As recently as a few months ago, the Lazy Pug Café was nothing but a dilapidated old two-story farmhouse. Set back forty yards from the road, there was a beautiful old weeping willow in front and massive ancient oak tree out back. Abandoned years ago, the estate's only purpose lately was to serve as a sad but charming reminder of days gone by. Locals witnessing its resurrection were grateful someone was finally bringing the old girl back to life.
Despite the storm moving in from the southwest, people came from far and wide to have a look-see at the renamed, repainted and refurbished Lazy Pug Café. Originally white with a red tin roof, faded to pink, the newly dubbed Lazy Pug Café was now soft yellow with white trim and a solid black roof. From a distance, the thin film solar panels on top were invisible.
Between the Café and road was a long, gravel horseshoe driveway. In the middle of that space now stood one of the Café owners, Kirk Winley. Just shy of six feet, with thick brown hair and a full beard, his farmer's tan made his blue eyes stand out more than they might have otherwise. He crossed his arms and soaked it all in with a deep, satisfied breath. He wanted the Café to be tan or fawn-colored with black trim, like a Pug, but his wife and co-owner, Hope, preferred a more traditional farmhouse look.
"At a glance, at least," she said. She also wanted a fountain, maybe with a sculpture, surrounded by a small pond in the center of the driveway, but that and so many other improvements would have to wait. Their shoestring budget forced everything to come piecemeal. Their business loan applications were denied by every bank asked. There were too many other restaurants within easy driving distance, they were told, and neither Kirk nor Hope had ever run a business before.
That didn't stop this Pug-loving couple, of course. They simply turned to Kirk's "money bags" older sister, Cecilia. "She's family," he insisted, "so borrowing from her is okay."
Cecilia laughed at the "money bags" comment but was always looking for a good investment. Hope was reluctant to be indebted to her, precisely because she was family. But, Kirk was so passionate, so desperate for a cool place to hang out, so focused on the Café idea, she agreed on the condition that she had final say on all interior and exterior design.
She humored him on several but had to say no to the idea of a bucking bronc and rider sculpture out front, with the bronc being a larger-than-life Pug and the rider being a similarly over-sized flea. One bit of exterior décor Kirk was allowed to contribute was a sign hand-written in red, like blood, hanging from the side yard fence:
Beware of Pugs!
A stiff warm breeze rustled the leaves of the surrounding trees and pulled Kirk's attention in that direction, then up to the sky. Ominous clouds hung ready to soak the Earth below. He loved the sound of leaves in the wind and could listen to it all day – preferably with a glass of lemonade on the porch-swing out back – but it was time to get back inside.
From behind that Beware! sign, the Pugs watched intently between the slats in the fence and wondered, What is Dad up to? And, why weren't we invited? Whatever he's doing, we can help!
Cars began to pull into the parking lot, and people were getting out. What in the world!? Dad's in trouble! He obviously needed the Pugs to bark as loud as possible!
It started with a short, low, menacing growl, followed by a bark, then a howl. A hoarse, asthmatic second Pug then joined in. Finally, a tenor blended his voice beautifully, barking and howling, as the Pugs Daisy, Chandler and Joey – in that order – performed a capella for anyone who cared to listen.