The Curious Case of the Beagle and the Purloined Loaf of French Bread (Or, You’ll Never See Unless You Look Up)

She’d been gone the entire morning, and I was worried.

“Mom, we should go looking . . . in the car.”  I’d already walked the neighborhood, without any luck. I didn’t see our dog anywhere.  And, at eight years old, I couldn’t very well drive myself.  I needed someone else to step up.

“I’m sure Poopsie will be back soon,” Mom said.  “You know how she is.”

To step back, yes, you read that right.  Our dog was named Poopsie.  Well, Poopsie III, if you want to be precise. Don’t blame me.  It was a family tradition.  Every dog we ever had, my mother named Poopsie.  She wouldn’t have it any other way.  We had four in all, and number four would end up being my best friend throughout my teen years and beyond.

 

But Poopsie III was a good friend, too.  She was a beagle, who spent most of her time in the fenced-in backyard.  My father built her a doghouse, and she would hole away in there for hours on end, only to reemerge ready for food and play.

 

Play, indeed.  Poopsie III was a high-energy dog, often running around in circles chasing her own tail, hunting birds, and playing fetch with the stamina of superdog.

And, oh, yeah.  She liked to run away.

We tried to prevent it, but it was a losing proposition.  We didn’t want to keep her on a leash 24/7–she was too rambunctious and full of energy.  And we hoped the fence would keep her safe and secure in the yard.  It didn’t.  Not only did Poopsie III have the stamina of superdog; she had the leaping ability of superdog, too.  She jumped the fence with ease.  (She also dug underneath it, burrowing down and crossing into the neighbor’s yard via her hastily constructed subterranean path  The neighbor had a poodle, Satch, and when Satch was in his own backyard, Poopsie would invariably tunnel under the fence to go play with him.)  Of course, I recommended that we just let her in the house and have her live with us inside.  My mother objected (though Poopsie IV, a cocker spaniel, would indeed be an indoor dog).  What could I do?  I didn’t have the necessary clout as an eight-year-old.

 

And on that day, that overcast, muggy August morning, Poopsie was missing.  When I checked the clock that hung above the sink, the hands told me it was nearing noon.  And Poopsie had been gone since before eight–four hours ago!  She’d never been gone this long.

“Mom!” I protested, unwilling to let this go.  But my mother stood firm.  She gave me a two o’clock deadline.  If Poopsie didn’t show up by then, we’d head out in the car and search for her.

Those two hours crawled by like a tortoise lugging a piano.  Finally, though, 2:00 p.m. arrived–and still no Poopsie.

“Okay,” Mom said.  “Let’s go.”

 

We headed out to the driveway.  But rather than entering the car directly, we decided to walk into the street and peer into the distance–just in case.  By this time, there was a break in the cloud cover, and a warm summer sun shone upon the neighborhood.  I shielded my eyes with my right hand and peered up the road.  A few seconds went by, and nothing–only a few neighbors milling about in their front yards. The street was empty–not even a car. But then, I saw movement–a shape emerging atop the hill that lay beyond the stop sign at the nearest intersection . . . could it be?  I took a few steps forward.  I sensed Mom did the same, though I didn’t know for certain as my focus was 100 percent on the tableau playing out before me.

 

As the shape in the distance grew nearer, sprinting down the hill, closer, closer, running faster, I knew.  Poopsie!  There was no doubt.  But where had she gone?  Why had she been missing for so long?  And . . . what did she have in her mouth?

Indeed, as she bolted through the intersection, now on flat ground, and approached us, we could make out what she had: a long, full loaf of French bread.  She hadn’t taken a bite out of it–and it had to be two feet long.  She gripped on tight, careful not to drop her catch.  When she finally reached us, my mother and I burst out laughing.  How could we not?

 

“Poopsie!” Mom shouted.  “Where did you get that?”

There was a bakery way up and over the hill, two miles up the road on a different street–Ricardo’s.  We went there sometimes to acquire fresh bread and other delectables.  Had Poopsie gone inside the bakery?  Or had she hid in the shadows nearby and waited for an innocent customer to emerge with a loaf of French bread?  I tried to picture the theft.  How had she managed it?  And why wasn’t anyone chasing her?

 

Before Poopsie could settle in and partake of her ill-gotten bread, my mother yelled at her for running away and for stealing the loaf.  Instantly, Poopsie–still with a vice-grip on her prize–darted toward the backyard and hopped the fence.  We went back in the house, looked through the window, and there she was . . . trying to enter her doghouse with the loaf of bread.  But the bread was too wide and kept barring entry.  She’d plow ahead, but the bread would catch on the wood of her house, rebuffing her time and again.  Finally, Poopsie solved the riddle, dropping the load and nuzzling it into her doghouse with her nose.  When she vanished inside her abode, we knew she’d be there for a while.  We just hoped she wouldn’t get an upset stomach!

 

*************************

Have you ever felt desperate for an idea?  Have you ever experienced writer’s block?  Do partial ideas come your way, tantalizing in their promise, but frustrating in their incompleteness and the many gaps that still need to be filled?  The muse isn’t always in a giving mood.  Sometimes, we just need to wait.  Because I know that, at least for me, ideas cannot be forced.  Creativity cannot be coerced.  I can think about a skeletal idea, I can attempt to build muscle and sinew and attach them to the bones, but, in the end, the full flower of the idea, the complete telling of the story, will come when it comes.

 

And this happens a lot.  More times than I can count, I get fragments, partial inspirations, intriguing scenarios and what-ifs.  But until those scenarios can be expanded, until characters and subplots and layers upon layers of story can be added to the initial idea, until a palette of colors can be applied to the sketch, I am stuck, in an embryonic state of the process, waiting on a capricious and too often shy muse to come to call.

 

And there are times when it all feels so hopeless, when the lack of workable ideas rises up like a taunt, when it’s easy to wonder if the literary well has gone dry and the pump forever malfunctioned.  But in those moments, after searching and cajoling and overthinking and obsessing, when characters and dialogue are silent as the grave, be sure to look up.

To believe.

To survey that hill in the distance.

Because maybe, just maybe, the answer, like a jubilant, rediscovered dog with a purloined bakery prize, will come dashing toward you with the answers you need.

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lyn
    Jun 30, 2020 @ 11:26:18

    Most of the chapters on my blog serial story were inspired by flash fiction photos. Sometimes they can send you in very strange (but satisfying) directions 😀

    Reply

  2. Alexis Chateau
    Jun 30, 2020 @ 16:59:37

    Poopsie was a very determined pooch!! 😂

    Reply

  3. joannerambling
    Jun 30, 2020 @ 22:27:15

    What a story and what a doggie

    Reply

  4. cwmartin13
    Jun 30, 2020 @ 22:39:45

    Love that story!

    Reply

  5. Rilla Z
    Jul 01, 2020 @ 01:53:41

    Yes, the frustration and waiting during a time of writer’s block is… how did you put it? Like “a tortoise lugging a piano.” Love it! This is such an enjoyable read. You are a talented storyteller. (I’ve said that before, but it bears repeating.)

    Reply

  6. foodinbooks
    Jul 01, 2020 @ 09:02:31

    What a dog! This was wonderful.

    Reply

  7. magarisa
    Jul 01, 2020 @ 18:12:52

    I really like your comparison of the muse’s appearance to your “jubilant, rediscovered dog with a purloined bakery prize.” You sure know how to tell a good story!

    Reply

  8. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel
    Jul 02, 2020 @ 21:30:13

    What a nice story. I pictured Poopsie with flopping ears running toward you with that long loaf of bread. How funny. I’m glad it had a happy ending.

    Reply

  9. Ste J
    Jul 06, 2020 @ 10:38:07

    Great post! Just what I needed, at the right time!

    Reply

  10. joliesattic
    Jul 06, 2020 @ 23:36:58

    I can picture her now. What an entertaining story.

    Reply

  11. stormy1812
    Jul 09, 2020 @ 17:37:31

    Oh those furbabies we love and adore! How they enrich, and stress, our lives out lol. What an adventure for Poopsie! I still feel like I’m waiting for my words to find me again. Part of why so much of my blog at the moment is so focused on my photography instead of writing. I hope to get back to that soon.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 10, 2020 @ 19:16:42

      I do, too, Jen! It will come.:) I’m actually in a dry spell myself. I am coming up with a new blog a month–but that’s about it! I have a few story ideas, but none of them are developed enough yet to begin the story. I will blog on that in my next post . . . Always great hearing from you!

      Reply

  12. selizabryangmailcom
    Jul 09, 2020 @ 18:27:34

    What a sweet story and analogy for patience and besting writer’s block.
    Your story actually reminded me of a dog that made the news once because he would wait at a bus stop then get on a bus that took him to or close to a pet store. He’d get off the bus and nudge his way into the store and steal doggy toys and possibly biscuits. If I recall correctly, the store owner just put it on a tab and the dog’s owner would pay up later, lol !!

    Reply

  13. Anna Waldherr
    Jul 12, 2020 @ 15:53:44

    A great story…and a great lesson for writers.

    Reply

  14. Karina Pinella
    Jul 18, 2020 @ 00:22:45

    What a sight that must have been with Poopsie getting that loaf in. With such determination, as writers, we sometimes have to settle for crumbs of ideas until eventually we can form a substantial story that has a bite to it..

    Reply

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