by Seán Thomas Dwyer, 1370 words

Now that we’re at 52,000 words and counting, I’m comfortable with stepping in and lifting the veil on the whole process of how the animals acquired agency for themselves. The telling will take as long as it needs to, but no longer. Phil gave you some of the details, explaining how it came to be that the more overtly carnivorous among the animals were rehomed for their good, and that of the entire local group.

Phil also honored me by making it seem that I’m a household name. as you can tell by Tim’s lack of knowledge of my existence, the bottom edge of the demographic that knows Seán is roughly the age-40 line. On the top end, I’d say most people over 100 don’t know me, either. Maybe I need to host some open mics at local elder housing.

Truly, it doesn’t matter who I am, or that I’m the writer tasked with giving you the rest of the story. The dénouement, as the French so elegantly put it, is in my hands. But darn near anyone who came around to tell part of the tale could have drawn the short straw, or the long straw, or whichever straw I’m holding at this moment.

I learned over the past couple of years something I should have known from being a French minor in grad school: In English, we say we’re tying up the loose ends of the plot, but in French, we are untying a plot knot. Everything is in a tangle, and, as one does with a bunch of computer cables or one’s holiday lights, one unravels the knot and comes out with a collection of straight, useful strands. Here’s what Phil didn’t know was going to happen, though Baker and I had a suspicion the knot might unravel this way after the first few strings came loose.

You gotta give ol’ Tex some credit for overcoming his fear of chickens, as well as healing from the stitches in the back of his neck that Rufi created when he tried to decapitate the driver. In truth, Rufi was after a hen that had settled on the Texan’s shoulder, but meat is meat. When Tex decided Polly was his favorite dish, he did the right thing. But Tim was the two-legg that the animals trusted most, and when he stopped coming around, like Little Jackie Paper, the animals decided he had outgrown them and became less fierce about their militance.

It almost seemed that their war chant:

Beasts of Washington, Beasts of Oregon

Beasts of every land and clime,

Hearken to my optimistic tidings

Of an equitable future time!

was going the way of the Top 40 tunes from 2006. Hardly anyone sings “Ridin’ Dirty” or “Bossy” these days. And the animals settled into the comfort of regular meals and improved housing. Without Tim as a spiritual guide to victory, they might as well give up.

There were, however, two flies in that ointment. They had the eyes of a koi, the nose of a failed pugilist, the snort of a pig, the tail of a Doberman, and the tongue of a 14-year-old boy on his first date.

Yes, the two pugs were not living their best life. Hieronymus was back to his birth state of Washington, but he loved Vancouver, and the cozy mansion where Mama gave him constant treats. Now, Mama was lurking in the Bellingham area, trying to figure out where she had dropped her NEXUS card. She had no time to give Hieronymus treats.

He muttered constantly about the lack of treats to his litter mate, Snookie, who had heard the same siren bark he had heard. She had traveled much farther than he had, and she was, presumably, far more stuck here, because her mom had beaten a path out of town, leaving behind her precious puggie-boo. Snookie was disgruntled as well, and she had been made aware that treats were not forthcoming anytime soon. And so, their little puggy hearts began to beat with the heat of resentment that only a formerly loving dog can muster.

From there, it took only a little while for the discontent to spread. Even the most privileged mammals and birds can be led to agree that the slighting of one is an offence to all. Slowly, Mame, who had written the call to action that they had sung with lusty voices so recently, regained her desire to see equity for all animals. Sure, this family was now safe and secure, not to mention well-fed, but many animals lived on chains in yards, exposed to the elements, or in terraria, bound to a heat rock and fearful of bumping into an invisible wall if they moved too far.

It had to stop. Equity was the goal, and until it was the new normal in this world, there had to be a class struggle.

Phil was not a bad guy, the animals decided, after giving up his goofy alter ego and taking on real responsibility. But when Hieronymus heard the slap of his mum’s sneakers on the pavement, he told Snookie who it was, and she yipped and spun in circles around his trolley. She pushed him to the door, and when Dana stepped in, their squeals became even louder. She was carrying treats! TREATS!

“Oh, my widdle Fin, Mummy is so sorry you’ve been neglected. I have treats for my baby! And for anyone else who wants some!” She was wearing a backpack that turned out to be full of a variety of treats, something for every animal eventuality, like Santa Claus. The entire crowd stirred and circled around her.

“Hey, big H, what’s your mother calling you?” someone shouted from the back.

“She calls me Fin. Can’t pronounce my real name.”

“Good of her to bring treats for everyone,” Mame commented.

“She’s the best two-legg. The only one I really trust.”


After everyone got a snack, Dana sat back, feeling content now that she had found her NEXUS card and made amends with Fin. She was thrilled that the shelter now had no locked doors. The animals had a dream life.

But just then, Mame started rowling-yowling a rhythmic growl in a howling singsong voice. The other dogs, the cats, the potbellied pig, the birds, all joined in. The two mature birds, an African Grey and a Macaw, sang actual words:

Beasts of Washington, Beasts of Oregon

Beasts of every land and clime,

Hearken to my optimistic tidings

Of an equitable future time!

Dana gasped. This song was what brought Fin and Snookie to Bellingham! She gave him an extra treat, then wondered if it was equitable to give just him a treat. He was her baby, but the other animals might not take that into account. She started around the circle, giving every animal a second treat. She felt some of the treats stick to her perspiring palms.

After the potbellied pig got his treat, a strip of bacon, they all sang a new verse of the song:

Beasts of Washington, Beasts of Oregon

Add Vancouver to our list,

Time to spread our realistic tidings

Of the equity some have missed!

Dana, never one to be called tan, paled further. What were they going to do?

“Fin, sweetie, do you want to go home? Back to your bed where we snuggle, and I write, and you give me inspiration?”

He looked at her with his Peter Lorre eyes and whimpered. She knew then what she had to do. These creatures needed one human to serve as their advocate. She seemed to be their chosen liaison.

“Come take on the world with us,” the African Grey said, presumably interpreting Fin’s whimper.

This was quite a pickle. She could do just one thing. “All right, you guys. I’m in. but this is going to slow me down in finishing my memoir, and I think Seán will have a hard time forgiving me for the delay. But whatevs.”

“Skookum!” the birds cried. They fluttered toward the exit.

The rest of the creatures looked from pug to woman, and from woman to pug, and from pug to woman again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.