“To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.”
― Aldous Huxley
“If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.”
― Charles Dickens
I was starting off on my drive to work, having made one turn… my drive crossed the walking path that runs along the creek behind my house. This trail is crowded at dawn, mostly dog-walkers but quite a few exercisers, some wanderers, skateboards, unicycles, cyclists, and stray coyotes returning to their lairs. All are out trying to get in some perambulation in the relative cool of the morning before the killer Texas sun rises too high in the sky.
A little bit past the trail crossing I slowed to let a man cross in front of me. He had a leash in one hand and a plastic poop bag in the other – the bag swung to and fro, indicating its possession of a cargo of (presumably canine) shit.
But he had no dog. A leash and a bag of poop, but no pet. What the hell?
Maybe his long term pet had passed away and he still went out every morning for a walk, carrying a leash and a precious, saved crappy souvenir to remind him of his dear departed pooch. Maybe not.
I didn’t stop and ask.
“Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.”
― William S. Burroughs
Down at the end of our block is a big park with ponds, softball diamonds, woods, and a picnic area. Next to it is a tennis center, and past that, an area that the city has built up for horseshoe pitching tournaments… (yes, really).
Especially on windy days, tennis balls from the center get blown over the fence and the people there are lazy about fetching them.
The ones that fall toward the street are picked up by people walking in the area and when they get to the trail in back of our house they throw them over the fence for our dog, Isaak. He is completely obsessed with tennis balls. He pushes them through gaps in the iron fence for the walkers to throw back.
With the isolation, however, not enough people are picking them up and Isaak’s collection is getting ratty.
So, driving by, I noticed about a dozen tennis balls spread around in the horseshoe area. They sat there for a week – through a couple of rainstorms – so I knew nobody wanted them. Except I knew Isaak wanted them.
One of the bad things about getting old (one of the many many things) is that you can’t climb over fences anymore. It’s weird – in your head you can scramble up, over, and down like you did when you were twelve, but when you try it all you get is pain, embarrassment, and injury.
But I thought of all those balls going to waste in that horseshoe area and decided to walk down there and climb that damn fence. It turns out that the gate is lower than it looks and by standing on tiptoes I could sort of step over – easy peasy.
So now, every day for a week or so – Isaak gets a new bright yellow tennis ball. They are a little damp and not very bouncy – but he doesn’t mind. He gets all excited and walks around with the new ball in his mouth – showing off to all the people that walk by.
Today – A heartbreaking flash fiction about mothers and their children.
The workman turned to face him. Marcellus saw he had a patch on his vest that said, “Strongman.” The workman didn’t say anything.
—-Bill Chance, Intersection
Marcellus Rodgers wondered what was up when he had to wait to get through the intersection at the end of his block. After a short delay, it was his turn and he had to hold onto the paper cup of coffee when he made his right turn, so he almost didn’t bother to glance over his left shoulder to see what was holding everyone up – but he did – and there was Margie lying lifeless and still on the asphalt in the middle of the intersection.
Margie was fourteen, which was old for a sheepdog. She had been stone deaf for five years. In the last few months her eyes had clouded and Marcellus was sure she had gone practically blind.
Until today, Margie was still able to get around. Marcellus figured it was on her sense of smell and fourteen years of pure dog memory. She slept almost all the time but somehow was able to shake herself awake and go exploring a little bit every day.
Marcellus and his family, when his wife and kids still lived with him, had never been able to keep Margie from escaping. No matter how carefully he had the workmen patch the fence, no matter how vigilant he was with the doors, somehow Margie would get out and go wandering around the neighborhood. Marcellus could not understand what the attraction was for Margie, especially now, blind and deaf, out slowly sniffing, stumbling after squirrels, barking at cats, angering the neighbors, digging in the trash… and now, wandering blind into the street to be hit by a car.
He pulled over and wedged the steaming coffee onto the dash. Holding his hand out to stop the oncoming rush of cars he walked out and poked at Margie with the toe of his tennis shoe. He bent over and gave a little tug on one fore paw. Marcellus realized that Margie was too big for him to lift right there in the middle of the intersection, especially with cars coming. Even if he could get Margie to the car, there was no place to put her in the little two seat sports car. Alive, she loved to sit up in the passenger bucket with her head out the window, hair and ears flopping in the breeze, but dead…. He would have to go home and get a box or something to slide her into – something he could drag the short distance to his porch. The sun was starting to rise over the neighborhood pines, but it was still cold enough that his breath was steaming. He turned from Margie, climbed into his car, and drove home.
He left his coffee sitting on the workbench in the garage and started digging around, looking for a big enough box. In the back corner he found the brand new silver-foil Christmas tree he had bought two years back, just before his family had moved out, and never opened. It was a huge tree, he had picked it out intending it for the high entryway, with the grand staircase spiraling around it, but once it was clear he’d be the only one in the house for Christmas, it didn’t seem worth unpacking and setting up. But, now, even folded up, it had a good-sized box. Marcellus tore one end off and slid the silvery tree sections out onto the oil-stained garage floor. He pulled the box apart along the sides until he had a nice long section of brown corrugated cardboard. He figured he could get Margie on this, then pull her home, sliding – like on a sled. He didn’t know what he’d do after that.
Marcellus walked out of the garage, dragging the cardboard behind him, and turned to walk the short half-block back to the intersection. Right away, he noticed the traffic jam caused by his dead dog, Margie, had grown and that there was an orange truck with a city logo stenciled on the side parked, still belching brown diesel smoke, at an angle in the middle of it all. The truck had a yellow flashing light and Marcellus could see a few neighbors out on their front porches standing with coffee and dishes of breakfast pastries watching the building drama. The sidewalk was too narrow so Marcellus trooped right down the middle of the road, dragging his hunk of cardboard, listening to the bits of gravel stuck underneath squealing against the asphalt. As he arrived he saw a city workman wearing blue coveralls and an orange traffic vest and yellow hard had standing next to Margie, tapping her with a worn leather workboot. The workman was holding what looked like an oversize snow shovel.
“Umm, sir?” Marcellus said, “That’s all right, that’s my dog. I’ll take care of it.”
The workman turned to face him. Marcellus saw he had a patch on his vest that said, “Strongman.” The workman didn’t say anything.
“Umm, Mr. Strongman. I’ll take my dog home. You don’t need to trouble your…”.
“Strongman is the company that makes the vest,” the city worker said and Marcellus didn’t think he sounded like this was the first time someone had made that mistake. “I am an Officer from City Carcass Control and I have received a complaint call about a canine carcass impeding traffic at this location and I have responded to that call. City ordinance requires that I retrieve the carcass.”
“But… that’s my dog. I want to take him home.”
“Sir, I am sure you realize there is a city ordinance that forbids interning a deceased animal on private property.” After a short pause, he said, “You can’t bury the dog in your yard.”
“Oh, I know that. My wife has some property in the country, outside of city limits, and we’d like to take her there.” This was, of course, a complete lie. Harriet and the kids were in California, on the other side of the continent, living in Sam’s condominium. There was plenty of landscaped room behind that place but Marcellus didn’t think the Country Club would be happy about someone digging a hole for a dead sheepdog in the fourteenth fairway. The kids had wanted to take Margie out to California when they had moved but Harriet said Sam’s condominium complex had a limit of fifty seven pounds on dogs.
For a second, Marcellus thought about letting the workman take the dog. Margie was gone, after all, and this was, as the workman said, a “Carcass” and nothing more. But he couldn’t do it. It felt like a place he needed to take a stand, and he was going to do it.
“No, no you’re not going to take my dog. Margie goes home with me. I don’t care what the ordinance says. And I’m telling you now, I’m going to dig a hole under the oak tree in back of that house, there. Come arrest me.”
“Sir, If necessary, I assure you I will call the police.”
“And by the time they get here, dammit, I’ll be in my house with my dog. Then they can go to the judge and get a search warrant for me and my dead dog.” Macellus shook his cardboard in what he hoped was a vaguely threatening manner. A couple of silver colored plastic fake foil pine needles floated out and blew away in the breeze. “And you know, Mr. Orange Traffic Vest, there’s not a damn thing you or your book of city ordinance can do about it.”
A horn blared from one of the cars at the front of the line and he suddenly realized that he was standing right up against the workman, and that he was starting to shake a little. The horn on another car, this one across the intersection, went off, impossibly loud, and the workman jumped.
“Sir,” he said.
“Don’t ‘Sir” me. I told you, I”m taking my…”
“But Sir, the carcass seems to be gone.”
Marcellus looked down and, sure enough, Margie wasn’t there any more. He looked up and around and there was Margie, with a little limp and a good overall dog-shake, walking down the sidewalk, oblivious to everything, on her way home.
It had been a cold pre-dawn morning and Margie must have gone for a stroll around the neighborhood and decided to take a nap. The pavement was probably the warmest spot around and – blind, deaf, and oblivious – she had picked the middle of the intersection as the best place for a quick little rest.
Marcellus dropped his cardboard, thinking that at least the Carcass Control Officer could haul that back and walked behind Margie as she strolled home and scratched at the front door.
Marcellus let her in and led her to the kitchen. He thought about his coffee in the garage, but decided to brew his own fresh pot. Margie started nosing her dish and Marcellus went to fetch the special aged dog formula that Margie ate, but decided not to pour any out. Instead he fetched a dozen eggs from the refrigerator and broke four into a mixing bowl.
“You want to share an omelet with me, huh Margie?” She couldn’t hear him but he reached down and scratched her under the ear and Margie decided to take another quick little nap, right on the kitchen floor, waiting for their omelet to cook.
To Monte, it looked good enough to eat, so he ate it. Come to find out that The Guy had had other plans for that hunk of meat. The fact that he’d left him the bone (albeit scored with tooth marks) didn’t seem to make much difference.
—- The Abject Muse, Monte
I always wonder what my dog is thinking as I take him for a walk. He acts like he really likes to play fetch, though (and he is very good at it).
Read it here:
from The Abject Muse (Susan Marie Shuman)
In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev’ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains
—-Simon & Garfunkle, The Boxer
“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
― Marilyn Monroe
We’ve had Isaak since February or so. He was named after this guy:
He was a rescue from Dallas Animal Services – we don’t know anything of his story except that he was not an owner abandon – I guess that means the dog catcher caught him. We picked him up on half-price day; that means he cost: fixed, shots, exams and such, only ten dollars.
The most common question that everyone has asked, of course, is, “What breed is he?” We had to answer, “We have no idea.” If I had to guess I would have said German Shepard (because of his ears and the black along his tail) and golden retriever mix.
So many people asked about his breed we decided to send his DNA swab off and find out for sure. The results just came in… and we were completely off.
So, that’s about as much of a mutt as you’re going to see.
I’m not sure how accurate these things are (they said their “sophisticated computer algorithm performed over 17 million calculations!“- if I had extra money I would have also sent in my own cheek swab just to screw with them) – but this actually seems about right. Long legs of a Boxer, a bit of a Pit Bull face shape, Retriever snout…. But Siberian Husky?
“The universe contains any amount of horrible ways to be woken up, such as the noise of the mob breaking down the front door, the scream of fire engines, or the realization that today is the Monday which on Friday night was a comfortably long way off.
A dog’s wet nose is not strictly speaking the worst of the bunch, but it has its own peculiar dreadfulness which connoisseurs of the ghastly and dog owners everywhere have come to know and dread. It’s like having a small piece of defrosting liver pressed lovingly against you.”
― Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures
We have had Isaak since February or so. People ask how old he is and I say about a year. He was a rescue from Dallas Animal Control so we don’t know for sure – though I’d bet he is about a year old now. People ask what breed he is and we have no idea. We’ve sent his DNA test off, but haven’t received the results yet.
It’s been fun socializing him – so I’ve been taking him to the Richardson Dog Park whenever I have time.
When he first arrived, he didn’t understand that a leash met go for a walk, not lay down on the ground. So I worked with him along the trail in back of our house. One day, early on, I picked up a book and dragged him to a little bench on the hike/bike trail that runs along the creek behind where we live. I sat there, reading, so he could get used to dog walkers, joggers, and such. He did good, interested in the passersby, but not going nuts.
Then a family of six on bikes came riding up the trail toward me. Two parents, two teens, and two little kids with training wheels in the lead. I heard the little boy say to his sister as they approached, “Don’t worry… it’s just some old man and his dog.”
Oh man… I didn’t like that. I especially didn’t like it because it was true. I was some old man sitting on a park bench with his dog, reading a book.
At any rate, back to today, I decided to take Isaak to the NorthBark Dog Park – since we had never been. It was farther than I anticipated, but after a wrong turn or so, we were there.
I took Isaak into the big dog section first and he had fun doing his usual dog park thing – running and playing dog dominance games with the other dogs there. After a bit he settled down and rested under a tree. I could see next door dogs swimming in the pond in the wet area – chasing after lures and retrieving them – thrown out into the water by their masters.
Isaak had never been in the water but I decided to give it a shot. We moved over to that part of the park and walked around to the back side where the bank was shallow. And, to my surprise, after a bit he jumped in the water and started to play in it. He had a bunch of fun running around on the bank and then plunging in. He would jump up and down, then dash out of the water again. Only one time he ventured deep enough to swim a little and was a bit intimidated by that.
I walked with him around to where the real water dogs were swimming and retrieving and I talked to a couple of women about how to train a dog to do that. I need to work on teaching Isaak to fetch and return first, then start him off in shallow water. I think he’d enjoy that, I think. What do dogs enjoy anyway?
When we were done I hooked his leash on a pole and gave him a wash with a hose supplied for that purpose.
He didn’t enjoy that.
“A refurbished Star Wars is on somewhere or everywhere. I have no intention of revisiting any galaxy. I shrivel inside each time it is mentioned. Twenty years ago, when the film was first shown, it had a freshness, also a sense of moral good and fun. Then I began to be uneasy at the influence it might be having. The first bad penny dropped in San Francisco when a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me proudly that he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. His elegant mother nodded with approval. Looking into the boy’s eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guessed that one day they would explode.
‘I would love you to do something for me,’ I said.
‘Anything! Anything!’ the boy said rapturously.
‘You won’t like what I’m going to ask you to do,’ I said.
‘Anything, sir, anything!’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘do you think you could promise never to see Star Wars again?’
He burst into tears. His mother drew herself up to an immense height. ‘What a dreadful thing to say to a child!’ she barked, and dragged the poor kid away. Maybe she was right but I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.”
― Alec Guinness, A Positively Final Appearance
Oblique Strategy: Not building a wall but making a brick
The whole family is now here, one son in from New Orleans, his cat ensconced in one bedroom, the other son from Houston, his black Labrador retriever settled into another.
Our Ring smart doorbell makes our cellphones tinkle in a delightful way every time the delivery man brings another present, the new Internet of Things Santa Claus.
We were up at eight; I had to drag myself – feet hurting, mind reeling – from bed; to see a morning showing of The Last Jedi at the local Alamo Drafthouse (the best place in the world to see a movie). I love the no talking/no texting or you will be thrown out policy. I love the fact that at nine in the morning they will bring a milkshake with alcohol in it to your seat. I love the stuff they put on the screen before the movie.
(on this snippet – if you get the joke “A talent agent is sitting in his office, a family walks in…” you should be ashamed of yourself)
I liked the film a lot better than I was expecting.
There is something wonderfully odd about seeing a movie early in the morning, other than the discount tickets. I’m so used to going at night – to emerge to sunlight and the realization that you still have another day to live – is almost wonderful.
Where are we going? Life, the timeless, mysterious gift, is still evolving. What wonders, or terrors, does evolution hold in store for us in the next ten thousand years? In a million? In six million? Perhaps the answer lies in this old house in this old and misty valley…
—-Control Voice, The Outer Limits, The Sixth Finger
Oblique Strategy: Use Fewer Notes
I am not a fan of internet memes, challenges, viral videos, cat images, or Rick Ashtley.
However, when I was invited to do the “Seven ‘Days, Seven Black and White Photos” on Facebook, I decided to do the thing.
Because I wanted to.