As best as Wink and Jasper could tell, this was a brand new game, and more fun than any toy they could remember.
Here they were in the lap of luxury: air conditioning blasting away, a bowl of clean water on the floorboards and dog treats scattered around the cab. And there was their master, Izzie, trotting alongside the lurching pickup, rapping on the window, making the funniest faces and shouting with increasing urgency.
That was on the inside.
Outside in the hot wind Izzie was trying to figure out how to get his one-ton stopped before it reached the steep drop-off in one of his pastures, which was dead ahead and growing all too close. How could he extricate his beloved pups from sure disaster? How was he going to explain the fact that his own dogs had locked him out of his own pickup, which he'd shifted into grandma gear to idle along while he tossed hay off the back to some newly arrived calves, just like every other day.
As Izzie jogged along, yelling through the glass that everything was alright, he was frantically searching the ground, his pockets and the flat bed for anything stout enough to break out a window. He still hadn't given up on his dogs helping, though.
“See that button there, just jump on that button right there,” shouted Izzie, pointing in the general direction of the automatic lock switch. “Just like you did a while ago,” encouraged Izzie.
Tongues hanging out in excitement, Wink looked at Jasper and then Izzie. Jasper looked at Izzie and then Wink. Simultaneously, both dogs made a circuit of the bench seat, jumped to the floor for a round, then vaulted back onto the seat, perching on the armrest to peer out the window across the cab from Izzie.
Izzie was rapping on the window with more urgency.
“Wink, come on and hit the button for daddy. I know you can do it.” Wink was the elder and usually more dependable. Wink was a Cardigan Corgi. Jasper was a Jack Russell Terrier. They represented the only purebred stock Izzie had ever owned, though Hooter kept telling him that, technically speaking, the Jack Russell was a composite.
“Right over here, buddy, jump on the button.”
In one of those uncanny extra-sensory moments between man and beast, Wink turned to look at Izzie, cocked his head, padded purposefully across the seat, lifted up is paw and…click, there it was.
“Yes!” shouted Izzie to heavens as he heard the sound of liberation and reached for the door latch.
“No!” cried Izzie, yanking frantically on the latch.
What fun, thought Wink.
Izzie jammed his nose against the glass and pleaded, “Just one more time, little buddy. Just one more time for daddy.”
Jasper tackled Wink. They rolled off the seat, down to the floorboard and across the accelerator, propelling Izzie's truck past him. “Nooooo!”
As Izzie caught back up with his ride he could see that the drop-off was only about 200 feet ahead. He upended the nut bucket, spied a hoof pick, which he grabbed and slammed against the window. Not even a crack.
“Wing glass,” thought Izzie. “No wing glass. I told them that was a problem when I bought it…Come on, you worthless flea bags, open up!”
Pant. Slurp. Bark.
“Plug wires,” thought Izzie in triumph. “All I have to do is jerk the wires.”
He struggled to the front of the pickup, climbed to a precarious perch on the brush guard and searched for the latch.
“New game!” barked Wink and Jasper as they tried to climb onto the dashboard, licking the windshield and clawing at the ever-present mess of papers, new and used vaccine bottles and chew cans.
“Where is it, where is it?” wondered Izzie, fingers sliding back and forth between the hood and grill. Success.
Izzie scanned the murkiness for plug wires as it occurred to him, “What if I break a wire? How do I get back? It's 30 miles to anywhere and no cell coverage.”
A sizable rock in front of the left tire did the deciding for him. Izzie was thrown to the side. Rolling over on all fours, Izzie looked helplessly at his dogs who were looking out the back window at him, tongues hanging out in glee.
“Wink. Jasper. My truck,” croaked Izzie. “I can't look.”
After what seemed like an eternity, staring at the ground in despair, it occurred to Izzie that he hadn't heard a crash. There should have been a crash by now. Could it be? But how?
Izzie looked up and started to run. At the very precipice the truck had simply stopped. For the first time in his life Izzie would have a reasonable reply to his buddies who always criticized him for ignoring the gas gauge and running on empty.