Hind Legs Dragging

“What’s your name?”  She asks, poking gently, not wanting to tip the situation over.

“Joshua.”

“Is that what you go by or is that the legal description?”  She tries to wink with her voice but doesn’t think it comes through.  It’s a soft push, wanting to say just the the right amount, coaxing the kitten from under the bed.

“My mother always said Joshua and my Pop always called me Josh.”  Releasing it’s not a real answer he adds, “Josh is best.”

Tug lays quiet, his chest and belly against the bed.  The man and the woman are talking and he likes it.  Slow, soft.  No growling. No barking.  Wiggling forward he slides off the bed like a seal, hind legs dragging.

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Believers Never Really Want to Know

To act could kill the promise and the promise was sweet enough to cling to because it was alive, revived and back from a long vacation.  He coughed to see if the shadow would flee.  Her head snapped to the side to put both ears on the sound.  The dog turned his head, looked at him, and asked, what are you doing?

The man speaks.  “If you’re going to steal it then just ask for the keys, I don’t want the ignition screwed up any more that it already is.”  Dog likes hearing the man’s voice and his tail wags reflexively.  The shadow breathes a startled breath, flexing on the door.  For a pregnant minute neither moves or speaks.  It’s s a dream to both and breaking the moment could break it and wake the nightmare.  Tug growls again, clicking like a ratchet. The man squeezes him and again he stops.  Her shadow climbs the door as Karrera steps into view blue and ghostly, the grey streaks in her hair neon and glowing.

“Hello.”  Says the man.

“Hello.” Say Karrera.

Wag, wag, wag, says Tug’s tail.

“This place is too cheap for chairs?”  says Karrera.

“Too cheap for working locks too.”  he says.  “Sit anywhere.  Should be clean…ish.”  He hopes for the edge of the bed.  Putting her back against the door Karrera slides down into a squat that turns into crossed legs on the floor.

“Yoga?” he asks, “Around here?”

“Find somewhere it isn’t”, she replies.

“True.”

Still wagging his tail Tug starts to crawl on his belly to the foot of the bed.  Rubbing his belly on the blanket he lets his back legs drag behind him because it feels good.  In the reflected moonlight his black spot looks like a hole in his side.  Stretched fully out he works himself to the end of the bed and drops his head down between his paws.  “Wow,” says Karrera, “somebody’s working it hard.”

The man rises up on an elbow to look at Tug.  “He’s a smart dog.  Really smart. I don’t know how he wound up here.” But, then again neither did he.  Life was the river and he had thrown himself in to be swept along, rolled, stranded in the eddy and now at least the dog drifts along with him.  The silence is awkward and safe.  You can’t say the wrong thing is you don’t say anything and they both didn’t want to take the wrong step.  Trapped in the minefield they simply waited.  Tug’s tail slows, stops but stays pointed at the ceiling as if to say to the man, “This is an asshole.  You’re being one too.”

The air isn’t pregnant, the scene is not waiting for crescendo, the thing is there and quiet; not poised or prepared but real and neither dares to point at it for fear it will either materialize or disappear.  It is the fear of ghosts, that they might be real or they might not.  Believers never really want to know.

The Moment or Not the Moment

He is asleep.  Sunset had caught him out with Tug looking for a bag of dog food small enough to fit in the saddlebags. They had got home tired and a touch cold.  The shower head had magically reappeared and Tug had vaulted into the tub for no apparent reason.  Tug was good on a leash and now had what seemed to be the only collar in his size that wasn’t pink or didn’t have happy smiling kitties on it.  Hell, it might be cat collar, it came from a hardware store and was bright blue;  looked good though.  Soft growling wakes the man, a sound like someone slowly spinning the tumblers on a big safe.  Click, click, click.  Slow.  Soft.  Hey you, stupid, wake up, somethings up.  Not a sound for the intruder but a sound for the pack.  It was the sort of thing that got him kicked off the bed but now he wanted the man to wake gently and be with him.

Hearing the soft growl the man wakes but doesn’t move.  Tug is between his legs and he feels the little dog vibrate.  On his side he brings his chin to his chest and cracks one eye open enough to see the door is open.  Bright blue moonlight cuts a hard line across the carpet and into the room.  Should have set the chain.  Usually better at security, they both had been pretty jazzed when they got in and then there was the water fight in the bathroom…lazy or childlike he had just overlooked securing the room.  On the road of his life he too had been beaten for small things and now he resists the urge to whip himself for enjoying the moment.  Nothing he did or felt now was going to unset the chain.  Chewing on it, spitting it on himself wouldn’t change anything.  His mother thought if she rubbed his nose in it enough that somehow things would become undone and wouldn’t be there anymore.  She was a liar to herself.  Inflicting the pain made her feel good, she couldn’t change the past, she knew it, but she could make someone pay for it and she took a calculated carnal enjoyment out of it.

In the hard moonlight he listens trying to hear what Tug hears.  Sure that no one was right there he opens both eyes to look.  Hold still.  No noise of motion.  Grunting like he’s dreaming he shifts his body to get a better look at the door.  Hoping the noise says, “Just wrestling bears in my sleep,” he pauses and scopes the scene.  Everything is written in dark blues, like a forties cartoon, liquid blue where light flows instead of flickering; a three quarters or full moon throwing hard edged shadows.  On the parking lot he could make out individual leaves flitting and banging, hiding behind each other, a moment unique and then a herd again.

Sneaking up the door like the wicked witch comes a shadow.  Human.  Flowing across the threshold and then running up the door.  Head and shoulders, turning, looking. Then a profile.  Silently he reaches for the folding knife on the night stand and hooks a thumb on the blade.  Outside the motorcycle seems to sparkle in the moon light, the chrome doing its job with flair.  A car in the distance freezes the shadow.  Tired light from the road flickers weakly, turning blues to grey and almost green.  Turning to the light the shadow is in profile and with the profile he sees a ponytail.  Shoulders now look smaller, petite; the monster is gone but his heart picks up speed.

Tug growls quietly again.  Reaching down he puts a gentle hand on the dog’s haunches.  I’m here.  I know.  Situation is under control.  Tug quiets but pressed again the man’s thigh he can feel the uptick in heart tempo.  The shadow pauses, becoming a fresco, sensing something, torn between the fear of having been discovered or the fear of being discovered by running.  Inside the man the same debate in a different key: is this the moment or not the moment?

Better Outside the Bag

First stop had been to the see Karrera at the cafe.  She had pointed him to QuarterMaster Surplus where he picked up a canvas messenger bag he thought the dog would fit into.  The bag smelled a bit like the store.  Wearing it back to the motel should air it out.  As he purchased the bag his brain tried to help him understand he was doing little to find Tug’s owner and that naming the dog was ownership and if you were trying to figure out how to travel with the dog then the dog was, de facto, his.  He wanted to not want the dog.  Somewhere inside him was an angry mother telling him dogs were dirty and stupid and flea ridden and more responsibility than he could handle.  Another voice just wanted to be left alone and not invest his heart in another thing he could lose–wouldn’t it be easier to take the dog to the pound and then a nap?  However, the loudest call was to get back to the dog and put him in the bag and see if he’d go for a ride.

That would be cool.

Coolness was hard to deny.

Tug was cool and loaded into the bag easily.  It was hard for him to pop his head out to see so the man cut a “U” into the side of the bag and Tug was happy to stick his head out under from under the flap to see where things were going.

And it smelled better outside the bag.

Tug

Bathing dog was a fight.  Scratching, plunging, slipping.  Kneeling and squirming.  Attempts to escape or drown. After the fight the dog had run under the bed.  Hopefully he was dry enough.  Soaking wet and cold the man strips down, flips the toggle and warm water pours out from where the shower-head should be.  The head had been there yesterday; clogged, sputtering and crunchy with minerals–but there.  Having showered under a garden hose he wasn’t put off and he climbs in, ducks under stream and soaks himself from head to foot.  Stepping back he feels something under his foot and, as the dog barks in surprise he nearly falls on it.  Stumbling and naked he feels stupid and lucky as he manages not to grab the curtain and pull it down.

What the hell? He snaps at the dog.

Dog sits and wags his stubby little tail; please don’t be mad. Sitting there on the porcelain of the tub it looks like a tiny scrub-brush swishing away.  It’s impossible to stay angry.  Just wanted to be close by, says the dog.  This was true.  The dog had been alone a long time.  No scraps.  No warm spot to sit in when the person leaves or plates set on the floor to be cleaned.  All the good things of people had been gone.  All the bad was gone too.  No shouting or hitting or being thrown.  He had napped on a pillow.  A pillow and no one yelled or threw things.

And there was food.  Food had arrived and the only price tag was a frisky lap in the tub.  This could be good.  This is a set up was worth pursuing.  So he had jumped into the tub to keep an eye on his new benefactor.

Hey, says the man, my eyes are up here, quit staring at my junk.  Modestly he turn his back to the dog.  The man is careful as he soaps and rinses.  Bathing with a hose allowed you to move the water around to rinse all the tough to reach places.  With the fixed shower he had to move himself around to direct the water.  In a twisted limbo he tries not to step on the dog as he contorts to get the water to the right crease or fold.  Taking up space in the tub dog worries about getting smashed.  The man teeters and hops, using cupped hands to deflect and carry water to different parts of his body.

People are funny.   The water stops running and the man squeegees water off his arms and legs.  Why don’t people shake it off like dogs?  Dog shakes a shake that starts from his nose and ends with his tail.  Looks at the man.  Easy!  See?  The man just looks at dog. No clue.  Wagging his tail dog just looks at the man.  Seriously, says the man, quit looking at my junk.  He continues as he rubs himself dry with a towel, seriously, you’re creeping me out.

Dog follows the man into the room and watches him sit on the bed to get dressed.  Bored dog picks up a discarded sock, drops to the ground looking like sphinx and after pinning the sock under his front paws starts to pull on the sock with his teeth.  There is no malice.  He’s not practicing skinning a squirrel.  Pulling just feels good in his mouth.  His teeth like it.  The weave slips and grips the enamel and his teeth torque in their sockets.  Pull, chew, pull, chew, pull.

Hey, said the man.  Hey.  Knock that shit off.  Dog stares and his eyes say, why?  Pausing he waits for anger and seeing none he looks down and starts working on the sock again.

You know what? The man asks.  I’m going to give you a name.  Your name is Tug.  Got it?  Tug wasn’t listening and kept working on the sock.