The Beginning. George and the Cup.
She started to pack the silver cup.
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.
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?”
“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.