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Junior

"I don't see why we have to get the crazy fool a dog."

Templeton stepped aside and held his hand out to help me down from the van. "Now, BA, you know how depressed he's been. What, with Rambo and all."

"That was just Hannibal's bait, man!"

"Well, if you hadn't got mad and flushed him, we wouldn't be here!"

"Fool was talking to it!"

"BA, some people..."

I saw John raise his hand for the other two to stop arguing, "Now, guys, there's no use arguing about it now. What's done is done."

He glanced back at me when I let out a disapproving 'hmmf'. "What?"

"Nothing, John." Of course, to myself, I was thinking back to the incident two days before.

*** We,John, Templeton and myself, were sitting in the living room of their house when we heard HM shout from upstairs. John and Templeton, were out of their seats in an instant and headed up the stairs.

I could hear them shouting over one another as I made my way up, but couldn't really tell who was saying what. As I reached the top of the stairs I saw that HM was trying to grab at BA, John was yelling at BA, and Templeton was trying to hold HM back. I couldn't imagine what the fuss was all about.

"BA! Why would you do that?!" John's face was red with anger.

"Crazy fool made me mad!"

"But, BA, he was just a baby!"

I finally realized that BA had done something to HM's pet goldfish. I glanced over at HM, who was now sobbing into Templeton's shoulder. Looking back at BA, I couldn't believe that he would do something to a harmless goldfish. My eyes filled with sympathy as I saw Templeton wrap his arms around HM and walk him down the hall, entering Templeton's bedroom. I saw Templeton give me a slight frown and shrug his shoulders before closing the door.

With HM and Templeton gone, my attention was focused back to John, who was still yelling at BA. BA for his part, had stopped yelling and was looking quite humbled. I could see that he was ashamed of what he had done, which I still as yet to figure out exactly.

After listening to John scold BA for almost half an hour, I had all the details. It seemed that HM had taken to talking to the little fish, Rambo. He apparentl had long, very detailed conversations with it. This infuriated BA, although I don't think he really realized why himself. I believe it was because in his mind, talking to a goldfish was something that crazy people did and after HM's having 'improved' so much in the 'sanity' department, he didn't want to see it. To BA, that would probably have meant that HM was slipping back into old patterns.

Oh, don't misunderstand me, HM is still what others would call... um...'eccentric', but he has become a little more grounded over the years. Not that I had known them that long, but that's what I gathered from all the assorted stories I've heard. I had to laugh to myself as I thought //HM being 'eccentric' is an understatement at best//.

John finally stopped yelling at BA, I think more because if he yelled any longer, he would have lost his voice. We were, by that time, sitting back in the living room. John got up abruptly and headed for the kitchen. As he left the room I glanced at BA who dropped his eyes to the floor, not even willing to meet my gaze.

I was just about to say something to him when John walked back into the room and BA made a beeline for the door.

"Where's he going?"

"I don't know, Mrs. Eta. Probably to tinker with the van or something."

Two hours later, BA walked in, his arms loaded down with fast food bags marked 'Belly Buster's'. I was still shocked that he did what he did, but inside I was smiling because this was so like him. He didn't know how to say he was sorry, so instead he'd went out and got HM's favorite food. It was like a peace offering.

John followed him into the kitchen to help sort out the bags. As he passed the stairs he yelled up, "Face, Murdock! Dinner!"

We had just finished separating everything and we're getting past the awkward conversation stage when Templeton appeared in the doorway. He looked uncomfortable and I didn't fail to notice that HM wasn't with him.

Nor did John fail to notice, "Face, where's Murdock?"

"Uh...He said he wasn't coming down."

There was a slight sigh from BA on my right. He looked up at Face with pleading eyes, but was only answered by a shrug.

I felt I should say something, but I didn't know what. This was the first time I had seen any of them fight. Not to say that I hadn't witnessed them bicker in the past, but that was mostly out of friendly comraderie...

***

John motioned for everyone to enter the building. Templeton held the door as John and I walked through, BA ahead of us. I could hear him still mumbling about getting a dog.

The desk person was very friendly and immediately showed us back to the kennel. It took me by surprise at just how many dogs were there. Templeton walked ahead of John and I, taking time to look into each cage. I peeked into the nearest cage, it held a cocker spaniel.

I was quickly rethinking the wisdom of my coming on this particular outing. I'm old enough to know what will happen to these animals if no one decides to adopt them, and it hurt my heart to think about that.

"Face, what about this one?"

Templeton quickly turned aound and came to stand beside John, "Hannibal, that one's too old. I think we should get him a puppy."

I smiled as John shrugged, watching as Templeton set off again. We followed him around the cages and almost bumped into him when he stopped too suddenly.

Peeking aound him, I couldn't help but smile. There was BA, surrounded by a litter of puppies. He had his back to us as he held one up to play with. It was a moment I will never forget.

Everyone has moments in time when they truly let themselves show. They will let their inner selves, all that they are, have a go. For one fleeting instant they live in a world all their own, nothing can touch them and they let themselves shine. Then, all too soon, they rebuild the walls and become the tempered and tarnished people they have to be in order to play the hand they've been dealt. Sometimes that moment can shape the future, as with leaders and fame. More often it goes by silently unnoticed.

Even less often do we see that moment when looking at a friend. But I saw it.

BA held the puppy up and then cradled it in his strong arms. He looked for all the world like the gentle giant I knew him to be. It's enough to break your heart. To see the world react to his bulk, avoid him with their uncertaintly, not even give him the chance to prove them wrong. It was not a wonder why he had built his own walls so high. He nuzzled the puppy and gave a gently laugh as it licked his face.

John cleared his throat and broke the spell. I watched as BA turned, startled at having been caught playing with the little puppy.

"Perfect, BA!"

"What you talkin' 'bout sucka?"

"That's the one!" Templeton stepped forward and started scratching the ears of the puppy still in BA's arms. "He looks just like Billy."

"Billy?!"

I could see the anger rising in BA's face. I leaned toward John, "Who's Billy?"

John gave a gimace, "Uh...Murdock's dog."

"I thought that's why we were here," Giving him a startled glance. "John, Murdock doesn't have a dog. At least I haven't seen one."

"Uh...well you wouldn't. He's invisible."

"Invisible?!" My mind suddenly flashed back to the first time I had seen Templeton and HM playing what appeared to be fetch on the beach. I caught on when it occurred to me that I hadn't once seen the dog get the stick.

I snapped out of my reverie in time to follow John and the boys out of the pound's kennel. They made quick business of paying the desk person and then we were on our way back to the house.

It wouldn't take us long to get home. I hoped that this little surprise would snap HM out of his depression. It was very unnerving to have a depressed HM around. He hadn't 'bounced' in two days and I found that I missed it...

***

I needn't have worried. Twenty minutes later his bounce was back as he snatched the little puppy from Tempelton's hands.

He spun around and then quite seriously turned around and said, "Faceman, he looks just like Billy!"

We all burst into laughter with the exception of HM, who wasn't privy to the joke and BA who just gave a loud huff and stalked off, probably to the garage to tinker with the van.

It wasn't long until HM was laughing as well, he didn't seem to need a reason.

"HM, what are you going to name him?"

"I think I'll call him Billy too." He rubbed the puppy's ears and soon had it chasing it's tail.

"Uh, Murdock? Won't the original Billy be jealous?"

"Aw, no, Faceman. Billy'd be ok with it. We'll just name this one Billy Jr.."

Templeton just nodded as HM held the puppy in one hand and pulled him out the glass sliding doors with other. John and I watched as they crossed the deck and started to make their way down to the beach path, laughing, as Templeton tagged HM and ran ahead.

HM put down Billy Jr. and took off after Templeton with Jr. yapping at his heels.

***Fini***