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It was dark when I woke up. It was dark and I was behind bars. This was nothing new, I usually woke up behind bars. The question was, what was I going to do about it?

Waking up behind bars was one thing, staying there was something else entirely. I was determined to get free as soon as circumstances allowed. I considered my position. I had friends, people who cared about me, who would be willing to help. Friends were important, especially good ones that a person could rely on in times of trouble. Being behind bars certainly qualified as troubling times because those bars stood in stark opposition to my strong desire to be free.

Even though my desire was strong, at present my yen for freedom wasn’t too pressing. I was warm, I was dry and I wasn’t too hungry. I had time to weigh my options.

I figured that there were five people within hearing range that I could call on for help. I thought about the five, considered their personalities and talents, and wondered which of the five would be sympathetic, able to help, and not expect too much in return.

Otta was the first friend I thought of. After all, Otta satisfied requirements one and two and had proven his ability to break me out many times in the past. The problem was that Otta’s help came with a catch. If Otta was the means to my achieving freedom, then Otta would expect something in return. Instead of the freedom I wanted Otta would replace the tiny cell I currently occupied with one whose size would be determined by Otta.

The fact that Otta had gotten me out of this predicament before was a very important consideration but if I turned to Otta then Otta would latch on to me and I wouldn’t have the true freedom that I dreamed of, the freedom I’d never known. Not much sense in breaking free from behind one set of bars if in the process my physical prison was replaced by a less obvious one. Otta would do in a pinch but he wasn’t my first choice.

Libby was option number two. Libby had rescued me from behind bars nearly as often as Otta had but timing was awfully important when asking Libby for help. Libby wasn’t one for getting up with the sun. If I called on Libby for help in the early morning twilight, I’d hear about it all day. Having considered Libby, I continued down the list of possible co-conspirators.

My next possible pick produced a quick snort of gallows’ humor. Fabulosa had many wonderful attributes but being sympathetic to others wasn’t something that she seemed to value highly. Fabulosa used her femininity to get what she wanted but once she’d used someone and had no more immediate use for you she could go from being the most loving of friends to a hissing, clawing demon in the wink of a jaded eye. Fabulosa was a good friend to have at your back in a fight but for a jail break she was last on my list.

Three down and two to go, I weighed Quesa as a possible accomplice. Of the five amigos, Quesa was doubtlessly the most likely to want to help. Quesa longed to be everybody’s friend, was both giving and forgiving and had boundless, infectious energy. The problem was that she was neither subtle nor quiet and if I wanted to gain and keep freedom then loud and obvious were unlikely to be helpful attributes. Quesa, while one heck of a girl, did not seem the obvious choice to help me break out of jail. Problem was that the last man on the list was Old Tom, also known as T.C.

If Quesa was boundless energy, then Old Tom was filled with patience and wisdom. When I wanted solid advice on weighty matters then Tom was my go to man but in this quest for freedom Tom’s laid-back, contemplative, measure twice cut once tendencies seemed to have about as much value as sunscreen at midnight. “No,” I said with a heavy sigh, “T.C. isn’t going to be much help here.

“So,” I continued, “where does that leave me? Obviously right where I was before but with a more pressing need to act.”

I stood and looked over the top of my crib. My chin was as tall as the top rail and I knew that I could clamber to the top, struggle to throw my body over the side and fall gracelessly to the ground. I knew that I could because I’d done so many times before. The problem was that this was both noisy and unpleasant. The hardwood floors of my room did not make for a welcoming landing and the thump the from the procedure always produced either Otta or Libby running in in an excited and fretful countenance. What I wanted was to get out from behind bars in such a way as to gain and retain freedom. Finally, I decided on a course of action.

“Quesa!” I hissed quietly. “Quesa! Come here, girl, won’t you?”

I could hear Quesa’s collar and tags as she lifted her head and shook it. “Quesa!” I hissed again, “I need you!”

I heard the thump of Quesa’s paws as they hit the floor in Otta and Libby’s room. “Jack,” the dog called out to me, “is that you?”

“Yeah, Quesa. I’m in my room. I need your help.”

“Oh! Oh! I’m coming Jack! I’m coming!” Quesa responded, hurrying across the hall from the bed she was sharing with Otta and Libby to my room. She pushed my bedroom door open with her nose and then entered. As Quesa entered, the big brown dog’s tail hit both sides of the doorway and with unconcealed energy and concern she asked, “Are you okay, Jack? Should I go get Libby? Should I? Huh?”

“Shh, shh, shh!” I hissed. “Quiet! No, no, don’t get Libby. I want to get out of here without waking up Libby or Otta. Do you think you can help me?”

“Without waking them up? Well sure. I mean, I guess I can, right? But why, Jack, why? Don’t you want to get Otta or Libby up? I mean, I’m getting a little hungry aren’t you, Jack?”

“Hungry? Yeah. Maybe. I guess so. But I really need to go to the bathroom.”

“The bathroom? Oh! You mean you have to go potty! Yeah. I guess I do too. Mustn’t go on the rug though. Never, never go on the rug. Otta will rub your nose in it!”

“Right. I know not to go on the rug.”

“Do you want to go outside, Jack? I always go outside. That way I don’t get in trouble. And it’s nice out. The snow’s been gone for months and it’s not even raining. Sometimes I get in trouble when it rains because I bring mud in on my paws. Don’t bring mud in, Jack!”

“Right, Quesa. You’re right. But be quiet, okay? I don’t want to wake up Otta or Libby. And I don’t need to go outside. I need to use the big boy potty. You know, the little one next to the water bowl you’re not supposed to drink out of?”

“Oh, yes! The big boy potty! Now I remember! I mustn’t play with the big boy potty, and I mustn’t drink from the white water bowl and I mustn’t eat Tom or Fabulosa’s poop. No, no, no, no, no!”

“Right, girl, don’t eat poop. But I don’t have to outside, I get to go inside, like T.C. and Fabulosa.”

“Except in the big boy potty, not the litter box. Don’t you have special pants on, Jack? Pants that you’re allowed to go potty in? At least at night, right? Aren’t you allowed to go potty in your special pants at night?”

“I’m allowed, but they don’t like it. Especially Otta. He tries not to get upset when I wet my pants but he still does. He calls it a childish accident but the voice he uses and the face he makes me think he doesn’t like it. I want to use the big boy potty before I have a childish accident.”

“But, Jack, Otta doesn’t get mad when you do it at night, just in the daytime.”

“But I want to be a big boy all the time, Quesa. Now, are you going to help me or not?”

“Well sure I am! I mean of course I am! What do you want me to do? Because I want to help. You’re my best friend, Jack. You and Otta and Libby and old Tom are all my best friends. Fabulosa is sometimes but sometimes she bites me and uses her claws on me and chases me. I don’t like it when she does that.”

“I don’t blame you one bit. That’s why I stay away from her as much as I can. I need to get down from here but I need to do it quietly. Can you help me do it quietly?”

“Well sure, Jack! I want to help you. What do I need to do?”

“I’m going to climb over the top of my crib and then come down the other side. Climbing over isn’t so hard but coming down on your side is a long way. Could you stand there and let me fall on top of you?”

“On me, Jack? Sure. I mean, I guess so, but why don’t you just jump out like Fabulosa and Old Tom do?”

“Because I can’t, just like you can’t. I can climb, but I can’t jump, at least not like they can. Will you help me?”

“Well sure. I mean, I said I would. What do you want me to do?”

“I want you to stand close to the crib and break my fall when I drop down.”

“Break your fall? Is that a good idea, Jack? I don’t want you to get hurt. Shouldn’t we just call Otta or Libby? They’ll get you out of there.”

“Quesa? You said you’d help me. Will you?”

“Well, well, well, sure I will, Jack. I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Okay, Quesa. It’s okay. I won’t get hurt. Now stand next to the crib, okay?”

“Like this, Jack?”

“Yes, like that. But step forward. Good, now just a little more. Okay. Don’t move.”

“Okay, Jack, I won’t move.”

I inhaled deeply and jumped high enough to allow my arms to go over the side of the crib. The slats were wide which made getting a good grip a tough job but I held on tightly, struggling to get my left leg over the top and with great effort hung precariously balanced with half my body on the mattress side and half hanging over the open air and Quesa’s waiting form. I began to slip back and as I did so said, “Oh, no you don’t!” and then kicked wildly until I was free of the railing and free-falling onto Quesa’s waiting back.

Quesa stood stoically as I landed on top of her, grabbed the poor dog’s right ear and then fell to the ground, producing a solid thump. “Oh, Jack! Are you okay?” Quesa asked.

“Yeah,” I whispered, shaking my head to clear it. “I think so. Do you hear anything?”

“Like what, Jack?”

“Like Otta or Libby moving around! Do you?”

Quesa listened intently before answering. “Nope. Do you want me to go get them?”

“What?!” I asked, astonished with the question. “No! I think we made it. Let me use the big boy potty and then we can go explore together; what do you say?”

“That sounds great, Jack. I need to go potty too. I’ll meet you outside, okay?”

“Outside?” I asked. “Oh, yeah. Outside. We can use your doggy door! Great idea, Quesa. Let me go potty and then I’ll meet you outside.”