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The Husband's Duel

  Note: For some strange reason, Tripod isn't supporting apostrophes. I hope you don't mind.

The Author

 

               

  THE HUSBANDS DUEL

  Written by : Fern ( Hyaku-Legger)

Starring:

Sasha La Fleur & Charlie B. Barkin

 

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It was Saturday. Sasha woke up that morning, yawning and stretching her little front paws. Charlie was not beside her, and this was strange, since they always slept side by side on the plush carpet of their room. But sniffing the air, Sasha realized where Charlie was. She smelt the tasty aroma of toasting bread and refreshing milk, and she knew instantly that Charlie was downstairs making breakfast for her.

Oh, Charlie, you sweet angel, said Sasha to herself. She got up and went over to the bathroom to wash her face with cold water.

As Sasha entered the kitchen she saw Charlie placing the last detail on their small wooden table: a vase containing a little purple flower. Sasha smiled and looked at Charlie who had noticed her.

Good morning, Sasha,said Charlie.

Oh, Charlie, you shouldnt have,said Sasha.

Shouldnt have what?,asked Charlie.

Well, gotten up so early to prepare breakfast,said Sasha.

Why?,asked Charlie.

Well, eh,Sasha didnt know what to answer.

Let me answer with another question: Why not?,said Charlie smiling.

Sasha gave up. She saw the look on Charlies face and knew that he had won. She was so happy.

Shall we?,asked Charlie, signaling towards the table.

Sasha sat down and they enjoyed a nice breakfast. Today was Saturday and there were usually entertaining things that went on at the park. Sasha knew that Charlie would take her there because he always took her to nice places with Flo and Bess. But today, unlike other days, Charlie and Sasha would discover something that would lead them to a very unusual situation. It will be seen further on.

 

The park was almost empty. People usually arrived later in the morning to walk and visit the craft market. There were lots of clouds in the sky, which announced certain rain for the afternoon. It was usually unlikely to see many dogs together in the same place, and especially at the park, but there was a small group of about ten canines close to the trees that were chattering and blabbering about something.

Sasha and Charlie were walking along the path and admiring the freshly trimmed bushes. Sasha was the first to notice the small group of dogs.

Hey, whats going on over there?,asked Sasha.

No idea,said Charlie.

Probably just a gossip convention,said Sasha,Its always the same. If its not one thing, its the other.

There was actually a lot of gossip surrounding them. The other dogs usually talked a lot about Charlie and said that he was some kind of weirdo. They saw him usually at church and when he attended customers at his cafe. Most males envied him. Charlie was bigger, stronger, handsomer and far more talented than any other dog in the neighborhood. The mere sight of Charlies huge muscular forelegs and hind legs inspired intimidation and in fact envy in other dogs. The only reason Charlie was so big and strong was because he had a healthy life. He exercised a lot, swimming and hiking and running and doing all sorts of physical activities when he and Sasha went out to the hills to have a field trip, and he didnt drink or do any other vices that the dogs lived on. The males were all jealous of him, but they didnt do anything much to make themselves more attractive or healthy. Their lives were basically drinking liquor and beer and all sorts of nasty venomous beverages and smoking cigars and playing cards or other money betting games.

Another reason Charlie always kept his body in shape was because he knew that evil could strike again like it did a few months ago, and he had to be ready for anything. Keeping his body strong and healthy also kept his spirit healthy, and so his angel powers would always be ready for any mission that he might receive from Anabelle. And besides that, he liked being muscular and strong, and he knew that Sasha also loved to see his masculine, stone-tough body, encasing his tender and kind heart. Tough on the outside, and tender on the inside.

Lots of gossip surrounded Sasha too. The females were all jealous of Sasha, and there was no doubt about why. It was frequent to hear: Joey, youre too fat. Cant you be more like Mr. Barkin over there and get some muscles?, or Oh, that setter is so lucky, the things Id do to have that Barking right here with me. The females couldnt see how Sasha got to know Charlie. He was such a big and masculine dog before their eyes, what could he see in a small and frail little antisocial setter like Sasha? They cataloged Sasha as antisocial because she usually never talked to anyone besides Charlie and the few customers that visited their cafe; she didnt participate in any females club or gossip circle or any other activity that the females of the neighborhood organized. She was considered a freak too, but a lucky freak to have Charlie with her.

Odd pair, those two,one female would say,about four months together and still no offspring. I remember I was just one week with Arnie, but I had my pups a few weeks afterwards.

Odds the word,another would say in an undertone,But who cares about puppies. What surprises me most it that theyre still together after four months. I had no less than eleven fiancées in the same time, but shes still with Barkin after ages. Now thats weird, I tell ya.

So was the gossip that the females raised. They were far too ignorant to understand about really love and what it means. It was considered normal for them to have a male partner for a few days and then switch to another. It was their way of living.

Sometimes the braver females tried to get Charlies attention while he was out with Sasha. Once they were sitting down beside the lake in the park, and one of the females went over and sat close to them.

Hey, bit guy? Why dont you leave that skinny little litter reject and have a stroll with me, perhaps we can walk down romance lane,she said.

Charlie didnt even look at her. He just responded.

Thanks a lot, but Im fine here,said Charlie, and he purposely edged closer to Sasha until their thighs touched.

Sasha was more than happy to have Charlie with her. He had been the puzzle solver that organized the sad puzzle that was her life. He had made her happy, he had made her life complete, and he had given her things that no one had ever bothered in giving her before: care, comprehension, support, security, affection, love.

Charlie was Sashas first and only boyfriend, and she was fortunate enough to find someone that needed her as much as she did. Sasha knew that her love also completed Charlies empty life, and it made the bond between them stronger than all the power harnessed in the entire universe.

So was the concept that other dogs had about Sasha and Charlie. They were not exactly appreciated in the neighborhood, but they really didnt give a fig about it.

But the reunion under the trees was rather curious indeed. Now that they were closer, a couple of dogs could be seen in the middle of the group. They were probably sharing information with the group of females surrounding them.

Sasha and Charlie sat down on the plush grass beside the lake to take a break. Just then, Charlie saw his childhood friend Florence the collie coming towards them. She looked fine, but there was something in her face that was different.

Flo came up to them and said hello.

Good morning, guys,said Flo cheerfully.

Good morning, Flo,said Charlie.

Come and sit down with us,said Sasha.

Oh, thank you,said Flo.

She sat down beside Sasha.

So, how are things going?,asked Sasha,Wheres Bess?

She went for a couple of late snacks,said Flo,Im waiting for her. She noticed you two and said that maybe I should come and say hello and that perhaps I could wait for her with you guys. Shell be back soon.

Charlie smiled and felt the breeze run through their spot. Sasha and Flo felt it too as it made their fur fly around. Sashas silky fur got caught in a few of Flos own silky fur, and they laughed as they untangled their furs again.

By the way,said Flo,Did you notice that little group over there?

Yeah,said Charlie,Whats it all about?

New neighbors,said Flo,They called us over and told us that there is a new couple that is moving into our neighborhood this afternoon. Actually, the pair came to our house yesterday and asked if the place had a landlord. Bess and I said that it wasnt likely, and they left with their noses in the air and without even saying thanks. They look like a foul pair, those two. We saw them, they had conceit in their eyes and spoke in such way that they made it clear that they were superior to everyone here. Id like to see them try to compete with you two, though.

Flo looked at Sasha and Charlie and smiled.

Right then, Bess arrived. She was carrying a little bucket-like cardboard box in her teeth. She sat down beside Flo and said hello.

How are you two doing today?,asked Bess.

Great,said Sasha,Flo was telling us about the new neighbors.

Oh, those two,said Bess,I saw them yesterday looking for a house to live in, right after they left our house, you know. I think theyll be taking the one that is next to yours, although I hope against it. Theyre not a nice pair, right Flo?

Yeah,said Flo,Snobs. Thats the right word.

They probably come from a richer neighborhood, or perhaps even a richer city,said Bess,Think theyre at the top of the world, those two. Well, I tell you, theyre going to get a nasty surprise if they happen to walk across Charlie and Sasha.

Yeah. Youd beat those two in a best couple competition any time,said Flo grinning.

Aw, thats not true,said Sasha.

Of course it is,said Flo,You should have seen them yesterday. They looked as if they were walking in an alley full of filth. Snobs, I tell you. They make life more difficult.

Very true,said Bess,But lets forget about them. How are you two?

Fine,said Sasha,No trouble up to now.

Any news from, you know, the skies?,asked Bess in an undertone.

No,said Charlie,In fact, things have been very quiet for a while. I think the devils decided to take a break.

Bess and Flo knew that Charlie was an angel and that the Heavens could call upon him for help any moment. They knew about his encounter with evil which took place four months ago, even though they had never seen him confronting any demons.

There was suddenly a change in the atmosphere; it started to rain gently at first, and in less than ten seconds the rain was so intense that it was difficult to see.

Yikes,said Flo,I guess wed better get home before we catch cold.

Everyone agreed. Charlie, Sasha, Flo and Bess ran all the way across the park, seeing the little reunion abruptly dismantled, and ran across the streets to Flo and Bess house, which was closer.

Flo shut the door of their house as everyone got dry in the front hall.

Boy, that was a drastic change,said Charlie.

I wonder what the weather people will be saying now,said Sasha,They announced rain for the afternoon.

Well, we all got a nasty surprise, all right,said Bess.

After drying themselves, they moved on to the family room to sit on the soft couches and relax. Charlie thought about lighting a fire in the fireplace. It was lucky that Flo and Bess had a gas fireplace, which was faster to light than a regular one.

You know,said Bess as she settled down on the sofa with Sasha and Flo,Rain is pretty nice. It cleans the air and the city streets, and it brings more greenness to the park.

True,said Flo.

Whats more, when I was a puppy, I liked to watch the rain fall down on the sidewalk,said Bess,And believe me, I still do.

Charlie sat down on a couch across the room.

So, Charlie,said Bess,Tell us something. You know many things.

What would you want to hear about?,asked Charlie.

Well, I was thinking,said Bess,Not that Im really interested, but I cant stop thinking about what it would be like if we have new neighbors.

You mean that new couple that arrived today?,asked Charlie.

Yeah,said Bess,I dont know whats so special about them. I guess its just because everyone is talking about them.

Well, I think it would be a change to have new neighbors, as long as they dont interfere with the daily lives of folks,said Charlie,The problem is that, as I have it understood, they are snobbish, and snobbish people arent know for letting folks live in peace. They usually criticize them and make remarks about how uncivilized certain people are.

True,said Flo,But we really must wait and see. Perhaps they are good people, but theyre just shy, or dont know much about social treatment. I think it might be possible.

Perhaps,said Bess,I believe Flos right. Maybe we should just let the subject drop and talk about something more interesting.

The friends talked and had a nice time. The rain didnt stop, but it did get milder, so Sasha and Charlie decided that it was best to head home before the weather got worse.

That night, Sasha was thinking a lot about what Flo had said about the newcomers. Perhaps they just didnt know much about treating with other dogs. It would be interesting to have new neighbors, given the chance that they were kind enough. It was just a matter of time for her to discover the answers to these questions.

 

The next morning, Sasha went out to the balcony to water the flower pots that were under the roof and that the rain had not watered, while Charlie got breakfast ready. With Charlies help, Sasha had practiced a lot to use the watering can, for it was not easy for canines to use tools that were meant for humans, and she could give the flowers the right amount of water. She could hear Charlie in the kitchen, reciting verses of Edgar Alan Poes stories, which they had been reading lately. The rain had stopped for a moment but the clouds were still racing above in the sky, as though warning the world bellow that the rain was not even thinking of subsiding. Sasha suddenly caught sight of a figure down in the alley, a canine figure. She peered over the stone railing and saw that it was a canine. A female that was probably returning home, thought Sasha, because she was carrying a plastic shopping bag in her teeth.

Sasha went inside and left the watering can near the window. Charlie had set their small wooden table, and all was ready for a nice breakfast.

Sasha and Charlie sat down and were ready to eat. But suddenly, the doorbell rang.

Ill get it,said Charlie getting up.

Sasha heard him walk over to the door and look through the little hole to see who it was.

She decided to go to the door too, just in case. Charlie opened the door.

Yes?,he said.

Good morning, neighbor,said the dog at the door,I was wondering if you could lend me some help with my house. We just moved in and were having trouble with our furniture.

Sasha came to Charlies side and saw that the speaker was a black and white male dog that was no bigger than she was. He wore a beige collar and looked a little nervous, she guessed it was because of Charlie. Everyone she knew that had met Charlie had felt nervous about his size and physique.

Id be glad to,said Charlie,Ill be there in about ten minutes.

Fine,said the stranger,I live next door, just come in without knocking.

Okay,said Charlie, and the neighbor left.

Charlie closed the door and looked at Sasha.

Well,he said smiling,I guess well have a chance to meet the new neighbors after all.

Sasha and Charlie went back to the kitchen to have their breakfast.

Shortly, Sasha was sitting outside on the steps of their home, while Charlie locked the door and joined her. They walked together to the neighbors house and did as the neighbor had told them, entered without knocking.

Hello?,Charlie called out.

Sasha heard the clicking of paws as they approached the main hall where they were. The neighbor appeared and greeted them.

Hello, neighbor,said the dog,I believe I havent introduced myself properly. My name is Preston, and Im here with my wife, Marcie.

Another dog, a female, entered the hall. Sasha looked at her and saw that it was the same female she had seen from her balcony. But there was something in her look that Sasha found unusual, but she didnt know what.

Are these the new neighbors, Presie?,asked Marcie.

Yep, they are,said Preston,And what did you say your names were?

Charlie answered.

This is my girlfriend, Ms. Sasha La Fleur. And my names Charles B. Barkin,said Charlie,We live next door.

Wait a minute, I remember you,said Marcie suddenly,I saw you yesterday at the park.

Really?,asked Charlie.

Yeah,said Marcie,One of the girls pointed at you and told me all about you. You own a cafe, if Im not wrong.

Yes, we do,said Charlie.

Hey, now that you mention it, Marcie, I also remember hearing about him,said Preston.

Charlie looked sideways at Sasha. She looked back at him.

Well,said Charlie,Wheres that furniture that you need help with?

Oh,said Marcie,Its over here. If you follow me, please.

Sasha and Charlie were led to the living room, where there was a large sofa that was sitting in the middle of the room. Along the walls there were all sorts of other pieces of furniture, such as tables and armchairs. The humans who abandoned this house were apparently wealthier that the others. Charlie didnt remember seeing an original Chippendale tea table since he last visited a museum.

Were having trouble putting these things where they belong,said Marcie,I really cant decide whether I should place this sofa on the side of the rug or in the middle like a centerpiece.

Charlie instantly realized that under the snobbish exterior there was clear foolishness. A sofa could never make a centerpiece; even any human knew that.

Well,said Charlie,Personally, I believe that the sofa would be fine along the rug line. And, even better, if its placed on the rug so that it wont skid on the slippery linoleum floor.

Say, thats quite an idea,said Marcie,I have never thought of it.

Sasha helped her with the tea table arrangement, as well as the couches and the vases. Charlie gave his opinion on where the paintings would go best, remarking that direct sunlight is bad for oil paintings and should be avoided. Marcie and Preston finally had their living room furnished and completely neat before noon. They were pleased with themselves.

Well, it seems that weve finally put things together,said Preston after walking around the place a few times,This calls for a little celebration. Why dont you join us for dinner at eight?

Well,said Sasha,I think we dont have anything else in mind. And, we are new neighbors.

Then its settled,said Marcie,Eight tonight. See you then.

Now, if you excuse us, its time for our walk,said Preston, and he and Marcie left them there and walked outside towards the sidewalks.

Sasha and Charlie went back to their own house without much ado. Sasha was not very convinced about the neighbors. To her, they seemed a little like Flo had described them. Charlie had not doubted a minute in their friends words.

As they arrived back at their house, Charlie looked around at their own house and thought a moment.

Sasha,he said as they entered the main hall,Could you come here for a second?

Sasha smiled and followed Charlie into the family room. Charlie sat on the sofa and waited for her. Sasha climbed up onto the sofa also and looked at Charlie.

Is there anything bothering you, honey?,asked Sasha.

No,said Charlie,But, I just wanted to feel our sofa and look at our family room. It seems so, different for a while.

Sasha edged closer to Charlie until her thigh touched his. She felt him shiver a little from the warm touch.

You know, Charlie,said Sasha as she placed her little paw gently on his big paw,One thing I like about you most it that you have a great mental capacity to make a firm conclusion out of small things.

Sasha laid her head on Charlies big shoulder and stroked her fur against him.

Youve been thinking about the neighbors,said Sasha,And you are glad you are how you are: humble.

Charlie smiled.

Youre almost like my own mind, Sasha,said Charlie as he also inclined his head to the side and stroked Sashas fur with his chin,You know every bit of me as if I were part of you.

You are part of me, Charlie,said Sasha smiling,And Id even say the most important part of me.

They sat a while there, looking at their cozy little family room and feeling the warmth of each others furs.

You know, theres something I cant stand, and its snobbish people,said Charlie,Arrogance. It is about the nastiest thing in the world.

I agree,said Sasha,I believe they act that way to look big before others, because they really arent any different from many of the dogs in our neighborhood.

True,said Charlie.

Dont worry,said Sasha,I dont think theyll be such a bother. Theyll probably get tired of us and look for someone else to talk to.

Charlie agreed.

That night they had to go to the neighbors house for dinner. The food was okay, but the conversation was very conceited. The neighbors were very quick to learn he gossip around the place and they talked about people that they had not met yet as if they did.

Sasha and Charlie were glad to leave after dinner and go back to their own humble home for a good nights sleep. But, would these neighbors be more than just neighbors? They didnt seem harmful. But, who knows.

 

The next morning, Sasha was walking along the shore with Flo. They were talking and sharing many thoughts.

Charlie had stayed home to organize the house and dust the furniture. It was around eleven, and Sasha and Flo grew a little thirsty. They decided to go have a drink at the fountain that stood in the park.

But when they got there, there was someone already drinking from it. Someone Sasha wished hadnt been there. It was Marcie.

Well, hi neighbor,said Marcie as she looked up. Then she noticed Flo,Some company you keep. Come on, lets go for a stroll.

Flo frowned. She didnt like that remark.

Only if she comes along,said Sasha, clearly stating her position.

Fine,said Marcie.

Sasha and Flo got closer and lapped some of the water that poured out of the fish statues heads. Marcie looked at Flo with evident distaste.

Well, I have some news for you, Sasha,said Marcie,Ive heard a thing or two about your neighbors lately and I think you should know.

Sasha looked sideways at Flo. Flo understood the look. Sasha was apparently a little fed up with her new neighbors talk.

Marcie joined Sasha and Flo and babbled about the things she had heard. She told Sasha about what the neighbors said about her and Charlie, and she said a few things about Flo and Bess too. Flo looked away to not show her face. Sasha tried to ignore Marcie mentally, but it was difficult. Her voice seemed to drill into her ears like an oil bore.

Suddenly, Sasha got an idea.

I just remembered,she said, interrupting Marcie,Charlie asked us to meet him at the house at this time. I guess wed better go, Marcie.

Well, okay,said Marcie,Ill be talking to you tomorrow, Sasha. Same place and same time.

Sasha looked at her neighbor.

Im not sure Ill be able to,said Sasha,I, er

Oh, then Ill go to your house,said Marcie settling the matter,Were neighbors after all. Ciao!

Marcie left them in a hurried pace.

Sasha and Flo walked back to the house.

That was a lie, Sasha,said Flo.

I know,said Sasha,Im sorry. But it was the only way to get us away from that blabber mouth.

I didnt mean that,said Flo,After all, you know what they say. A well intended lie is often better than a badly intended truth.

Sasha smiled comfortably. Flo wasnt the kind of girl who would drop more wood into the fire.

They got to the house in ten minutes flat. Charlie was in the family room, taking a break. He had dusted everything and the house was shining. His eyes were closed.

Quietly, Sasha and Flo went into the room and sat with him, Sasha at one side and Flo at the other. Trying not to giggle, they got ready to give him a little fright.

BOO!,yelled Sasha as Flo grabbed his arm.

Charlie let out a yelp and jumped up with his eyes wide open.

Then he realized it was a joke when he saw Flo and Sasha laughing like mad beside him.

You scared me out of my skin, girls,said Charlie as he got his breath back,I though my time had come.

Sorry, but we couldnt help it, sweetheart,said Sasha kissing his cheek.

Charlie smiled.

Well, I guess a good fright is fine once in a while,said Charlie,Keeps the nerves alert.

Charlie, the house it glimmering,said Flo admiring Charlies work,How long did it take you to get all this in order.

All morning,said Charlie,But its worth it.

The place is great, Charlie,said Sasha,It looks like a hotel. We could even invite guests.

At that moment, Bess entered the room.

Service!,she called out. Apparently she had overheard Sashas remark.

The three smiled as Bess came up and sat beside Flo.

Id like a suite with ocean viewoh, wait a minute, theyre all suites with ocean view,she said,Thenone with mountain view.

Charlie checked the clock on the wall.

That reminds me,said Charlie,Ive made lunch for everyone. Im finally getting used to the human oven. Its not as difficult as I thought. Human appliances are really quite simple. If you would follow me to the kitchen

Charlie got up and walked to the kitchen, and the girls were glad to follow.

Charlie took a metal pan out of the oven with a cloth wrapped around his paw. He had been practicing carrying things with one paw, for he had to get used to the human appliances. The abandoned house had lots of things that he found useful, like tools and switches and taps.

Well, I hope you all like potato and pork roast,said Charlie,I saw it in the cook book and though it would be good.

Everyone sat down at the table, but just then, something very unpleasant happened. In the doorway, two figures appeared. They were Marcie and Preston, the neighbors. Charlie looked at them a little shocked. So did the others.

Who let you in?,asked Charlie.

Oh, come now, neighbor, were friends. We dont have to take all those formalities like knocking on each others doors,said Preston.

Now wait a minute,said Charlie walking towards them,This is our house, and you should know that its rude and very low to enter someone elses house without asking. Its invasion of private property

Oh, come on,said Preston, waving his paw,We just wanted to join you for lunch. Marcie suggested that we should get together and spend some time.

Well, you should have at least had the decency to ask us if you could come before barging in like that,growled Charlie.

Preston acted as if he had not heard Charlie. Marcie looked at Flo and Bess with distaste.

I bought these things from a dog who took them from a human store,said Preston,But there are only four places at the table, so I think youll have to ask your little friends to eat somewhere else.

He walked over and places something on the table. It was a package full of something black and shiny. He looked at Bess and Flo, and snorted.

Its called caviar,said Marcie in the background,Only the important humans eat it. So, I believe that your friends will have to leave.

Charlie was really mad by now. He didnt want to offend his neighbors, but he spoke the way he could.

The only ones who should leave are you and Marcie,said Charlie,Were not going to eat anything humans consider high classed. And in case you didnt know, that caviar you bought is stale. I can tell from a mile away because of the horrible stench.

Preston went white.

Stale! Why, that dirty cheap seller, I bought this for sixty five coins,Preston yelled,Hell pay. Come on, Marcie, well find that cheat.

Preston picked up his package of rotten fish eggs and he and Marcie marched down the hall. They left without a word.

Charlie quickly went down the hall and locked the door so that no one could enter.

As he returned to the kitchen he sat down and breathed out.

Well,he said,Shall we continue out meal?

 

Charlies dish was a very good one. Everyone loved it. But one thing was for sure, and it was this: the unexpected and rude appearance of the neighbors had left Charlie very cross, and especially because he had been the one who faced them.

Snobs,said Charlie as he finished,Arrogant people. I cant stand them.

Did you see the way he looked at us?,asked Bess,Its as if he were looking at pig manure.

Really rude thing to do,said Sasha.

Id expect no less from a pair like those two,said Flo,Who do they think they are?

I dont know, but Charlie, you did a good job making them leave,said Sasha smiling at him.

Charlie smiled too.

Well, I tried my best not to be rude myself, but its difficult to find proper and inoffensive words,said Charlie.

You did great,said Flo.

After lunch, they sat a while in the family room and talked about many things, between those things about the new neighbors. What was the problem with them? Did they just want to draw attention? No one could answer accurately.

Nothing else happened on that day thats worth mentioning. Flo and Bess went home, and Sasha and Charlie went to sleep that night without anything else to brood on.

                                   *                                  *                                  *

It was around 3:00 in the afternoon when trouble started again.

Sasha walked out of the house to take a walk around the beach, which was not far from where they lived, only three blocks. She found herself free in the afternoon solitude of the sunny beach. No humans were there because it was a work day and the children were still at school. Sitting down on the loose sand, Sasha felt the breeze as it made her silky fur fly around.

Ahh,she breathed as she closed her eyes,Theres never been a better spot to be.

I agree,said a very familiar and unpleasant voice behind her.

Sasha knew instantly who it was. Marcie.

She turned around, and sure enough there was Marcie, with that stupid look on her face.

I saw you leave your house and I followed you,said Marcie as if she hadnt done anything bad,Now, this is the best spot to have a friendly chat.

Sasha didnt say anything, just smiled vaguely. Marcie walked over and sat beside Sasha, and started babbling.

Sasha didnt pay much attention to her, that is, until she heard something that made her ears perk up.

so I think that comparing him with Charlie, well,Marcie was saying.

Sasha looked at her.

What are you talking about?,she asked firmly.

I was just saying that there are a few things you should learn about males,said Marcie with an unpleasant grin,I was comparing Preston with Charlie.

Sasha was just about to say something nasty, but she held herself.

Think about it,said Marcie,Preston gets me flowers every other day, and he knows my tastes. But you and Charlie

Well,said Sasha a little irritated,Charlie and I grow flowers at home so that we dont have to throw away the old ones. They bloom every season.

Marcie looked at her.

Oh, come on,said Marcie,Working with plants is for lower kinds. You know, Preston is a real generous guy. He bought that lunch yesterday for a lot of money because its fit for our class. We thought we ought to go to your house and invite you to savor some classy food, but

But it was stale,said Sasha.

Marcie frowned.

Charlie made us lunch with his own paws,said Sasha,He took his time and made us a wonderful dish.

Now, Im surprised. You have a kitchen-boy for a fiancee?,Marcie said,Now, thats not nice to hear.

Sasha looked at her about to respond, but Marcie went on. She sat closer to Sasha and placed a foreleg on her shoulder.

Sasha, look here. From girl to girl, Im not sure you and Charlie are quite a good couple,said Marcie,You two arent even married like us. And really, I think Charlie is not fit for you. Perhaps you should consider coming with me, I have some friends, and perhaps find another male thats more like a male should be, like Preston. I could introduce you to some single friends of mine that would be willing to have a girl like you

That did it. She had touched Sashas nerve.

You know what I think?!,Sasha yelled, getting up and throwing Marcies foreleg off her shoulder,I think you and your pathetic little Preston should keep you noses in your own business and leave me and Charlie alone! Charlie is a thousand times better than any filthy snobbish mutt like Preston. Thats what I think!

Sasha had let herself out like a storm, but then she realized that she had been a little too harsh.

Look, Im sorry about that but,Sasha started.

But she was interrupted by Marcie.

No, no, go on. Proud of your male, are you?,she said defiantly,Well, Im gonna tell you something, sis. Id bet you anything that my Preston is better that your Charlie in any and every way possible.

Sasha looked at her.

Is that a challenge?,she asked.

It is,said Marcie,And Ill tell you more. I challenge you to find out whos got the better male. Well go out tomorrow, both couples, and if my Preston beats your Charlie in three things that we decide, I win. Hows that?

I accept your challenge,said Sasha with a grim face,Tomorrow afternoon, we start here, till six oclock.

Agreed,said Marcie,Its a husbands duel. Or should I say, a husband-boyfriend duel?

Name is as you wish,said Sasha,Youre not going to beat me.

Thats to be seen,said Marcie.

Without another word, they left each other. Sasha headed back home and went upstairs to look for Charlie, who was probably tending the flower pots on the terrace.

She found him. He was just placing the watering can back on the floor beside the other tools, when she came up to him.

Charlie?,asked Sasha,Can we go out together tomorrow to walk along the beach?

Charlie looked at her.

Why, of course, Sasha,said Charlie,Anytime you like.

Sasha was glad. She didnt say anything about the duel, because that would be cheating and Sasha was an honest girl.

So it was settled. Sasha and Charlie were going out, and Sasha was going to compete with Marcie and show her that humility and kindness were better than conceit and wealth.

 

Finally, the next day came.

Sasha and Charlie were sitting down on the sand, they were on the same spot in which Sasha had sat yesterday.

Shortly, Marcie and Preston arrived. Marcie had a nasty look on her face, and so did Preston. It was obvious that she told him about it. She cheated. But Sasha wasnt discouraged. She knew that she could win, even if the other couple cheated.

Charlie was a little annoyed to see Marcie and Preston there, but he held his tongue.

Well, its a nice day for a walk, eh?,said Preston,Lets go along he waterfront and watch the ships.

Sasha and Marcie eyed each other fiercely. They knew exactly what the other was thinking as they walked with their males along the shore. Preston was obviously prepared for the event.

As Marcie and Preston walked along the shore, Preston leaned on Marcie and started whispering in her ear and making a pathetic cuddling scene.

Sasha knew that she had lost the first round. Charlie was very reserved, and he wouldnt snuggle with her in public where everyone would see them because he respected her too much. But now, Sasha needed for him to break the rule, even if she knew she had lost.

Sasha leaned against Charlie as she walked and nuzzled him, kissing his cheek and his muzzle.

Charlie was a bit surprised.

Heh hey there,said Charlie,What was that for, love?

Oh, nothing,said Sasha smiling,Just, feeling like it.

Sasha eyes Marcie and saw clearly what she had in mind. It was one to zero, and Marcie was in advantage.

 

A little further, they walked close to an ice cream stand that was near the waterfront. Dogs could buy ice cream from the back of the store. Charlie, remembering Sashas sudden affectionateness, immediately knew what to do.

Marcie, Preston, would you like some ice cream?,asked Charlie.

Sasha suddenly smiled. Marcie and Preston were shocked.

N-no. Thank you,they said.

Oh, okay,said Charlie, walking towards the stand.

Sasha looked at Marcie and snickered.

I guess this draws the score, eh?,she said.

Humpf,said Marcie,The next one shall decide who wins, so be prepared.

Charlie returned with two ice cream cones on a plastic tray.

Your favorite, Sashy,said Charlie,Strawberry and maple syrup.

Thank you, Charlie,said Sasha as she kissed him once more.

 

After finishing their ice cream, Sasha and Charlie walked along with Marcie and Preston towards a port where there were several boats berthed. Marcie went to the edge of the concrete dock with Preston and looked at the water. Sasha and Charlie did the same.

Sasha eyed Marcie every so often, not knowing what could happen next. Marcie didnt expect Charlie to do something that would count as points for Sasha. What to do next?

Without warning, it came. Charlie suddenly felt something deep inside him. It was like a vibration. He knew exactly what it was.

Everyone, move towards land,said Charlie as he got up,Theres an earthquake coming!

Marcie and Preston laughed.

Ha ha,said Marcie,So that was your plan, eh Sasha? Make Charlie save our skins so it could earn you a point? Earthquake my tail.

What are you saying?!,Charlie insisted,Move away from the edge, NOW!

But it was too late. Sasha knew that Charlie could tell when earthquakes would strike a little before they could. In fact, dogs can tell several seconds before when an earthquake will occur, and Charlie had enhanced that ability thanks to his angelic powers.

Quick!,said Sasha as she got up and ran over to Marcie and Preston,Charlies telling the truth!

Heh heh, yeah right,said Marcie.

Sasha didnt waste time. She grabbed Marcie the best she could and pulled her away from the edge of the deep water. Preston was confusedand suddenly it came!

The whole earth beneath them shook violently. Sasha and Marcie dropped to the ground, and Charlie did too. But Preston wasnt so lucky. There was a yell, and a splash, and there was more desperate yelling.

Help!,yelled Preston desperately from the water,I cant swim!

The earthquake faded, and Marcie ran to the edge.

Preston!,she yelled desperately as he disappeared under the murky waters.

Sasha got to the edge too and her heart started thumping madly.

But there was nothing to worry about. Charlie was on his way. Charlie jumped down into the dark water and dived quickly. A few seconds passed by, and Sasha almost had a fit. Not to mention Marcie.

But after about ten seconds, Charlie reappeared on the surface with Preston, all shocked and desperate. Charlie jumped out of the water with him and landed up on the concrete. Charlie had saved Prestons life.

Just lie down on your back and lift your forelegs,said Charie,Like that, thatll let the air in. Good boy.

Marcie was so relieved that she fell over and passed out for about a minute.

Sasha was so shocked that she couldnt move for a few seconds. But then, when she came back to senses, she jumped at Charlie and wrapped her forelegs around him.

Oh, Charlie,she said between desperate tears,I was so scaredIIbut, youre okay! Oh, I almost died

Charlie smiled and hugged her tightly, holding her close to his chest.

Its all over, Sashy,said Charlie,It was just an accident. Fortunately, were all okay.

Afterwards, when everyone recovered, they all decided that there was no place they wanted to be more than home. The two couples went back to their houses, and the females even forgot about the Husbands Duel, even if the score placed Sasha as the winner. After all, Charlie had saved Prestons life, even after Preston had been rude and snobbish.

Later in the afternoon, while Sasha and Charlie were sitting down with Bess and Flo after dinner, there was a knock on the door. Charlie opened and to his surprise, it was Preston with Marcie, both holding traveling suitcases.

Were leaving,said Preston,We got ourselves a better spot in a town near Los Angeles, and I thought wed come and say goodbye.

Why dont you come in?,asked Charlie.

I cant, and Marcie cant either,said Preston,We couldnt stand looking at Sasha in the face. I cant stand even looking at you in the face, knowing that I owe you my life.

Charlie knew that it was best to let them leave without much fuss.

Well,said Charlie,Its been a pleasure then, apart from all the inconveniences. Have a nice trip.

And with that, both Preston and Marcie left.

Charlie returned to the family room and told everyone about it. Sasha told them all about the Husbands Duel, and they had a good laugh at it. It was all so funny now that it was over, and they spent a wonderful time together in that good old family room.

 

                                   *                      *                      *

Sasha slept very well that night, snuggled close to Charlie under the warm covers that he had placed. She was happy to have such a noble and kind male like him, and she understood other females completely when she heard all the gossip about them being jealous of her. Charlie was the male every female would die for. Many females would kill each other to have a male like Charlie to love them, and Charlie loved Sasha more than anything else in the world. She was definitely a very fortunate girl.

Youre the luckiest girl in the world, Sasha,she said to herself,You have the wonderful dog in the universe beside you, and you will always have him here when you need him.

Sasha lifted her head and kissed Charlie several times with her soft, moist tongue. Charlie was asleep, but he still smiled in his sleep as he felt Sashas tongue rub against his cheek and muzzle.

Sasha smiled and tucked her head under his chin and closed her eyes, feeling the warmth and security of Charlies warm fur.

I love you, Charlie,she said to him, and with those sweet words, joined him in a nice peaceful sleep.

 

                                                           THE END