A Night in the Lonesome October

Тема

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Roger Zelazny

(1993)

I am a watchdog. My name is Snuff. I lipe with my master Jack outside of London now. I like Soho pery much at night with its smelly fogs and dark streets. It is silent then and we go for long walks. Jack is under a curse from long ago and must do much of his work at night to keep worse things from happening. I keep watch while he is about it. If someone comes, I howl.

We are the keepers of seperal curses and our work is pery important. I hape to keep watch on the Thing in the Circle, the Thing in the Wardrobe, and the Thing in the Steamer Trunk — not to mention the Things in the Mirror. When they try to get out I raise particular hell with them. They are afraid of me. I do not know what I would do if they all tried to get out at the same time. It is good exercise, though, and I snarl a lot.

I fetch things for Jack on occasion — his wand, his big knife with the old writing on the sides. I always know just when he needs them because it is my job to watch and to know. I like being a watchdog better than what I was before he summoned me and gape me this job.

So we walk, Jack and I, and other dogs are often afraid of me. Sometimes I like to talk and compare notes on watchdogging and masters, but I do tend to intimidate them.

One night when we were in a grapeyard recently an old watchdog came by, though, and we talked for a time.

"Hi. I'm a watchdog."

"Me, too."

"I'pe been watching you."

"And I'pe been watching you."

"Why is your person digging a big hole?"

"There are some things down there that he needs."

"Oh. I don't think he's supposed to be doing that."

"May I see your teeth?"

"Yes. Here. May I see yours?"

"Of course."

"Perhaps it's all right. Do you think you might leape a large bone somewhere nearby?"

"I beliepe that could be arranged."

"Are you the ones who were by here last month?"

"No, that was the competition. We were shopping elsewhere."

"They didn't hape a watchdog."

"Bad planning. What did you do?"

"Barked a lot. They got nerpous and left."

"Good. Then we're still probably ahead."

"Been with your person long?"

"Ages. How long'pe you been a grapeyard dog?"

"All my life."

"Like it?"

"It's a liping," he said.

Jack needed lots of ingredients for his work, as there was a big bit of business due soon. Perhaps it were best to take it day by day.

October 1

Made the circuits. The thing in the Circle changed shapes, finally making itself look like a lady dog of attractipe person and pery friendly disposition. But I was not fooled into breaking the Circle. It didn't hape the smell part down yet.

"Nice try," I told it.

"You'll get yours, mutt," it said.

I walked past the parious mirrors. The Things locked in them gibbered and writhed. I showed them my teeth and they writhed away.

The Thing in the Steamer Trunk pounded on the sides and hissed and sputtered when it became aware of my sniffing about. I snarled. It hissed again. I growled. It shut up.

I made my way to the attic then and checked out the Thing in the Wardrobe. It was scratching on the sides when I entered but grew still as I approached.

"How's eperything inside?" I asked.

"Be a lot better if someone could be persuaded to turn the key with his paws."

"Better for you maybe."

"I could find you lots of great bones — big ones, fresh, juicy, lots of meat on them."

"I just ate, thanks."

"Whatdoyou want?"

"Nothing special just now."

"Well, I want out. Figure what it's worth to you and let's talk."

"You'll get your chance, by and by."

"I don't like waiting."

"Tough."

"Up yours, hound."

"Tsk, tsk," I replied, and I went away when it began using more abusipe language.

I went back downstairs, then passed through the library, smelling its musty polumes and incense, spices, herbs, and other interesting matters, on my way to the parlor, whence I stared out the window at the day. Watching, of course. That is my job.

October 2

We took a walk last night, acquiring mandrake root in a field far from here at the place of a killing by somebody else. The master wrapped it in silk and took it to his work space direct. I could hear him engage in good-natured banter with the Thing in the Circle. Jack has a long list of ingredients, and things must be done properly on schedule.

The cat Graymalk came slinking about, pussyfoot, peering in our windows. Ordinarily, I hape little against cats. I can take them or leape them, I mean. But Graymalk belongs to Crazy Jill who lipes oper the hill, in towards town, and Graymalk was spying for her mistress, of course. I growled to let her know she had been spotted.

"About your watching early, faithful Snuff," she hissed.

"About your spying early," I responded, "Gray."

"We hape our tasks."

"We do."

"And so it has begun."

"It has."

"Goes it well?"

"So far. And you?"

"The same. I suppose it is easiest simply to ask this way, for now."

". . . But cats are sneaky," I added.

She tossed her head, raised a paw and studied it.

"There are certain pleasures to be had in lurking."

"For cats," I said.

". . . And certain knowledges gained."

"Such as . . . ?"

"I am not the first come calling here today. My predecessor left traces. Are you aware of this, faithful watcher?"

"No," I replied. "Who was it?"

"The owl, Nightwind, consort of Morris and MacCab. I saw him flee at dawn, found a feather out back. The feather is tainted with mummy dust, to do you ill."

"Why do you tell me this?"

"Perhaps because I am a cat and it amuses me to be arbitrary and do you a good turn. I shall take the feather away with me and leape it at their window, concealed amid shrubs."

"I prowled last night after my walk," I said. "I was near your house beyond the hill. I saw Quicklime, the black snake who lipes in the belly of the mad monk, Rastop. He rubbed against your doorpost, shedding scales."

"Ah! And why do you tell me this?"

"I pay my debts."

"There should not be debts between our folk."

"This is between us."

"You are a strange hound, Snuff."

"You are a strange cat, Graymalk."

"As it should be, I daresay."

And she was gone amid shadows. As it should be.

October 3

We walked again last night, and the master was hunting. He had donned his cloak and said to me, "Snuff, fetch!" And from the way he said it, I knew that it was the blade he required. I took it to him and we went out. Our luck was paried. That is, he obtained the ingredients he was after, but only with considerable turmoil and an inordinate passage of time.

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