All Stories, General Fiction

Wattle & Daub by Tim Hildebrandt

Wattle’s life had a rough start. His mother died during childbirth, and his father was in Louisiana State Penitentiary. His first home was a run-down orphanage in New Orleans. At age fifteen, the institution closed, and he was thrust out to fend for himself. Wattle had learned many skills in survival, but he had never gone to school. So he enrolled in a state college on a paupers grant. After several years, he earned a bachelor’s degree and found work with a non-profit serving the homeless in Baton Rouge.

Wattle had a small mixed breed dog that followed him everywhere. He named the dog Daub. One morning on his way to the pub, little Daub ran under a car. Resulting in the removal of all four of his little legs. Otherwise, the dog was healthy, and in good spirits, so Wattle carried it for a while in a shopping cart. Seeing a kid riding a skateboard one day, he immediately envisioned a better solution. A used skateboard costs a dollar in a thrift shop. And he strapped Daub tight so he wouldn’t fall off. With the addition of a rope fastened to the front, he could pull the dog like a child’s toy.

The local newspaper saw Wattle and his dog and snapped a photo for the human interest section. A reporter from The Washington Post noticed the picture posted on the paper’s Facebook page. He wanted to do a feature on Wattle and his amazing dog. They discussed the affair in a nearby cafe, and little Daub sat at their feet and wagged his tail.

Publicity spread fast, and a movie studio in Phoenix sent an offer to do an independent film on the dog and his owner. In the envelope was a small honorarium and a plane ticket to Scottsdale, Arizona.

The dog fit into a small handbag as carry-on luggage, and they flew the following week. Wattle gave the address to a taxi, and soon they were sitting in the studio conference room while producers outlined the dimensions of a movie project. A staff writer worked up a storyline and quizzed Wattle on his life and his pet dog. Wattle’s account seemed to have enough substance for a backstory. But the writer proposed a winning lottery ticket and sudden riches to spice up the drama. A pretty young actress would serve as a love interest. Her presence alone made Wattle giddy. The thought of kissing a girl was well outside of his imagination.

The studio put him up in a fancy hotel. And for three months, they scouted locations, wrote scripts, and fed the little dog the best food he’d ever eaten. The name of the movie would be Wattle and Daub. An account of how a small crippled pet becomes the most famous dog in America. In the film, a great skateboard race would pit many dogs against each other. And little Daub would be the triumphant winner. But a nationwide search uncovered little. Dogs without legs were a rare breed. A one-legged pooch turned up in Texas, and the rules were modified to include the little pup.

Then the whole project took an unfortunate turn. The studio got a call from a man with a funny accent; he had several legless dogs for sale. Following up on the offer, they discovered a cage full of legless dogs. And worse than that, many of the dogs were in bandages. And the studio immediately suspected foul play. It seemed that what had begun as a harmless idea to entertain the kids. Had become an incentive for unscrupulous types to game the concept. How quickly the triumph of a crippled pet became a scheme to make a fast buck. In a short time, animal rights groups besieged the studio. They had feared this outcome when they saw the promotion for legless dog races. Advertisements were immediately canceled, and retractions extended in all directions. But it was too late.

Mysterious packages arrived at the studio with invoices demanding payment. An urgent notice informed that a container from India awaited pickup at the Oakland docks. Visions of what might be inside were too frightening to contemplate.

The likelihood that the movie might be abandoned was discouraging. Wattle’s infatuation with the pretty young actress may never materialize. As he walked down the street towards the outskirts of town, he passed a billboard with his image. “Wattle and Daub, the tale of a miraculous pooch and his magic skateboard.” Wattle kept walking, pulling Daub behind him. Sidewalks ended as he walked through the downtown streets and past the last few buildings. Desert sand became too deep for the little wheels, and Wattle sat down on a low rise and looked back at the city. In his pocket, he kept a small scrap of food. He handed it to Daub, who happily munched on it and wagged his tail.

Tim Hildebrandt.

Image: and the author

check out these on Tim’s web site.

5 thoughts on “Wattle & Daub by Tim Hildebrandt”

  1. Hi Tim,
    This was all about something good being used by the unscrupulous. I actually think that emphasises those who make money from suffering. They don’t see or care about the suffering.
    I would have thought the studio may have thought about doing that themselves! (Bill Murray wanting to staple ‘antlers’ onto mice in ‘Scrooged’ springs to mind!)
    I like the tone of this, the melancholy and at the end of it we have a wee dug wagging his tale.
    Entertaining and thoughtful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Indeed, a legless dog movie would never fly. At least Wattle got a free trip to Scottsdale. The best thing about the story was this dog who would follow Wattle everywhere, who just kind of appeared and chose him.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.