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Domestic spy

01/06/06 12:00AM By Caleb Daniloff
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(HOST) They say great minds think alike but at commentator Caleb Daniloff's house, the similarities have gone too far, and he's determined to get to the bottom of it.

(DANILOFF) The other day, I walked into the bathroom where my wife was blow-drying her hair. It took a moment or two before the horror sunk in. We were wearing the same clothes. Again. Jeans, black boots and white long sleeve T-shirts. This had been happen-
ing a lot lately. At first, I worried this was how it went with married couples, that it was only a matter of time before matching track suits and tandem bike rides.

But in recent weeks, I'd come to suspect something more sinister, some sort of conspiracy. Aside from my wife's clothes, here's what I had: not one, but two phone conversations had appeared
as plot points on Law & Order SVU. Then, a commentary I'd been working on showed up as someone's essay in The Believer. And to top if off, one of my best dinner-table zingers ended up in the mouth of TV's Dog The Bounty Hunter.

Had this domestic spying thing really gotten out of hand? Who was lifting my material? Clearly, a leak investigation was in order. While Chris' fashionability had no doubt benefited, I didn t see her as the source. And I ruled out my teenage step-daughter who'd prefer I walk on the other side of the street when we're downtown.

That left only two suspects each small and stealthy. For half a greenie, the Pomeranian rolled immediately. Niku raised a black paw toward the woodstove, where little Oliver lounged on a warm snoozy, moist Chihuahua eyes drunk with fireheat, his favorite ball by his side. Of course. Just look at those ears - as big as satellite dishes, with their maze of hyper-sensitive listening channels. And now that I thought about it, he did always seem to be just hanging around. I was determined to get a confession.

While my wife was out, I waited until Oliver was alone, nosing his ratty ball around in circles. Before he could look up, I hustled him into an unmarked travel bag and shuttled him over to a neighbor's house. The owners were hardcore cat lovers and allowed me use of their basement in return for favorable treatment when it came to our shared driveway.

The cellar was damp and smelled of oil and litterboxes. Three Siamese darted back and forth. With a bootlace, I tied Oliver
to a scratching post and googled the latest interrogation regu-
lations. Curse that John McCain! I stared into Oliver's black
marble eyes, his white tail whipping in a blur of circles, ears flipped back in defiant nonchalance.

"Who are you working for?" I barked through my balaclava.

His tail only sped up. I pulled his ball from my pocket, the fuzz long ago nibbled off, the rubber gouged and lovingly caked with grime. Then I produced a toothbrush and cup of bleach. Within seconds, he was yipping and squealing and barking. I looked at the cats but they just shrugged. None of us spoke Chihuahua.

Before I could track down an interpreter, I spied my wife's car returning. I whisked Oliver back home. He leaped excitedly at Chris when she walked in the door. My wife eyed me suspiciously, seeming to understand his spins and jumps. She hung her coat and walked past me without a word, both of us dressed in pin-
stripes and hoodies. All I could do for now was watch Oliver trot back to the woodstove, a Beggin' Strip clenched in the corner of his little mouth.

This is Caleb Daniloff from an undisclosed location in Middlebury.

Caleb Daniloff is a freelance writer, and recipient of the 2005 Ralph Nading Hill Jr. Literary Prize.
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