"I hope that dog thinks it's a work day, not Saturday!", muttered Doug. That morning, Jim, his boss, had called him to work on Saturday. Our 'favorite' client has demanded a meeting, setup the meeting room and wait for our arrival. There was an odd instruction. Do not under any circumstances, touch the decorative plaque on the meeting room table. Exclamation points emphasized the last sentence. He straightened his tie and walked up the driveway to the stately home of his employer. "Besides working on Saturday, I think I should ask Jim for a stipend for dry cleaning from being slobbered on by that oversized mutt!"
Doug sighed, it was a rude thing to say about his boss's dog, he enjoyed his friendship with Monument, or 'Big Mon', the dog's nickname. The dog, an enormous Mastiff, belonged to Jim Spangler. Jim ran a civil engineering and architecture consulting firm out of his home in Baton Rouge. Combining the two professions allowed clients to pay for tastefully designed buildings that did'nt fall down, leak or sag. He had hired Doug as an engineering assistant and part time kennel caretaker for 'Big Mon'. During business hours, Monument was the epitome of a well-behaved mascot. Pet owning clients liked to stroke the dog's head, they found his calm presence and manners conductive to business. After closing, Monument's demeanor transformed. The huge Mastiff became a rambunctious, overgrown puppy, ready for wrestling matches, crawling into undersized laps and slurping enthusiastic canine kisses on nearby victims.
With an extra set of keys, Doug opened the front door. He steeled his resolve and entered the house. Big Mon was waiting. The Mastiff bounded up to Doug, stood up on his hind legs to plant his paws on Doug's shoulders. The affectionate dog looked down at him. Doug braced himself as the dog covered his face with a slurp from his enormous tongue.
"Mmmmrph, down boy..mmmmrph, I'm working today, get down! Look at what you're doing, I'm going have to clean my clothes. Save the French kiss for this afternoon."
Doug walked into a hallway washroom to clean himself and whisk his clothes with a lint brush. Doug entered the meeting room where he spent fifteen minutes arranging drawings and proposals on the table. He stared at the plaque on the table, placed next to the chair reserved for clients. He remembered Jim's instructions not to touch it. It looked like a futile attempt to appease Mr. Pinbaum, the client. Doug returned to the front hallway and found the dog staring out the window. Two cars, Jim's and the client's limousine, were approaching the house. Doug looked at the dog.
"What did I tell you, Big Mon! Battle Stations! Incoming Jackass!" Monument retreated down the hallway into a small room to wait out the storm in his bed basket. There would be no need for the canine mascot to make an appearance. Maybe the dog should save a spot for me, Doug thought, as he stood by the front door.
Earl T. Pinbaum, a former radio talk show host, had parlayed his skills to become an influential politician in the Louisiana Senate; a state known for the quaint custom of doing all dirty deals in the open...there just wasn't any room under the tables. Time hadn't granted him any wisdom or dignity. The things he possessed in quantity were a large girth, ill-gotten wealth, and an oversized ego. He had 'persuaded' Jim to accept a commission for a public works project. Jim's choices were accepting it or have his professional license revoked.
In New Orleans's Audubon Park, the state intended to build a concrete atrium and a bronze statue of Pinbaum. Honoring the senator's years of public service. All paid through the usual misappropriation of public funds. No one would object as long as the proper construction kickbacks were made. The original plans called for an enormous statue of Pinbaum, sized to match an egomaniac. Worse, Pinbaum had insisted on putting a mausoleum into the sculpture base. He evidently planned to be buried there. The laid back citizens of New Orleans, 'the city that care forgot', despised the Senator. The atrium would need guards to prevent enraged locals from improving the place through vandalism. Jim's revised drawings had omitted the mausoleum. The updated statue portrayed a generic public servant. The sight of Pinbaum realistically rendered in bronze would make a crayfish puke in disgust. Jim deliberately relocated the atrium site away from the only playground in western half of the Park. Changes the Senator vehemently objected to.
A foul tempered Senator Pinbaum stepped out of the car. His chauffeur had the impudence to call in sick. His substitute was a strange looking fellow. The driver had insisted on carrying a satchel with him. It looked like a medical kitbag for a clown. His servants should look like servants, not be part of a circus parade! Pinbaum made a mental note to fire both of them after he finished straightening out that damned architect. He looked at Jim.
Jim smiled, "Good Morning Senator, the sketches and proposals are in the meeting room, shall we take a look?" Pinbaum said nothing. The two men quietly entered the house, into the meeting room. After taking a seat, Jim hand signaled Doug to stand by the door. Pinbaum sat down in the client's chair, he ignored the plaque placed nearby.
BANG! Pinbaum slammed his hand on the table. "Let's not waste any more of my time! Spangler, you're proposing to build a faceless, neutered statue of me! Your idea of architecture stinks! According to the drawings, you plan to place this dog of a monument in the Audubon Park swamp! I did not come here to insult my intelligence with scribblings by an amateur!"
Pinbaum was just warming up for his captive audience. "Jim Spangler, you were commissioned to build Louisiana's generous complement to me. You will follow the original design! The sculpture of MY likeness WILL have a mausoleum in it. This work will be a LIVING MONUMENT to ME! And my earthly remains when I pass on! You will put the atrium back where it belongs. Do I make myself clear!"
"Perfectly, Senator", said Jim. "While we revise the plans to your specifications, would you care for a drink?"
"Bourbon, a large shot.", Pinbaum replied.
Jim signaled to Doug, "Doug could you bring bourbon for the Senator and coffee for me, the usual." Doug left for the kitchen.
Pinbaum snorted, "Spangler, remove these drawings and bring me the originals!"
Jim stood up. Draw that fat bastard's attention to the plaque. "If you will excuse me, I'll retrieve them. In the meantime....Senator Pinbaum, the Governor requested you look at the plaque. He thought the quote would be appropriate for the statue."
Jim rolled up the drawings and walked out the room, leaving the Senator alone. Earl Pinbaum picked up the brass plaque, it felt unusually warm for metal. The carved, inked inscription read:
THE TRUE STATURE OF A MAN IS MEASURED BY THE HEIGHT OF HIS MAGNANIMITY
His hands begin to tingle. Pinbaum froze, he couldn't move. The prickly sensation crawled over the paralyzed man's arms, shoulders and over his entire body. His clothing crackled and curled up like burning leaves to become ash. There were no flames or smoke. Like the emperor, Pinbaum found he had no clothes on. He stood in a pile of gray ashes. Suddenly, the room spun around, the naked Senator fell backwards. He regained consciousness. A sore, puzzled and royally pissed Pinbaum slowly pulled himself up. What in the Hell was going On! He was standing in a changed room. The office walls were as high as a canyon, the table and chair towered over him. Pinbaum had shrank to his true stature, he was no larger than a small rat.
Shrinking didn't downsize his temper. He bellowed, "SPANGLER, GET ME OUT OF THIS....DO YOU HEAR ME!! YOU'RE GOING TO PAY FOR THIS! YOU AND YOUR FAMILY WILL WISH THEY NEVER LIVED! GET ME SOME CLOTHES...NOW!!!". No one could hear him. Pinbaum's reduced vocal cords shouted words too high in pitch for human ears. In a remote room, a pair of floppy ears pricked up, detecting high-pitched noises.
The alert Mastiff trotted into the meeting room. Ah ha! A small, pink rat underneath the table! The two-legged rat ran towards the back, squeaking commands to back off. Pinbaum's rank, position and titles made no difference, the tiny man's squeaks heightened the canine's excitement. And what a fun chase! Around the table, knocking the chair aside, paws slipping on the slick floor. Catching up to the exhausted prey, the huge dog pounced, batting the small man around like a toy. Monument planted a paw onto the creature, it squeaked loudly, then silence. He sniffed the quiet, pink creature. It had a fat, naked hide, and no fur!
The Mastiff's chasm of a mouth gaped open, a bulldozer-sized snout scooped up the naked animal. Mmmm, fat and tasty! Monument flipped his head back, tossing the tiny man into the back of his cavernous mouth. The dog's great jaws clamped shut, trapping the tiny creature between his tongue and palate. Sharp teeth formed an impenetrable cage as saliva flooded in to soak the struggling mouthful. The dog savored the oily, salty taste, sliding his long tongue back and forth underneath the wriggling man, absorbing succulent flavors. Monument thrust his muscular tongue back, shoving the live bolus down his throat. With a great gulp, the dog's powerful throat muscles contracted, swallowing the shrunken man. The canine felt the kicking lump move down his neck, slide through his chest and softly plop into his hungry maw. Sensitive ears heard faint squeaks slowly fade away from deep within. Pleasant sensations of warmth spread outward from his belly as an eager carnivore stomach worked to liquefy the snack. The delighted Mastiff sighed, a most enjoyable treat! The dog turned around. Standing in the doorway was his Master, Doug, and a stranger. Monument wagged his tail and barked a greeting.
Jim turned to Doug, "We shouldn't be leaving ashes all over the floor. Doug, could you get the broom and dust tray from the kitchen." Doug left the room.
The substitute chauffeur placed an open satchel on the table. It prominently bore the letters 'Mages Inc.'. He pulled out metal tongs, smoothly picked up the brass plaque with the tool, deposited both into the satchel and quickly snapped the case shut. The two men silently read the winding ash trails on the floor. Rat-sized human footprints, a huge dog's pawprints, testament to a brief struggle.
Jim turned to the Mage. "Thank you for coming."
"My pleasure, think nothing of it", the Mage replied, "I always believed in term limits for politicians." He pointed a finger at the ashes. "Pinbaum outwore his stay at the public funding trough. I'll talk to the governor and get the plausible excuses going. We can quietly sweep this whole mess under the rug...Oh bother, another Pun!" He chuckled. "Jim, I gather this means no statue for the Senator."
Jim laughed, he scratched the dog's ears. "Actually Pinbaum got what he asked for! He wanted to be interred in a 'living monument'. He just happened to get a real dog of one! Isn't that right, Monument?"
The dog replied with a contented belch.
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