Thus began Dillard’s tale to Sixtus of the dingo Wheeler, and how seven years ago, when Mr. Dundee had just moved from his native Australia into the house next door, the foreign man asked Dillard (who had also just moved in with Sixtus) if he would like to own an authentic Australian dingo named Wheeler, absolutely free of cost. The only string attached was that Dillard had to promise to tell everyone it was not a dingo but a fox, a red fox to be specific. Although transportation and/or ownership of a wild dingo in the United States was illegal, Mr. Dundee reassured Dillard that this particular dingo happened to be most suitable for passing as a fox, as his fur was, on the whole, much redder than the normally quite orange dingo – much closer to the color of a red fox in fact. Besides, Mr. Dundee postulated, hardly anyone stateside had ever seen a dingo, so no one would know the better anyway.
Dillard, who badly needed some sort of companionship at that point in his life (he had just broken up with Ginger Jones, the petite blond cashier at the local Nitty Gritty Drug Store), readily accepted the foreign man’s offer, and renamed the dingo Wilson in honor of his beloved great grandfather, Wilson Picture. However, shortly after taking Wilson, Dillard began to get these horrible rashes on his skin, and upon going to a doctor discovered that he was allergic to his pet fox, which was, of course, actually his pet dingo. However, in that short time Dillard had become quite attached to Wilson, and thus smooth-talked his new housemate Sixtus into taking him in. That way, Dillard rationalized, he could still see Wilson occasionally, but not enough to where he would get very sick again.
Dillard also told Sixtus – to complete the review of his soliloquy recited beside the dead dingo on that fair autumn day – that he never could figure out why Mr. Dundee didn’t keep Wheeler himself in the first place, as it was an awfully nice pet and did everything it was told, besides being a great friend. Mr. Dundee himself never said. Just recently, Dillard had come up with a theory: he now believe that Mrs. Dundee, who was from New York, told her husband to get rid of the dingo, for in his recent acquaintance with her Dillard had picked up on her strong dislike of pets in general.
Just then, as if on cue, Mrs. Dundee, a tall, silver headed woman in a blue jumpsuit, walked up behind the two men, having wondered what all the commotion was about. “Look up his colon,” she then commanded, pointing toward the rear of the dog.
Being geography buffs (about the only thing they had in common, in fact), the only “colon” Dillard and Sixtus knew was the city of Colón on the Panama Isthmus, situated at the north end of the Panama Canal. Thus they jointly gaped at Mrs. Dundee, as her statement didn’t make any sense whatsoever in that context.
“His asshole, dummies, not me,” she said, and with this they managed to follow her still pointing finger to the dead dingo’s hindquarters, noticing nothing unusual about it. Still, Mrs. Dundee insisted they contemplate on the disgusting object further.
“The soul of a departed dog returns to his original home of Sirius, the Dog Star,” she explained. “You can follow the soul by looking at one of its orifices immediately after the moment of death. Look at it like you would a tunnel, a gateway into another dimension. Try to see where the tunnel goes; sense the light on the other side.”
Sixtus and Dillard continued to stare at that particular orifice, and, sure enough, they both began to see the tunnel and also the light at its end. Quick as a wink, they were steadily moving inside the tunnel itself, and could already distinguish noises coming from the dimension on the other side. Their attention was then drawn perpendicularly, where each noticed that the black sides of the tunnel were elongating into a line as their forward motion accelerated, turning it gray at the same time. But before the process reached its logical conclusion, they were already standing upon solid ground on the opposite side.
Immediately in front of them was a stage, where an upright, squattish dog, a mutt of some kind, was juggling five cubes, each with a different letter of the word TRUTH engraved on all six of its sides. The body of the dog was adorned in a long saffron gown, and his broad face was painted like a clown’s. However, Sixtus and Dillard were not alone in witnessing this spectacle, for on the ground immediately in front of them sat several dozen other dogs, crowded below the stage on which the juggler was performing. The onlooking dogs seemed to be enjoying the show (one could tell this by their continuous tail-wagging), and furthermore appeared to be laughing at the juggler’s frequent flirtations or direct confrontations with disaster (one could tell this by their incessant howling and brisker tail wagging), especially one in which the juggler dropped all five cubes off the stage when distracted by a violent sneeze from this crowd.
To the right of the stage, talking in a foreign language which sounded a little like Sanskrit, was a tall blue man with Negroid features wearing orange-red shorts and holding a red rooster. This man was loudly conversing in this strange dialect to apparently anyone within earshot. However, the dogs were paying him absolutely no attention whatsoever, riveted as they were by the jester-like juggler.
Also ignoring the blue man were two masked characters to his left, who always appeared to be on the verge of playing the two matching silver flutes they were holding, only to pull these instruments away from their pursed lips at the last moment. The reason for this hesitation was that when the two brought the flutes to their mouths, the instruments suddenly turned wavy, as if transformed into slithery serpents. However, when they were withdrawn, the flutes reassumed their natural, rigid positions. Sixtus was about to move closer to see why this was so, when Mrs. Dundee, who had followed them through the tunnel, spoke up.
“The performing dog is named Wellington, after the capital city in New Zealand, a country which, like the Americas, is split into two parts: North Island and South Island. The performance is a version of his own private hell, for the mistake prone juggler is the condensed shadow of the entity actually known as the Wizard Albert. The other side of this wizard, the serious (Sirius?) side, is manifested in the tall blue man to his left, who is preaching the crystal perfect truth of the ages that everyone yearns for, but which people completely ignore upon actually hearing. The Wizard’s personality was subjectively split in two when Wilson died and we subsequently came here, much like if North America separated from South America at the Isthmus of Panama, the latter being what one could call the colon and anus of North America. Thus *our observations here have split him asunder,* and this split is further disclosed through the twins Morton and Norton, the two flutists who are also actually one. What is needed here in this polarized field is an interpreter, a bridgemaker between the two separate viewpoints – between the opposite directions north and south. Something like a focusing binocular vision.”
But Sixtus wasn’t listening to the last part of Mrs. Dundee’s speech, for he was again observing the two flutists and the alternately wavy and rigid instruments. “Would you like one of the magic flutes?” Mrs. Dundee asked Sixtus, sensing the source of his distraction. “They’re obviously not much use to Morton and Norton anyway. I think you deserve one – tell you what, I’ll even see that the normal five dollar fee is waved.”
With this, they were suddenly receding back out of that different dimension, reversing their path through the tunnel in which they had come until they were at the beginning point, looking once again at the deceased dog Wilson’s behind. While they were gone, several stars had appeared in the darkening sky with the passage of day into night.
They were abruptly brought out of their post-trance haze by the obnoxiously loud sounds emitting from Mr. Dundee’s orange 1973 Volkswagen Beetle as it sputtered home from his work. As Mr. Dundee pulled into his driveway to the left of Sixtus’ house, Mrs. Dundee beckoned Sixtus to follow her to the car while Dillard voluntarily stayed to prepare the grave of Wilson. By the time they reached the Volkswagen, Mr. Dundee had managed to squeeze out of its tiny back seat a very large painting of the Panama Canal, with an added make-believe space base in the middle of the canal harboring a rocket ship with the words “Sirius or Bust” crudely scrawled upon its hull.
“Ho, ho, ho,” he exclaimed in his subdued Australian accent, “look what *I* found at the art auction dearest.” The tall man’s white mustache twitched excitedly while he talked.
Mrs. Dundee briefly studied the work. “It looks like one of Sixtus’ warped creations,” she then said lackadaisically, and looked away into the trees and sky, disinterested. The sound of Dillard’s gravedigging were now faintly heard coming across Sixtus’ lawn.
“Well yes, I guess it does kind of,” confessed her husband, “but it’s not, that’s the point. It was commissioned by Gregory Hersey, vice president of the Welches Grape Corporation in Westfield, New York in celebration of the 7th anniversary of the canal’s opening, a waterway his father had helped fund originally, as I understand it. The rocket ship stuff must have been added later by some kid or something.”
Meanwhile, Sixtus was studying the painting very carefully, and was now hovering over the signature. “Why I don’t believe it,” he exclaimed. “It’s done by my old acquaintance Waverly Knapp, who was several years ahead of me in art school. Last time I saw him he was making quite a bit of money off his abstract expressionist pieces. He must have hit rocky time.” Sixtus immediately regretted making the last comment, not wanting to insult the aesthetic taste of his friend Mr. Dundee. Bu the elder man looked unperturbed.
“Wilson’s dead,” Mrs. Dundee suddenly dead panned to her husband.
“Wilson?” he replied, puzzled. “I don’t believe… oh, yes, you must mean Sixtus’ pet canine. Now I understand the meaning of the grave digging sounds coming from Sixtus’ house. Sorry to hear about that old boy.” He then appeared to be reexamining his painting more closely.
“Sixtus knows Wilson is really a dingo named Wheeler,” Mrs. Dundee stated once again in that completely level, mechanical voice. Mr. Dundee looked again at Sixtus. “Yeah… well, uh, sorry to deceive you like that Sixtus,” he said. “It was the only way I could keep him in the country after all.”
Sixtus nodded his head a little to indicate a degree of forgiveness. True he was still mad, but the full story could be gotten later after the shock had worn off.
“The boys just took a trip to Sirius through Wilson’s colon,” said Mrs. Dundee, once again in the same monotone. “Sixtus bought a magic flute there.” With this, she arched one brow meaningfully at her husband.
Mr. Dundee glanced at his wife, and then stared very steadily at Sixtus for quite a few seconds. “Holy cow!” he then exclaimed abruptly. “That may explain my sudden muffler problems on the way home.”
Mr. Dundee was already at the back of the car by the time he finished saying this, bending down to examine its modified, single tailpipe. Directly, he pulled out of the tailpipe what appeared at first to Sixtus to be a short, blackened rope with a tag on one end, but as Mr. Dundee repeatedly wiped it off with his shirt sleeve to remove the exhaust buildup, it became clear that the object wasn’t a rope but instead a small gray snake. After being cleaned off completely, it began to wriggle excitedly around the elder man’s outstretched hands, as if thanking him.
Mr Dundee, after the snake calmed down a bit, approached Sixtus. “Here,” he said, draping the snake around the younger man’s hands and sneaking another glance at Mrs. Dundee. “I have a feeling this is yours. The tag on his tail says that his name is Aspinwall.” Sixtus looked down into the snake’s uplifted face and was startled to see an almost human-like pair of frontal eyes meeting his gaze. The snake also appeared to be smiling at him.
Across the law, the three people gathered around the Volkswagen then jointly listened as Dillard reversed his hole digging process, throwing the first space of dirt back into the hole it was previously removed from and thus also upon the quickly stiffening dingo carcass that was once known as Wheeler.