Horace was a wiener dog. The other dogs made fun of Horace because her name was a boy’s.
She was pretty though – as far as dogs go. Nobody cared though, because of her name. They heard her name, and she disappeared.
Horace never understood why her parents named her Horace. She told herself if she ever figured out where they were, she would ask them. Horace was probably homeless but since she never remembered where she slept, or the patterns of her movements, no one could say for sure.
At the dog school, nobody acted like she existed. If she was late to class, or attempted to answer a question, it was like she was a ghost.
Her homework (when she pulled it from the teacher’s trash can) always got good marks, because once the teacher read her name, she cringed and marked the paper as quickly as possible, closing her eyes and slash red marker gibberish on her homework, an A+ scrawled at the top.
Since Horace was horrendously stupid, this was how she passed each grade. This was also how Horace remained so horrendously stupid.
One day she found her mother. This was a good thing. Unfortunately her mother was remarkably stupid as well, as most wiener dogs are. So it went.
When she was two (fourteen in dog years), Horace grew a pair of wings. They were white, and thick, naturally strong, billowing out with brilliantly white feathers. They were like the wings of a swan.
Horace was at first mystified by the presence of the feathery materials among the usual auburn sheath of hair on her bed. Had she been sleeping beside an ostrich? A seagull? She did not know. After the first five minutes of each morning, she forgot about the presence of the feathers.
Nobody at the dog school said anything about her gorgeous wings, because they despised her so much. Her mother did not say anything. Her mother figured it was best to not make waves. Weiner dogs are short. So it went.
One day, Horace was shopping with her mother at the local dog mall. One of the many vagrant tabbies (the cat homelessness issue becoming a growing thorn) went to approach Horace and her mother for change to score cat nip when the cat noticed Horace’s wings.
Horace looked back and forth, confused to be addressed, but more confused to be accurately addressed as a young lady.
“Yes you,” the cat, who was named Arnold, said to Horace.
“What, what is it? Do you want my money?” Horace replied. She noticed her mother had disappeared, abandoning her once again.
“Your wings. They’re absolutely filthy.”
Arnold swatted at the (admittedly) filthy wings with his own filthy paw. Cats typically criticize the very things they should be criticized for. Cats are hypocrites. And bad with money. So it went.
“The ones growing out of your sides you silly girl.” Arnold said.
“What wings? This isn’t funny.”
Arnold realized that this wasn’t an ordinary stupid dog. This dog was exceptionally stupid. Arnold applied his scuzzy mitt to Horace’s long jaw and gently tilted her head to each of her side.
“Do you see your wings?”
“I saw something. Were they brown?”
“No. Lord no.”
Arnold repeated the process with Horace. Horace had finally noticed her wings! She became very excited and ran in a series of small circles and barked. She did not know she had wings. It was exciting. This was new.
Horace extended her wings, moving them in the air, brushing them against the ground.
“I have wings!” Horace exclaimed.
“Yes, yes you do young lady.”
“Oh my! Do you think I can fly?”
“I gather that there could be a chance.”
“So I can fly!” she yelped with excitement.
“Well…maybe, but you’re awful short.”
“Wow! Have you seen my mother? She will be excited too, to know that I can fly” Horace asked.
“She went inside the mall.”
“OK! Thanks!” Horace said and turned towards the entrance, excited to show her mother her new wings, which were not new at all, which were actually quite tattered and old looking.
“Wait,” Arnold said, rubbing his dirty paws against his dirty t-shirt.
“What is it Wing-Shower?”
“Do you spare any change?” Arnold asked.
“I am sure a change will come, Wing-Shower.”
And then she left, promptly forgetting she had wings.
The dog school was in a brick building. Naturally, all of the entrances were dog doors. It was a two-room school house. One room was for what they considered the “normal” dogs which was the room for Horace and her class. The other room was for the “irregular” dogs, but no dogs went in there, and the teacher sat in the room each day, each and every day and waited for a dog to come in. No irregular dogs came. She figured a dog would come eventually. None ever did. The teacher just watched the door and thought of nothing everyday between eight and five. Thinking of nothing didn’t bother her. Time passed rather quickly as the years went on. She took lunch with the other teacher each day.When the two teachers talked shop, the irregular dog teacher made up dogs and dog anecdotes about her ficticous class to make it seem like she had a class. The irregular dog teachera greed with the sentiments and observations of the regular dog teacher so she wouldn’t catch onto the fact that she really wasn’t a teacher. She was just a dog sitting in a room waiting for irregular dogs to come in. She liked that life.
And besides, it would’ve made for an awkward conversation if anyone ever figured it out. Nobody did. The irregular dog teacher was happy.
In the normal dog classroom nearly all of the dogs had a desk, except for Horace, and a one-legged whippet named Diego who continued to fall over whenever a small gust of wind came through the classroom. Some industrious dogs fashioned a cardboard box to support Diego. He couldn’t see the blackboard and failed out of school. Nobody knows what happened to Diego.
Anyway, since Horace didn’t have a desk, as she was too short for her stubby arms and legs to use the provided chair. Other short dogs could use the chair. The wiener dog had no use for a chair.
The shortest one was a foot tall. Horce couldn’t even see the top of the tallest one, which was three feet, and reserved for danes and wolf hounds, due to the limited flexibility of her neck. Horace did her work from the floor and held her pencil in her mouth because her arms were too short for her to write. She concocted a scheme where she held paper with her paws while she wrote with the pencil in her mouth. Her scribblings were illegible, but it made no difference because her teacher didn’t read her homework anyway. The whole system was very inefficient. It went on like this.
Horace’s mother had disappeared again. Horace hadn’t noticed. One day the phone rang.
Horace managed to kick the phone off the receiver and yell at the phone. She didn’t have the physical abilities to lean over to hear the receiver. It was her mother. She was calling to tell Horace she had no idea where she was. Horace couldn’t hang up the phone so she didn’t get anymore phone calls. This was the same day that Horace figured out that her house was actually two overturned wheelbarrows leaning against one another. She was proud to have figured this out. Horace had heard of wheelbarrows before.
One day, the school went on a field trip to the ocean, and Horace snuck onto the bus. The other dogs were learning about sand, and the art of fetching on a beach, and nobody noticed or cared when Horace wandered off down the beach on her own, as everyone despised her. As she walked down the beach, a tennis ball fell in front of her. She looked at it for a moment and then began barking at the ocean, which she had understood had thrown the ball at her.
Once she got tired of barking, Horace noticed that she was hearing a distinct, squeaky voice coming from the water. There was a dolphin standing a few feet away from her.
“A little help, young lady?”
“Why, that yellow ball that fell in front of you. Would you be kind enough to toss it my way?”
The dolphin knew that Horace was not well-equipped. The dolphin knew this in advance. The dolphin knew the ball would fall in front of Horace. The dolphin knew all that was to pass between him and Horace. The dolphin knew the future, and was wise enough to know he could not change it. Things go the way they go.
Horace picked up the ball with her mouth and tossed it towards the dolphin.
“What is your name, miss?” asked the dolphin, fully aware that her name was Horace.
“Uhm….my name?” Horace could not remember her name. It had been ages since anyone had asked.
“Take your time.” said the dolphin. Dolphins are exceedingly patient. They also smell wonderful.
Eventually Horace remembered her name and told the dolphin.
“That is an odd name for a girl dog.” said the dolphin, feigning surprise. Dolphins are the only species that can pretend to be sincere sincerely. Again, the way of the dolphin.
“Yes, the other dogs all hate me.”
“That is too bad. Dogs are stupid you know.”
“Oh nothing. Just a buzz in the air I think.”
“Well what is your name?” Horace asked.
“My name is Luke.”
“What a nice name.”
“Yes, I think it suits me.”
The bus made a honk, and the other dogs moved back towards it. Horace figured out that the bus would be leaving without her. She was surprised that she had comprehended something so quickly. It was as if being near the dolphin made her smarter.
“I need to be going. It was nice to meet you.”
“Yes, and you as well.”
Horace began to walk away.
“Horace. Come back for a moment.”
“I think you should come back here tomorrow. I will teach you. I don’t think that school is helping you.”
“But how will I know how to get back?”
“Remember which way the bus turns on the way back, and make the opposite route to get back here.”
Luke remembered what would happen in the future and added a note to Horace.
“Oh and Horace, for the love of Christmas, you need to write it down.”
Horace left. Luke giggled at the thought of Horace writing with her mouth. Luke could not help it. He did not feel bad because he knew it would happen.
Horace wrote down the turns the bus made and where just as Luke instructed. Horace felt she was getting smarter even just on the ride home.
The next when she made her way back to the beach, she found she had remembered most of the street names, and some of the turns without looking at her chicken-scratch directions.
Horace walked out on the sand to the shoreline. Her short legs sunk into the sand with her steps, spooning sand into her mouth.
“Luke!” She called.
There was no response. She resumed spitting the sand out of her mouth. Twenty minutes later, as Luke knew, a dolphin emerged from the water and came towards the shore.
“Luke!” Horace called, having spotted a dolphin. The dolphin came closer to her.
“Yes? Do I know you?” The dolphin asked.
“Aren’t you Luke?”
The dolphin certainly did resemble Luke.
“Yeah, I’m Luke, what do you want about it?”
This dolphin was surly. He looked up and down the length of the beach, like Horace was wasting his time. This dolphin seemed like he would even fight Horace, if the circumstances came down to it. Horace started to shake.
“Aren’t you my dolphin friend? I….I….I’m looking for my friend Luke. It’s me, Horace.”
She started to tear up. Horace had realized on the trip there that Luke was her only friend. This thought at once overwhelmed her, because she had realized she had been alive for so long (which wasn’t so long) without knowing she didn’t have any friends.
“Oh. You want Luke. I’ll go get him.” said the other dolphin Luke.
“What? I thought you said,”
But before he could explain, he was gone. Within thirty seconds, another dolphin emerged from the ocean. He looked practically identical to the previous dolphin. If Horace was capable at that point to getting suspicious, she would have gotten suspicious. But, so it went.
“Luke, was that your brother?”
“Who? Oh, Luke?”
“Yeah, the other dolphin I just talked to.”
“No, that’s just Luke. He’s friends with my friend Luke.”
Luke remembered that Horace wasn’t the shiniest spoon.
“Oh. Don’t you know the story?” Luke knew that Horace did not know the story.
“Well, I’ll tell you. Sit down.”
Horace was already sitting down in the sand because her legs were so short. She looked apodal. She shrugged at Luke.
“Well, the King Dolphin, Luke, that is, to his friends, realized that all of the dolphins looked alike. Strikingly alike even. The similarity in the dolphins, at least the ones in his kingdom, made such an impression on him that he decided to commemorate it. So he concluded that since all of the dolphins look the same, that we should all have the same names too, to make things simpler.”
Horace didn’t understand any of this.
“Every dolphin is named Luke.”
Horace understood then.
“So the King Dolphin changed his name to Luke as well.” Luke said.
“Why Luke?” Horace asked.
“Why not Luke?”
“I think it’s a good name.” Horace stated.
“It is a good name.” Luke said. It certainly was a good name.
“How do you tell each other apart then if you all have the same name?”
“Oh, it’s really easy. We know who we all are. There’s not too many of us.”
“Seventeen thousand six-hundred and twelve.”
“Oh my. That’s a lot.”
“Oh it’s not too bad. I only know maybe sixteen thousand of them.”
Luke was lying here to protect Horace’s feelings. In fact, Luke knew all of the dolphins intimately. He knew he would know all of the dolphins intimately. He also knew he could overwhelm Horace with his knowledge, as he would do it later in life. So it went.
“You dolphins are pretty smart. Do you think you can teach me things? My teachers ignore me or burn my homework and start screaming in front of the other dogs.”
“Hmm, I’d have to talk to Luke, Luke and Luke to arrange something but I imagine we could tutor you. You don’t have gills do you?”
“I don’t think I do.”
“That may hamper things. I’ll talk to Luke and see if he will ask Luke to outfit Luke and I with something that can get us on shore.”
Luke knew that was impossible but found himself saying the words anyway. His life was rife with contradictions such as these. Luke tried not to think about it too much, because the last time he did he fell down and hit his head and woke up in an alley, and a cat using a wheelbarrow had to take him back to the ocean. The cat said his name was Arnold. He was very dirty and smelled like tuna, which disturbed Luke greatly.
“I’d like to learn more.”
Luke paused and looked at her wings. They were looking weak and frail. He remembered that Horace had no clue she had wings.
“Horace, you need to strengthen your wings. That will be your first homework assignment.”
“I don’t have wings! That’s silly.” She said.
“Yes you do. Just think about it for ten seconds.”
Horace thought about it for ten seconds. It was ten times longer than she thought of anything else.
“Oh my Christmas! I do have wings.”
“Yes. You need to make them stronger. Wings are like a garden – a muscle. You need to make them stronger.”
Dolphins have no concept of agriculture. They also have no concept of combustion or atmospheric pressure. Nobody is perfect. Dolphins are pretty close.
Horace went home, and was surprised to see her mother. She waved at Horace like she had never left. Horace ran around the yard, flapping her white wings. She got very tired very quickly. But she came back out each day and worked a little harder, and was able to exercise a little longer. Pretty soon her wings became very strong.
She returned to the beach to show her friend Luke how strong she had become. She didn’t even need to look at the roads on this trip, or think about the turns.
Luke was waiting for her beside the shoreline.
“How’d you know I was coming Luke?” she asked.
“Luke told me, he saw you crossing the river.”
“Dolphins hang out in rivers?”
“We have agents.”
“How are your wings?”
Horace showed him how strong her wings had become. He told her to try to fly, and explained how fast she would need to run. Luke had forgotten that he would later learn that her legs were too short for to gain ample velocity in order to fly, no matter how high of a dune she had leapt. Unfortunately, Luke remembered this useful tidbit after twelve failed attempts and a number of bruises.
“I don’t think you can fly.”
Horace began sobbing uncontrollably. She had invested so much time in improving her wings. And although she did not know that she could fly with her wings until Luke explained it to her at the beach that day, she became emotionally attached to that idea very quickly. The memory of dogs. So it went.
She continued to sob and flail and scream and began trotting into the water, which Luke heavily protested, but Horace did not hear, even with her huge, floppy wiener dog ears, and she ran into the water. She began swimming with an inherent violence, an extreme flail and found herself far, far away from the shore. Horace began to get weak. She could not see Luke. She went under the water.
As Horace slipped farther under water, she was met by Luke, who was smiling with a purpose, grinning ecstatically. Horace began to panic. Luke held her still with his fins. Horace found she was able to breathe.
It turned out she had gills after all.
Horace and Luke were married. They had their first child, Luke, the following year.
And that is the story of the how the first winged dolphin came to be.