Been There. Done That.

Trepidation was in her as she shot an eye check to the old men.  They were worn. Time has slicked their surfaces and hidden their edges and corners.  You couldn’t get purchase on them–they were no longer individuals but things–all the special about them had been sanded off and they were just angry, opinionated old men now.  Different once, they must have been different once but no longer because they had embraced the cliche’ and burrowed into the accepting safety of prejudice and broken hearts.

Was there a worse death?  Occasionally they gently leer at her.  She knows this. No touching, they know this too.  Once a quintet they are now a quartet because Billy the Knife had heard about number 5.  Words collided in the parking lot.  Billy said everything without saying anything.  Tone, volume, and word choice; so perfect and menacing and so innocent, The Knife was an artist with food and with words.  Been there, done that, he had said to her.  Won’t let anyone get away with that shit.  No one, he said with a true hardness in his eyes.  Somewhere back there someone had failed him.  She could tell.  The Knife was sharp and ready.  Been there.  Done that.

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I’m a Regular

Keeping it simple he headed to the Riverside, lines be damned.  It looked like a grinder he could drop the dog into and someone would know someone who knew someone.  Gray Ponytail is plugged in somehow.  You can’t have that many fogies in one place and not have an orgy of gossip going on.  Grab a cinnamon roll, coffee, drop a hook, back for dinner to check the bait.  It was a damn well trained mutt.  It was somebody’s.  Morning crush gone, the restaurant was about half empty.  Walking directly to yesterday’s table he sits down.  Gray Ponytail is working another table with a foursome of older gentlemen.    After a flourish with her pen she comes toward him.  He watches her walk.  The floor is a trampoline and she bounces with each step, ponytail bobbing.  “Same-same?” She asks.

“Yup, and a large OJ.”

Nodding, she is gone, leaving only a hole in the air.   Gray hair.  Odd.  Got to ask about that.  Maybe it was a political statement.  Or…well there was a reason somewhere.  First things first.  The dog.  Hey, anyone you know missing a dog?  Nope. I was wondering if you knew anyone missing a…nope, nope, nope.  How do you start a conversation about finding somebody’s dog?  Maybe just drop it in like an ‘oh yes, this happened’.  Looking up at her made him feel small and out of control.  Nobody talks up to somebody about stuff.  You stand eye to eye.  Maybe he should stand up.  Or he could wait until he was leaving and then they would be eye to eye.  Could go over and talk to to the tea party guys but they were discussing healthcare or medicare or something and sounded like they were getting pissed off.

A small coaster skims across the table and a glass of orange juice lands on it.  “Rest will be out in a minute,” turning to leave she starts away.

“Hey,” he says.  She stops.  “I found a dog.”  Out of ammo he lets it hang there; nothing more to say.

“Good for you.”  Staring.  “Were you looking for one?”  Faint smile.

“No, no.  I just..it..”  His brain skipped teeth on his speech sprocket.  “It just wandered into my motel room.”

Head tilt.  Ponytail swings.  “You just leave your door open and let things wander in?”

Dammit. “The door won’t always latch and I went back and there was this dog in my room.”  Silence.  She was sharp.  Speak now or get spoken to.  “He’s a little rat terrier or something.  About 10 pounds.  White and brown.”

“Sounds nice.”  A step backward and away.

“No, wait!  It just showed up and I think it’s somebody’s and I need to have you ask around.”

Pause.  “You got a picture of it?”  He looks stumped, stupid.

Exasperation.  “Like on your phone?  Did you take a picture with your phone?”

Shit. “Nope.”  He is hoping the dog is gone when he gets back to room, that the problem is solved by the math that caused it.  “I’ll get one.  Maybe you could Facebook it or Snapchat it around.”

“Sure.”  Eyes darting to the four old guys, then locking on his, “Anything for a regular. You are a regular right?”

“Yes.  Sure. Of course.  I’m a regular–now.”

Said the Dog

The dog was still there.

The dog.  Was still.  There.

There was the dog, still.

The dog, still, was there.

Still, the dog was there.

Shit. Walking back into the office he asked Mr. Helpful what the charge for pets was.  Free, he was told.  Slapping a fifty on the desk he said, just in case, looked at a weakly floating Mylar balloon that proclaimed “Happy Birthday!” and went back to stand in the doorway and look at the dog.  The dog looked at him.  There was an inspection going on.  A weighing and a measuring.  Both animals wanted company and both wanted to be left alone.  The dog broke the stalemate, dropping the sock and trotting to the door, sitting down and looking up at the man.

“Good dog” said the man.

Here’s looking at you, said the dog.

“You should have a name I guess,” said the man, “even if you’re not going to be around long.”

You don’t need a name, said the dog, as long as you can make food appear and it doesn’t rain in the room.

Trouble was what to do with the dog. The door and its inability to securely close had put him in this situation.  Maybe it could get him out.

“Stay,” said the man.

Just make sure you leave a sock out, said the dog.

“Stay.”  Pulling the door gently he let it sweep the dog gently into the room, the dog avoiding thedoor by backing up but not breaking for it.

At least I got a sock, said the dog.

The Dreamed Dream

Here is the dream he dreamed the night before the dog:

blood was in his mouth

feeling like warm milk

it did not choke him

he spat it out

but it was replaced too fast and he swallowed it

maybe his brain is leaking

pouring down his throat

not a torrent

not enough to drown

like wine gently poured down his throat

corpuscles tickled

red and white

his uvula dripped plasma

good God how much

blood can one head hold?

In his gut

clotting, filling, bloating

but he can’t force vomit

bad thanksgiving memories

swirl in his head

mom made candied yams

yam burlee

a burnt wasteland

of morning glory

not nightshade

in his gut

he wanted to throw it up

to expel

spew

regurgitate

but his body said,

no

his belly button

popped out

like a pregnant lady

but he had

no contraction, no expulsion

no desire

just the constant flow

Then he woke up.

A Little Tug

They stare at each other.  The dog, disturbed at being interrupted while killing the sock.  The man, incapable of processing what he was seeing.  Cocking it’s head to the left the dog sits a moment before ducking behind the door and shaking its head with lethal intent.  Little dogs can be real bad-asses, he thinks.  That stick and move thing.  Dropping to one knee he  cautiously pushes the door back.  Dog could climb him like a stump and take his nose off.  The door swings toward the naked wall.  To the right is the sink and toilet.  Dog could feel trapped.  Not caring too much yet the dog stops, then resumes shaking the life out of the sock.  It’s how dogs kill things.  Bite.  Shake it until it’s dead or stunned.  Imagine if that got a piece of your face.  Yikes.

“Hey little dude.”  Squeeze him with the door just a little, not need to scare.  A cropped white tail leads as the dog backs out of the diminishing space. Butt high the dog must have its head on the ground.  “Hey little dude, no need to get excited.”  The dog, now white and showing a brown spot on his left side ignores him.  Pushing the door further the dog backs out fully and looks at him.  The dog drops the sock and barks once.

“Easy little dude.”

Bark.  Staring.  Smart eyes.  A touch of gray on the muzzle.  Brown mask and ears.  Both ears stick straight up but fold forward a the top.  The dog just looks intelligent. Intelligent dog.  Not feral.  Dirty but not beat down, on-the-street dirty dog.  Dirty like “I got lost at the rest stop” dirty.  What do you do with a dog you don’t own in a town that ain’t yours?

“Sit.”  Haunches to the ground.  Like a Chinese temple lion.  Back straight.  Chest out.  Rough coat.  Not wire haired but more than smooth.  The dog cocks it’s head waiting for another order.

“Stay.”  Standing, he backs out of the bathroom.  The dog just sits.  Happy to be of service.  Smart dog.  Not afraid dog, not cowering dog.  Ok-I’ll-do-that-dog.

“Heel.” Nonchalantly the dog stands and trots to him.  Makes a have circle behind him and sits again.  Got it boss.  Now what?  Seriously.  This is way too easy.  The dog seems…bored, the commands routine and the actions uninteresting.

“Down.”  Walking his front paws out the dog patiently assumes the position of a sphinx.

“Stay.”  Turning he walks out of the open door into the parking lot.  Taking his time he goes to the office.  Maybe the dog will be gone when he gets back.  Maybe it’ll get up and trot back to wherever it came from and a little old lady or happy kid will say, “Where have you been!” and there’ll be treats and reunion.  Laughter.  Kisses and scratches.

Mr. Friendly “park your bike in the room” is in the office at the desk.

“What can I do for you sir?”  The kid is the dog.  Young and following instructions beyond the letter. Eager to please, fur is even unkempt; well-trained, too bright and bored, both excited to show off their skills.

“Has anybody checked in with a dog?”

“Uhhhh…” Quizzical, lost a moment. A shuffle of pages on the registry.  Yes, an old school, registry.  Back and forth.  One page erect, reading sideways and flipping the page between hands and head turns.  Hey there Norman Bates, read a little faster.  “Ah…No.  Not that I can see.  Is there a problem?”  Face up, eyes shining.

“No.  No.  Just thought I heard something.” A pause, mouth almost open.  “No.  Everything’s good.”

Walking out he thinks he should have ratted the dog out.  But maybe the dog was gone.  Maybe the problem had solved itself and when he got back it will all have never been.  Sometimes just walking away fixed things.  His father had.  He had.  Just turn and walk away.  Some badgered and chewed and pointed and yelled until someone did what they wanted but he was willing to wait it out; wander away from the fight.  With luck the dog was gone.

But it wasn’t.  It was sitting where he left it.  The only difference is it had gone and got his sock and was giving it a working over, holding it between his front paws and pulling with his teeth.

“Dog.”  The tugging and chewing stops, the dog frozen mid pull. “Drop it.”  The dog gives the sock a little tug and then lets it fall from his mouth.