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?

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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.

Not so Fast, Said the Dog

You probably need a drink, says the man gently setting him down and going into the bathroom.  Coming out with an awkwardly narrow glass full of the water he asks, wash it down pal; and still holding it for stability offers water.  No tadpoles or mosquito larvae.  No oil or scum.  Just water.  Just water.  Water water water.  Too fast but who cares?  The man can barely keep the glass from getting knocked over.  More, asks the man?  Sitting down patiently the dog says, yes please.  Looking down the man sees the dog is getting a little dog woody.  Put that chapstick back in the tube, he says and reaches into the bathroom.  The water flows violently for a second and the glass is back on the floor before the bubbles can all rise to the top.

He lets the dog drink its fill; not with pity but brotherhood.

Thanks, says the dog as it sits down.

You need to pee now don’t you?  The man slides open the patio door and the dog prances out onto the back lawn of the motel and searches from tree to bush for the right place.  Finding a small maple that smells right the dog hitches up a leg and lets it go.  Relief he didn’t know he needed.  Habit forces him to scratch the earth and flick tiny bits of dirt, leaves and grass.  Teach that tree a lesson says the man from the patio.  He clicks his tongue twice, the way you’d talk to a horse.  Coming, says the dog and dropping his head he kicks it down a gear and runs hard to the man.

Smart boy.  Good dog.  It going to piss you off I take a picture?  The man asks.

No, says the dog, sitting.  Just don’t steal my soul–I’m still using it.  The man scratches and folds the dog’s ears.  Wag, wag, wagging says his tail.  It’s embarrassing sometimes. It just happens.  He can’t control it.  Neither can the man.  He starts to baby-talk and work the dog’s skull over; scratching, rubbing, massaging.  Stopping he brings his hand to his nose.  The dog knows what the man smells, the individual scents bear a map of where and what, a nasal history of the last few months.

Woof, says the man. You need a bath.  Not so fast, said the dog.

Dammit and Cool at the Same Time

The door had slowly swung open slow, like it had when he pushed it and snuck in.  Jumping off the bed he crept over to see if it was the man.  It wasn’t.  Back on the bed he is curled on the pillow.  It smells good.  Like hair and sweat and oil.  Like people.  And soap.  Soft, he sank down into it and, divot-ed in he liked how it kept him warm.  The open door let in smells and sounds he has heard before.  Road, people, birds, planes, leaves…outside sounds.  Grass, cars, smoke, fresh cut wood, oil, diesel…outside smells.  Under the bed he had caught whiffs of food, mold and blood.  If the man doesn’t come back soon maybe he’d go out and pee on something.  A soft breeze pushed the door and it flexes open before gently swinging back; a wind-driven sigh.

His ears perk as he hears the sound of the motorcycle coming closer.  The bike coughs a backfire and his head comes off the pillow and he uncurls to sit sphinx-like on tense haunches.  Loose gravel crunches as it pulls up to the door.  A hard rev and then it shuts down.  A metal creak as the kickstand stretches it’s return spring and a thump as it hits the stop.  Boots. The right sound for the man.  His tag wags.  He doesn’t want it to but it just does…like when he’d piddle with excitement as a puppy.  The people go angry but it just happened.

Outside the door the man stops.   The dog can hear him putting keys in his pocket.  Waiting now.  The man is right there.  He smells right there now too.  A meat.  The man smell, the meat smell.  The wag, wag, wag smells.

You in here? Says the man.

Right here, says the dog, jumping off the bed and turning the corner around the door.  Right here.  Sitting. Wagging.

The man’s face says, dammit and cool at the same time.  A hamburger says, I’m in the bag.  His tail says, wagging like I really mean it.  Mouth watering he sits.  Looking good.  Steady and ready.

Wow, says the man.  What a mooch.  Reaching into the bag he retrieves a cooked hamburger in a wax wrapper.

No bun?  No bun!  The dog fidgets.  No bun.  All meat.  Best day ever.

Karrera with the gray hair since high school had looked at him like he was nuts when he ordered a hamburger “hold everything but the patty”.  She was cute when she was confused, wrinkled her nose like something smelled odd.  It was the hot engine look riders got when they smelled oil or coolant or hot electrics.  As metaphor a fire under your ass was great, but as a reality it was frightening.  Nobody wants that much heat that close to their gonads.

Hello?  Says the dog.  Whimper.  He doesn’t want to whimper but this was dammit and cool at the same time.  Drop the meat already!

Stepping fully into the room the man tears off a small piece of ground beef with his right hand.  He lowers the patty and holds out the chunk of meat.  This what you want, he asks and holds the small piece too high to reach.

Dummy, says the dog.  Jumping up he grabs a hold of the whole patty out of the man’s other hand.

Shit! Says the man.  He manages to hold on to half the patty.

I win, says the dog disappearing under the bed.  Now under the bed smells like hamburger, mold and blood.  The hamburger is juicy and after he finishes gulping it down he licks his paws a moment to get every drop of grease.

The dog stays under the bed.  You there? Asks the man after a moment.  Licking his chops the dog sticks just his head out from under the bed.

Am I in trouble? Asks the dog.

No, says the man as he squats and offers another chunk of burger.  Careful and slow the dog takes the meat.  Two gnashes of his molars and the meat is gone. Gulp.

The man asks, when was the last time you ate?  Chin on the ground and straining not to grab at the remaining hamburger the dog softly paws at the ground, crawling forward.  The man drops all the way down to his knees and slides back to give the dog room to get out from under the bed.

Right here buddy, he’s patting his thighs.

I’m in, answers the dog, jumping up.

Thinking dammit and cool at the same time he pets and loves on the dog feeding him the rest of the patty.