Thursday, December 04, 2008


c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a snowy, quiet afternoon in The Icehouse.

Riley, our black Labrador Retriever, had already surrendered to mid-day laziness. He burrowed into a heap of blankets on the couch. Our television flickered with local news reports and year-end predictions. Yet he seemed unconcerned by thoughts of the outside world. The ornery dog put a paw over his face.

It was time to snooze...

Despite a full pot of coffee, I had also begun to nod off in my chair. A fresh breakfast of Italian sausage and eggs waited in the kitchen, growing cold. But I blinked with fatigue. Food held no attraction for me now…

Oblivion was close at hand.

Suddenly, a flash of pink went by the office doorway.

“Rodneyyyy!” my wife cheered. “ I’m home early today!”

I spun in my chair. “Hello, Liz!”

She did a pirouette in the dining room. Her spandex jumpsuit glowed with the intensity of a Barbie Doll Corvette. “You were on the computer when I left this morning. Don’t you ever get tired of looking at that little box?”

“Of course,” I replied. “But right now, it’s my livelihood.”

“Boring!” she squeaked.

My irritation was obvious. “I’m working on a newspaper feature for Thursday. Isn’t that a worthy task?”

“Oh, Rodney!” she chirped. “Don’t you ever have fun on the computer?”

I puzzled over her remark. “Fun?”

She snorted with disbelief. “On Facebook, you can adopt pets now. Wouldn’t you like to have a virtual puppy?”

A long moment of silence ensued.

“Adopt a pet on my computer?” I said at last. “We’ve got two real dogs!”

“Yes,” she cheered. “But you can name your cyber-pet, feed it, play with it, and network with other owners in the online neighborhood.”

Her suggestion made me sigh. “Liz, you sound like a high school teen. Grow up!”

“Well… you sound like an old man!” she warbled. “Don’t you ever think about anything but work?”

“Work pays the bills,” I said.

“Borrrrrring!” she said again. “Wouldn’t you like to do something different for a change?”

“Sure,” I answered. “How about a family trip to the library?”

“I said something different!” she hissed. “How about a trip to the Cleveland Ballet?”

My attitude hardened. “Uhmm, how about an informational picnic at the Geauga County courthouse?”

Liz groaned. “You’re hopeless. I give up!”

I felt guilty watching her walk away. “Wait, honey! Let’s compromise…”

“Great! So, we’re going to the ballet?” she wondered out loud.

“No,” I explained. “I’ll… adopt a pooch.”

She turned on her heel. “You need a Facebook account.”

I nodded. “Not a problem. So many journalists and TV reporters use the service that I had to join. It’s like a neighborhood tavern for wordsmiths and on-air personalities.”

My wife giggled. “Okay! Let’s find your doggie!”

Reluctantly, I clicked through the site.

“Go on the ‘Pokey’ application,” she said.

“The… what?” I grumbled.

“Pokey!” she repeated with a grin. “Don’t you ever look at your own page?”

My eyes narrowed. “I use these networking sites to spread my written material. It’s a great tool for self-promotion…”

“Oh, Rodney!” she pleaded. “Don’t you ever take a break from wordsmithing?”

“Well… no,” I admitted. “Nothing would get done if I wasted my time playing with virtual critters!”

“Stop it!” she howled. “Click on ‘adopt a pet’ and choose your new buddy!”

I sighed. When the online kennel appeared, there were puppies available in all the traditional AKC varieties.

“Mine is a Golden Lab,” Liz boasted. “I named it Docker!”

“Docker??” I coughed.

“He’s the color of tan Dockers pants,” she explained. “A perfect brother for Riley!”

From across the room, our genuine pooch began to snore. He seemed disinterested in the thought of having a cyber sibling.

“Why don’t you choose a Chocolate Lab,” she said with enthusiasm. “And name him Corduroy?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Corduroy?”

“A perfect brother for Docker,” she sang, brightly.

My cooperative mood was fading. “Can’t I just post something about the financial crisis instead? It’s a subject with lots of angles to be explored…”

She folded her arms. “Stop thinking about work! Either adopt a puppy, or we’re going to the ballet!”

I was cornered.

“Okay, but his name will be Pibber. That’s more original,” I insisted.

Her confusion was obvious. “Pibber?”

“In honor of Mr. Pibb, the legendary soft drink,” I said.

She snorted. “Oh, quit already! Nobody drinks that stuff.”

“It’s Coca Cola’s answer to Dr. Pepper,” I observed. “Their slogan is ‘put it in your head.’ Isn’t that creative?”

Her face reddened with the moment.

“We used to buy it in the south when it wasn’t available around here,” I reflected. "It was a staple beverage in the household.”

“Stop arguing with me,” she begged. “Just call him Corduroy and be done!”

I fell silent. Once the process had been completed, a dark brown pooch appeared on my computer monitor. He barked playfully.

“Okay, canine completed! I said.

“Not so fast!” she interrupted. “Now you’ve got to feed your pet. And give him water.”

“Come on!” I said. “This is childish!”

“Listen,” she squawked. “Corduroy needs attention just like any pet. You’ve got to feed him and play with him…”

“What, and take him outside to ‘go potty’ too?” I barked.

Liz was stunned. “Wow! You know, they didn’t include that part…it would have been more realistic…”

I grew bolder. “Maybe I need to buy a virtual fire hydrant?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Rodneyyy!!”

I clicked through options listed under Corduroy’s image. “All he gets to eat is dry dog chow. Yuck! I give Riley pork rinds when we watch television together…”

My wife gasped. “You give our dog pork rinds?”

“Of course!” I laughed. “He likes black olives, too. And boneless wings. It’s a shared experience – man and man’s best friend, enjoying brotherhood and game-time snacking!”

She shook her head with disbelief. “Oh, Rodney…”

The virtual puppy stood up on his hind legs. He panted for attention.

“Throw the Frisbee for him,” Liz insisted.

My eyebrows tightened. “I thought we were done with this…”

“Corduroy wants to play!” she said, forcefully.

“Look,” I argued. “I’m in the middle of a story about GM, Ford, and Chrysler. The domestic auto industry is a tailspin. Something needs to be done.”

“You’re supposed to be having fun!” she hissed.

I logged off of Facebook. “We’re talking wall-to-wall thrills here. Yes mam! But that’s enough for today.”

“Fine!” she fumed. “I wanted to see the ballet anyway!” She skipped lightly out of the room like a sure-footed waif. “Dance, dance, wherever you may be! I am the Lord of the dance said heeeee…”

Riley curled up next to my chair. It felt good to share the home office with a genuine mutt. The Lab yelped softly. With folded paws, he cuddled against my feet.

“Thanks for taking my side,” I whispered.

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