Enjoy these excerpts from “Bark!”
The area of pine straw covering the place where the Testers were hiding while the
injured one healed began shifting. A moment later the two Testers emerged, senses
alert and ready to assume the shape of any nearby animal should they be threatened.
There was nothing around to bother them at the moment.
...The aliens, in slow fits and starts, moved toward the Stone's house, driven by
unconscious needs. Some went astray, or were eaten by predators, but the majority
stayed close to where they sensed sapient beings, and close to the originals. The
Testers weren't in a great hurry but they were implacable. They moved and reproduced
as their peculiar genes dictated, aiming to eventually duplicate the most intelligent
of the native fauna, the humans...
...Gordon Ruttledge was called Gordo by all his friends. They had met Gordo while
working overseas right after they married. He was a genius who had once worked for
NASA as a xenobiologist, but been fired for bringing his flask to work with him and
uncapping it periodically during the day. As Gordo put it, "A little nip now and
then keeps the creative juices bubbling. NASA is just too goddamned hidebound to
see the advantages of stimulating the brain cells at timed intervals. I showed them
figures but those MBAs these days don't understand simple math."...
...Gordo's calculations weren't understood even by the brightest minds at NASA. Most
of them thought he was crazy and wondered how he had ever gotten a job there to begin
with. After NASA fired him, he worked as a pharmacist in the Texas prison system
for a while, making use of one of his many degrees. He was employed now at the University
of Houston as a professor of biology, happily subverting freshmen and doing research
no one else even remotely comprehended..
...Gordo noticed Tonto after they were inside, and greeted him after he had his hands
on a beer, the first thing he always looked for wherever he went. "Well, hello, pup.
You're new here. Come see old Gordo and I'll give you a sip of beer."
Tonto cocked his head and eyeballed the hairy apparition with his impaired vision.
He approached cautiously, trying to decide if it was human or not. Gordo poured a
dollop of cold beer into the palm of his hand and held it out. Tonto sniffed, circled
the hand, and sniffed some more.
"Hurry up, dog, or I'll drink it myself."
Tonto touched his nose to the beer, then shook his head. He came back, touched it
again, then gave it a lap. And another lap. In a couple of seconds he had Gordo's
"Okay, I guess we can be friends now," Gordo said. "But you're a tiny little fellow;
you better grow some more before we let you try the hard stuff."
Tonto left Gordo and bumped into the leg of a chair. He backed up then headed for
the door. In his little addled doggie mind, it was time to go to work.
"Hey, Gordo, you have to see this," Damon said to their guest. "Our new pup is going
"Work?" Gordo appeared to be horrified. "Poor little fellow, not even grown and already
having to carry lunch buckets and punch fucking time clocks. What's the world coming
They followed Tonto toward the back door. Damon opened it and Tonto bounded away,
heading for the clear area of the tarmac behind the parked car and trucks.
"Now he's on the job," Damon told Gordo as he closed the door behind them. "You've
never seen anything like it."
But instead of working, Tonto began barking, a frenzied torrent of shrill yelps neither
Damon nor Beth had ever heard before..
...Tonto was having none of it. He knew that the human he owned was in dire danger
and he had to protect him. He gave Damon a warning bark, trying to tell him to stay
clear, then he attacked, accepting the punishment of the electrical shock he knew
he would get. He yelped in agony as he passed the wire, then he was clear...
..."Don't be silly, Gordo," Beth said. "Jewels on a rabbit? You've had too much beer."
"I haven't even had a half a case today yet, not to mention that it's impossible
to have too much. Too little maybe, but not too much. And this little fucker does
have jewels, I shit you not. See?" He pointed to the upended rabbit cupped in his
hand. Three tiny glittering, faceted jewels arranged in a triangular pattern adorned
the dead animal's belly, large enough to be clearly seen in the fur. "What I want
to know is why the little bastard thought it had to disguise itself as a regular
rabbit when it's obviously something different. It's like it was a spy or an alien
in enemy territory or . alien? Be goddamned. I bet."..
..."A one-balled wonder dog. Damon, you better guard him real close; he may be the
only creature on Earth who can sniff out the aliens."
"Whoa! Aliens? Like from outer space?"
"Yeah. That's what I said. And notice I said it in fucking plural. Invaders don't
usually try to conquer a world with one individual."...
...Two well trained freshmen biology majors, both female, came running at the sound
of Gordo's whistle. He tossed the squirrel to the nearest of the pair.
"Eeeek!" She screamed and batted it fifty feet into the air.
"Goddamnit, Junie Mae, you grab that critter or back to school you go. That's a
"Well, why didn't you say so?" Junie Mae pouted. She approached the dead squirrel,
toed it with the tip of her tennis shoe then picked it up, acting as if she were
sacrificing her virginity to the gods of science.
"Don't be so fucking ladylike, Junie Mae. Hold it like you would a hard dick and
The other freshman co-ed snickered.
"What's the matter with you, Ruthie June? You never heard the term before?"
"You're crude, Dr. Ruttledge."
Her companion nodded. The two young women looked so much alike they could have been
twins. Both had large breasts and wide hips and wore their hair gathered behind their
necks and tied with scarves.
Apparently they were so low on the university food chain as to be unworthy of introduction;
either that or Gordo simply forgot. He pretended that he hated having them around,
an attitude which only made the co-eds think he was attractive and sexy. It was one
problem Gordo had never been able to figure out.
"Come on in, ladies," Damon said. "I'm Damon Stone. My wife's name is Beth."
"Ladies? Goddamned, you'll get them to where they won't handle a squirrel or a dick
either, you keep calling them ladies. Where's the beer?"..