As a child, Henry Tolbert was an avid animal enthusiast. His parents, both Veterinarians, were a huge influence on his love for animals. Being an only child, Henry spent most of his free time hanging out in his parent’s clinic. Tolbert’s Veterinary Services was a staple in the community and had been for as long as Henry could remember. He often hung around the clinic after school, helping his parents, so he really didn’t have time for friends. Besides, he felt that all of the pets, his Mom and Dad took care of, were his closest buddies. On his 8th birthday, his parents surprised him with 3 Alaskan Huskies. The pups were all identical and Henry was given the honor of naming all 3 of them. He chose the names Blue, Grey and Lime based on each Huskie’s eye color.
Within the year, the pups grew to sizes larger than any wolf. This made the Huskie’s quite intimidating when all together, which was most of the time. From day one, Henry loved the Huskies and they were rarely seen apart. Wherever he went, the Huskies were sure to follow. Most everyday after school, unless he had a project due the next day, Henry and the Huskies would be found at Tolbert’s Veterinary Services clinic. While there, the Huskies would be kept in the back, in a specially built kennel.
The clinic was 9 blocks from the Tolbert Mansion. It was a state of the art building that seemed more designed for humans than animals. Henry’s Dad poured tons of money into the design, hiring only the best architects, to attract the pet owners. In a way, it was designed to cater to humans. Ten out of ten times, once the pet owners stopped through, most by word of mouth, others out of sheer curiosity, they would become regulars. Tolbert’s Veterinary Services serviced all types of animals, large and small. By the time Henry became a Senior, he had seen more Happy Ending pet stories than he could ever retell in one setting. With that though, he had also seen several not so happy endings. To hear his parents utter the words, “There is nothing else we can do…” or “We’ll give you something to ease the pain…” always left Henry feeling helpless. Empty. Even at a young age, he felt that his parents should be able to fix any and all issues when it came to pets. He was young and naïve, but the feeling grew up in him. So much so, that he began to research the area of Taxidermy, unbeknownst to his parents. Keeping it to himself, only because he figured his parents wouldn’t be supportive of his new interests due their interests. The more he researched the subject, the more he became intrigued by it. His thoughts were that he could eventually become a Taxidermist and save pets even upon their deaths. He wasn’t sure if this was an absurd idea, or not, but he eventually became fully committed to his feeling of being that final stop for pet owners who were having trouble with closure.
Just weeks before his graduation, Henry approached his parents with his saving pets idea and how he thought it could impact the Family Business. Surprisingly, both parents were on board with his ideas and Henry was moved to tears. He had always been so passionate about helping animals and he truly felt that this would give him an opportunity to give back to their supportive community. His parents even agreed to change the name of the business to Tolbert’s Veterinary & Taxidermy Services, leaving Henry speechless. How could he ever repay them? “By doing your best work every time you are given an opportunity to,” said his Mom as he hugged her. At that point, Henry was ready to graduate and finish up a few classes so he could begin doing his best work.
40 years later . . .
. . . And Henry was still doing his best work. Both of his parents had long passed and the Family Business, Tolbert’s Taxidermy Services had closed late last year. Henry, after years of doing what he absolutely loved, decided that it was time for him to retire. During the last few years of his services, he had totally redesigned his Garage. If not for the large “garage door,” there was really nothing about it that looked like a garage. Large enough to fit, at least, 4 standard size cars, the Garage really looked more like a small house. Being over 2,000 square feet, with everything from a waterfall, a huge aquarium and information on each pet around the Garage. It had the feel of a small museum. Designed by Henry, the Garage also had Dolby Surround Sound as well as a theater screen. It was the ultimate Man Cave. Henry mostly watched animal shows on the screen, with the occasional sports shows from time to time. Most of his buddies consisted of the various contractors, builders, local farmers and town officials. The whole town marveled at Henry’s Garage and groveled at the chance to take a stroll through it. The Garage also sported a fancy fridge, a full service bar and a game room. The main attractions of the Garage, though, were all of the pets that filled the area. Over the years, Henry collected all of the pets from owners who passed away. Early on, the pet owners would Will their pets, the ones that Henry had saved, back to Henry. After some time passed, it just became something that was understood between Henry and the pet owners. There were so many pets that his buddies joked that it closely resembled a zoo. Another great part of the Garage was the roof. A local roofing company installed it which was made of a see-through tempered glass that allowed Henry to star gaze whenever he needed to relax. He spent many nights listening to Ulrich Schnauss, sitting back staring up into the Midnight Darkness. On hot Summer days, the glass would be covered, at the flip of a switch, with an electric blind. It was opened at night to let the Moonlight and stars shine through.
Henry played up on the fact that his Garage did look a lot like a museum. There had been several articles written on his space since it was opened to the public. Both Channel 7 and Channel 12 News Teams showed up at different times to feature Henry and his Garage of Pets, during the last couple of months. This was mainly due to the buzz that was created by a few of the local schools. Henry opened up his Garage to monthly tours for all of the middle schools in the area a few months before he retired. From the first visit, it was an instant hit. The kids loved the Garage Tours and we’re always excited to stop by on a school tour. Henry enjoyed seeing the Staff and kids, too. Part of the fun for him was the preparation for each visit from neighboring schools.
Just before retiring one of Henry’s hunting buddies asked if he’d be interested in doing some services on some of his Big Game. Henry, who for years had only been interested in more domesticated pets, was reluctantly interested. . .but, the partnership began. They agreed that Henry could keep whatever the Hunter dropped off, if he wanted to keep it. His first drop off was an Elk that the Hunter had taken down in Elk City, Oklahoma. The Hunter, who traveled to different states in his journeys for the Big Game, brought in the Elk’s neck and head claiming that he figured he’d take it easy on Henry since this would be his first Big Game experience. In truth, the Elk weighed over 700 pounds and stood nearly 5 feet tall at its shoulder. Not having the equipment to move such a beast, at the time, the Hunter opted to lighten the load. Once Henry completed the job, he realized how much he really enjoyed doing something different with his talents. It was addicting. The largest pets he had ever serviced were his 3 Huskies; Blue, Grey and Lime. The Huskies had passed years ago, each of old age. Each time, though, it was the most challenging service that he’d done. The Huskies were like family.
After a few months, Henry was surprised with an even larger challenge. The Hunter, now having the equipment to move and transfer Big Game, showed up to Henry’s Garage door with a Kodiak bear. It was his largest take down since he’d been hunting. It weighed over 1,100 pounds and stood close to 9.5 feet tall on its hind legs. Each of its extended talons were just over 5 inches long and hard as steel. An extremely dangerous beast and quite scary even in its deceased state, the Kodiak was like nothing Henry had ever seen. This time the Hunter made arrangements to return in a month or so to claim his prize. He was headed over to Africa to hunt “Even Bigger Game.” Henry figured it would probably take longer than a month to complete the Kodiak, since now he had to purchase equipment to help him maneuver the bear around his new Taxidermy Shop, which was located in the back of the Garage.
He Express Ordered equipment similar to that of a hoist, like auto-mechanics use to maneuver engines. It showed up within a week and Henry began working on the beast he nicknamed Kodi. Even with the hoist, it took him two months to complete Project Kodi. Once he was done and stood Kodi upright, it was even more clear that this was the largest project that he’d ever done. As with all of his work, everything about the Kodiak suggested it was alive except for the fact that it had no heartbeat. Henry had to step back and stare up to see the bear’s massive head.Having finished this huge undertaking, he reached out to the Hunter. Leaving several messages, Henry began to wonder if the Hunter’s quest for Bigger Game may have gotten the best of him. Maybe his luck finally ran out. It was odd, since the Hunter was adamant about returning to pick Kodi up at some point. It was nearing 4 months since he dropped Kodi off. Taking advantage of the situation, and since it seemed Kodi would be sticking around for awhile longer, he decided to add him as a Special Feature for his School Tour line up. Man, wait until they see this beast. He was beside himself with excitement at just the thought of all the faces gazing up at Kodi. Every tour, Henry would add a Special Feature just to surprise his many fans. As of late, the Big Game added a boost to his overall rating which was already off the charts. The Elk’s Head really did the job last Tour. The fact that Henry included it and saved it for viewing last, really amped up the tourists, large and small causing the News Teams to return for fresh features. Henry wasn’t the braggadocios type of fella, but even he knew Kodi would get rave reviews. That night he’d fall asleep thinking those happy thoughts.
Saturday morning, he was up bright and early in his Garage preparing for Monday’s Tour. He figured he get everything set up and ready to go that day, taking Sunday off. Henry would also move the pets around which would leave the kids thinking, wow, they’ve moved. It would always humor him to hear a kiddo saying, ‘Yeah, they must come back to life when we leave.’ The imagination of a kid was a marvelous thing and the looks on their surprised faces? Priceless. The more he cleaned, the more excited he became to unveil his new Special Feature. He didn’t have kids of his own, so he had no family to share his Garage with other than the Community. Over the years the Tours had become quite therapeutic for him. Not much of a social butterfly, the School Tours gave him the opportunity to stay connected with the townsfolk. There had been as many as 100 people on Tour and the Garage held them with plenty of room to spare. He included his and her restrooms to accommodate his guests and had even added an wheelchair ramp. He wanted as many people as possible to enjoy his pets and was grateful for having opened the Garage, to share them with the public. As he moved around the Garage, he started to clean his last Tour’s Special Feature, the Elk’s Head. He had it mounted just high enough so that touchy-feely kids couldn’t reach it. Because of his flare for the realistic and alive look, the Elk’s Head looked as though it was sticking through the wall from another room. Henry finished up with the Elk and moved to his newest show stopper.
As the sun began to set, Henry began to clean Kodi. To reach up beyond Kodi’s waistline, Henry used his 12 foot ladder. As he worked, now grooming the side of Kodi’s face, he began to think, wow, there’s really nothing else like this big fella. Which made him smile with pride. How lucky was he to have gotten the opportunity to work on such a huge project. Not hearing back from the Hunter seemed to be a good thing now that Henry would get to showcase Kodi in his upcoming School Tour. As the sun began to set, the recessive lighting slowly began to illuminate the area. Not a fan of fluorescent lighting, he installed the recessive lighting to help give the Garage a more warm and cozy feel. It was calming for Henry as he worked to get the Garage prepared for Monday’s Tour. Instead of turning on the Dolby Surround Sound System, he chose to listen to his iPod with the help of his Beats ear buds. He saved his D3S for special occasions that included visitors or on those nights when he was just chillaxing after a long day in his shop. As Ulrich continued to play, he hurried to finish up. In the past, he would save his 3 favorites to clean up last, but nowadays Blue, Grey and Lime were cleaned up before the Special Features. Henry was sure they didn’t mind. His thoughts drifted as he continued to groom his bigger than King Kong bear, rubbing and polishing it’s talons. As he continued to marvel at Kodi, he noticed a full Moon peering from behind the clouds. It began to shine brightly through the roof, illuminating the entire Garage. Standing on his ladder gazing up towards the roof, Henry had to shield his face with his free hand. It was almost like looking at the Sun. Odd. He had seen several full moons since setting up his Garage, but this one was …different. Brighter, than he’d ever seen. Not giving it too much thought, he figured it must be getting late, so he began to clean up. He was beginning to feel tired since he’d gotten such an early start and also a little hungry. He hadn’t fully stocked his fridge, so he needed to get back inside to get a sandwich. Once his Taxidermy Grooming Kit was all intact, he was about to climb down his ladder when he stopped. Squinting, he stared up into Kodi’s face. Did the beast just blink??! Surely it must be fatigue setting in. His imagination was beginning to get the best of him. Never mind the imaginations of the kids. He really tried to make light of the situation. Breathing in short bursts, he stood there for a few moments and stared into the Beast’s huge black eyes. Several minutes passed. Nothing. Just before finishing his descend on the ladder, Henry noticed that the Beast’s nose was moist around the nostrils. In his haste he must have forgotten to dry away his Grooming Spray. Yeah, he was tired and realized that he was beginning to get sloppy. Taking a work rag from his back pocket, he gently wiped the Bear’s nose. Moving cautiously as though he didn’t want to awake the Sleeping Giant. Placing the rag back in his pocket he finished his climb down the ladder, never taking his eyes off of the Beast. The whole eye-blink, or not, episode really freaked him out.
In his haste, Henry left the ladder standing besides the Bear and figured he’d move it on Monday. He was superstitious about entering the Garage the day before a Tour, so Monday would have to do. He headed for the stairwell that led up to a balcony that allowed him to look out over the whole floor. The door that led back into his 21 bedroom home was just on the other side of the balcony. A lot of detail was placed on the stairwell. It spiraled up to the balcony and Henry made sure to chain-lock it during Tours to deter any kids from playing on the stairs. A few short steps from the bottom of the stairwell, the recessive lighting flickered a couple of times and went out. The Garage was completely dark except for the Moon that beamed brightly overhead. Henry checked his watch and realized that the lighting was supposed to remain burning for at least another 20 minutes. Standing there in moon lit darkness, Henry looked around the room and noticed that the digital clock, over on one of his tables, was dark as well. ‘Well, if it’s man-made, it’s bound to break!’ His Mom’s words up until the day she died. But what had happened?! Henry figured it must have been one of the generators. A power surge, maybe? He had no idea and the only flashlight he had was clear on the other side of the Garage, pass Kodi, in his work room. Something about the thought of passing that beast with limited visibility made him shudder. He wasn’t really sure why, but he couldn’t bring himself to go back that way. Not tonight. Yes, he’d take care of it first thing Monday morning, before the Tours arrived. Turning to go up the stairs, he stepped on the first step when he heard shuffling behind him. Nearly loosing his balance, he spun around looking from side trying to remain calm. Sweat beaded up on his forehead as he noticed something moving from the shadows to his right.
As Henry stared wide-eyed into the shadows, Mrs. Jenkins’ Bolognese dog, SnowBall shuffled into the Moon lit space just a few feet away from Henry. Named by Mrs. Jenkins for his pure white coat, a chill raced up Henry’s spine as he watched the dog huff and pant its way towards the light. Once in it, SnowBall seemed to not notice Henry standing there just a few feet away from him. He was glowing under the Moonlight, like something from a dream. Now feeling more amazed by this event than anything, Henry whispered the dog’s name in order to get his attention. SnowBall? Immediately SnowBall’s ears stood up and he looked up into Henry’s eyes for the first time since stumbling out of the darkness. SnowBall and Henry both stood gazing at each other in the Moonlight for several seconds, before the dog walked towards Henry sniffing, stopping at his feet. Not sure if what he was seeing was real, at first, Henry looked down at SnowBall and stiffened. A little reluctant to all that was happening, Henry finally knelt down and scooped the dog up. What the heck’s going on here?! The dog was fully alive and responsive! How could this be? Henry first met SnowBall over 15 years ago, when Mrs. Jenkins brought the little sick pup in for Henry’s help. He was able to prescribe some meds that helped SnowBall live for another 5 years before he passed. At Mrs. Jenkins’ request, Henry serviced SnowBall and gave him back to her. Within 2 years, Mrs. Jenkins passed and SnowBall ended up in Henry’s Garage.
Standing there holding an alive SnowBall, Henry was left speechless. One of the cutest pets in the Garage, he was a favorite amongst the kindergarteners. Each grade had a favorite pet to see when they visited the Garage. As he stood there holding SnowBall, the Moon disappeared behind a cloud. Instantly, SnowBall became lifeless again. Henry nearly dropped him in shock as he realized the Moonlight must be causing this, somehow. Not really sure what to do and realizing that if SnowBall somehow came to life, what about the rest of the pets? Namely one large beast of a bear? Still holding a frozen SnowBall, Henry raced up the stairwell. Up on the balcony, he reached for his doorknob and turned. GREAT! The door was locked! Apparently the energy surge, or whatever it was, triggered the electric deadbolt to lock. And, of course, the key was on the other side, pass Kodi, in the Service Room! Just about that time, SnowBall’s tail began to wag as he looked up Henry. Looking up himself, Henry realized the Moon had just peeked from behind an overcast of night clouds. So that was it. The pets came to life under the strange Moonlight. After a few moments, Henry began to slowly descend the stairwell. About half way down, an object came hurling out of the darkness and crashed up against the wall just beyond the bottom of the stairs. Squinting, he recognized the object as it lay motionless in the Moonlight, it was his ladder twisted and bent out of shape. Knowing that he left the ladder standing by Kodi, Henry stood there in the shadows of the stairwell as silent as he could so as to not attract any attention. Suddenly, SnowBall leaped from his arms, ran the rest of the way down the stairs and headed for the shadows. Henry almost screamed for him as he quickly ran down the stairs after him, but the pup was gone.
Henry headed after SnowBall but was terrified of anything that moved. All around him the pets were coming to life and moving around in complete confusion. Soon, the Moon was covered again and Henry headed for the Service Room. Knowing that he only had a few minutes to get there, he moved quickly, stepping over frozen pets. The Elk’s Head had been alive, too. Henry noticed as he walked around goo that had apparently dripped from the it’s nose and mouth. He wasn’t so sure the kids would like that scene as the thought of the head moving on it’s mount, spewing goo, would gross them out as much as it did him. He finally made it a few feet from the door when he noticed something missing. The area where Kodi stood, just awhile ago, was empty. Great. Thankfully, the Moon was still behind the clouds. Looking around wildly, Henry ran to the Service Room door, grabbed the knob and turned. It opened, he stepped in and slammed it shut. It was completely dark in this room, since no light could get in. Henry realized that he felt more safe on the other side of the door. He had to blindly feel around the counter space for his key, flashlight or anything that he thought might help. He did devise a Plan to help him survive the night, knowing that sooner or later he’d face that beast of a bear. How could that thing have moved and he not know where it was?! What was left of his ladder was proof that it was out there somewhere. Grouping the counters, drawers, cabinet spaces, wait … he’d found it! Not having any weapons in the house, this WedgeTool just might save his life.
There was a loud crash just outside the door and Henry knew the clouds must have moved on. The Service Room was still filled with darkness and now that he’d found the WedgeTool, he felt better. Now if he could only find… got it! The key to the balcony door was hanging near one of the cabinets. He stuffed it into his back pocket. Now there was another loud noise and for a second Henry thought the Service Room door was kicked open. And then, silence. Not wanting to waste anymore time, he gripped the WedgeTool and headed for the Service Room door. Arriving at the door, he quickly realized that it had been slammed into. It was barely hanging on the hinges with 5 large grooves across most of the top half. Mortified, he quickly stepped back out into the Garage looking all around in the shadows. With the Moon covered, he was the only living thing moving, but his imagination was getting the best of him. In just a few short steps, he stopped cold in his tracks, dropping the WedgeTool at his feet. He was face to face with the scariest creature he had ever faced. As it glared down at Henry, he felt totally dwarfed by it’s massive size. With it’s teeth bared and talons raised Henry quickly realized that it was in this position, in the shadows, waiting for him to come out of the Service Room. One swipe from this beast and Henry’s head would go flying in a different direction. Never taking his eyes off of Kodi, Henry reached down and felt around for his WedgeTool. Looking up at the night sky, he noticed that he only had a few minutes to initiate his plan. If his plan failed, Henry would surely die this night.
As he found the tool, he grabbed it up and positioned himself in front of the beast. Not quite tall enough to reach his face, Henry grabbed a fold out chair and stood on it, positioning the WedgeTool at the edge of the bear’s right eye. The WedgeTool looked similar to a trowel, but the edges near it’s triangular point were razor sharp. Within minutes, half of Henry’s Plan was complete. The bear’s right eye was completely out of it’s socket now, so the other its other eye was now Henry’s focus. His Master Plan? Blind, the bear wouldn’t be able to see Henry. An unwelcomed thought that began to replay over and over in Henry’s mind. For a moment, Henry felt that he shouldn’t worry about the bear’s eyes at all, but he knew he only had a few minutes to make it all the way back to the stairs. He was no match at all for the bear and couldn’t even come close to out running it. He placed the chair to the left side of the bear and was just about to stand on it when he heard shuffling in the shadows behind him. He looked down only to notice SnowBall peering out of the shadows. For the moment, looking down at the pup distracted Henry long enough to miss the Beast’s eye blink. Knowing that he only had a few seconds before the bear would be swinging at him with those deadly talons, Henry scooped up SnowBall and headed full speed for the stairs.
Not knowing if anything was behind him, Henry and SnowBall were about halfway to the stairwell when, WHAM! Something hit him so hard across the back, it nearly knocked him unconscious. The blow slammed Henry to the floor and he slid the rest of the way to the bottom of the stairwell. The blow also caused Henry to loose his grip on SnowBall and the pup hit the floor running for the stairwell. Laying in a pool of his own blood, Henry knew his injuries were bad. His back felt as if it were on fire and he could barely feel his legs. Rolling over on his back, he looked up the stairwell and saw SnowBall standing there, looking down at him. The pup had his head tilted to one side with an expression of ‘C’mon, Man! Get up! Let’s Go!’ But Henry could not get up. More furniture from the shadows started to fly by his head and crash into the wall beyond the stairs. Soon the beast appeared at the edge of the shadows and seeing it, Henry could barely breath. It’s paw, with talons extended, broke the darkness before any of the rest of it did. As it did, it locked it’s eye on Henry’s eyes and stood there. Henry figured the beast was sizing him up before it’s final pounce. He was slowly regaining his composure and strength when the beast took its first step since pausing at the edge of darkness.
Looking up, Henry realized that there was no chance of the Moon going away anytime soon. As the beast closed in on him, now only a few feet away, Henry sat motionless. No longer focusing on the beast, but now he stared up at the beautiful Moon lit sky. The beast now close enough to strike began to raise up on it’s hind legs nearly blocking Henry’s view of the beautiful star filled sky. SnowBall, sensing Henry’s despair, raced down the stairs and jumped in his arms. Surprised by SnowBall’s heroic move, he snuggled up to the snow white pup and looked up to see the beast’s left paw, talon’s extended, coming for his face . . . At that same instance, from out of the darkness on Henry’s left side a huge gray and white blur leaped out grabbing the left arm of the beast taking it down to it’s left side. Simultaneously, another gray and white blur appeared on the beast’s right arm, pinning the huge beast down less than a foot from Henry’s recoiled body at the base of the stairs. As the beast struggled to break free, another gray and white figure appeared on the beast’s chest, looking down at Henry and SnowBall. Henry cried out with pure excitement, ‘BLUE!’ The Huskies were at least twice the size Henry had ever seen them and it was clear what they were here to do. As Blue clamped his teeth into the throat area of the bear’s neck, Grey and Lime pulled and yanked it’s arms out of the sockets. Under the pressure of Blue’s jaw-grasp, the beast’s neck snapped like a twig . . . and it was over.
All 3 Huskies approached Henry and SnowBall and stood over them for a few moments in complete silence. Henry, reached up, rubbing all 3 of them on their soft furry faces and backs. How could they have gotten so large?! The Huskies, surrounded him, licking his wounds, standing close to him as exhaustion got the best of him. He passed out from all of the excitement, but would come to just before dawn, with a ripped open shirt, but no visible wounds. All of the pets and Huskies would be back in their perspective locations, with the bear still lying on the floor, ripped apart . . .
The only real evidence of what transpired, during the early morning hours, in Henry’s Garage.