Best of Breed

So, the reason we're freezing our asses off in the snow out here, Gordie, is a few weeks ago I decided to write this phone app to mark the routes where the neighborhood dogs usually get walked. Predictive shit, you get me? If that old dude Hendricks over on Ravenswood Avenue is walking his Saint Bernard at ten a.m. on a Saturday, and that Winterton Court lady with the funny hat walks her terrier at ten-thirty heading south from the greenway, then how can you avoid both of them but still run a solid five kay? It's like one of those school math problems I always suck at: if Train A is going forty miles per hour and Train B is heading right for it, yada yada...

Anyway, what I do is I sit on so many street corners timing the dogwalkers that the cops start staring at me each time they drive by. And I cut so many classes that my marks get even worse. But high school's tough, Gordie. You think you're stressing in junior high now, you don't know nothing.

Then, what I do next, I try real hard to build the app. The coding wasn't the pain in the butt I thought it would be, but the stupid way online articles explain stuff was. Two ways to write "phi", who knew? It was a major mess so I finally asked Mr. Copeland to help out. Like, who else was I going to ask? Our jerk of a big sister? Anyway, Crapland's a pretty cool math teacher once he doesn't have to teach the curriculum. So I work on the app at every lunch hour for a solid month then I just about break the guts of my phone testing it. I know, right? I used to be so chill. But, for you, Gordie, the only little brother I got, nothing's too much trouble. Your massive amounts of snot, your itchy eyeballs, sneezing forty-seven times in a row--dog allergies really suck and yours are the worst. Doctors need to make better meds, eh – what else are we paying ‘em for?

Yup, my birthday present to you should be pretty special. All I got when I turned thirteen was our dumb sister tripping me when I left the kitchen. Pancakes and syrup everywhere. Dad just laughed and told Dinah to cut it out. You were probably too young to remember.

Anyhow, eventually, the app works pretty good. At least, for most of Willowbrook anyway, even though it's pretty shit for any other suburb. So Crapland says put it in the science competition. I don't got time for that shit so I post it on a free app download site, the kind with a rating system, you know? And it does pretty good. Gets a three-star rating, mostly cause Rachel and Julio upvote it for me. Now I'm super stoked. I wanted to go big, raise the rating, get me one of those spots on the home page.

So I do it. I really do it. I use Dad's laptop when he brings it home two weeks ago. He leaves it open on the sofa, all signed in and everything, and goes to take a shower, all angry-faced like usual. He's as bad at being city comptroller as he is at parenting.

I don't do everything I could. I mean, I have some standards. I just grab all the data from the dog license department. Then I morph this Bayesian predictor algorithm I found--I'll show you the deets later--and it says what people probably walk which dogs when, and I expand my app to cover the whole city. People really are pretty predictable, like Dinah jamming snowballs down the back of your jacket yesterday after that snowstorm. Damn cold on your neck--I know that sensation real well.

And the new app is totally insane. Five stars! And pretty awesome comments too. No one ever complimented me like that before. Dinah, with all her school geek awards plastered above her bed, and you with all your cross-country running trophies: you guys get all the attention. Like Dad said when he dumped my report card in the recycling bin, I'm the idiot in the family.

No, Gordie, clearly Dad is right cause last weekend, a bunch of us were hanging in the backyard, doing toasted marshmallow shots in the firepit and I may have said a bit too much a bit too loud to Rachel after a few morsels of Bailey-filled goodness. I mean, the app's so dope it shows the probable location of two thousand dogs at any time of day to a seventy-five percent accuracy, by breed and possibility of allergic reaction. I had to boast. Trouble was, I didn't know Dinah was sitting in our old treefort typing up handwritten school notes--who does that?--and she hears me spouting off and laughs like a stoned hyena. So, yeah, I was stupid.

Yesterday, see, Dinah takes one of the gunked-up marshmallow sticks and shoves it at me just as I'm coming out of the bathroom.

I know, right? She's been such an asshole since she started applying for colleges.  She screamed at me last week when I fetched the mail before she'd got home. And there weren't even any letters for her.

She goes, gimme the dog dbase, or I'll tell Dad where you got it. And I'll put dog hair in Gordie's bed again.

So I push the stick aside and go, no way.

She's like, sisters should stick together, stick, get it?

And then she pokes me with it so hard, it makes a hole in my new tee.

I go, get lost, me and Gordie aren't going to put up with your crap anymore.

And she frowns and goes, all I need is some decent cash and I'm out of here anyway. The dbase is worth a stupid amount of coin, dumbass.

I go, what?

And she goes, you're so dumb. The database can find the rich jerks that own expensive dogs. We go steal the pets from their yards. Then ransom 'em back. Easy money.

I say, what, those rich people don't got any security systems?

Dinah makes a fist the size of my sneaker and just gently touches my chin. Her breath stinks like rotten Cheetos.

Real quick I say, but I can hack the security company systems and turn 'em off, no probs. Just leave Gordie alone. And don't tell Dad.

She says, you shitting me?

I can think of a million reasons her plan sucks but she's poking my boob with the stick again so I shake my head, no, no, no…and she buys it. Funny how school hasn't taught her stuff she needs to know. I'll teach you real life skills, little bro, don't you worry.

Anyhow, she puts down the stick, gives me a real hard look, and goes, huh, I bet you can hack 'em, you're smarter than your ugly face looks…Only time she ever complimented me, eh.

So, yeah, Gordie, we're crouching in these bushes way over here at the far end of Woodstone Lane so we can watch our asshole older sister do her very first dognapping. See that brick house with vines all over it? And here comes Dinah down the sidewalk, thinking she's got swag.

I'll admit now, though, I hacked something else. Not the security company. And not really hacking. Just Dad's computer, again. I got into the city employee personnel files and did a real good merge of the high priced dog breeds with the cops' home addresses. Guess what? The Police Chief has a Bernese Mountain Dog. Worth two effing grand. Hey, no choking on your snot now, you want the Chief to hear us?

There goes Dinah now, hopping the Chief's fence, sneaking through the snow to the back patio. Hope she steps in dog shit.

And, listen to that--some big dog is barking its ass off back there, all right.

Cover your ears...any second now...there go the security alarms! And... wait for it, sirens! Do you think we should...? Naw, you're right, she deserves it. I wonder, though, can she still get into college with a police record?

Duh, yeah, I deleted everything off of everywhere and Dad will never know.

But I kept the original app for you. It covers just about everywhere you go for your runs.

Yeah, you're welcome, Gordie. That's what big sisters are for. Too bad I never had a proper one.

Happy birthday, little bro.


Wish You Were Here