Who Stole the Zmulobeast Chapter 2, Scene 3

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After giving me one last dirty look, Maria leaned over to where her nose was about five inches above the ground and barely breathed in. Then she sat up quickly and declared that she couldn’t smell a thing. That meant I was just going to have to explain it to her, she said. But see, we dogs, we’re not stupid. We may have four legs and a tail, but we can still put two and two together.

“Closer, Maria. You have to lean down closer. You think I could’ve smelled it if my nose had been as far away from the ground as yours was?”

“No! I won’t do it!”

I yawned, then scratched myself a couple of times. I’d better not be getting fleas again. Man, that just wouldn’t be right at all.

“Oh well. Suit yourself. Then I guess you’ll never know what a Zmulobeast smells like. Gee, I always thought you were a curious kinda kid. Guess I got you all wrong. You know that’s a shame because…

“All right! I’ll do it!”

“Make up your mind, kiddo.”

“I’LL DO IT!”

“You know the routine.”

Her nose is five, four, three, two, one…deeeeep sniff and …

“WHOOOOOOAHHHH!”

“I see you’ve discovered the scent of Zmulobeast.”

“My goodness SPIKE! It’s like a party is going on inside my nose! It’s like…like…it’s just so…DIFFERENT!”

“Ahem. Would you mind being a little more specific?”

Maria started to give me another one of those looks, but then she couldn’t help herself. She fell out laughing, and so did I. We rolled around on the ground laughing just ass hard as we could until our stomachs started to hurt. Strange thing is, it really wasn’t that funny. But laughing together was a kick just the same. Always is.

Then it was time to get back to business.

“Follow that smell?”

“Follow that smell.”

And so that’s what we did. We followed it away from the trampled bit of ground in the woods across the street from the playground, down through the trees, across an open grassy space, then down to the lake. Sometimes we’d see footprints, other rimes we wouldn’t, depending on what the ground was like where it had been. But one thing was for sure: wherever we found footprints, we found a whole mess of little plants, all brand new, struggling to grow. I thought it was weird the first time I saw it, and it looked just as weird the second time around.

Anyway, I could tell the Zmulo stayed at one spot along the lake for quite awhile just by the strength of the odor, then he moved along the edge of the lake to where he stopped again about 50 yards away. Each place he stopped, there were a lot of high reeds crowded near the shore, so Maria and I both guessed this must be something it liked to eat. We followed the scent all the way around the lake before it led us back toward a clump of tall trees and then…

“Hey…”

“Hey what?” asked Maria.

“This can’t be right. What’s going on here. It can’t be right. It doesn’t make any sense unless…”

“Spike. Speak to me in plain English. Now, what are you talking about?”

“Okay, I’m not gonna ask you to get down here again and sniff around, so you’re just gonna have to trust me on this, but you know how powerful that scent was, right? I mean, you smelled it too?”

“Right. So?”

“So it’s gone, that’s what. Just like that. Right up until four feet ago, that smell was just as strong as ever. Then it disappears! Man, I can’t figure this out.”

“Yes you can, Spike. You saw the gold feather just like I did. Now we know it means just what I said it meant when we first found it. It means the Zmulobeast can fly. That gold feather belonged to the Zmulobeast. I am confident of this.”

“Wait a minute. You’re telling me just because a scent disappears, it means this thing can fly? Maria. Please. Stop while you’re ahead.”

“Okay, I’ll tell you what. I know how we can settle this for sure. Why don’t you start sniffing around for other tracks and see where they end up. If they end up really far from here, and you know for sure there’s no other tracks in between, then I think that ought to prove it, don’t you? Oh, and there is one more thing.”

“And that would be what?”

Maria raised her right hand and pointed high up toward the top of the trees, but she was looking at me with a grin while she did it. Whenever Maria knew she was right she’d do stuff like that.

“What do you see?” she asked.

I looked up toward the tops of the trees and squinted. To be honest, I couldn’t see much of a thing. Eyesight isn’t that great.

“Can’t say as I see anything out of the ordinary. So what’s your point?”

“I’m sorry, I forgot you couldn’t see that well. So then let me tell you what you’re missing. The tops of the trees? Where there ought to be a lot of leaves? Almost all the leaves are missing from about three of these trees. One of them is the one you’re standing under right now. So why do you think the leaves are missing from the tops of the trees? I am interested to hear your hypothesis.”

“Speak normally, Maria. Cut the big words.”

“Just trying to improve your vocabulary.”

“My what?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Maybe it would be better if you just barked like all the other dogs. ‘Hypothesis’. It means, well, it sort of means what you think about or why something happened. When I say I want to know your ‘hypothesis’ about those trees, it means I want to know what you think made them like that. There. Now you know.”

Actually, I was pretty impressed by how much Maria knew about different words, but being a canine, there wasn’t any way I was about to let her in on that secret. It just isn’t the way any self-respecting dog does things.

“So now I know another word I’ll never use. Great. About that hypothesis…”

“I thought you just said…”

“Never interrupt a pooch when he’s thinking out loud. Now, as I was hypothesizing there a moment ago, this is what’s up; there were probably a whole lot of birds in the area, see, and they…”

“Name how many kinds of birds you know that only eat leaves from the tops of the trees.”

Then she leaned over and picked up a leaf from the ground. The leaf had a half-moon shaped bite taken out of it. The kind of bite no beak or sharp-toothed critter I knew could make.

“And name the beak that can do this.”

“Come on, Maria, there’s gotta be some.”

Stubbornness is not always one of my more admirable qualities.

“Names, Spike. I want names. You say the Zmulobeast couldn’t be the one that did this, so now it is up to you to prove me wrong. You must stand me corrected.”

“I think you might want to check on the use of that phrase, kid, but we’ll leave that for later. Meanwhile, back to the hypothesis. Look, if it ain’t birds, then I don’t have the slightest, all right? I still think that could be part of the answer, but maybe I’m wrong and you’re right. Okay? Are you jumping for joy yet?”

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kaoblues
Writer and musician.

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