Sabu went out after his first bird like an arrow. In all honesty it was only my will power that kept me from having a small twinge of pride. After that I smiled at a few strangers, and it wasn't long—I checked by the growth of my beard—until Sabu was on the line for the second series. But this time something was wrong. Anne sent him out and he circled around madly like a demented pixie, doing nothing. Now I experienced another trial emotion. Do you remember the kidney-affecting pause when a good friend got up to recite in school and his mind went blank, a shared shame? I think Anne must have stood there, a pitiful character, alone in the mist, for at least an hour. Occasionally she'd barely hunch a shoulder trying to telepathize Sabu over toward the bird. Again will power kept me from allowing my pity to really materialize. I remember someone ignominiously walking over, picking up the bedraggled pheasant and ingloriously heaving it so this dumbbell dog wouldn't add inferiority to his complexes. Sabu had had it for that trial.
At last it was finished and we started home. Anne seemed depressed. I glanced at her sitting next to me and wondered if Sabu's fiasco could have been a possible cure. Suddenly she said, "Stop the car." Thinking she might be ill, I almost rammed her into the glove compartment.
She jumped out and let Sabu out of his crate. I slid out from under the wheel and took in the horrifying scene. Anne had Sabu lined up next to her facing the direction from which we'd come. With a carefully studied gesture, she sent him down the road toward a flock of turkeys. Gobbling hysterically they flopped into the brush. I think Anne suddenly realized what she'd done because she also got a note of hysteria into her whistle. There was a long silent wait—I felt eyes from all directions—and then Sabu appeared, jogging blind because of a turkey wing over his eyes. After one somersault in the ditch he delivered the turkey to Anne and she released it, seemingly none the worse for wear. Anne made her dog sit, opened the crate ($47.50 f.o.b.) and with another gesture said, "Kennel." Sabu hopped in, and we went back to the front seat.
I'd said little and what I had said was ignored. But the incident was typical of Anne's mental anguish. She had risked possible imprisonment to prove to herself that Sabu had some retrieve in him. There had to be a future, and somehow, someway, by sheer, concentrated brooding, she had to be able to figure out the day's boo-boo. We drove on, Anne brooding and I saddened because I could see today had only whetted her craving.
This was the first of a seemingly endless string of trials. Also it was the start of a whole string of dogs. They appeared, took up a corner room of the expensive kennel and then did their best to develop something—either physical or mental—heretofore unheard of. Sabu hadn't a chance in the majors because he would rivet his eyes on the first gun to get into action and ignore completely the second gun and naturally the second bird, too, during the second half of a double—a double being two birds thrown, the dog usually getting the second bird and then being sent for the first. You can imagine how a mesmerized mutt could mess this up.
Instead of my problems getting any better they became worse. If I stayed out of things I felt as though I were putting on an unnoticed pout. If I joined and went so far as to have an opinion, I was jumped on and made to feel the ignorant nincompoop. I fought a mixed battle, shifting my style and trying to answer each round with something new.
The let-me-help-you-Dear attack flopped. No husband can throw two dummies in a row to suit his wife, plus the fact your arm undergoes considerable discomfort. The I-know-I-don't-know-a-thing-but-why-don't-you angle I thought would baffle Anne. It backfired on me.
We had a miserable little bitch. Everyone—at the other end of a long long-distance phone call—said, "Give up." So I thought I'd throw the secret punch, "Don't give up yet. Let me run her." As I said, it backfired on me. She did let me run her.
You know, out there on that line, things aren't too easy. You feel a little pressure. All this kindergarten stuff you've been ridiculing gets a bit complicated. I said, "Sit," and I had a whistle in my mouth. Stinker was twisting around, shoving against me and looking over her shoulder for Anne, although Anne and Stinker hadn't exchanged a kind thought in months. The judge was about to ask me if I was ready when Stinker took off. She shot behind the cars with me in embarrassed pursuit. Finally I found her in the clutches of a stranger who had been kind enough to hook his leash to her. I remember feeling a little bad because my thanks were perfunctory and I thought I noticed a mystified expression on the man as he saw my panic. I ran back to the line and apologized to the judge. Just as I had Stinker sitting and I was hoping the judge would get the damn ordeal over with, the stranger came up and asked for his dog, please.
The ripple of laughter did it. I tried to laugh, too, thinking that would make me a good sport. My laugh rang out like a hog call. The judge added to my panic by suggesting I take my time and find my dog. I staggered again toward the parked cars. I found Anne hanging onto Stinker, racked with dry gasps of the most unsympathetic mirth I had ever seen.