…brains! brains! alfalfa hay! brains!
Here now, a belated birthday gift for my friend AvyLou and for your reading pleasure…
The Avy Doc-ument
Concord, New Hampshire, September, 1989
Avy was worried that her friend Doc was losing his mind. Not that he hadn’t always been a bit strange (and being a sci-fi/fantasy/rpg fan herself, Avy did not toss the term “strange” around lightly), but two weeks ago, on his 40th birthday, he had really begun to act odd. Of course, acting odd when one turned 40 was not all that unusual, but Doc had really gone goofy.
It all seemed to start at his birthday party. Avy and about 20 of Doc’s other friends had planned the surprise party and it had turned out great. They had used the “Over The Hill” theme, which Doc took good naturedly, as he did most things. There had been lots of food, drinks, music, talking and presents. In fact, it was one present in particular that had set Doc off on his new path to strangeness. It was the present his dog, Roscoe, gave him.
Wait, wait…let’s backtrack a bit here. See, Avy had first met Doc 7 years earlier when he had walked into the Red Rose Diner where she worked as a waitress. He was tall, not bad looking and had a dog with him. He wanted to apply for the job of cook, a position that old Mr. Feeny, the owner, had been trying in vain to keep filled. Seems like every cook they got was either inept, a drunk or just passing through town, so naturally, Mr. Feeny gave Doc the third degree, what with the big redhead looking like some kind of hippie and all. Well, ok, not really like a hippie, except for the long hair, polka dot bandana and red sneakers. Mr. Feeny fired off questions ranging from who Doc liked for the World Series (he wisely said Boston) to his recipe for meatloaf (which was pretty involved and seemed to impress the old man).
Anyway, it ended up with Doc making a deal to cook for a day, then let Mr. Feeny decide if he got the job. Turned out, Doc was a good cook…a very good cook. Everything he made, he put his own touch on and it all tasted wonderful. It also garnered Avy about twice the tips she normally made. By the end of the day, which had been pretty busy, the old man not only hired Doc, he gave him the keys to the little cabin in the woods behind the diner, what with Doc and Roscoe needing a place to live.
About Roscoe: He was a red and white basset, weighing in at around 60 pounds. His tail wagged near constantly. He wore a polka dotted collar just like Doc’s bandana and he was quite a well trained and mannerly fellow. He also had one brown eye and one green eye, something Avy had never seen in a dog. Doc said he was “about 5 years old”, but he looked younger to Avy. She had also never seen a dog who seemed to understand spoken English so well, but that had to just be his good training and doggish awareness of human moods and vocal tones.
So Doc had a job and a place to live and soon he & Avy were friends. During the slow hours of the day he would help her clean up or she would help him prep food and they would chat. It seems that he was from California (although his accent was not quite Californian, at least not to Avy), had no family and had been, to use his words, “knocking about for ages, it seems”. They chatted about pretty much every subject under the sun, including her recent divorce, her desire to “someday do some traveling” and which regular customers were good tippers and which were stiffs.. They would often get together to watch movies or tv shows. Doc also became a member of her D&D group, where he usually played an elven thief named Foxfire. Avy learned that Doc seldom drank alcohol, but when he did, his capacity was enormous and he showed little effect. She also found out that he was a serious chocolate addict and would take any opportunity to climb a tree.
Due to his cooking abilities, the diner soon became the hot spot for folks to eat at in Concord. Business tripled and, after hiring 3 more waitresses and a prep cook, Mr. Feeny gave both Avy and Doc a generous raise. Avy dutifully saved her after bills money. Doc bought toys, books and whatever else caught his eye. His house looked like a thrift store. And so things went for years.
As mentioned back at the start of this, Avy noticed some strange things about Doc. For starters, he had a childlike fascination with many everyday things. She once went to visit him and found him lying on his back near his shed…wait…we didn’t mention his shed, did we?
Behind the cabin, Doc had built a shed out of rough pine boards. Well, Avy assumed he had built it, even though nobody had seen him hauling in lumber or pounding nails. It was a small shed, about 4 feet on a side and maybe 8 feet tall. Also, the door seemed to be jammed shut, since Avy had once idly tried to open it and it would not budge. When she asked Doc about it, he just shrugged and said he’d get around to fixing it one day.
So, back to our story. Avy found Doc lying on the ground watching ants.
“Hi, Avy. Come have a look at this. Look at how industrious and organized they are.”
Avy noted that yes, they had their little ant thing together.
“I’ve been watching then for a few hours now. Fascinating!”
That stuck with Avy. I mean, who the hell watches ants for hours except maybe an entomologist?
But it wasn’t just ants. He could become near hypnotized by tanks of tropical fish, the gears on a clock, kids playing, a walk in the woods…anything.
And then there was his encyclopedic knowledge of so many things and his astounding cluelessness about others. He might go into minute detail about something like 17th century men’s shoes, but then later admit to never having seen an episode of Star Trek (which Avy and her geek pals soon rectified). He often spoke in great detail about old movie stars or historical figures, almost as if he had known them.
There was also his way of dealing with women, which every one of his female friends agreed totally lacked any trace of sexism. Not that he couldn’t be a gentleman, but he just seemed to take equality of the sexes as a given. He also lacked any trace of racism, homophobia or superiority over kids & animals.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of some of his female friends, this seemed to be equally matched by his lack of sexual desire for them. Oh, he was a big old flirt, but when offered the chance to go further he always declined, though he seemed a bit sorry. This had lead to wonderings if he were gay, but eventually his gay friends put that to rest, too.
Finally, there was his almost complete lack of self censorship. He just said things right out. Asking his opinion would get it, unvarnished and straight, tho never cruelly. Of course, Avy did realize that she was comparing him to herself in that regard and Heaven knew she was Miss Tactful, but even for somebody from California, he was blunt.
Oh, and his relationship with Roscoe was odd, too. He treated the hound more like a roommate than a dog. Roscoe ate human food at the table off a plate, had his own bed (a small waterbed!), his own tv next to his bed, a chair all of his own and Doc never spoke to him in anything but English.
Or French…or German…Portuguese…Spanish…Gaelic…Japanese…well, a bunch of different languages. She had once asked him where he had learned so many languages, but all he said was “oh, you know…here & there”. The really bizarre thing was, Roscoe seemed to understand him regardless of the language.
But now, back to that birthday party and Roscoe’s present to Doc.
Almost everyone was gone and Avy was cleaning up and talking with Doc about how good the cake (chocolate with chocolate chips and dark chocolate frosting) when Roscoe (who was a big hit at any party he attended) walked up with something in his mouth. It turned out to be a small present wrapped in very old newspaper and tied with a golden bow.
“Why, thank you, buddy.” Doc patted Roscoe on the head and opened the package. Inside was an old fashioned key, such as might would fit a door lock from the 1890’s or so. The key was dull grey and pretty nondescript.
Avy chuckled and said, “Now who do you suppose gave him that?”
Doc was silent for a long moment and then replied, in a very hushed voice, “I did.”
“You did?”, Avy asked. “Why an old key? Does it open some door in the cabin?” She doubted that, since the cabin only had 4 doors and had been built in 1958.
Again, Doc was silent for a long while, then suddenly stood up and began to pace around.
“Are you ok?”, Avy asked.
“I need to take a walk.”, he said, now heading towards the door. “Tell Mr. Feeny I might be late for work tomorrow.” And with that, he went out into the night. A few seconds later, Roscoe gave a quiet “woof” and followed him.
Stunned into immobility for a few seconds, Avy just watched them leave, then bent to pick up the wrapping from the present. She unfolded the newspaper and noticed it was the front page from the St. Louis Tribune and dated just over 8 years ago. The front page story was all about flying saucer and alien sightings in the farmland of southern Missouri. Avy recalled hearing about that at the time. The feds had even looked into it before declaring it “an elaborate hoax”. She tossed the paper in the trash and hoped that Doc was ok.
Nobody saw him until he came into work at 7:00 am the next morning, two hours late. As usual, his cooking was flawless. However, during the break between breakfast and lunch, he gave Mr. Feeny his two weeks notice. He apologized profusely, but it didn’t bother the old man too much. He had been thinking of retiring soon and was selling the place to his eldest son.
For the next two weeks, Doc took to muttering to himself, often punctuated by smiles, frowns, chuckles and other displays of emotion. Once it a while he would exclaim something like “Of course!” or “Oh wow!”. One day he went over to the sunny spot on the floor of the store room where Roscoe usually slept and whispered something to the hound that caused him to bark several times and then join Doc in a few joyful howls.
He skipped game night and offers to go out. He would often forget to eat until Avy sat him down and pushed a plate of his own food in front of him. Fortunately, his very good personal hygiene (which probably explained why, in 7 years, Avy had never known him to be sick) never suffered. He did, however, sometimes forget to put on shoes until he got to work, so he started keeping a spare pair in the kitchen.
On the Saturday morning after his last day at work, Avy finally decided that she had to do something. She wasn’t sure what…talk to him, cart him off to a doctor, shoot him with a tranquilizer dart…hit him over the head…but she had to do something to get to the bottom of this.
When she arrived at the cabin, Roscoe greeted her at the gate. He seemed very happy and energetic, much more than you’d expect a 12 year old basset hound to be. In fact, it occurred to Avy that Roscoe didn’t look 12 years old, either. Come to think of it, Doc didn’t look 40. Hmmm. Doc would probably just say “clean livin’ and a pure heart, Avy” if she asked him about it.
He opened the door before she had a chance to knock.
“Avy! Just the person I wanted to see today! Yer lookin’ good this morning!”
He was certainly in a good mood, smiling from ear to ear. He might have just woken up, she thought, except that his hair looked great (but then, his hair always looked great) and he seemed fully awake. Still, he was dressed only in gym shorts and his ever present bandana.
He took her by the arm, saying “Come in, come in. I have some explainin’ to do, don’t it?”
“Umm, err, yes”, was all she could manage. This new hyped up Doc was a bit off putting. She had come here expecting the muttering crazy Doc.
He guided her to one of the big overstuffed chairs. She sat down and Doc sat in one opposite her.
“Would you like some tea, Avy? I think you could use some tea! I’ve got some great green. Roscoe, would you take care of that?” He nodded as the dog loped off towards the kitchen.
“So, old friend, let me start off by saying how much your friendship has meant to me over the years. You really are a fine person and a good friend.”
He reached out and took her hands in his. His expression got a bit…just a bit…more serious.
“Right about now, I reckon you think I’ve gone off my rocker these past couple of weeks, don’t ya?”
Avy blushed even more and stammered, “Well…I mean…you have been acting pretty weird.”
He laughed at that. “Oh, Avy, your penchant for understatement can never be…well, understated. I’ve been acting crazy as an outhouse rat and you know it. If you’d called the nuthouse to have me taken away, I wouldn’t have blamed you. It’s what a friend ought to do when another friend goes kookoo. But I’m not crazy. Well, not crazier than I ever was, anyway. What I am is whole again! I have ME back!”
“Wait a minute”, Avy thought to herself, “maybe he had partial amnesia or something. Maybe he was brainwashed and the key was a mnemonic device to wake him up. Holy crap, maybe he’s a sleeper spy or something!” She voiced these concerns to him.
He sat back and looked at her, grinning, yet deep in thought.
“Oh, Watson, we shall make a detective of you yet! Man, do I ever miss them. Anyway, yer partially right. The key was indeed a mnemonic device and I was mostly brainwashed. But it was me who did the washing!”
Just then, Roscoe came in with a tea tray balanced on his head. On it were two cups of green tea and a small jar of honey. Doc thanked the dog, put the tray on an end table and offered Avy a cup and the honey. Once she was done sweetening the tea, she took a sip. She really needed it.
“Very nice. Thank you, Roscoe”, she said. Then, turning back to Doc, she asked, “Why and how did you brainwash yourself?”
She was halfway through her next sip of tea and Doc had yet to speak when it hit her. She shrieked and spat tea all over Doc. He looked at her for a moment and then completely fell apart laughing. He was in hysterics.
Picture this: Avy’s eyes are about as big as saucers and her mouth is moving but no sound is emerging. Doc is howling with laughter. Every time Avy tries to speak, he laughs harder. Roscoe, who did not get sprayed with tea, is rolling on the floor laughing.
For long minutes, Avy, AKA Ms. Rationality, tried to decide if…
A: This is some elaborate joke
B: She has been drugged
C: She has lost her mind
D: No…no…it CAN’T be that
E: She has spilled the rest of the tea on her lap or peed herself.
Eventually, gasping for breath, Doc spoke.
“Oh…heehee…Avy…hahaha…the look on your face…..oh, shit…my sides hurt….hahaha! Wheeze, wheeze…it’s real and…hehheh…it’s ok. You aren’t crazy…whew! Roscoe, get her a towel for her lap.”
“Sure thing, boss”, the dog replied. He looked towards the hall cabinet, where a door opened and a bath towel floated out.
Avy had just a moment to note to herself that Roscoe’s voice sounds very much like Tommy Lee Jone’s, then her eyes rolled up in her head and she fainted dead away.
When she came back around, she found Doc dabbing at her face with a damp cloth. He was no longer laughing, but he was still grinning.
“Let me guess”, he began, “You had a really vivid dream where I was a scarecrow and Roscoe was a cowardly lion and Peter was a tin woodsman and Ginie was Glinda and there was a witch and flying monkeys and …”
She smacked him upside the head with the towel on her lap.
“Shut up, Mr. Wiseass, and tell me what the fuck is going on!”
He donned a look of mock arousal. “Oh my, Avy, you’re so…so…sexy when you’re forceful like that”
“I’m going to kill you in about 5 seconds!”
He chuckled. “Ok, ok…here are a few quick answers: Roscoe is a bit more than a normal dog, I’m not human, I brainwashed myself to escape pursuing aliens and in a few minutes I’ll bet I make you faint again.”
Oddly, Avy seemed to process all this pretty well, mostly because it all seemed to fit the evidence. It made her a bit light headed and her tummy felt all fluttery, but she didn’t want to scream and run.
“So, the newspaper story about spaceships and aliens was true?”
He nodded. “Yep! It was a group of Droonian Assassin Priests. They followed me here with the express intent of killing me. I had to hide for 7 years to escape them. See, their ship was totally destroyed and they couldn’t leave. Unfortunately, the pollution in Earth’s atmosphere was already killing them. They had 7 years, tops, left to live and they were sure as hell gonna hunt me the whole time. So I used a device to remove 90 percent of my memories and overlay a new personality. Then I just waited them out. Of course, Roscoe, whose mind they couldn’t track and who, unlike my normal self, can avoid “adventures”, kept an eye on things and also kept the key that woke me up.”
Roscoe nodded. “Until he turned 40, when I gave it back to him so we could ride off into the sunset. And I like adventures, just not the really dangerous ones.”
Hearing a dog talk still tripped Avy’s Weird-Shit-O-Meter, but not as badly as you might think. The realization of this both bemused and scared her.
“Okay, I get that Roscoe is more than just a dog and why you had to hide out for 7 years…and by the way, I’m still not convinced I’m not crazy…but what about you not being human and me fainting again? What’s up with that?”
Again, Doc chuckled. Then, got his 6’2” body out of the chair…
“Wait,” thought Avy, “didn’t he used to be just 5’11’?”
…and held out his hand to her.
“Come on, kid. It’s time for me to really fuck with your head.”
He helped her up and lead her out to the back yard and then to the shed. There, he handed her the key and pointed to a keyhole she had never seen before.
“Open it up, Avy, and all shall be revealed.”
As she slipped the key in the hole, she vowed that, no matter what, she would NOT faint. Fainting was for delicate flowers in 19th century romance novels or grade Z horror movies, not a college educated rational woman of the late 20th century. Then she opened the door and looked inside.
When she woke up, she was in a room she had seen many times, though it never had looked exactly like it did now. Still, everything was in it’s place and her mind gave up all resistance and accepted the inevitable.
She was inside the TARDIS.
She was lying on a small sofa. Roscoe was next to her, using his telekinesis to offer her a glass of water, which she took. The water was cold, refreshing and lightly flavored with cherry juice.
“The tv shows were a way for the boss to make acceptance easier if he ever had to reveal himself to a human here on Earth.”, the hound said. “Which, I oughtta add, he has done about a couple dozen times since the show started.”
Avy sat up and nodded. “That makes sense. That way, people only faint instead of running away screaming.”
Roscoe laughed at that. “Avy, you’d be surprised at how many people just accept it all. Of course, after most encounters, the boss neuralizes them so they don’t remember. In fact, it was the neuralizer he used on himself.”
Avy thought about that. A brain wiping device sounded like something the mythical (or were they?) “men in black” might use. She was about to mention this to Roscoe when Doc entered the room. He had changed clothes. He wore bell bottom jeans with green vines embroidered on the outside of the legs, a yellow long sleeved Led Zeppelin t-shirt, his trademark red Converse high top sneakers and a bright green bandana headband that had little yellow & red question marks all over it. Rather subdued looking, actually.
“So,” she began, “Doc was just a shortened version, eh? And isn’t the TARDIS supposed to look like a police call box? And is Roscoe really K9? And why aren’t you British? And where is your companion?”
Once again, and not for the last time, both Doc…err, the Doctor, and Roscoe laughed.
“Well, Yes, Doc is a less formal version. You can keep on calling me that, if you like. I’m not gonna stand on formality. As for the TARDIS, well, the chameleon circuit works just fine and a London police call box from the 60’s would stand out like tits on a bullfrog here in 1989 Concord, now wouldn’t it?”
Avy had to allow as how that made sense.
Doc walked over and fiddled with some controls. Many lights came on and blinked.
“As for Roscoe, well, he’s as organic as we are and was, in fact, an ordinary Springer Spaniel living in Dallas in 1952 until the friggin’ Cactus People set off a Gene Bomb that caught us both. I regenerated and, since he absorbed some of my DNA, so did he. I ended up as a black Brazilian fellow and Roscoe was a very intelligent and psionicly endowed Mexican hairless dog…
“Which sucked ass….the Mexican Hairless part, I mean”, the basset hound said in disgust. “I was always chilly and had to wear sunscreen.”
“…which was 140 years ago. We’ve had our present forms for the last 21 years, by our reckoning. As for my companion, well, the last one split after my last regeneration. Went back home to Middle Earth.”
“Middle Earth?”, Avy exclaimed. Was he trying to make her head explode? “What the hell? Middle Earth is fiction!”
Doc looked at her and winked. “You have a lot to learn about the multiverse, Avy. So, shall we get going? I’m thinking a short jaunt, just to get you into the mood. Then we come back, you close up your house, get the cats and we’re off. So, how about the early 1940’s? We can go to Harlem and catch some big bands at the Cotton Club.”
It says a lot about Avy that this time, she didn’t faint, although she did get a bit dizzy.
“Wait a minute…what makes you think I want to be your companion? I have a life here, you know!”
Doc sighed, but still grinned. “Oh, Avy…let’s review, shall we? Divorced and not dating much…dead end job that just won’t be the same without Mr. Feeny and myself there…lifetime longing to travel…all of space/time/alternate universes…action…adventure…great food…a talking dog…”
Avy set her jaw in a hopefully determined way. She would not be….seduced…like this, darn it!
“…and then there is this.” Doc pressed a button and a large video screen appeared. On it was herself, looking slightly slimmer, a good deal blonder and wearing what looked like biker leathers. She stood next to Doc, who only looked different in that he was now wearing a blue long sleeved Warren Zevon t-shirt and his bandana was red with black question marks.
“Hi, me! I’m recording this to let you know that you’ll love traveling like this. It’ll really put you through some changes, but they’ll all be good. And wait’ll you see what happens to the cats! So, anyway, resistance is futile, as you’ve figured out by now. Buckle up, me, it’s a wild ride!”
The screen went blank and Avy stared at Doc. When she found her voice, all she could say was, “How?”
Again with the chuckling, Doc said, “I met them about 50 years ago, on a steampunk sort of world. Not often I meet later versions of my current regen, but it does happen. Cool that I picked up a Zevon shirt.”
Finally, Avy just had to laugh. She laughed so hard that her head fell against Doc’s chest. Sure enough, two heartbeats.
When she composed herself, she looked up at him. “Cotton Club, eh? We’ll dress up, right?”
He nodded. “To the nines! We’ll find you a hot lookin’ red dress.” Then he went to working the controls.
“Well then, I reckon I’m in.”
In Concord, New Hampshire, at 8:46 am on September 6th, in the back yard of a little cabin it the woods, a shed slowly faded away accompanied by the faint sound of a warning horn.