"Pam, hey Pam, what's happening?"
"Sal, what are you doing here?" It was ten in the morning and I hadn't seen anybody yet, not that that was unusual or anything. I had been in the kennel for about three months now and Jeff had been getting later and later everyday.
"Well, I got news, big news! You're not going to freakin' believe it when I tell you." Sal was smiling from ear to ear and Terri's grin was just as big as his.
Terri cut Sal off, "C'mon Sal, let me tell her, awright. I wanna break the news to her." Terri and I had become pretty good friends over the past couple of months. She had been a model before she met Sal but she wasn't snooty or anything. In fact, she really impressed me with how hard she was willing to work - when Sal wasn't around that is. She did after all have a role to play as his girlfriend and she was expected to look and act a certain way around he and his friends and I understood that. When it was just us we had a really good time in the kennel.
"Okay, guys, somebody tell me something. Don't leave me in suspense."
"Well, " Sal said to me while completely ignoring Terri, "I'm your new boss."
"What do you mean you're my new boss, you've always been my boss."
"I mean I'm running the show now. I'm the owner. I'm the trainer. Hell, I'll be the king of the track before it's all over."
"What do you mean, you're the trainer? Where's Jeff?"
"Jeff is no longer with S & T Kennels. He does however still reside in our guest bedroom."
I was speechless. Jeff and I had become pretty close. We made a pretty good team. I looked out for him when he had too much to drink and he gave me time off to make up for it. It was a marriage made in heaven so to speak. The dogs hadn't been running too good lately but I didn't think it had come to this.
"What happened? What about the stakes race?" I asked. I was afraid to ask directly about Jeff or let Sal know how upset I was because that just wouldn't be a good idea. Sal was big on loyalty. He had to come first and I knew that. It was one of the things that drove Jeff crazy. They were like brothers, they had grown up together, but Sal was always trying to put a wedge between us and play us against each other. We were on to him though and knew how to work things to our advantage.
"Let's go to Shoney's, " he said, "I'll tell you all about it on the way." He and Terri were already walking out the door. I closed the door the the kitchen so a dog couldn't get in and eat to it's heart's content if it accidentally got out of a crate. I followed them to the car. I was just glad I had everything ready to feed when we got back. I knew I was in for a long, long morning this time.
"I hated to do it, I just hated it. It had to be done. He wouldn't listen to me. The dogs weren't running and something had to give. We finally had it out last night. It's my way or the highway I told him. He chose the highway. He's home sleepin' it off now."
"Oh, c'mon Sal. You guys fight all the time. You know he'll be back tonight."
"Oh no he won't either! We gotta bet. I'm gonna SHOW him I can outrun him. Put him in his place."
"You guys gotta bet?" I knew this was bad. Sal was a big time gambler. That is how I got the job in the first place. My dad was a gambler and he knew a gambler who knew Sal and he called in a favor to get me the job. Sal did not lose bets, at least, he didn't like to lose. Gossip around the track was he lost more gambling in a week than the kennel was taking in. Supposedly his family had mafia connections and they were supplementing his income. That was the story anyway and Jeff had actually confirmed it.
"Yep, if I can't outrun him for a month straight, he'll come back and I will double his salary. If I do outrun him then he's gonna be my helper."
"Sal, you know he's not going to be your helper," I said.
"Oh yes he will. A bet's a bet. A MAN stands by his bet."
"Well what about me? If he's your helper, what am I going to do?"
"Ah, babe. don't you worry about it. Don't I always take care of you. In fact, that's the other part of my good news. You'll be working a little more so I'll be giving you a pay raise. How does $100 more a week sound? Eh? Eh? You'll be the highest paid help in the compound. Oh, yeah, the highest paid."
I almost choked. Of course I couldn't turn down a $100 a week pay raise. I was already making better money than I had ever made in my life and I was in dog heaven. What could be better. "Are you serious?" I asked.
"Of course I'm serious. You're a good kid. I would never mess with you about money. As of now you are getting $100 more a week. Of course, you can't miss a trick. You'll get one full day a week off, but other than that you do as I say. Got it?"
"Sure Sal" I said as I shoveled my food in my mouth. I looked over and grinned at Terri, I could see she was just as happy as I was. "Hey, Sal, aren't you worried about the stakes race coming up?" Tonight was the second round of the eliminations. If the Goose finished in the top four tonight he was in the semi - finals. "I thought we were supposed to make sure that the routine stayed the same. Not mess with anything?"