A coyotes in the house, p.7
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       A Coyote's in the House, p.7

           Elmore Leonard
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  Antwan put his nose down to the dog agent's nose and said, Tell me where you live, my brother. I'll come over and we'll talk about it.

  Swifty looked at Buddy. He said, I don't need this. We get you the part and you don't take it, you'll never work in this town again, and went out through the dog door.

  Antwan hopped up on the table, said to Buddy, Just one, and gobbled up a few peanut butter cookies, ground them in his jaw and swallowed. He turned around once and sat down on the table before saying, You let that little hot dog talk to you like that? I couldn't believe it.

  He heard that somewhere, about my never working in this town again? Swifty wants to sound like he's in the movie business, so he picks up lines like that to use. But I'll tell you something, Buddy said. If ever a dog could work as a Hollywood agent I mean a real dog it would have to be Swifty. He's okay. You just have to get used to him.

  I didn't like his smell, Antwan said.

  He can't help that, Buddy said. Swifty gets his smell from where he gets everything else, from his owner. It's how my real agent smells, so it's how Swifty smells.

  Antwan helped himself to another cookie as he thought of something. Is it true humans take on a different smell when they lie?

  Yes, it's a fact, Buddy said. They lie and you get a whiff of something rotten. Like you get when you stick your nose in a garbage can. You might've noticed I kept sniffing while I was talking to Swifty. It's a sure way to tell when he's lying.

  It wasn't a bad smell, Antwan said, but it hung in the air till he left.

  There are things movie stars have to put up with, Buddy said. Like agents.

  Antwan nodded, accepting Buddy's wisdom, and said, You think you'll do the movie?

  I'll go listen to the mom and dad talking about it, Buddy said, and let you know.

  An t w a n went u p to see how Miss Betty was doing. He caught her standing in front of the mirror looking over her shoulder.

  Why there's a cool chick, Antwan said, if I ever saw one. I'm more than cool, Miss Betty said, still looking at herself in the mirror, I'm cold, not having any hair.

  You have a nice creamy coat on you, Antwan said, curly around your shoulders. ... Girl, you're looking fine. I mean it. He said then, Buddy got a movie offer.

  I know, Miss Betty said. I saw you and Buddy down there with Swifty. I bet he put on his act and you got tough with him, told him off.

  I put on the muscle just a bit.

  You have to understand Swifty, she said. If you don't take him seriously he's fun to watch.

  Antwan said, How'd you know about the job?

  When you all went inside, Miss Betty said, I slipped out on the roof, right down to the edge over the patio, and heard most of it. Buddy's agent made the offer and the dad didn't hesitate. Yes, indeed, Buddy will take the part. The mom said okay, meaning she went along.

  Antwan, curious about the mom, said, What does she do? The maid's always here working around, doing most of the cooking. What does the mom do all day?

  It beats me, Miss Betty said. I know she reads, she listens to music . . .

  Antwan said, She remind you of anyone? He watched Miss Betty shake her head no and he said, She's just like you. She's a show mom.

  You're trying to be cute now, Miss Betty said. Anyway, they're already shooting the picture. If Buddy's ready, he's on tomorrow. The dad goes, 'He's ready, don't worry about that.' Then the agent said, 'Oh, and why don't you bring Timmy along.'


  You're Timmy, aren't you?

  Why's he want me there?

  That's a good question, Miss Betty said, turning to the mirror again. You like my hair this way, huh?

  Chapter Eleven.

  Early the next morning the dad drove them to the studio in his silver Cadillac port-utility vehicle, Antwan and Buddy with teraces hanging out of opposite windows to catch the breeze. They had to wait at the main gate while the guard phoned to see if it was all right to let them in. He gave the dad a pass to put on the dashboard and directions to where they were shooting this morning, way out at the far end of the backlot.

  They drove down a street between soundstages as big as airplane hangars. They passed the fronts of buildings that were seen in movies but weren't real. Like the spooky-looking house up on a hill that Buddy pointed to and said, You know what movie that house was in?

  Psycho, Antwan said. It looks like a real house, but it's a lot smaller.

  Because they only shot the outside of it, Buddy said, from a distance.

  I know there isn't any inside to it, Antwan said. I've been up there.

  You've been here before? This coyote kept surprising him.

  I've been to most of the major studios.

  How do you get in?

  Under the fence or over it, Antwan said. There's nothing to getting in a movie studio. We'd go in at night, me and a couple of Diablos. Nose around, check the trash behind the commissary. It's where movie people have their lunch.

  I know what a commissary is, Buddy said. Where I'm usually working, out on location, they bring the lunch to us.

  We hang around a soundstage where they're shooting a scene, Antwan said, and wait to see if any movie stars come out. I saw Denzel Washington one time getting in his car. I saw Ethan Hawke. Another time I saw Reese Witherspoon. You know who I mean?

  Reese Witherspoon? I know a dog was in one of her pictures, Buddy said. Where'd you see the movies they were in, at the drive-in?

  Yeah, or looking in windows where TVs are on. There any big stars in this movie you're in?

  I asked Swifty, Buddy said. He didn't know.

  Or what your movie's about, Antwan said. I heard Swifty say what's the difference, long as you have a part in it. But don't you have to know what kind of dog you're playing?

  What's there to know? I do rescues in the Buddy movies and show how smart I am in the other ones. Like my owner comes home, I walk over and push the button for his phone messages and he says 'Good boy,' or something he thinks is funny like 'I'm gonna get you a job, Bob.' I was Bob in that movie.

  They came to house trailers and trucks as big as moving vans in the yard of an old farmhouse and a big red barn.

  Those ones unloading equipment from the trucks, Buddy said, are the grips. They do all the heavy work. The ones setting up the lights are the gaffers.

  Antwan looked up at the sunny sky and said, What do you need lights for?

  To shine on the actors so you see them good, Buddy said. That group sitting around by the camera? One's the boss, the director, another one's the DP, the director of photography, and the rest of 'em are their helpers.

  I guess it takes a lot of people, Antwan said, to make a movie.

  More than you'd ever think, Buddy said. I can never figure out what they all do.

  The dad drove the big silver Cadillac SUV into a field they were using as a parking lot and they all got out.

  Antwan, seeing Buddy's agent and his dog coming over to meet them, said, Homes, you know what Swifty looks like? A fat little sausage with feet.

  Buddy said, I'm surprised he isn't wearing his sunglasses today.

  They watched the dad and Buddy's agent walk off toward the group by the camera.

  We're ready to go, Swifty said to Buddy, soon as we get you made up.

  As what? Antwan said.

  He means get my hair brushed, Buddy said. Come on.

  Swifty led the way to one of the trailers saying, Harry Zimm can't be here today but wanted us to remind you, don't wear your red bandana. He said be sure to have it taken off in makeup.

  What're you talking about? Buddy said. I always wear my bandana, I'm known for it. We're still making a nice income on Buddy Bandanas the Badge of a Hero. I don't wear it, I could be just another German shepherd.

  As they reached the makeup trailer Swifty said, It's not that kind of part. You'll see. Believe me, you won't want to wear it. He turned to Antwan. Stay here, bro. You don't need anything done.

  Swifty went in the trailer with
Buddy, and Antwan sat outside to wait, wondering what the little hot dog meant, telling him he didn't need anything done. Antwan thinking, Why would I? I'm not in the movie.

  Pretty soon he wondered why it was taking so long to brush Buddy's hair.

  Less than a minute later he saw why.

  Buddy came out of the trailer with his hair going every which way. They didn't brush it in there, they mussed it up, made him look like he'd been in either a fight or a hurricane. Antwan asked him right away, Why'd they do that?

  I guess it's some kind of action scene, Buddy said.

  He and Antwan both looked off to see one of the helpers coming toward them from the group. That's the AD, the assistant director, Buddy said. Probably the only assistant on this low-budget shoot.

  The AD was saying now through a bullhorn, his voice real loud, Buddy, you're on, fella.

  He could've just called to you, Antwan said.

  DAs love their bullhorns, Buddy said.

  They watched this one stop now and look back at the group by the camera. The director's telling him something, Buddy said. The one in the leather jacket and lavender scarf, that's the director.

  They watched the AD turn to them again and say through his bullhorn, Timmy, they want you, too, fella.

  Aow t h e y w e r e n e a r the group by the camera, everyone standing out of the way so the director in his leather jacket and lavender scarf could study Buddy and Antwan together. Swifty came over to tell Buddy to look scared, and the director said to Buddy's agent, Will you please get your mutt out of there? Now the director was shaking his head as he studied Buddy.

  That's not the look I want.

  The director continued speaking to his crew and Buddy translated what he was saying to Antwan. My hair isn't the way he wants it. I'm not supposed to look like I was in a fight . . . I'm supposed to look like I've never been cared for since I was born. I'm homeless, a stray. I come to this farm ... Now he's saying, 'Where's Harry?' He ought to know Harry Zimm isn't here. You know, the producer. Now he's sending the AD off to the trailers. The Harry he's talking about must be one of the actors.

  The AD could call him from here, Antwan said, with that bullhorn. It's so loud it makes your ears ring.

  Our ears, yeah, Buddy said, not theirs. Now the director's looking at you.

  I see that.

  Now me. He's saying, 'What's he growling about? What's wrong with him?' Meaning me. Now the dad's telling the director nothing's wrong. He says I'm most likely just thinking about something.

  Antwan said, That what you're doing, fella?

  Now the dad's telling him not to worry . . . He said, 'When the camera rolls, Buddy will be on his mark.' What's your mark?

  Where you're supposed to be when they're shooting.

  Now the director's asking the dad where you came from. The dad says I picked you up somewhere and brought you home. Now the director wants to know what kind of dog you are. Buddy listened, getting the dad's answer before repeating it to Antwan. The dad goes, 'You're not gonna believe this. I had our vet come look at him and he says Timmy could be a coyote.' But the dad said to the vet, 'Have you ever seen a coyote wearing a collar? Someone named him Timmy.' o w the director folded his arms and brought a finger up to stroke his chin as he studied Antwan and then Buddy.

  He said to Buddy's agent, Yeah, Buddy's a police dog, definitely not a vagrant. He looks too well-fed.

  The agent said, I told you, didn't I?

  The dad said, I'm sure Timmy will accept the same deal you offered Buddy, chuckling again.

  The director said, Yeah, Timmy has that scrawny look I want. Like he's been scrounging all his life. He said to the dad, You don't have any papers on him?

  He must've run away some time ago, the dad said, and has been living on his own. And you're absolutely right, he does have that scrawny look. Don'tcha, fella?

  Antwan poked Buddy. What're they saying?

  All Buddy told him was, He's calling you fella, because Buddy didn't like what he was hearing: sounding as though they wanted to use Antwan in the part. But how could Antwan do it? He wasn't an actor.

  The director of photography said, Here comes Harry. You could ask him what he thinks.

  My boy, the director said to the DP, the only actor you listen to is the one who sells tickets. In other words, the star whose name brings people to the theater. He wants to do something that's not in the script, you say, 'Hey, that's a terrific idea.'

  The director raised his arm straight up to the actor coming toward them. Harry, it's great to see you, man. I was just telling my new DP, we couldn't make this picture without you. If you're ready we'll rehearse the scene, do a quick run-through before we light the set.

  The actor waved the walking cane he was carrying. He headed for the farmhouse now in his bib overalls and felt hat, the brim turned up all around, and stepped onto the porch.

  Antwan watched him, trying to think of the actor's name. Harry something. Was in Pretty in Pink. Played Molly Ringwald's dad. Antwan remembered the name then and said to Buddy, Isn't that Harry Dean Stanton?

  Buddy, his head lowered, didn't answer.

  Look, will you?

  Buddy raised his head. Yeah, I guess so.

  Antwan squinted at him. What's wrong with you? Buddy didn't answer.

  You sick?

  You could say that, Buddy said.

  Antwan watched Harry Dean Stanton sit down in a chair and tilt it against the wall, the walking cane across his lap. Antwan said to Buddy, I wish you'd tell me what's going on.

  All right, Buddy said, finally raising his head to look at Antwan. You're taking my place in the movie.

  For the first time since they'd met he saw fear in Antwan's eyes, Antwan saying, What're you talking about? I won't do it. I wouldn't even if I could, it's your part.

  Look, Buddy said, this happens to every actor. A time comes when you know your career is over and there's nothing you can do about it. You have to accept it without crying or making a fool of yourself. I'm out of the picture. If you don't play the part they'll get somebody else. My friend, Buddy said, this is your chance to see if you can do something besides chase rabbits. Buddy grinning now to show he was kidding. Take your Howling Diablos to the drive-in. They won't believe it.

  Buddy could see Antwan weakening, beginning to like the idea, even though he said, But I don't know how to act.

  Don't kid yourself, you're a natural. Buddy paused, the director talking again, and said to Antwan, He wants to know why we're growling at each other. Now he's asking the dad, 'Will Timmy do what you tell him?' The dad goes, 'Absolutely. He knows his commands.'

  As long as it's stay or sit, Antwan said.

  The director wants to know if the dad can get you to slink. The dad has no idea how to do it but says, 'Yes, of course.' You heard it, uh? How they say slink? The dad tells you to slink toward the house, that's what you do. Go over to Harry Dean Stanton like you're scared to death but still want to be petted. You can do it, there isn't that much to acting.

  Buddy shut up so he could hear what the director was saying to the dad.

  Timmy approaches the house from the barn, where he's been hiding. The key to making the scene work, you understand, is how convincingly Timmy slinks up on Harry.

  Did you hear it? Buddy said. You slink.

  An t w a n nosed around the cleanest barn he'd ever seen. No hay or horses, no interesting smells. You dummy, Antwan said to himself. It doesn't smell right 'cause it's a movie barn, not a real one.

  He padded over to the dad standing in the big open doorway, the dad looking out at the film crew standing around in the yard with nothing to do. Antwan stepped outside and the dad said, Timmy? . . . Stay.

  The dad seemed to Antwan like a man with a simple mind. He threw stay and sit at you all the time, so you wouldn't forget who was boss. Antwan had stopped on the command. Now he thought, Don't make me sit. Please. He heard, Here, fella. That's a good fella one he knew from hanging with Buddy and walked back to t
he barn.

  All you have to do is go across the yard to the house, the dad said, sweeping his arm out and pointing. You know what I mean when I say house? Pointing again. You go to house. There.

  Antwan had no idea what the dad was talking about. He didn't hear the word he was supposed to listen for.

  But now he was beginning to catch a different smell as the dad said, I think you're gonna be a big movie star just like Buddy. You do this one right, producers will be breaking down the door to sign you up.

  It was the same smell that had clung to Swifty last night. The dad was lying.

  Saying now, Harry will come out in the yard and play with you you know, like he wants to keep you, give you a nice home.

  What was going on here? It sounded like the dad was telling him what to do, but at the same time lying. It didn't make sense.

  Now the dad put both of his hands on Antwan's back and began telling him something. Antwan heard the word slink there it was, Antwan sure of it the dad pushing down with one hand as he said it and pointing to the house with the other.

  The smell was gone, so what the dad was saying now must be true. He wanted Antwan to slink across the yard to the house. That's what the pointing was about. Well, he could do that, no problem. He could even give the dad a cool, coyote-style slink, belly almost brushing the ground, but decided to save it. Antwan hunched down about halfway, slunk a few steps out of the barn, and the dad freaked.

  I did it! I got you to understand me!

  He looked out at the yard, at the director telling something to his crew and the crew laughing.

  I did it! the dad yelled. I got Timmy to slink!

  The director looked over. He said, Good for you. Is Timmy ready?

  Ready, The dad said.

  My AD will give you the cue.

  The dad hunched down close to Antwan. He said, Timmy, I know you can do it. I see you becoming a bigger star than Buddy ever was.

  Antwan sniffed. The smell was back.

  The AD said through his bullhorn, Action!

  The dad gave Antwan a pat and a push, said Slink, and sent Antwan out into the yard.

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