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Why Cletus Can't Read

Updated on May 30, 2012

Pavlov had it all wrong. He thought he discovered this psychological mechanism we proudly call classical conditioning. He had this experiment where he rang a bell when he fed these dogs and after a while they - - the dogs, not Pavlov - - salivated when the bell rang. I suppose if I were intelligent, this too would make sense to me. Apparently psychologists get excited about things like this which is why they charge you $120 an hour for a session. But in reality it was the dogs, not Pavlov who proved his hypothesis. Simply by salivating, psychologists could be trained to bring them food! Of course, this scientific milestone was accomplished before there was an organization called PETA or the SPCA.

Pavlov isn't the only one to notice this association. I too have proved the same but without the all fame & fanfare. I noticed whenever I feed Cletus, later on he poops in the yard. "Eureka," I said. "I see a pattern." I trained him to poop simply by giving him food. Ingenious! Now if I could just train him to clean up after himself. Since a toilet outside in the yard might attract attention I just toss it into the neighbors' yard when they're not looking. I suspect one day they will discover this ten foot high pile of accumulated doggie-doo behind their bushes.

And now we digress from piles of doggie-doo to my writing prowess, which may not be all that different a subject since according to my critics, they could both fit conveniently in the same category under, Crap !

"I'm a writer," I tell them when people ask me what I do. "Really," they ask with one eyebrow raised. "Who's your agent?" "Agent." I reply? "Yeah many books have you published?" "Published," I say? And then I look sheepish. "By the way," his voice lowering. "What do you know about a ten foot high pile of doggie-doo in my yard?" "I've got to go," I say frantically. "I think I hear my agent calling!"

I can't write. We both know this but I stubbornly cling to my delusions anyway. Cletus gets tired of me sitting all day at the computer trying to write when I could be doing something meaningful, like doting on him. He's got about as much patience as my wife. About ten minutes after I get started they start to sigh and huff. Or sometimes he just groans out loud, a low guttural growl that sounds just like Chewbacca on Star Wars. I'm talking about Cletus, not my wife. That's OK I guess because after about ten minutes I'm all out of inspiration anyway.

Cletus comes up there while I'm trying to write - - I speak figuratively - - and lays his large head beside my keyboard and stares at the screen. He does this while he's standing flat-footed on all fours on the floor. Maybe he thinks by staring at the screen with me he can help me write? Two heads are better than one they say. Anyway I get tickled at him and start to laugh. Maybe I should just get him his own desk? Sometimes he lays his head on my keyboard pushing a bunch of keys down with his jowls and starts to type a bunch of random gibberish. Sort of like mine I suppose. "That's good Cletus," I say. "Now maybe you should get your own agent?" He doesn't say anything but I think he suspects sarcasm. I probably should get him his own computer and let him write too. "We'll see who gets published first!"

Then Mr. Impatient starts to gnaw on my arm or he puts his nose under my elbow and shoves it up from the keyboard. It's hard to ignore a hundred-and-twenty pound beast. Cletus is the first Great Dane we've had and he is so-o-o-o insistent & demanding. He's not into laying around on the floor by himself for hours at a time like our previous canine co-habitants. I'm guessing Twain & Hemingway, neither of them had an impatient Great Dane. He's always up to some antics of one kind or another. Once I caught him about to sneak off with a paperback copy of Lewis Grizzard, still in his mouth. Apparently he doesn't care much for his writing either?

Charlie Brown had his Snoopy, Shaggy had his Scooby, Garfield had his Odie ...see! We're a team, me and Cletus! We kind of have this yin-yang relationship that helps to balance out the forces in the universe. We tend to work together in this metaphorical tug-of-war that protects the reading public from the literary aspirations of rank amatuers like me.

It's what Cletus does best. I write, he proof reads. The fact of the matter is, he can't read but then, neither can I write! That's me at my desk pretending to write. Cletus is insanely jealous which is why he's standing with his front paws on my leg, perched between me and the computer. He'd as soon bury it in the backyard if he could get the chance. I'm typing away furiously because I know that in two minutes I will lose my cerebral burst of creativity and literary brilliance and fade back into my usual cro-magnon-state of perplexity with the perpetual furrowed brow while I contemplate deep subjects like fire. Staring at the screen for hours trying to regain it is sort of like staring at the bus after you missed it. It aint coming back. Sort of like staying up all night to catch one glimpse of a shooting star that's gone in one brilliant flash; a second later and it's cold & dark once again. The same thing happens inside my head.

Cletus inserts himself between my and my foolish endeavor and immediatley my brain crashes. All my memory cells goes into brain dump, like the blue screen of death on your computer when it crashes. Warning: Drive crashing. All data will be lost in 3...2... blip! Schhhhhhhwwwwoooooppp!! That's the sound of a brain-vacuum. Oh that short term memory dump! Mine works better than the trap-door on the gallows! Sproing! Ka-thunk! I don't know what's more laughable, me trying to write or Cletus' antics to thwart me? One day I may even lose the remainder of my sanity. When and if I do, I suspect my wife will come home to find me laughing hysterically at my laptop. And then Cletus and I can both lay our heads on the keyboard and type a bunch of unintelligible gibberish.


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