now, I know a lot of you are thinking, “posting something you wrote in college shouldn’t count for your resolution this week!” but not to worry — I’m spending the rest of the day writing another DD story, which I should have ready to post in the next few weeks.
Without further ado, please enjoy…
The Joke’s on You
It was eleven o’clock on a Saturday morning in late March, the kind of Saturday morning that comes in like a lion, but, luckily, you can sleep in and by eleven all that’s left of the lion are a few puffy white clouds against a pure blue sky. Dirk Danger groggily rolled over to check the clock. He could only go back to sleep so many times, and eventually he would have to overcome his personal inertia and get out of bed. Wiping the sleep from his eyes and running a hand through his unkempt hair, he decided it was time. After all, he had a big day ahead of him. Today, Dirk Danger would make a new friend.
His feet touched the cold hardwood floor, and he hesitated. But hesitation was not Dirk’s strong suit, and he had soon finished his morning routine and was sitting down to a brunch of black coffee, bacon, and soft, not-too-toasted toast, covered with butter and jam. He needed a good, strong foundation for his day, for today was a day of important decisions and unbounded potential, like all days in which Dirk Danger took part. Finishing his meal, he placed the dishes in the dishwasher and breathed in the heady air of anticipation. It was time.
Dirk grabbed his keys off of the rack by the door and walked outside, locking the door behind him. He crossed his springy green lawn and made his way to the driveway. Climbing into his car, he wondered how his life might change after this journey. He supposed it would be less lonely. Not that it was lonely now, but sometimes a little… companionship could be nice. He stuck the key in the ignition and turned, listening to the motor turn over and spring to life. Without a second thought, he backed the car out of the driveway and proceeded south down North Street.
He got stuck in traffic on the interstate, which was perhaps a little odd for a Saturday afternoon. But they were always doing construction on Saturdays, and the radio informed him there had been a minor accident that had been unable to remove itself from the road due to the construction (AM 1170 has traffic on the 1s and 6s). He cleared the fender-bender and sped on to his exit, heading out of town and farther into the suburbs.
At half past noon he spotted the run-down sign that said “Animal Shelter.” It was one of those signs that probably had all of its vowels burned out, so that at night it read “ n m l Sh lt r,” although he doubted it was ever turned on after dark, since the shelter closed at 5 o’clock. It was, after all, a non-profit organization, and they had to keep from profiting somehow. He pulled into the parking lot, and, as men are wont to due in such places and times, parked his car.
An animal shelter is one of those places that is at once heartwarming and heartrending. The shelter usually consists of one public room, which is inevitably painted a bizarre shade of off-white specifically designed to bring out animal-related stains. It’s never a complicated shape — typically a rectangle, as in this case — and the walls are lined with cages, stacked floor-to-ceiling, each containing a single cat or dog (or a few kittens or puppies). There’s always one weird animal in a cage that the staff shrugs about, as if to say, “Hey, what would you do if someone brought in an alligator?” This is the room that makes children squeal with delight and parents wonder when their children will be old enough to understand what’s really happening.
That’s the public room, but the filled cages, the mysterious door labeled “Employees Only,” and the sounds coming from behind it belie a darker, grittier place — the Christopher Nolan version to the Tim Burton front room. Behind the shelter is a small fenced area where, in theory, animals could go outside for some fresh air, but they never do. The paid staff, emerging from behind the mysterious door, is composed of people who can’t stand animals because they are forced to clean up after them in their tiny cages every day, while the volunteers are just a little too into the creatures. And although the place is called a shelter, no one is confused as to the stipulations attached to the title. Sure it’s a shelter, but only for a limited time. The lease agreement states that you have two weeks to get yourself into a home, and after that your time is up. The whole concept of the shelter is just brimming with hope, but it’s largely a false hope and, don’t kid yourself, you know it when you walk in.
Dirk Danger was thinking, if not exactly these thoughts, then riffs on the theme, but probably less bitter, for today he could be a source of real hope, and he knew it.
He was greeted by a young, rather all-too-cheery looking brunette, who introduced herself as Jane. Dirk could tell by her all-to-cheeriness that she was a volunteer, which was confirmed as she explained that she was in college down the road, but volunteered here on the weekends because she missed her dog Muffins back home so much, and they don’t let you have dogs on campus, but if they did let you have dogs on campus she wasn’t sure her parents would part with Muffins, but maybe she could get another Muffins, Muffins II (or maybe she could come up with a better name, haha), after all there sure were a lot of sweeties here that could use a good home, and, well, if she could be of any help he should just let her know. She knew he could make one of these poor creatures’ day, and maybe some poor creature could make his day too, she was just sure of it.
At this point, since there were no quotation marks yet in the story, Dirk answered, “Well, actually Jane, I was hoping you could show me what you might have in, say, the dog section?”
“Oh certainly!” exclaimed Jane. Dirk got the feeling she exclaimed a lot. “We have just the cutest little guys right over here! What were you looking for exactly?” She led him to a wall with cages that were, you had to notice, too small for animals of any size, much less the animals contained within — pups and pooches of all types; Rovers and Rexes sat next to Mollies and Maxes, separated by thin walls of plastic or cross-hatched metal.
Dirk examined the potential playmates. “Well Jane, I was looking for something in a Beagle, really,” he offered.
“Oh! Well, let’s see, we usually keep the middle-sized dogs over on the end here, in these cages,” she explained exclamatorily. (Excplaimned?) Dirk noted that the cages were actually the same size; they just looked different because they were black, while the smaller dogs were housed in beige cages and the larger ones in green. “Oh, dear!” she said. “It seems we don’t have any beagles here today, mister…” She rose slightly on at the end, and Dirk became embarrassedly aware that he had failed to introduce himself amidst her exclamations.
“Danger. Call me Dirk. That’s okay Jane,” he added, noting her genuine disappointment at having let him down. Then a rather peculiar dog caught his eye. “How about that little guy there?”
The dog was, in a word, fluffy. It had shock white hair that accounted for at least two thirds of its apparent volume, hair that was actually sticking out of four of the six sides of the cage. Yet when Jane removed the dog from its crate, Dirk was surprised to feel that it was a good-sized dog, not one of those toy Pekinese fluffy nonsense dogs, for which he had no truck. Nor was it a monster sheep dog or a St. Bernard. It was roughly the proportion of, well, a Beagle, it was just covered in fluffy white hair. It looked deep into Dirk’s eyes with an expression of unbounded hope and peered into his soul, practically begging “Adopt me! Feel how fluffy I am! Rub me right behind my ears, I’ll wag my tail and twitch my leg in appreciation! It’ll be great! Have I mentioned that I’m fluffy?”
Not even Dirk Danger could resist. “Aw, little fella, what’s your name?” he asked.
“Well, he doesn’t have a name, but here at the shelter we call him–” Dirk cut her off with a wave of his hand.
“Let me guess,” he finished for her: “Fluffy.”
“Exactly! How did you ever know?” she asked incredulously.
“Just a hunch.” Dirk scratched Fluffy behind his ears, and Fluffy’s tail wagged and his leg twitched appreciatively. That sealed the deal. “Well, I’m not a man to call a dog ‘Fluffy,’ but I think I’ll have to go with it on this one. Ma’am, I do believe I’m going to take Fluffy home with me today.” Dirk found himself being down-homier than usual.
“Oh swell!” she exclaimed, as though this had all happened at a diner in the ’50s. Maybe it was something in the hopefulness of this fluffy dog that brought it out in both of them. “That’s so great! He’s been here since the Monday before last, so we were really hoping he’d be taken soon!” The darker side of the animal shelter world creeped into her expression for a moment, then the fluffy hopefulness took back over. “He’ll make a great friend, I know he will! Look at him wagging his little tail. It just makes me miss my Muffins back home so much!” The girl was so full of exclamation points they were flinging themselves out through her mouth, Dirk remarked to himself.
“Well, Jane,” Dirk said, “it’s just a few short weeks until you see your Muffins again all summer long. And until then, you have these friends to keep you company. And I have Fluffy. And for that, I thank you.”
They chatted for a few more minutes while Dirk filled out the necessary paperwork. Then he loaded Fluffy into his car, and the pair drove off to begin their life together.
A few weeks later, Fluffy was settling into the Danger household. As it happened, all of those most difficult aspects of dog raising had already been taken care of by Fluffy’s previous caretaker. He was house-trained, and in fact well trained in general; he could sit, stay, lie down, roll over, and shake hands. All Dirk had to do was feed him and walk him, and it is on one of these walks that we rejoin our tale.
Dirk was walking with Fluffy at a brisk pace on a Sunday afternoon. It was one of those late April days that starts off nice and lulls you into a sense of complacency, then turns up the heat and leaves you parched and wearing too many clothes. They rounded the corner of North Street, and paused near a telephone pole for Fluffy to take care of his business. Dirk wiped the sweat from his brow and averted his gaze, thinking to himself that if he was hot, at least he didn’t have a ridiculous and permanent fluffy coat. He’d leave Fluffy a couple of ice cubes in his water dish when they got back.
Dirk felt the tug on the leash that meant Fluffy was done and started to head back to his house, but something caught his eye. He noticed a peculiar sign on the very telephone pole Fluffy had recently, er, used. It advertised the “ANNUAL FLUFFY DOG COMPETITION! CASH PRIZES!” the very next Saturday. Why not? thought Dirk. He made a mental note to visit the website listed at the bottom of the flier.
Arriving at the house, Dirk wiped his shoes extra carefully before entering, then prepared a dish of cold water for Fluffy, who lapped it up graciously. Dirk pulled out his computer and signed Fluffy up for the competition, only a fifteen-minute drive away.
“Who’s a good boy? Who’s the fluffiest dog in the city?” he asked with a babying lilt, while scratching the appreciative Fluffy behind the ears. “Who’s gonna win this competition?”
Predictably, the competition rolled around the next week. As they drove over, Dirk figured he really didn’t have all that much at stake in a fluffy dog competition, and he certainly wasn’t about to go out and hire a trainer or a groomer or anything. This was a fluffy dog competition, nothing more — just some innocent fun with a chance for a little bit of the CASH PRIZES and a chance to bond with dog that happened to be unbelievably fluffy. He pulled over to a street corner drug store to buy a brush, but that was all.
They pulled up to the competition at half past ten; it was scheduled to start at eleven o’clock sharp. The competition was held in a sort of outdoor meeting place, not quite a barn but not exactly a normal building. The roof, if you could call it that, since it was actually just a series of crossbeams, was painted green and left the floor, if you could call it that, since it was actually just a pile of woodchips, completely uncovered. Dirk walked in with Fluffy on a leash through a doorway, if you could call it that, since it was really just two posts and a crossbeam. Inside, if you could call it that, since it wasn’t really a building, was a maze of cubicle-like stalls, about waist-high, each with a small wooden table, off of which dangled a number. Dirk checked in and proceeded to his table, number 17.
Being a newcomer to the annual competition, Dirk hadn’t realized how seriously most people took it. Dirk and Fluffy were easily the last pair to arrive at the competition; most other dogs had been there for well over an hour and were being given last minute groom-overs by anxious owners and impatient trainers. Dirk had read the rules and knew there was no reason to hire a trainer. The only criterion judged was fluffiness, and from the looks the other owners were giving him, he knew Fluffy had it in spades.
When they arrived at stall 17 to await the commencement of the competition, Dirk idly brushed Fluffy up and made small talk with the nearby owners, who were friendly enough, even if somewhat miffed at this newcomer’s disrespect for the sanctity of the Fluffy Dog Competition.
“Dirk Danger, nice to meet you.”
“Hi Mr. Danger, I’m Holly! Coming in a little late, I see. What’s your dog’s name? He sure is fluffy!”
“His name is Fluffy.”
“Oh my God! So is hers!” Holly would say, pointing to her dog. All of his conversations were the same, with women who were of a … certain age… and whose names were all Holly or Molly or Jolly. This led Dirk to believe, perhaps correctly, that he should have named his dog anything other than Fluffy, if only for the sake of originality.
Presently, the judge of the fluffy dog competition began working his way through the stalls housing the other fluffy dogs. The Hollys and Mollys and Jollys whose dogs he was judging would put their best effort into looking presentable and might, if they were particularly confident in themselves, but not so much in their dogs, try to distract the judge from the matter at hand by donning looks that were anything but fluffy. The judge would make brief comments along the lines of “well ma’am, that sure is a fluffy looking dog you have there,” write something on a clipboard, and move on to the next fur ball.
When he reached Dirk’s stall, the judge stopped, a look of utter disbelief on his face. He looked back at the last dog, as if to check and see if his eyes were playing tricks on him and perhaps all dogs appeared twice as fluffy as they actually were, then back at Fluffy. He poked and prodded Fluffy, pulled at some of his fluff to see if he was really that fluffy or if he was somehow cheating — evidently they had problems with people gluing cotton to their dogs.
“Well, I say now,” began the judge, “I do declare that is the fluffiest gol’ durn dog I do believe I’ve ever seen!” Dirk pondered whether the judge was putting on a ridiculous southern drawl simply because he had “judge” affixed to his name. It seemed that no one who was actually from the south would put the word “do” before every verb, or else no one would ever finish saying anything. He pulled Dirk close and said quietly, but excitedly, “I do have to judge the rest, y’see, but I’ll be a flappin’ Jack if this here dog don’t win the competition.” Then he circled something on his clipboard and hurried on to examine some more, less fluffy dogs.
An hour after the judging commenced, an announcement was made that the award ceremony would begin. The contestants huddled into the center of the assembly area, away from the stalls in which they had been judged, in which stood a small clear space with a podium at one end. The judge walked up to the podium and announced the third and second place dogs, which went to Holly and Molly. There was much applause and general approval upon the sight of their two dogs, which were indeed quite fluffy.
Then the judge paused and announced, drawling harder than ever before, “And the fuhst place, I do say the fuhst place dawg is the fluffiest flea-bitten lil’ mongrel eva to grace these fine halls, and hI’ve been a-doin’ this fo’ no less’n twenny-fow ye-uhs. The winna, I say, the winna is Mister Dirk Dangea and his dawg Fluffa.” He paused and added, drawl-less and to the side as Dirk approached the podium, “It is Fluffy, isn’t it Mr. Danger?” and nodded, as if to say, “It always is.”
Dirk stepped forward to applause and disbelief from the crowd. He could hear murmurs along the lines of “ooooooh look it’s sooooo fluffy,” and from somewhere in the back he heard the phrase “must be cheating.” He couldn’t help but feel a tinge of pride.
As he accepted his first place blue ribbon, the judge went on to the rest of the crowd, in his ridiculous drawl, “And it is with great honor, great honor I say, that I announce that Mr. Danger and Fluffy will be representing us at the State’s Fluffiest Dog Competition in one month’s time, I say four weeks from today. With a dog like that one there, I see no reason why our fine city should not have the fluffiest dog in the entire state — the state, I say!”
Dirk had been unaware of any State’s Fluffiest Dog Competition, but he was okay with going. Fluffy seemed to be enjoying himself at any rate; Dirk couldn’t tell but he thought he could detect a newfound pride in the dog’s demeanor, and perhaps even a smile across the pooch’s face, though it was hidden behind a fair amount of fluff. He decided to spend the CASH PRIZES, which it turned out were only $25, on a new fluffing brush to prepare for the next round.
The next few weeks passed by in a flash. Business continued as usual during the weeks, but on the weekends Dirk paid extra attention to Fluffy, brushing him almost incessantly until his next competition. And it came as no surprise to him that Fluffy won the competition in April, besting Hollys and Mollys and Jollys at the state level before advancing on to the United States Regional Fluffy Dog Competition and besting Hollys and Mollys and Jollys there. Three weeks later he advanced to the United States National Fluffy Dog Competition, and won that on network television (broadcast at three in the morning, but re-broadcast at two AM the next night) with flying colors. And then it was the World Northwest Quadrisphere Fluffy Dog Competition, and Fluffy won that too. By September, Dirk’s weekends were solely devoted to Fluffy, who had become an increasing proportion, albeit still a small one, of his income. (The WNQFDC had a cash prize of a thousand dollars.) He was preparing to enter the World’s Fluffiest Dog Competition in Paris.
Dirk felt an incalculable pride in Fluffy. The luck of finding him — officially the fluffiest dog in the northwestern quadrisphere! — plus the time invested in brushing him and traveling had built a sort of commitment – by – investment to the project. And at this point, Fluffy had yet to see any real competition. If Fluffy wasn’t the fluffiest dog in the entire world, then Dirk was prepared to see a dog that was actually made entirely of Egyptian cotton.
When it finally came time, he stepped out of the plane in Paris with Fluffy in an extra soft cage, which Dirk had designed specially so as not to remove excess fluffiness from Fluffy’s coat during the long flight. They had arrived an entire week early to ensure that Fluffy wouldn’t react poorly to the new atmosphere. Frizziness would get points deducted from Fluffy. The ten thousand Euro in prize money was good, but Dirk wasn’t about to let Fluffy or himself down by losing the competition, regardless of the prize. He was playing for pride, now.
Dirk continued to work as normal in Paris; after all, he had a case there. But when the weekend rolled around, he was all business. Fluffy business.
The competition was held under the Eiffel Tower. Not a tiny replica Eiffel Tower, or even a pretty big one, like in Vegas. The real deal. They only had an hour to get it over with since it was, let’s face it, a fluffy dog competition and the Eiffel Tower was a pretty important place. But still, it was held under the most recognizable iron structure ever built. And Fluffy seemed thrilled to be there.
As they walked underneath the arches, Dirk couldn’t help but remark on how the competition was stiffer than before. Dirk expected there to be only 4 contestants, one from each of the World Quadrisphere Competitions, but local tie-ins and back-door deals brought the competition to over 50 dogs, most of them European. Still, Fluffy was clearly the fluffiest dog in the place. His conversations, in whatever other languages he could understand, were all exactly as they had been before. Some woman, now usually named “Fifi” instead of “Holly,” would invariably tell him that her dog was named “Fluffi” and that his dog was “extremement Fluffi aussi.”
Dirk was getting a little bit nervous, and he didn’t like it. He didn’t usually get nervous, and this seemed like a particularly ridiculous time for that to happen. This was a competition to see whose dog was fluffier, not a fight to the death. Only a few thousand dollars were on the line. Still, Fluffy looked so confident, and Dirk had been feeding on that confidence. He didn’t really know what would happen if that confidence disappeared or what would happen to Fluffy if he didn’t get the award. That was unlikely, he told himself, Fluffy was by far the fluffiest dog here. And if he was the fluffiest dog here, then he was certainly the fluffiest dog in the world. Dirk Danger took a deep breath and reminded himself that he had the World’s Fluffiest Dog.
As the judges began making their way around the base of the tower, Dirk’s nervousness eased. The judges were moving quickly, yet taking painstaking care to judge each dog based on the criteria of fluffiness — volume, rebound, density, and fineness. Dirk watched calmly as dogs were checked three times each by three separate judges, who worked efficiently yet thoroughly. They were rapidly approaching Fluffy.
When the first judge arrived, Dirk put on his best smile. And Fluffy did, if you could believe it, the same thing. The judge gave Fluffy one look and called over the nearest of the other two judges — a huge breach in protocol, as the judges were required to give their marks completely independently. Dirk smiled confidently as they began speaking rapidly in a language he didn’t understand. He was used to this. “This is the fluffiest dog in the world!” they were saying.
The first two judges motioned the third judge over. He held up his hands in protest, then continued to examine his current subject. The first two judges put on looks of exasperation. Dirk knew they were thinking this contest was over. Fluffy would win in a landslide.
Finally, the third judge made his way over. The three judges convened by Fluffy, casting glances in his direction and speaking rapidly and heatedly. Dirk couldn’t help but notice how excited they seemed.
Finally, the third judge addressed Dirk.
“Sir,” he began in a voice with a thick Eastern European accent. “I am sorry to inform you that your dog? He is just not that fluffy.”
The first two judges nodded and continued on their way. Dirk put on a big smile, gave Fluffy a thumbs up, and walked him out of the competition. Fluffy would never know; as far as he knew he was the Fluffiest Dog in the World. But Dirk privately decided to change the dog’s name as soon as possible, and definitely give him a haircut.
HAHAHA I made you read that long story and there was no punchline! Joke’s on you! As promised, here’s a link to the first rendition I could find of the Fluffy Dog Joke.