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.

Tonight He Dreamed

Sitting down he felt vague shame.  He had only seen what he expected to see.  Part of him wanted to apologize to the girl with the gray ponytail for being so blind and willing to accept his prejudices.  His lie was morning shifts are for old women and he had made her into his biased truth.  She was cute.  And right.  The fried chicken was killer.  It had an unidentified kick to it, not cayenne, could be Cajun.  Extra napkins lay spent on the table.  He was fat and happy as his mother would say unkindly.  Making fat and happy a negative was part of her plan to cut all the happy out of life.  How she had come to be the rain on every parade escaped him.  It was who she had always been, he had known no different and couldn’t imagine it.  That bruising, unhappy control was what had made the family work and fail all at once.  Paradox has been his state of being for a long, long time.

Cherry pie for dessert seems a cliche’ but he goes for it anyway, the crust on top looks like a long, twisted pie of dough wound in a spiral from the center out.  It’s hypnotic in its own way, the kind of thing you’d hold up and spin behind the basket as the opposing team takes a free throw.  Simple yet complex.  Kind of thing Pop would appreciate.  Looks wickedly engineered but in the end…not so much.  They do have a Billy the Knife, so…do they have a Penny the Pastry Chef?  Betty the Baker?  Crocker the Pie Hawker? Dan, Dan the Pastry Man?  Oh hell, he was fat and happy.  Good food after a good ride.  There was suddenly a growing gravity.  A thing.  A place.  A comfortable corner.

The ride back to the motel was in darkness.  Watching for eye-shine a traveling slower than he would in the daylight he was cold by the time he was back in his room.  The room was cold and the air conditioner/heater rattled when he turned up the heat.  Going to sleep was easy and tonight he dreamed.