A friend writes fabulous and funny stories about a talking dog who inhabits a mildly surreal wild west town.
With his permission, I have borrowed the character to try and write my own version of a Comanche Joe story.
Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
On a dog day afternoon, Comanche Joe, the only talking dog in the west, or for that matter the east, is lying under the wheels of the undertakers cart, trying to find a little shade. He pants, his tongue a neat pink triangle against his sandy yellow coat and not for the first time, deeply regrets the inability of dogs to sweat when over heating.
Main street is deserted, the heat and dust has driven everyone indoors where desperate measures are being taken, hats that have not left their wearers head since the last funeral are being removed, neckerchiefs are being pressed into service to mop brows and other secret cowboy sweaty places. The desperate school teacher, having first checked that no-one can see into the school house is stood, clad only in an oyster pink silk slip with her head resting on the third shelf of her refrigerator.
So, it is Comanche Joe and he alone , that is the only denizen of Whispering Falls to see the approaching dot, that becomes a dust cloud that finally resolves itself into a covered wagon which lumbers up Main Street.
Comanche Joe, his curiosity piqued, wriggles forward, loth to loose the tiny relief this shade is giving, but his canine sense, something he usually manages to to keep firmly under lock and key, is on very high alert. He pushes back a bark and out of habit, glances around to check that no-body has noticed this social gaffe.
The covered wagon comes to a halt beside the silent saloon, the girls have declared today a “Me Day” and have de-camped to the woods for a session of positive re-affirmation and Reiki Healing on the grounds that it’s too hot today even for cowboy pleasuring.
Comanche Joe cannot help but notice that there is something different, something unusual about this wagon – Doc Ezekiels’ Amazing Travelling Motion Picture Show – with funding from the Arts Council wild west division – is written in huge, brightly colored letters all over the drab canvas cover.
“Hmm” thinks Comanche Joe “Comic Sans”, he has always been a afficianado of contemporary fonts.
A man steps down from the wagon, tall, thin, an aspirational mustache barely covers his upper lip, he unfolds his limbs in a complex stretch and Comanche recognizes the yogic movement – The Dog and wonders briefly if the cattle drovers will re-start the yoga sessions once the steers have been brought in and the hard drinking is over. Their cycle of binge and de-tox is as familiar as the seasons of snow, drought and mud.
The man stares up the almost silent street, the only sound the clattering of the wooden shingle outside the undertakers storefront.
A fly buzzes past Comanche and he swats it with his paw.
There is silence and then the man breaks it
“well, better check the reels”
and suddenly Comanche is all ears
Cinema thinks Joe and not for the first time, Comanche is relieved that last year, despite heavy pressure from the hands at the Lazy Z ranch, he did not abandon his subscription to Cahiers Du Cinema, he re-lives Slim Chances’ denouncement of art house cinema as a bastion of bourgeois values and their impassioned arguments on the place of melodrama in the canon of Queer Film.
The man – Doctor Ezekiel he presumes, is fumbling inside the wagon and then re-appears with a large metal film case and a reel to reel projector.
Comanche moves forward, wondering what cinematic delights the Arts Council – wild west division, is about to offer up. Half hidden in the gloom of the cart he is torn between a reflection on the work of the seminal French writers and their description of the transgressive gaze and a mild longing for a tub of hot buttered pop corn.
The reel starts and Comanche is transfixed, suddenly the late night bunk house discussions on the power of voyeurism in film make complete sense.
Joe, hidden in the dark is staring at the pinnacle of female perfection.
His tail wags slowly in the dust.
He cannot take his eyes off her .
And afterwards, when Doctor Ezekiel has wandered off to drum up trade for the evenings’ screening, Comanche is silent, speechless.
For the first time in his talking life, he cannot find the words.
He licks at a rough spot on his flank and finally says the only word that makes any sense.