Wife comes home, asks where the dog is. Outside. Yes, I’d already told her where Daughter was: with friends before the big Homecoming game.
“I don’t see him.”
“Well, he’s stealthy. Has to be -“ Crap crap crap back door open. He’d been out there for an hour, although I’d seen him five minutes ago. Instant plan: split up! Wife puts on running shoes, I go driving. I also text daughter to inform her that she left the back gate open and the dog is gone.
And so the long cruise through the neighborhood begins. Did he go around the block, where there’s the new dog, the new old dog, the one who barfed some bile by the fence the other days a way of saying yeah, yeah, I don’t care. We had walked past the dog in the morning, and I noted they also had a Siamese cat. Both studied Scout intently. Neither moved. Eternal standoff.
He’s always drawn to the creek, with its wonderful smells, so I drove down there slowly, cursing the shadows, wondering how the devil I will see him. Passed a spot where I’d helped a neighbor corner her unleashed dog a few weeks ago; that dog did not want to go home. Scout would trot right over if he saw me, I knew that.
But he did not see me and I did not see him. I drove verrrry slowly through every alley, head swiveling around. Up to the water tower. There’s a pug who lives behind a gate in the alley, maybe he went to see hello. I drive up the street; there’s the pug, trotting around on his own. He stops and looks at me with that face of beseeching disappointment: hey, I’m on the loose, you don’t care, do you? Because I’m not yours. But I knew this pug is often walking around on his own. One of those things you get used to. Hello, neighbor pug. He trots across the street and goes up the block as I drive slowly; he makes a deposit on someone’s lawn, still watching me.
He’s gone. He’s run away. Someone might find him. Just as likely he’ll be hit by a car. And my daughter will know it’s her fault because she didn’t close the back gate tightly when she took him for a walk. That will be horrible.
How much of that do you try to mitigate?
How much of that responsibility do you try to salve? It’s a horrible thing: the dog you loved died and it’s your fault. Mostly; I should have checked the gate, because even though I make a point of telling her to check the gate, she’s 14, and coming home through the door listening to some pop racket. I can take part of it. But it’s possible that if I take part of it the natural self-defense antibodies will half of it to me, in the end, and if it’s equally split then neither is really at fault. The very memory of the sweet hound face will be pushed away: too much to bear.
Just a few hours ago we were playing with him, and he stretched out to his total Long-Dog Parameters, then gave us a mad grin.
That would be the last picture. The last memory.
Went home to see if there was a message on the machine from someone who found him. (I had my phone, but it hadn’t rung.)
On the outside table, the red leash wife had taken on her search to find him. No wife; no dog. Checked inside: the leash she uses for running was gone.
Checked phone: text from Daughter. SCOUT IS HOME.
He was next door all along.
The bad: Daughter insists she shut the gate. Probably. But it bounces. The good: when I texted he was gone, she dropped what she was doing with friends and came home to search.
Now it’s ten minutes to midnight, and she’s out with friends, an hour overdue. (We are texting, so I know where she is.) I was reminded of a time over ten years ago when Daughter was in the backyard, I thought, and couldn’t find her, I thought, and the gate was OPEN, and I ran outside and the world was the most incomprehensible, stony, featureless, nightmarish thing I had ever known. It was a stage set. It was all false walls and props.
Of course she had gone inside.
The sound of the gate clinking close: it’s when I know she’s back from school; when wife is back from running; when someone’s done walking the dog. The little sound that says safety. I hear it and all is fine.
Hours later in the dark if I go out for a small cigar, I’ll pick up the super-powerful flashlight and shine it at the gates, just to check. You think they’re shut. But doors bounce and latches fail, and everything slips the leash eventually, for good or ill. Or just because it’s time.
Anyway. That was Friday. Woke up Saturday to the following sentence:
“SCOUT ESCAPED AGAIN”
And I was back in the car driving slowly around the neighborhood again, this time because my wife had left the back gate ajar. Twenty minutes, and nothing. All of the previous day’s thoughts were replayed, but without the happy-ending part. Eventually my daughter saw him down the block, called him, and he trotted over.
The parade of Halloween Goods contines, with a brief respite from pumpkin-flavored items. I bring you . . . Satanic Milk. Well, the stuff on the right is milk, and it has a connection to Halloween because it is so good it will make you scream. No one's ever used that line before. They must be proud. The other substance is some sort of Dreamsicle-flavored beverage, distinct from orange juice becuse of its viscosity.
Both are being brought to life by the power of electricity.
Let us take a look in the lower right hand corner.
As I understand this, the Good Milkman, i.e. the one in white, i.e. a bygone architype with which few children will have any sort of associations whatsoever, is terrified of the Bad Milkman, who has been possessed and blinded and is screaming either in pain or with unholy lust for blood and organs or human souls. Heck, all three.
For all I know these two are a constant in ads for the product, and have been given a seasonal twist, but if not, it is difficult to see what they bring to the ad.
As we approach the Halloween season, Black and White World always turns to the Horror Classics. There are the tent-pole characters, the marquee names. Frankenstein. Dracula. The Wolfman. The Mummy. The Invisible Man. And then there’s . . .
Doesn’t spell out what he is, except that he’s crazy. Or irritated. Ghoul? The word means different things at different times, it seems; now “ghoulish” has overrun previous definitions, and suggests an unhealthy, morbid appetite or interest. In this context it’s “Generic Horrible Person.” It’s most certainly a B-league Universal horror movie, and it’s only halfway through that you realize how ordinary the sets and characters really are. No Austrian villages or villagers; no arcing electrical equipment to reanimate the dead; no creature too horrible to look upon.
Instead, we get drawings of what appears to be an ancient ceremony whereby Uncle Sam characters are gassed:
Here’s our Mr. Science, the lecturer who has uncovered the secrets of some Meso-American tribe that used gas to enslave people and make them dead but not really dead but sort of alive. In any case, they were remarkably pliable. Heart-extraction procedures (a “cardioectiomy”) were essential to their rituals.
George Zucco, always good in the civilized-courtly-maniac role.
Once we’ve learned this, it’s time to head to the recording studio:
Because she’s the Dame in Peril, and needs to be brought in ASAP. She’s the love-interest of a genial Younger Mr. Science:
If you recognize her from a recent B&W World, brava: it’s that Evelyn Ankers, described as the Queen of Screams for her Universal work. I find her singularly unengaging.
Well, Dr. Science loves her, and that means he has to eliminate his rivals, including his student, Younger Mr. Science. Some guys would send flowers and woo her with the promise of a University life made easy by tenure; he decides to use the ancient formula to enslave Younger Mr. Science, so he can kill the man she really loves. BRILLIANT AND COMPLETELY WORKABLE IDEA. This involves turning his protege into . . . a zombie? A ghoul? A ghoumbie?
As he tells him what he wants to do, the soundtrack engages in some shameless, shameless thievery. Name that piece.
They used this a lot.
Once he's been zombified, he needs to go get fresh hearts, for science. Or to cure him temporarily. Or something like that. It's not particularly clear and it doesn't matter at all, because as long as the two of them are hanging around fog-shrouded and dramatically lit cemeteries digging up dead people. the audience is happy. And here’s the obligatory radio announcer brought in to move the plot along, and give you the illusion that the actions of these stage bound characters are affecting the world beyond the two drawing rooms they inhabit:
In the 40s and especially the 50s the fake news was often read by real newsreadesr, and no had any problem with this at all. This is not a real newsreader; it’s Gene O’Donnell, about whom IMDB says little, except to note that he his role as a minor chimp in “Planet of the Apes” remains unconfirmed.
The local press pitches in:
Mt. Greenlow is the nice college town where these horrible things happen. It's also the home of the love-interest-lady, who is a brilliant singer., of course, and is embarking on a tour, of course, which means the scientist and the zombie ex-boyfriend who doesn't know she really loves another guy have to follow her around, and finding fresh hearts along the way.
This gives us an excuse to meet a reporter who's in a nice place with a good 40s hotel:
That's an interior shot. The more you look at it the more you realize it's just some stuff from the prop room pushed together. Still, I love the 40s:
Eventually things happen and she has to tell the boyfriend that she's in luff with someone else. He's a bit surprised.
This leads to agonized glass breaking and a struggle with the Mad Doctor. Which composer can we steal from today?
If you're a fan of yer second-tier 19th century composers, or mebbe even yer first-tier Nordic symphonists, that'll leap right out at you.
Finally, she gets to scream. Twice! Of course he goes to kill her while she's on stage. Scream number one is when she sees him. Then the audience just sits there silently until the cops leap out of the audience and gun down the ghoul.
Then she goes off with her son. Er, her love interest, the pianist.
His job in the film is to enter rooms looking dashing, and then work the eyebrows, then leave, preferably while looking dashing.
It's only an hour and change. It's not that bad. It has it moments. And there's this, which shows you how they transformed Ted from nice guy into a zombie.