It was a free day for Francesca Danté. She had no appointments for her dog grooming business, no social engagements, no shopping to be done and the garden was looking smart. She joined her easy-going husband Phil, who had a free day nearly all the time, and their two 'children', the white miniature poodle dogs Franco and Ciccia, who were also looking smart, for a seaside walk together.
After returning home and having lunch, Phil was in his comfortable recliner chair watching a disc of one of his black-and-white television shows or movies from his childhood. She reflected that his DVD player was like a time machine that could transport him to his past as well as to the adventure of other worlds.
The sound of an aeroplane buzzing the ground and the announcer of the show sounded truly thrilling,
'Out of the clear blue of the Western sky comes...Sky…King!'
Franco was in Phil's lap with an excited expression,
Oh boy, this is going to be good!
Fran sat in her matching chair opposite her husband with Ciccia in her lap. Both females had serene expressions, as Phil's mother had had when their family acquired their first television set, and she would watch Phil's favourites. According to what she learned from Phil's mother, Franco was acting exactly like Phil did when he was a child. In her own childhood, South Africa didn't have television, nor did Phil’s older sister Jean in Australia.
Fran recalled when she met Phil's parents, and most memorably when Phil was sent on an errand, and she faced them alone.
Phil's Dad Peter spoke,
'Of course, you know that Phil always has been and always will be a dud.'
'He's always been a blockbuster to me…Mrs. Danté, you brought your son up wonderfully. He's so polite and he has such lovely manners.'
Phil's Mum Marie showed surprise, then burst with pride; they remained friends for life since then as she had with Phil's sister and his Auntie. Fran soon discovered that though they let Phil's father bluster, it was the Danté women who really ran things, unlike Italian families.
Phil and Franco nodded their heads in time to the Reach for Nabisco biscuit jingle commercial,
'And now...Sky…King!', the television announcer ominously stated as the opening to a new adventure.
Franco beamed approval and anxiously looked around the room to see if everyone else was excited as he was. When he realised they weren't, he returned his attention to Sky King as Phil gently massaged him.
Fran thought the old show childish, but then so was her husband. She thought it not as silly as Phil’s other favourite, The Roy Rogers Show, where the Wild West shared a place in time with the early 1950s. Roy didn't have his own aeroplane, just an idiot in a jeep and a German Shepherd who was the smartest one on the show. Both shows featured women whose sole functions on Earth were to make mistakes, get in trouble and be rescued. She knew the cast were Phil's childhood friends; ergo, she kept her remarks to herself.
The two poodle's ears raised, 'they look like Larry of the Three Stooges', Phil had once said, and they looked towards the outside world. They leapt off the laps and went barking to the door.
We'll rip you to pieces! We'll tear you limb from limb! We'll eat you alive! Stop smiling! We mean it!!!
Phil acknowledged their Poodle Early Warning System,
'Well done, you can give it a rest now.'
The poodles ceased their barking and turned to Phil with an angry look,
Can't you see that we're menacing someone?
'Hello Pat! How are you! This is Pat, a friend of Mummy's'
We'll be watching you...
'Fran! Pat's here to visit!'
Pat pointed at the BEWARE OF GUARD DOGS sign and gave Phil a look that was half-questioning and half-sarcastic, like the facial expression girls gave him in high school.
‘We don’t want anyone tripping over them…’
The poodles escorted the visitor to their living room,
Make our guest comfortable...you've met our butler, here's our maid...
Phil began making the tea and putting the biscuits on a plate as the two girlfriends chatted. He prepared the table for three then brought the tea in to them.
'You've domesticated him, Fran!'
Don't let him fool you...
'I'm a rescue husband...'
Phil enjoyed his wife's female friends, for they could intelligently converse on a variety of topics. They seemed to like him as well, for Phil knew the answer to the eternal question, what do women want? Your undivided attention.
By contrast, the two-dimensional males in the community only engaged in tedious egotistical monologue storytelling of a Can You Top This nature. They were shocked speechless when Phil asked them metaphysical and existentialist questions about their stories.
'Mon cher, why don't you take the children out for a walk.'
The poodles wagged their tails, Ciccia looked at Phil.
Girl talk...and guess who the girls are going to talk about...
* * *
The poodles were prancing as Phil sang Texas Across the River to them. They heard the beeping of Fran's horn as her car pulled up.
'Get in! I was just talking to Pat who reminded me of Marianne who made me think that Natalie's birthday is coming up and I haven't bought her a present. I've got to buy something and post it out before the post office closes tonight so she'll receive her gift on time.'
Poodlese voices came from the back seat ordering Fran to lower the window so the pair could stick their heads out. She complied.
We run the show!
'Isn't Natalie the one who said that I look like an axe-murderer?'
'No, that's Nicole. Natalie thinks you look like a...never mind, Mon Cher. I need your help to buy Natalie a gift.'
'Why, Cara Mia?'
'Because your bad ideas inspire me to think of good ones.'
'You're sounding more and more like Tory every day, dearest.'
'You like Tory, don't you?'
Uh-oh...watch your step!
'She always makes me laugh', Phil broke out in laughter.
'What's so funny?'
He had a vision of Tory and her husband Doc coming home from a formal evening out with Tory saying,
'Let me slip into something more comfortable and I'll give you a treat.'
He visualised Tory coming out wearing a clown suit and hitting Doc with a cream pie.
When Phil explained his vision, she laughed as well.
'The children like Tory too.'
They wagged their tails because indeed they did.
She parked near one of the gift shops in town.
'I won't be too long.'
Once she left, he spoke to the poodles,
'That means she'll be twenty minutes at least.'
Other than cafés, the majority of the town's shops now only catered to women; clothing, nails, hairdressing. remedial medical massages and fortune telling. Fran rationalised it to her husband by explaining that since men were too stingy to spend money on themselves…
The poodles lay on the back seat. After twenty minutes Ciccia leapt up into the front seat and began continually beeping the horn with her paw.
'Why are you doing that?'
She leapt back to the back seat and pretended to sleep. Everyone on the street viewed the scene as Fran stormed out, placed her hands on her hips and gave her husband a nasty glare.
Phil pointed at the back seat at the sleeping dog he wouldn't let lie, Fran stormed back into the store.
Franco looked at Ciccia then at Phil,
She eats my food when you're not looking!
Fran came out of the store empty handed.
'I'm going to look at a few more stores. Why don't you take the children for a walk?'
Everyone agreed that was a fine idea.
Fran's mood changed.
'Why aren't you wearing your good shoes? Those ones are embarrassing.'
'Not to us. They're comfortable for walkies.'
‘Don’t you care what people think about you?’
‘Will Rogers once said, “At twenty we don’t care what the world thinks of us, at thirty we worry about what it thinks of us, at forty we’re sure it doesn’t think of us”…the world is too busy thinking about themselves.’
'You don't have to be seen standing next to yourself! Look how old and disgusting they are!'
'If women can wear trousers with their knees looking like they've been working double shifts on the streets of Kings Cross I can certainly wear my air-ventilated shoes.'
'This is my fashion.'
'Their trousers are new; they just look old. Yours look old because they are old.'
As if they were watching a championship tennis match, the poodles had been turning their heads to Fran and Phil as they spoke. They turned to each other,
And they say that we can't stop barking...
He responded with one of his French facial expressions and shrugs that he excelled at; she replied,
'I'll meet you in the park.'
'If I'm not there, I'll be at my usual place for tea. You didn't give me any.'
'You're going to take tea in those shoes?'
'I think on my feet, I don't drink with my feet.'
Fran made her usual noises of frustration and continued shopping.
The three had a splendid walk, with the poodles enjoying their sniffing.
'What's the big thrill out of doing that?'
You mind your business, we'll mind ours...
They did their business with Phil bagging and disposing of their business cards.
A smiling woman came by with her child.
'Do your doggies like people?'
'They love human flesh.'
The two scurried away...
Run for your lives!
* * *
Phil was having tea and the poodles water at one of their favourite sidewalk cafés. Fran joined them and told tales of woe of her unsuccessful gift-hunting.
'Aren't you perhaps being a bit too picky?'
'Natalie's my friend. You don't understand the concept of a gift to a friend. It can't be too expensive or too cheap. It can't be too common, and it can't be too offbeat. It can't be something that I've ever bought for someone else. It must be something special that fits her personality, but something that looks like it came from me.'
'It all sounds terribly complicated.'
'That's because you don't have any human friends.’
‘What are you? Frankenstein?’
‘I’m your wife. Your sister and I are all you have. If you had non-related human friends you'd understand, but you don't.'
'You're right. I don't'
'If it wasn't for me and your family you wouldn't have anyone go to your funeral except the children.'
'They'd want first crack at the bones.'
Franco licked his chops, Ciccia glared at him.
Now what did I do?
'I've an idea! Why don't you check out the second-hand shops! They've lots of lovely things.'
'That's a bad idea! What if I bought something for her that she had donated to them?'
'Well, you'd be right about knowing her tastes. Everyone's big on recycling these days.'
'Wait a minute! Let me check out the Collective Shop. Wait here.'
She returned empty handed and unhappy. Phil sang,
'To market, to market, to buy a fat pig, home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
Fran brightened up.
'That's it, Mon Cher! You've done it again! I've forgotten that the craft market is on today!'
'We've been hither and thither; we might as well go yon...'
* * *
Walking amongst the seaside market stalls, Phil picked up a hatchet that was for sale.
'Too bad it's not Nicole's birthday. I could send her this and a card saying, "I'll be seeing you" written in blood.'
'Thank you, that won't be necessary.'
They went their separate ways as Phil wanted his favourite hamburger from a wonderful South American couple who were the only ones around to make them out of 100% beef. Fran kept the poodles. Suddenly she remembered something to tell her husband.
She regarded her husband as being deaf-as-a-post whenever she spoke. Unfortunately, she had the poodles with her, for they would always attract his attention when they were with him whenever she called. The poodles barked, he didn't acknowledge them and kept walking away.
'Deaf old fool!!!'
Every male but Phil turned around to look at her.
There's a lot of them, isn't there?
The poodles barked.
Everyone in the marketplace began chanting,
'Phil! Phil! Phil! Phil!'
Phil turned to see Fran with her arms crossed and tapping her foot with facial expressions of superiority on all three of them.
'Can you please go back to the café? I left my spectacles behind again...spectacles!!! I've just seen some wonderful spectacles cases here! Oh Phil, you've done it again! Meet me outside the post office!'
* * *
Fran purchased a card and posted her gift before the Victorian-era post office closed. Phil met her outside with her spectacles; she came out smiling,
She then became flustered again.
‘Oh, now I've got to prepare dinner!'
'Why don't we go to Woolworths instead of cooking and have a family picnic? It's a splendid evening.'
She embraced and kissed him.
* * *
The breezes were perfect as they viewed a small snowstorm of white cabbage moths flying over the bright red, orange and yellow Nasturtium flowers of the green vegetation in the creek. Lying on the blanket they kept in the boot, the poodles had a variety of tasty treats; the humans had baguettes, salamis, cheeses, gherkins, pickled vegetables and other things for their Continental picnic. Phil's bottle of lager cooled in the deep flowing creek as he enjoyed the other one.
She told them of the homemade matching spectacles case and wallet she bought that would certainly match Natalie's handbag.
'It's just like the one Julie has...Julie!!! Phil, we've got to do some shopping tomorrow because Julie's birthday is...'
Author Notes: Happy Australia Day, everyone!