Good Humans and Romeo

 

The Beginning. George and the Cup.

She started to pack the silver cup.

“No.”

Turning to me with the cup in her right hand and the open box in her left, LaToya said, ”What?”

“That cup is mine,” dropping a little ugly in my voice, I continued, “Leave it.”

She got that head tilt, the one I used to love, adding to the attitude she was already showing me today. Moving day.

“I gave you this cup.”

“I know.” I was not going to lose this one.

LaToya was standing there, holding the damn cup in the air, “George,” she gave me the frown, “You don’t even use it.”

“I’m gonna start. Leave it.”

I wasn’t ready for her when she threw it at me. It clattered to the floor. She probably dented the stupid thing. I watched her ass when she walked out the door. Her new boyfriend took the last box from her as she got in the truck. She didn’t even look back at me.

I picked up the stupid cup. Stupid metal cup. Useless, stupid, piece of shit cup. I was gonna throw it in the basket, then I looked at it. I kinda liked the handle. My hand gripped the stupid thing real easy. Getting a beer from the fridge, I poured it in the cup. She used to yell at me when I drank from the bottle.

Three days later I’m sitting on the front porch. Jus’ sittin’ there, sweating, drowsy, slight buzz goin’, lonely. Still usin’ the stupid cup.

What’s that slurpin’ sound? Snapping awake, I look down toward the sound, and jump in my chair. The dog glanced up from the cup, beer dripping from his big mug. I guess he decided not to worry about me, and knocked my cup over on the cement.

“Like that, do ya?”

He kept lickin.’ When he was done, he sat back and started licking himself. My neighbor, Ole Joe, walked up. “You got a dog now?” The old man was nosy, nice, but nosy.

“No.”

The dog looked at Ole Joe. Ole Joe looked at him, then me, “I seen that dog walkin’ around.”

“Yeah?” A big wet tongue licked my hand as I reached for my special, stupid cup.

“He likes you,” Ole Joe squinted at me. I think he thought he was winking. Dumb old fart.

I got up. Stiff. Foot hurt. “I’m goin’ in now.” I turned to open the screen door. Felt bad for a second. Turned back to talk to my neighbor, but he beat me to it.

“So LaToya gone?” Ole Joe prob’ly meant well, but still.

“I don’t wanna talk Joe.” I opened the door and carried my cup back in the house.

 

Morning. Thought about coffee, maybe some cereal. No coffee, no cereal. Called Ole Joe. “You goin’ to the store anytime soon?”

Joe’s voice was all hard. “You wanna talk to me now?”

“Sorry.”

“You need some food?” Joe’s voice sounded more like normal.

“Yeah—milk, cereal, bread, maybe some ham?” I was gettin’ hungry just making the list.

“She leave you nuthin’?”

“I got one fry pan and a coffee pot.” This was not going to be a good day. I sat down at the kitchen table and my eyes fell on that stupid metal cup. “And a cup,” I said.

Ole Joe came over with a grocery bag and some eggs and bacon. “Let me fry you up somethin’,” he said. I let him.

We talked about my damaged foot—an old injury that sidelined me from my job at the factory. My neighbor used to pick up groceries for me, before LaToya. “I don’t usually pick up my own groceries anymore,” Ole Joe handed me an egg and bacon sandwich. “My daughter does my shoppin’. You wanna eat on the porch?”

“You don’t feel like sittin’ here at the kitchen table?” I looked up at the kind old man.

“Let’s get some air.” He turned and I hobbled out after him.

I saw the dog as we sat down on the porch chairs. “That dog still here?”

“He followed me up your stairs.” Joe looked at the dog. “Prob’ly smelled the food in the bag.”

I looked down and realized the dog was sittin’ to the right of my bad foot. Somehow a piece of bacon was hanging down from my fingers. Then it wasn’t.

Later I realized the dog ate more of my sandwich than I did. Next thing I knew, I had a dog.

The Middle. Good Human and Romeo.

I like humans. My last human loved me a little bit too much. I think his name was George. His name for me was Dog. He fed me all the time, both dog and human food. George did not walk me because he didn’t walk very well (I think he had something wrong with his foot). We had a very small fenced yard. I could not run much in that back yard. The fence was wooden and falling down. George would let me run into the back yard every day, a couple times a day. He would open the back door and say: “Do your b’ness, Dog.” And I would do it.

Even though I loved my human and all the food, one day I decided to take a walk outside of my yard, all by myself. The fence in my yard was so old that it was starting to fall apart and that was my chance for an adventure. I looked back at my house, where my human was probably snoring on the couch, and then I ran out of the yard. Well, I walked because I was so fat, but I thought about running. I wandered and I wandered. Lots of great smells; standing water, trees with markings, which I peed over, of course, gas, burned chicken, other dogs. Some smells made my hair stand up. Like cats. I hate cats. Lots and lots of human smells. None smelled like George.

After a long while, a human came up to me with a big stick. He put a loop over my head and he put me in a crate in the back of a truck. He didn’t listen to me when I told him that I was on my way back to George. We went for a ride. The ride was interesting, but I was a little bit scared because the crate smelled funny. When the ride was over, the human took me into a big building and put me in a different crate. Some other humans looked at me and shook their heads. They shook their heads the wrong way. One said something that sounded like: “So fat.”

The other one said: “Too fat.”

Was I a bad boy? They spoke softly to me, but I was still scared. When a human gave me a bowl of food, it was not very much to eat. I was hungry, even when I just finished eating. My new crate smelled like someone tried to cover up puke, not like home. I was mainly left alone, listening to other dogs crying, barking, and whining. I had a soft blanket and lots of water, but not much food and I missed my human from back home. Did he know I was here waiting for him?

Some days went by and a new human looked at me from outside my crate. She smelled very nice. She had a little bit of a sad look on her face, but her eyes were smiling. She called me, “Romeo.” She said she was going to take me “Out.” I knew “Out,” but I was scared so I did not wag my tail.

She let me out of my crate and attached a leash to the collar the other humans in this building had given me. I walked very slowly because I was hungry and sad–also because it was a little bit hard to breathe. She talked to me when we went in the back of the building and out the door. There was a fenced area with a really strong fence. I know this because I tested it already. I could not get out of this fenced yard. So I slowly walked around with this new human. She had warm hands when she patted me a little bit. When I did not feel like walking, she talked to me. She said, “C’mon Romeo. Let’s walk a little longer.”

I decided to walk a little more for her because she was kind and I wanted to please her. I didn’t want to go back in my crate.

Every day after that day I looked for my new human, but she wasn’t there. Other humans came and gave me my little bit of food, water, and short, short walks to the fenced place. I was sad and lonely.

One day I woke up and there she was. I was happy to see my human with warm hands, so I gave her a name. I called her “Good Human.” When I barked her name it sounded like: “Wuff, Wuff.” She seemed to like her new name and we went out to the fenced area together. Again I did not really want to walk. “Wuff, Wuff” spoke so sweetly to me, but sometimes she made her voice just a tiny bit louder. I could tell she wanted me to walk–so I did. She took me back to my crate too soon again. She left me again. I was sad again.

I missed Good Human, day and night, day and night. My ears went up one morning because, it was “Wuff, Wuff!” I heard her voice and caught her special human scent before she ever came to my crate. This time I showed her how happy I was to see her. “Wuff, Wuff” was happy too. She opened the crate door and said, “Come, Romeo.” I walked straight into her warm hands.

She took me to the fenced area and she gave me a surprise. She put her warm hands on my back and on the sides of my body and gave me a long rubdown. It was the best! I tried to let her know that I loved it and that she should never, ever stop. After a while she stopped, though. Then she took me back to my crate and left me again.

This time I thought maybe she would come back to see me sooner. I went to sleep that night thinking of her soft, warm hands giving me a good rubdown.

“Wuff, Wuff” came back over and over again. The time in between her visits was always too long, but I expected to see her, so I tried to be brave when she left me. I always thanked her for her rubdowns with my happy face and wagging tail. I love my “Wuff, Wuff.” She is a good human.

Sometimes one of the other humans takes me home for a day or two and I get to play with that human’s furry friends for a little while. But I don’t get to stay past a day, and a night, and a day. When I have to go back to the crate at the big building, I always wait for “Wuff, Wuff” to show up. She comes to visit me whenever her scent is in the building. I just hope she knows how important she is to me.

The End. An Open Crate.

Wuff, Wuff is in the building. I smell her. I get up and go to my crate door, tail wagging. A man, a woman, and two smaller humans, who look like they came from the same litter, come toward me. I walk back and forth with my tail wagging, trying to see around them for Wuff, Wuff. They stop in front of me.

“I like this one,” the smallest human said.

A human who gives me food and water sometimes, walks up. He says, “His name is Romeo. Want to meet him?”

I let the humans pat me. I lick the little human. I smell bacon on her fingers.

“He’s tickling me,” she says. I can feel her laugh down in my ears. Her face is split in half with her smile. I decide I like her.

When they close the crate door and start to walk away, I bark.

“Wow, he’ll be a good watchdog with a bark like that,” says the biggest human, the man holding the little human girl’s hand. She’s walking away, but she’s looking back at me.

My tail wags so hard my butt sways. Wuff, Wuff is moving toward me. She takes me for my walk. She says, “Looks like a family is interested in you, Romeo. This might be our last walk.”

I lick her face. It is salty wet, not from my tongue. Why are her eyes sad? Her mouth is smiling. I lick her again.

Another End. Across Town.

“I miss him, Joe,” George takes an absent-minded gulp from the silver cup.

“He was a good dog,” Ole Joe nods his head. “Maybe the dog pound found him.”

George considered Ole Joe’s comment. “You mean Humane Society?”

“Whatever the city sends out, looking for loose dogs,” says Ole Joe with a shrug of his shoulders.

“You know where their building is?”

“Nope,” says the old man.

The two men drink beer, looking around their neighborhood while seated on the porch. A wind whips up. An empty paper cup scoots along the sidewalk.

Neither man gets up from the dilapidated chairs.

 

 

 

 

 

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Still Writing

Just wanted to let you all know I’m writing away–Izzy’s Story is coming along. With my creative writing group’s help I have changed my POV. Izzy’s chapters are first person and my chapters are also first person. More challenges!

I will update every so often. Perhaps I’ll throw in a short story here and there (I’ve got one coming). Until then, keep reading. I am reading a cross-section of authors whose stories reflect, admire, and endorse a close relationship with a fabulous, smart, entertaining, loving family member (a dog). Today’s author: Spencer Quinn. Writer of the “Chet and Bernie Mystery” series. Great reads.

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It’s Been a While

Hello there!

It’s been a while since I entered a post. It’s not that I haven’t been writing–I’ve been quite busy writing away. It’s because I started a new book with NaNoWriMo and I have been working on it. The short stories I have entered on this blog have been a joy (and a challenge) to work on. The two novels I have been writing have been all-consuming.

At the moment I am concentrating on the 2nd novel, which is a story about my first rescued dog, Izzy. It is fact and it is fiction. I would classify it as fiction because the story is written in Izzy’s voice. Going this route is tricky and I balance it with the story as seen through my eyes as well–but my end is written in third person.

You can easily see how tough this may be, I am certain.

So, for now, I have caught you up, to date, with what is going on in my writing life. Please look forward to more entries to come. I just haven’t figured out what those thoughts will be yet.

 

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Angela and the Chip Drag

The hi-lo came charging at her. A huge machine, powerful, with a heavy load. The grey-haired, muscular, bearded driver may have had a partially obscured view. Barreling down the narrow aisle he was driving forward because he carried one steel basket, loaded with parts. Normally they carried two baskets and traveled backwards, looking over their shoulder as they drove.

It scared Angela more when they drove backwards. She stepped back into the pedestrian walkway, thinking to let him pass before she moved on, and promptly stepped on a steel-toed foot. “Hey!” The young worker behind her deftly removed his toes from under her foot and hopped around her to keep moving into the bowels of the factory.

She backed against the wall, just for a moment, hoping no one would notice. Shook it all off in her head, straightened her shoulders, and made a note to watch the hi-lo drivers in this plant. The job she was transferring in for, a skilled trades’ apprenticeship, spurred her on.

Done reminiscing of her first day, she stretched her arms as far into the narrow opening as she could reach. Because of her height, she needed to press her whole body against the section of line in which she worked this day. Thank God I don’t work in the annex all the time. The slime and the smell assaulted her nostrils. She had to work with her gloves off, which made her cringe. If my mother could see me now. She often thought her poor mother would not be able to bear the sight. Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. Angela always goofed up when the part she was changing over was upside down.

The real challenge came later in her overtime shift. This day was hot, and she felt hated.

Randall, the journeyman assigned to her for the day, oozed testosterone. He was known to over-tighten bolts to throw the female apprentices off their game. Her cheater bar wouldn’t even help her. But today was different. She and Randall both put all their weight into removing the broken fixture. “You hold on,” he instructed, while placing her hands on the section to hold, “tight as you can.”

Again Angela pressed her body as close to the stinky, filthy steel guarding as was possible without blending into the machine herself. She bent her knees, planted her boots, strained her muscles in her arms, and squeezed. “Ready? It’s gonna be heavy when I break this last bolt.”

Randall crouched slightly to meet her eyes behind her safety glasses. Angela hoped he would count down to the release point. Three, two, one. Or maybe he’d give her a reassuring smile, while trying to hold down on his end of the fixture as well, breaking the bolt and assisting her. We’ll bring the fixture in together. Around the guard, down to the floor. Then we’ll get a better grip, transfer it to the cart, and we’ll be off to the tool room. One, two, three. No problem.

         Angela felt the fixture give, and promptly flip away from her, right out of her hands, heading straight for the chip drag flowing beneath the machining line. A sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach yawned wide and traveled up to her throat. The yelling started almost immediately. She caught the tail end of the sentence as she watched Randall’s distorted face, wild eyes, and flailing arms seeming to swing oddly away from his body as he made his point.

“… YOU WILL HAVE TO EXPLAIN THIS TO THE SUPERVISOR, STOP THE CHIP DRAG, CLIMB DOWN AND GET THAT FIXTURE,” Randall was still talking as he walked away from her, jumped in their cart, and drove away, “come get me in the crib when you’re done.”

Angela looked at the machine operator, Charlie, quietly standing a few feet away. He was shaking his head, no. Once Randall disappeared from view, Angela spoke. “I was holding on as tight as I could.”

“I know.”

“He didn’t tell me it was heavier on his end then mine.”

“I know.”

“I don’t want to stop the chip drag fluids. I can’t even go down there—it’s confined space.”

“You can’t go down there,” Charlie was reaching behind the gated door guard, pulling a very long steel rod, hand over hand, “watch out.”

Angela backed up to the machine again, leaving a clearer path for Charlie. “We’ll try the hook.” As he cleared the end of the rod toward the station she and Randall were attempting to repair, Angela saw the huge hook welded on the end of the rod.

“Haven’t seen you much out here in the annex,” Charlie stated the obvious, “maybe this’ll work.”

The station operator had a round, pleasant face, which seemed to blend together with his whole body, a little puffy, probably a heavy beer drinker. His blue veiny eyes were kind as he showed Angela where to hold onto the rod with him, as they shone their flashlights down into the drag. His right hand and her left hand were on the hook/rod. Opposite hands held the flashlights.

The milky ivory chemicals mixed with dirty water washing over and around the part they were hoping to fetch from the murky, chip-filled river under the machining line. Angela let Charlie maneuver the hook toward a section of the fixture that might work as a lift point. She slipped her flashlight into her pocket and used both her hands behind his one-handed attempt. It wasn’t working.

“Hold on, no, let go.”

Angela was afraid to let go. She didn’t want to drop the hook/rod into the chip drag along with the part.

“I got it,” Charlie didn’t look up at her, but she saw part of his reassuring smile before he hunkered down, “you hold both flashlights on the part.”

The hooked fixture was ready, according to Charlie. “Okay, put down the flashlights and help me pull up.”

Angela did exactly as the experienced operator instructed, and, after a good twenty minutes and several aborted efforts, they stared at the fixture, unhooked, lying on the uneven floor of the machining station. “Thank you, Charlie.” She couldn’t have been much happier. The simple plan worked.

“No problem, you can buy me a coffee later.”

The universal payment accepted by most of the journeymen and operators with whom Angela worked, coffee, the classic currency to say ‘thanks.’

“I’ll go get the cart.”

Angela promised to come back with coffee later in the shift, while she set off at a brisk pace for Randall and the cart, parked cribside.

Posted in authors, bad days, chip drag, factory work, female apprentice, reminisce, short story, working with a journeyman | Tagged | Leave a comment

Timber Bamboo and Me

Here and there I see patches of hot white sky. The sun would burn me if it wasn’t held back by the tall, skinny, green trunks of the bamboo trees. They tower over me in my slightly reclined position. It is almost as if they are bending toward me, yet so tangled in each other that they cannot fall down.

It is hard to accept that bamboo, a perennial evergreen, is considered a member of the grass family. This forest is thick and tall. The “stalks” are called culm and the lines on the stalks are called nodes. I idly review the “Bamboo Botanicals” website as I continue to gaze lovingly at the intense wall of green, waving lightly into each other, creating an odd sound. Click, whoosh, click, whoosh—like a small child holding out an ice cream stick while running through a covered bridge over a rushing river.

“Here you go.” Nurse Dorothy interrupts my calm state.

“Leave me alone,” is my reply.

I don’t look at her. I am not in the mood. I say as much.

“Not in the mood for what?”

For you, I am thinking, but I say, “For anything—except my bamboo forest.”

Dorothy shoves a cup of pills under my nose and a miniscule cup of water. “Drink, swallow, and I’ll leave you to your bamboo.”

I’d rather die than take another pill. I take the cup, swallow the pills, wad up the cup, and throw it in what I imagine is the spot where nursie is patiently waiting. No comment from Nurse Dorothy, so I glance toward the opening. She is already gone. There must be a clinic on the outskirts of the forest.

         Back to my trees.

I wonder out loud where the birds are and I am answered by chirping and cawing. A delicate wind finds its way to me, even though the branches and stalks leave little room for anything else. I know it is hot and steamy at the tops of the trees, but it is almost cool on the floor of the forest.

A dog, my dog, finds my hand and noses it up till my fingers touch her head. I scratch around her ears. An Irish setter’s fur is more like hair, soft and luxurious. I want to ask her what the ground feels like below her paws, but our language doesn’t hold those words. Sally knows the traditional—“out, treat, sit, shake, and come.”

“Treat?” Sally jumps on me a little, her dog scent hanging in the air near my nose, then settles down to the “sit” she knows I want from her. The treat bag is on my side table and in seconds the treat is down her throat.

“Could life be any better than this, Sally?”

She licks my hand as I move my eyes from her loving face to the tops of the bamboo—timber bamboo is what they call it in Wikipedia. Ninety feet high and higher. I want to go up there. I want to sail over the trees on a magic carpet feeling the wind in my hair, looking down to see what can be seen between the sun-dappled stalks.

The pills are kicking in and I float into a deep green swaying sleep. Sally lies down on the floor to nap.

Nurse Dorothy tiptoes in and pats Sally on the head while lifting the remote from my hand oh so gently. She mouths, “Good girl,” to the dog.

She points and clicks. Several large monitors in a semi-circle around the hospital bed turn off at once.

Posted in authors, companion dogs used in therapy, forest, freedom, hospital bed, irish setter, short story, timber bamboo | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Twelve-Year-Old’s Dreams

At the tender age of twelve I had two recurring dreams. They came to me during the night and stayed with me during the day. One I welcomed; one I feared. The lion cub was my responsibility. I fed h…

Source: A Twelve-Year-Old’s Dreams

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A Twelve-Year-Old’s Dreams

At the tender age of twelve I had two recurring dreams. They came to me during the night and stayed with me during the day. One I welcomed; one I feared.

The lion cub was my responsibility. I fed him, combed him, and walked him on a leash. Everyone in the neighborhood admired my lion. He was strong. He was beautiful. He was tame and walked on the leash like a highly trained large dog. His muscles glistened through his stunning golden coat. There was no need for him to scare anyone into submission. All he had to do was look at someone, and they stood aside in awe. I was one with my lion, as he was with me.

A brick wall was being assembled and presently stood at waist height. A man was folded in half over the partial wall of bricks. He was face forward, slumped, and not responding as an unknown assailant, wielding a brick, hit him repeatedly on his back. The victim was not dead, but he was not resisting the attack. He was hit again and again and again.

I always woke up with a start after the brick wall dream.

I always woke up with a smile on my face after the lion dream.

Walking into the hospital, I held onto my younger siblings’ hands. My brother was on my left, my sister on my right. Aunt Jo walked ahead of us, and Mom was behind us. As we entered the lobby Aunt Jo took us to the side by the waiting area. We sat as she whispered to mother.

“He needs to see them.” Aunt Jo was a loud whisperer.

“…don’t think it’ll work,” from Mom.

I bent over and pulled up my white ankle socks as I listened.

“Yes, it will.”

“But…”

“Don’t worry. I’ll handle it.” Aunt Jo turned to the three of us and crouched to our height. She looked each of us in the eye and said, “We all want to see Daddy, right?”

We all nodded. We were very polite children. Good Catholic children. Well schooled in discipline and respectful of our elders.

“Now,” Aunt Jo glanced at Mom, “we have to do something in order to see Daddy. We will play a game of pretend.”

Mom was nodding to us, yes.

Aunt Jo pointed at each one of us in turn, oldest to youngest, as she said, “Amy, you are going to pretend to be fifteen years old. John, you will be thirteen. Cynthia, you will be twelve.”

We were bewildered.

Mom chimed in, “You have to be older to visit Daddy.”

15, 13, and 12 instead of what we were—12, 10, and 9.

“It’s just a pretend game and then we can all see Daddy.” Mom knew we were confused and uncertain. We were good kids. We were good Catholics. We did not lie.

The cardiac floor nurse stopped us as we walked down the hall toward Daddy’s room. She singled me out, after being informed by Aunt Jo we were all age twelve or older, and asked me what year I was born. I just looked at her and said nothing. I would imagine the look on my face said everything she needed to know.

I believe the nurse decided to go easy on us and asked a question we children could answer without hesitation. “So, kids, what’s your favorite television show?”

“Tarzan,” from John.

“American Bandstand,” from me.

As we drove home from visiting Daddy in the hospital, my Aunt asked my Mom about the new construction in our old Detroit neighborhood. One single new home was showing some progress on the brick walls. “When was the last time a new house went up on your street?” Aunt Jo wondered.

“First one since we moved in,” said Mom.

Daddy got over his heart attacks and came home to us. My Daddy was strong. He was beautiful. He used to tease my Mom by flexing his muscles like a strong man on television. He watched Tarzan with us. We felt safe when we were with Daddy.

My lion was strong.

He was beautiful.

I walked with him past the brick wall.

He glanced at the workmen and they dropped their bricks, and ran away.

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Close Your Eyes

Sparky

My Sparky

Perhaps the moments can be captured with eyes closed. Sitting at a desk in a small cubicle, office sounds filling your space added to the sound of the fan blowing at your feet, staring at numbers on a computer screen, close your eyes for a moment—no one will notice.

Sunday mid-morning. I step out onto the covered patio. The sun is bright. Squinting at the sparkle of frost-tipped grass blades, I inhale the gift God has given me. The experience may be best felt alone…or shared with your dog. Not a puppy. An older dog, wiser, quiet, appreciative—a shared understanding of the all-encompassing, if fleeting, joys of this private gift.

A bird flits from branch to branch. Tiny bird squawks, chirping and jumping, chirping and jumping. I watch the shadow of the bird on naked branches against the white of the vinyl-sided extension to the house. Long shadows intermingled with brilliant sun, some hours to mid-day.

There is no particular smell. Just freshness. What is the smell of freshness? Clean, crisp air. I breathe in, then blow out. White breath.

I turn and focus on a small diamond shape in the crosshatch vinyl slats surrounding part of the patio, partially screening my presence there. My dog starts to bark as he runs to the fence. Two yards down, his friend, a little Shih Tzu mix named Jack, is running his yard. Jack stops to acknowledge my dog, for a moment perched at the top of a rise in his yard, then turns and runs for the sheer joy of running. No answering bark today.

Sparky, my dog, lets his quieter, more reserved, “hello” bark continue in the direction of his backyard buddy two kingdoms down, then tapers off to a tiny “wuff, wuff” as Jack flies through the open door back into his house. Sparky sits down on pavement, cold but not wet, displayed in light, staring in the direction of his backyard friend. He is calm. He trusts he will see Jack later. I look at his shiny mahogany coat accented by what one might call golden tufts. A papillon mixed with a small dachshund, my dog, has beautiful coloring. His chest has some white, but his main coloring is a kind of tribute to autumn—rusty-mahogany, turning leaf, auburn-red-brown tipped in gold. His thick tail, the tail of a papillon, is all golden-beige. His muzzle is graying. His eyes are soft brown. I like when he parades around his yard, tail held up, ears at attention. When he is not concerned about hearing every sound, one ear droops. In the yard it’s usually droop, alert, droop, alert—happily prancing, then stock-still concentrating.

It is an old neighborhood. A confluence of tall trees, some hacked practically in half, vertically, to avoid power lines, but tall and strong, nonetheless, reaching to the skies. In the distance I see three very large birds lighting on the uppermost ends of the highest branches in view. I wonder what kind of birds they are. Crows? Hawks? But hawks do not travel in threes, do they? I realize I have seen less evidence of mice recently. Are the birds of prey responsible? Or is it my dog, or roaming cats?

Shaking that thought from my head I resume my study of the beauty of the morning. I want to hold it in. I want to keep it for myself, to be able to call upon it when I need it. Sometimes it is easy to call up, sometimes it is difficult.

The cubicle is boring. It is grey, grey walls slashed with a blue-green striping, sound-barrier carpeting up on temporary wall surfaces. There is no door to the cubicle, so sound comes in anyway, mostly unwanted, sometimes welcome. But not right now. The project has been tedious, numbers, always numbers. It’s not that I don’t like numbers. They are a form of measurement. Things need structure, measurement, calculation, content. It is good to form patterns, measure options, calculate forecasts, develop action plans. Stretching the brain to search for clues to create a better thing-a-ma-job or watch-a-ma-call-it, can be satisfying. Striving for the best thing-a-ma-job in the corporate world may be very gratifying, perhaps financially pleasing, perhaps award-winning…but it is still only a thing-a-ma-job, isn’t it?

I realize my shoulders are starting to feel sore and my right hand, perched on the mouse, is tingling, growing numb. I shake my hand while stretching my neck to the left, then to the right, front, back. Close your eyes, just for a moment, no one will notice, I tell myself. Because my multiple computer screens face a solid wall, my back to the open doorway of the cubicle, I know no one can see if my eyes are closed or open. The only give-away to my daydream state would be the eventual turning of the computer screens to the energy-saving mode from non-use for a period of time. The only “tell.”

Eyes closed, I reach for the image. It is elusive. But I need it. Just give it to me for a moment, please. Can’t…quite…get…it…

Maybe walking at lunchtime, alone, can help. There is a vacant lot between businesses on the east side of the factory. I start to walk along the west side of the building and anticipate the view of the east side. This side is concrete block, pavement, the occasional truck, person, goose, or goose poop. The back of the building is not any more glamorous, but the empty lot looms in front of me at this point, tall grasses, intermittent trees in various stages of growth, fronted by fencing I look through.

The walk is windy today…and cold. My eyes are wide open. Reaching for a memory is easy and hard. I just want to maximize the Sunday morning feeling, but too many other thoughts crowd in at the same time, jostling for position. I can’t wipe the unwanted to the side. I try, but the wanted keep sliding through, in, and around the unwanted. The deadline for the report—just after lunch, can I finish?—the smell of the smokers wafting on the winds from their designated perches outside the building—interference abounds.

I walk to the east side of a small outbuilding on the easternmost section of the fenced parking lot. Stopping for a moment, I turn to face the abandoned lot. Closing my eyes for a second, I call my dog’s running feet to the forefront of my brain. I picture his skinny legs hitting the ground as he joyously heads for the fence, looking for his buddy two yards down. I feel the cold, dismiss the wind, and open my eyes. A large bird lands on a scrawny tree branch not thirty feet from my face. I blow out the breath I didn’t know I was holding.

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Sun Kissed

Version 6The sun kissed my eyes and made me squint. Watching my dog at the corner of our fenced backyard, barking at a neighboring dog, blurred my focus as a small bird’s flapping wings flew through my line of vision.

It is a glorious morning in Michigan. The sky is bright. The leaves are raked. The temperature is crisp. My world is beautiful. Or is it?

I join my friends, family, neighbors, and strangers in a close partnership this day. We mourn Paris together. All the news programs are talking about a real danger we face. A reporter visiting New York, whose name I did not catch as I listened to a CBS report, spoke about his home in Paris. He talked of the Paris he knows…a grouping of small villages. At times, he said, he tires of everyone knowing his name when he moves around his personal neighborhood. I think he is embarrassed to admit this feeling.

In front of the camera he is calm, yet sincere, in his thick white/grey moustache and beautiful matching head of hair. His tie is a lovely shade of purple, tastefully matching his patterned pocket scarf. The light grey suit he has chosen would be very understated save for the pop of color with which he has accented his look. Speaking of trying to contact his friends at home, he dials in his sadness so that his words will be heard and not overshadowed by a visual display of grief. The little villages blend with his statement, “All of Paris is our village.”

Reminiscent of, “it takes a village…” I think about the concept. We are not all one, and yet we are one. We differ, and yet we are the same. We hate, and yet we are loved. We love, and yet we are hated. Retiring the word “hate” seems like a brilliant idea, and yet it is impossible. Circulating the word “love” in all its various forms and meanings is attempted, and yet it is thwarted.

I let my mind float from thought to thought, however random, as my dog runs in reckless abandon. Circling, sniffing, listening—hypersensitive—all his senses alert in the realm that is his backyard, he runs his village. I watch him and wonder. I command; he usually listens. One thing, and one thing only, makes him disobey—the hunt. My sweet, small, quirky, loving, attentive little dog will hunt down—and kill—any wayward bird, mouse, or mole that dares to enter his territory.

Are we humans able to be compared with our canine companions? I consider as I reach for a piece of bacon. I offer thanks for the pig. Then I immediately recall videos of pigs displaying emotion. I try not to think of the cows, chickens, and fish that die so I can eat. Is this a similar concept? No, I scold myself, I must eat to survive. Paris is different. It was killing for no reason. A flawed ideology, a hatred of people who do not believe in a particular concept. And yet, I wonder for the umpteenth time, why not go vegan? I follow this thought with anger at my brain as it bumps its way through my uncontrolled musings.

Killing for food aside, throughout history, man has killed for reasons that hold no logic—political reasons, misguided religious reasons—women and men have killed for king, country, ideology, family. Whether the fight was for borders or minority rights, power or ideals, revenge or imagined affront, misunderstood threat or real threat, genocide—war, in all its forms—cold, hot, far away, or in the next village, it is real. Too real.

I just checked on my dog. He is lounging in the sun, watching over his village.

I am weary. Recent events have left me drained.

My fertile mind floats toward a human tendency. Why do we applaud the bad guy? Not now, of course. We are not applauding ISIS, at least not the majority of us. But, why then, do we applaud the bad guy in other situations? Movies, minor thievery, rebels—for some reason we occasionally enjoy unsavory characters. It’s not the same, some would say. How dare you! There is no comparison, others would argue. Trivial infractions cannot compare to cruel acts of horrific terror. Killing innocent people is not the same. These are acts of war. Control your thoughts.

I agree as I ponder the human condition. My brain hurts as I try to arrive at the tiniest minutia of understanding terrorists’ issues—they elude me. I think of the pain, suffering, and death they inflict—even on themselves.

A form of entertainment was introduced in the United States in the 1970s—military-style combat video games overtook pinball machines as a form of play for the younger generation. In what world is that an acceptable form of play? I wondered as I watched young college students take a break from studying. Having entered university life at the tender age of thirty-nine, I had no clue, sprinkled with a heavy dose of dislike, about young people relaxing while pretending to shoot human targets instead of studying.

I still don’t get it.

Then I think farther back to “cowboys and Indians.” In my youth girls played with dolls while boys played with toy guns and cowboy hats. The file cabinet storage unit in my left cerebral hemisphere extracts an image from a movie—no—a book by Michener, if I recall correctly—where a native American Indian thanks the slaughtered beast before feasting on it. Later in the story—or perhaps a different story along the same lines—one tribe fights another tribe. But there is no blood involved. The battle is won when a warrior completes a coup. “Counting coup,” as I understand the concept, can be as simple as touching a member of an opposing tribe with a hand, or a bow, or a “coup stick,” as described in James A. Michener’s novel, Centennial. No blood need be drawn.

That sounds civilized to me.

I look at my dog as he chooses to come back into the house. He has scrutinized his yard today and all is calm. The kingdom is intact.

I love my little dog. I rescued him, and in some ways he rescues me. He cuddles with me as I look into his adorably round brown eyes and try not to think about the revulsion I felt when I picked up the mole he killed a few weeks ago. What is my dog thinking as he kills his prey? An intruder? Is he protecting his territory? I remember feeling helpless as I witnessed the event. No amount of calling, voice raised in anger, stopped him from his task. When he rolled the dead animal over with his paw, making certain that the little thing was, indeed, dead, he turned and walked away. No emotion, no regret, nothing.

My brain, always rolling, thinks of the real threat to any neighborhood dog—especially a small one, such as my own. Coyotes. I have seen a coyote a mile from my home. I have heard that coyotes kill dogs just because they are in the way. The territory governed by my dog, our backyard, becomes the coyote’s territory as soon as he chooses to set paw in it. Killing for perceived rights of ownership, be it land or territory, color of skin or fur-coated body, beliefs or instinct, seems to travel through all species.

If a coyote attacked my dog, I hope I am strong enough to go after the coyote. It goes against my core beliefs, to attack, to harm, to kill, and yet, I think I would try, as long as I was not cowering in fear.

Sharing my wandering, overflowing thoughts, I worry about sounding ridiculous and insensitive to the barbaric and savage terror attacks in Paris. It is not my intention. I am merely a student of the human—and apparently the canine—condition. A privileged person, such as myself, living in freedom and relative calm, I cry at injustice, and then I hide in my family room. I watch television and curl up with my dog, tail wagging happily as he licks my hand.

For the moment, my village is secure.

Posted in authors, bad days, dogs, freedom, Paris, privileged, short story, terrorists, Uncategorized, unfiltered thoughts, village, Writing & Rhetoric | Leave a comment

My Castle

Scattered around a muddy field of written content, my words wander—grouping, attaching, forming, multiplying, sometimes stumbling over one another—meanings jumbled, misunderstood, working toward clarity.

Climbing the hill of dangling participles I slide down the steep slope of run-on sentences and fall into a patch of points of view. Rolling around I/we, bumping into you/yours, then jumping up with the assistance of they/them, I move on.

Chopping through a copse of sentence fragments, I relish in a mild shower of adjectives, then break through a wall of quotes and take a deep sigh of relief. I find myself staring at the Castle of Clarity. I just need to run through a lovely field of adverbs and call for the bridge to be dropped over the moat of writer’s block. Two short paragraphs later, I stand on one side of the moat, calling for the positioned end parenthesis to start the bridge lowering. Up on the wall of the castle, I notice that “end p” is staring at a turret. He does not hear me, I realize.

A beginning parenthesis taps on my shoulder and hands me a cell phone. “Text your request,” she says.

End parenthesis looks at his phone, turns, waves, and drops the bridge.

As I walk through the gates I am overwhelmed with the beauty of the castle. How can it be imposing and welcoming at the same time? I wonder, while deciding the creamy stonewalls resembled my best linen card stock. I see writers sitting at small tables strategically placed around the courtyard. Ludicrous as it may seem, there are as many handwriting with pens and pencils as there are using laptops. What century is this?

Three large doors stare at me from across the courtyard. A man—wait, no, yes—my history teacher from high school, is pointing at the doors in order from left to right, door #1, door #2, door #3, inviting me to choose. But I don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. I wave to Mr. History and turn to my right. A man is holding a scroll of typeset words. His smile reminds me of my journalism instructor, also from high school. He unfurls the roll of copy and it creates a path to a small alcove with “door #4” on it. As I walk along the side of the carpet of copy I realize it is my original horoscope column from the school paper. I remember what fun it was to write all those years ago.

Deciding to trust what was behind door #4, I open it and step inside, shocked to walk into a huge, ornate bathroom. A shower sounds great. I shed years of regret, like soiled clothing, and flip them into a pile in a corner. My bare feet enjoy heated marble tiles. The Carpenters’ song, “We’ve Only Just Begun,” is playing softly. As I listen to my school song from graduating class, I step into the shower. Crystal clear thoughts and ideas drop from the showerhead like warm rain dancing on a windowsill.

Refreshed and invigorated, I wrap myself in a fluffy robe of contentment and cozy slippers. A sense of familiarity comes over me as I walk down the hall into my kitchen—my regular kitchen from my real-life home. The delicious scent of brewing coffee greets me. Italian dark roast coffee is dripping into a mug; a perfect hard-boiled egg is sitting in an eggcup; and, toast pops up from the toaster. Just as I pick up my adorable dog, and he licks my chin, I look out the French doors leading from the breakfast nook to the front of the house, and straight out the bow window in the dining room. A child is playing in a tall pile of leaves on my neighbor’s lawn. A light source bounces off my right eye and I turn to see where it is originating. My old puppy is still in my arms as I spot the ornate, silver-framed piece sitting on the granite countertop.

It is the only thing I don’t recognize in my kitchen.

I move toward it, look closer, and read the inscribed words intricately woven into silver vines on the frame.

“Everything you need is right here,” I read aloud, glancing at the mirror inside the frame. I am pictured there, holding my dog, a glimpse of the Keurig® on the counter to my right, a corner of the laptop on the breakfast table to my left.

Gently lowering my sweet, old dog to the floor, I get the egg, toast, and coffee, then sit down in front of the laptop. Freeing my hands of the food, I open the laptop to a new document.

The page is blank.

I smile as my fingers type.

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