Strangers in the Night

By Emma Redmer

The stars were beautiful that night. I wish I felt as twinkly as they looked. My best friend and pet, Shaggy Rogers, and I were sitting on our van, The Mystery Machine, thinking about earlier that day. My other three pets left for parts unknown after an argument broke up our mystery-solving team. It bothered me to see my four best friends since puppy-hood so upset. Shaggy and I barely touched our dinner, and it was one of Shaggy's favorites, roasted peppers in marshmallow sauce with peanuts and anchovies.

I thought I heard sobbing. I nuzzled Shaggy. He leaned over and scratched my head, without moving his head from the pitch-dark night sky. "I guess we're on our own now, huh, old buddy?" I rubbed my head against his arm.

The sound of footsteps interrupted our quiet night. Shaggy didn't pay attention, but I did. I peered over the edge of the van. Velma Dinkey, one of our ex-Mystery Inc. members, climbed the wide-stepped ladder that Shaggy set against the back.

"'Relma! 'Rou rame rack!" I gave her a big lick. She rubbed me on the head and laughed.

"Thanks, Scoob, but you're getting my glasses wet." She got the rest of the way to the top and scratched my head. I turned over for a tummy rub. She gives great tummy rubs. She's the only person besides Shaggy who knows all my scratchy parts.

"Like, Velma? What're you doing here?" Shaggy finally turned around. I inched next to him. Velma wiped her glasses with her orange sweater. "I thought you were going to call NASA."

"I did." She put her glasses back on and sat down next to me. "They're reviewing my application. I'm supposed to come down for an interview in two weeks." We sat there for a while, Velma leaning on her hands on one side, Shaggy on the other. I settled between them, wishing that the quiet moment could last forever.

It didn't, of course. "Shaggy, I came to say good-bye."

"Like, why? You said you quit."

Velma lay back, throwing her hands under the thick, brown fur on the top of her head. "I did quit. I'm sick of chasing ghosts that are never ghosts anyway, and of not getting respect for the work I do."

Shaggy also lay down, putting one arm under his uncombed mane. I put my head on his elbow. "I give you respect, Velm. Like, I think you're great. You almost always solve everything. You're not like me. I'd rather be eating."

"It's not just that, though the recognition is a big part of it. We're all old enough for college now, Shaggy. It's time we moved on." She turned on her elbow. "What's your ambition?"

I took my head off his arm and just curled on the cool metal roof. Shaggy frowned.

"Like, my ambition?"

"Well, what do you want to do with your life?"

Shaggy thought that one over. So did I. "Eat."

"Besides eat."

"'Reep."

"Besides sleeping." She sighed. "Oh, come on, you guys must have some plans for the future. You can't live in the Mystery Machine and eat Scooby Snacks all your lives."

I snorted. I thought living in the Mystery Machine and eating Scooby Snacks sounded like a good future. Shaggy agreed. "That's good enough for now. We'll, like, think of something later."

"Let me put it this way. When you two were younger, what did you want to be?"

Shaggy grinned. "Like, taller. Or a superhero."

"'Re roo!" I remembered the superhero characters Shaggy and I created for ourselves when we were puppies, Commander Cool and Mellow Mutt. That was fun, pretending to fly and save people.

"Velma, I'm, like, not a genius. I'm totally lucky I made it out of high school." He looked away from her and scratched my head. "I guess I never thought about the future."

Velma gestured at the sparkling black sky. "Didn't you ever want to reach the stars, to know what's out there besides us? Didn't you ever want to find out more about the universe we live in? Didn't you ever want to solve a mystery that didn't involve some petty businessperson dressing as a ghost?"

"Like, Velma, I'm not interested," Shaggy exclaimed. "I never liked solving mysteries in the first place. All I care about is Scooby, my friends, and my next meal. I know you're here, and I'm here, and Scoob's here, and there's food in the Mystery Machine, and that's all I need to know."

"Oh, I know you care about food," Velma snapped. "In every single case we were ever involved in, the first thing you two would do, after running from the ghost like overgrown chickens, is head to the nearest kitchen to find something edible."

"Like, I get hungry! If I'm going to risk my neck chasing some monster, I need energy!"

Oh no. They were getting mad at each other. This is what happened this afternoon, after we solved our latest (and last) mystery. I was just glad Fred and Daphne weren't here, too. I didn't want a four-way argument. A two- way one was bad enough. I hid under my big paws. "'Rerugh, ruys!"

It was Shaggy's turn to get mad at Velma. "Like, what about you? You lose your glasses at least once during every case! Why don't you get contacts or glue the darn things to your head? You're a total klutz without them!"

"I'm nearsighted. I can't get contacts. I'd just lose them."

Shaggy wasn't finished. "Like, why do Scooby and I have to do all the dirty work? You three could do it, but, no, like, send Shaggy and Scooby down into that scary tunnel, send them after the spook-of-the-day!"

"Why don't you two do something besides scream and take off?" grumbled Velma. "You're the biggest pair of cowards I've ever met!"

I whimpered. This was getting ugly. "'Reve re rout ruf ris." I felt like I was sitting with two strangers. They never argued like this before. Shaggy almost never yells at anybody.

"Like, I want to live to see my next meal."

"And another thing," Velma poked her paw into Shaggy's chest, "what's with you and the word 'like'? Your slang is so dated you should try out for the next Austin Powers movie. News flash, Shaggy - the sixties ended thirty years ago."

"Like, I like the way I talk! At least I speak English! What about the long words you use all the time? Does anyone besides you actually understand them?"

"Why do we always have to bribe you two with Scooby Snacks to get you to do anything?"

Shaggy crossed his arms. "'Cause we've got more sense than to walk into haunted houses and wander around in dark tunnels."

Velma threw up her arms in defeat. "Then why did you come with us in the first place?"

Shaggy shrugged. "You guys are my friends, Scooby's, too." My ears pricked at the sound of my name. "I figured it would be, like, groovy to travel around with you. You know, see something different. I just didn't think we'd run into every ghost, monster, and creepy critter on the entire planet." He grinned. "That, and I wanted to find out what the food everywhere else tastes like."

They were quiet again. I guess they ran out of things to argue about. They stared at the stars, Velma muttering something about walking stomachs. I took their slender paws and put Shaggy's big paw on top of Velma's little one, then put my head on my paws and sighed.

I missed my other pets. Fred and Daphne were gone, probably at their homes right now. On any other night after a case, we'd be sharing pizzas (one for the others, five for Shaggy and me) at our favorite booth in Louie's. We'd be laughing about all kinds of things; Fred's most recent crazy plan, how Velma lost her glasses this time, the secret passages that got Daphne into trouble, or how much food Shaggy and I gobble in one sitting.

A chilly breeze ruffled our fur. Shaggy's paw tightened around Velma's, probably for warmth. I got closer to him. Shaggy happened to look at his paw then. He quickly took it off Velma's and turned away. His face got as red as spaghetti sauce. Velma was even redder. I wondered if I did something wrong.

"I'd better go," she said quickly. "I told my parents I'd be home soon."

Shaggy took her hand. "L.I mean, keep in touch, ok?"

She smiled. "Yeah, I will."

I gave her another lick, this time on her cheek. "'Rall ris rou, Relma!"

She gave me one last tummy rub. "I'll miss you too, Scoob." She pulled something brown and slightly crumbled out of her pocket. "Here's a Scooby Snack for you. I meant to give it to you earlier, but, with everything that happened, I completely forgot."

"'Rooby rack!" I gobbled it up before Shaggy could get it. I don't care how messy it is, you just can't beat a Scooby Snack. The other two didn't move, though, just sort of stared at each other.

Velma leaned over me and gave Shaggy a kiss on his cheek. "Thanks, guys, for making me feel better. Whenever things were at their worst, you always managed to make us smile. Especially me."

"You're welcome, Velm," Shaggy replied. "Any time." We watched her climb down the ladder and walk across the street to her house.

Shaggy and I sat on the Mystery Machine's roof, alone again. He shivered. "Like, I'm getting cold, buddy. I'm heading in."

"'Ri rink 'Ra'll ray rout rere a rittle ronger."

Shaggy shrugged. "Like, suit yourself, buddy. 'Night." He, too, walked down the ladder.

"'Right." I settled down on the roof with a sigh. I didn't like my pets being strangers, but, I guess, in order to appreciate someone, you have to be away from them for a while. Oh, well. Velma did say she'd stay in touch. Maybe we'd all get together someday, and solve another mystery.

Until then, there were always the stars. I looked at them, thought of my friends, and smiled.