by Raul Chuletas

I don't usually like telling this true urban legend. It is kind of gross, but it could teach you all a lesson. So what the hell.

Guy named Michael got this new dog named Zoltan, a rottweiler mix. How he got the dog and how the dog got named Zoltan I don't know, don't ask me. A struggling musician, Michael was down on his luck, no job, no girlfriend, and, worst of all, he felt out of touch from his music, dude.

One night under a street lamp, Michael was so bored he watched the dog go. He was struck by the fact that the dog's poop kind of resembled the letter ''P.'' Michael thought this was cool and went back home for a toke.

Next a.m., still bored, Michael watched the dog do his duty again. The dog didn't seem to mind. Boom, the dog had made a capital ''L.'' Michael looked closer to be sure. People walking by, they didn't know what to think.

Then that night, Michael was astonished when the dog made a distinct ''A.'' In his dim mind, Michael believed the dog might be trying to tell him something.

The next morning he reached for the dog's leash with anticipation. Zoltan wiggled to the gutter and Michael squatted right there with him. A ''Y.''

''P, L, A, and Y. Play! You want me to play?''

Immediately, Michael went home and practiced chords. The neighbors all went to the movies. Alas, after playing all day, Michael felt even further from his music. When he went to walk the dog, he noticed a new letter. ''L.'' The message wasn't finished!

Over the next two days, Zoltan spelled ''O-T-T-O.'' Clearly, the message was ''Play Lotto.'' Michael rushed the local Te-Amo and spent his last dollar on a Quick Pick.

''I won a thousand dollars,'' Michael told his friends Ebon and Eric the next day. The guys came over and celebrated with beer, pot, and video games, all of which Michael paid for. At three in the morning, Ebon asked Michael for the $400 he owed him. When Ebon was in the bathroom, Eric woke up and asked Michael for the $300 he owed him.

Michael was poor again. He turned to his pooch. ''What should I do now, Zoltan?''

That was when Abby, the pink-haired waif/poetess and Michael's ex, called. She said she had an extra plane ticket to Brazil. Michael talked to her about his music for an hour before he realized what she was implying. He told her he'd have to think about it.

Michael turned again to his dog. Panting heavily, Zoltan picked up his leash.

Four walks and two days later, Zoltan had spelled out ''D,'' ''O,'' ''N,'' a little apostrophe, and ''T.'' Michael remembered what happened before and, not wanting to cut the dog off early, he waited. The next day, a ''D'' came. Michael figured the dog was saying, ''Don't do it,'' but he couldn't take the chance. So he waited. Over the next three walks Zoltan spelled out ''E,'' ''L,'' and ''A.'' On the fourth walk, as a steamy ''Y'' lay before him, Michael called Abby, but her machine said she'd left for Rio two days before.

The following week, Michael was asked to play at a gig at a tough bar. He was unsure of what to do, but, still upset about Abby, he refused to turn to Zoltan. ''Some kind of stupid canine savant,'' Michael mumbled. ''That's what you think you are. But you're not! You're not!'' Zoltan snifffed the air and left the room.

By Friday, the dog had spelled, ''BEWARE,'' but Michael didn't care. At the gig, he lost his wallet, his guitar, and his paperback of Rimbaud. Michael laid the blame on the dog and fed him only dry food.

A month later, Michael got an offer to join a new band, the Chewable Vitamins. But he'd have to move to L.A. In desperation, Michael turned to the dog. ''Tell me what to do!''

But day after day, walk after walk, the dog only urinated.

Shaken, Michael opted not to go with the band. That weekend the Vitamins signed a major record deal. That night, crestfallen, Michael took the dog out for a walk. He stared angrily at the mutt while the dog went, and went for a while. The dog stepped away from the spot and the streelight shined on his message: ''You should have gone to L.A., you big loser.''

Michael went for the dog's throat then.

He was chasing it with a frying pan when police stopped him. At the station, Michael told the whole sad story. The officer listened patiently, then shook his head. He said, ''You should know better than to take shitty advice.''

All of you, just beware. Zoltan is still out there.

Waiting. Practicing his cursive. Waiting.

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