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.

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.

No Problem Sugar

She was a child and as a child she didn’t want to finish her breakfast.  Icky and cold it wasn’t fun anymore.  The maple syrup was gross and thick but still looked cool when you stuck a fork in it and pulled it out slow.  Looks like Spider-Man if you do it just right.  Or you can drag your fork through the pool of syrup and make little canyons that filled and disappeared as the tines plowed through.  Swirl.  Capital A, almost there for a second.  Dip a finger to see what it feels like on her skin.  Sticky, duh.  Wipe finger on pants.  Still sticky.  Finger in mouth.  Ick.  Lint.  Rub the finger on her jeans again.  Drop the fork.  Poke what’s left of maple soggy pancakes with the spoon.  The spoon leaves a different track in the syrup.  Like her finger but different, bigger.  Hand to her brown hair.  Oops, all stuck together.  Free the hair.   Maybe a paper napkin will get the sticky off.  Nope.  Just sticks to the sticky.  Uh-oh.  Paper tears.  Won’t come off with a swipe on the pants.  Busted!  Must have been in the bathroom.  A woman with short brown hair.  Eyes on.  Right to the girl.

“Sweetie!  Don’t play with your food!”  Head down, hands up.  Disappointment.  He’d been there and done that.  Carved his name into the tree of failure.  Hold your hands up, let Mom dip a napkin in water and start cleaning up.  Fingers, face and hair. Rub-a-dub-dub.  Don’t fight, only makes it worse.  A glass of water plonks on the table in front of him, sloshing.  “What can I get for you?”

Startled.  “A cinnamon roll.  With a side of bacon.”

“Roll with a side of bacon.”  She looks the type who should be chewing gum but isn’t.  A graying ponytail.  Close in age to reading glasses on a chain but not yet.  Doesn’t write down the order.  “Anything to drink?”

“Dr. Pepper.”

“You got it.  Want that roll heated?”  He nods. “It’ll be a few–we don’t use a microwave. That OK?”  He nods again.  “OK, I’ll get your DP and then it’ll be a couple of minutes.”  As she walks away workout shoes, jeans and pink shirt he turns back to watch as Mom is finished cleaning up the little brown haired girl.

“Miss?” he calls to her backside.   Stopping she turns as she has a thousand times.  Another changed mind.

“What else can I get you?”  Walking up she fingers the pencil in her hair as she considers writing things down.

Holding out his hand he lets the bracelet fall, holding one end between his thumb and forefinger.  The chain snap straight, rebounds and swings.  “I found this out front.  I think it may belong to that little girl over there.”  Juts with his chin. “Would you mind…” She reaches out and he drops it into her outstretched palm.  “Thank you.”

“No problem sugar.”

A Little Farther Away

Back on the road life didn’t seem so close.  On the road with the sound and the push of wind and pull of the bike things settled down into a strange calmness.  Like being in the shower.  Amid the noise and steam somehow it was tranquil.  Probably was the same for machine operators and truck drivers, you just get used to it and once it’s not there you miss it.  A body not rattling was a body unsure.  The flow of the road was hard to explain.  Such a three dimensional experience involving all your senses.  I wonder, he thinks, if Pop got this way in the middle of a project or negotiation.  That single place where things fly around you and you simply are.  The simple state of doing a something and then being something, of union with action where you become the thing you’re doing.

Pop was gone.  Mom too.  They had left things but not a legacy.  Things that were his now but only owned by him.  How could you have so much and so little at the same time?  Like a king it was only yours if they gave it to you or you had the power to take it.  Being King meant nothing if your subjects ignored you–or weren’t afraid of you. There was no crown without subjects, just a kingdom of empty.  His inherited kingdom produced an eternal flow of money that he let a Regent take care of.  Lawyers and Advisers had courted him wanting to help out.  He stuck with his Pop’s guys.  “Just make sure everybody gets paid,” was all he would say, “Don’t fuck with the blue collar guys–cut them a break.”  He just let the words hang out there in front of the suits.  They feared him because he didn’t know what he was doing and if he tried to do something then he could kill the golden goose.  Throats tight under their ties they tried not to “fuck the blue collar guys” and to “cut them a break”.

Pop could play that game.  Asking Pop a question now wasn’t an option.  People expected and dreaded leadership but he had none to give.  Not an empty vessel, he had just never been filled to pour out.