A Dog’s Wet Nose

“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

Isaak in the pond at NorthBark Park, Dallas, Texas

I came across an article the other day on favorite Dallas Dog Parks. Reading the list, I realized I had not been to one of them – NorthBark Dog Park in far North Dallas.

Isaak in the water at NorthBark Dog Park, Dallas, Texas

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.

Isaak as a puppy, when we first picked him up in February.

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.

Isaak swimming a little at the NorthBark Dog Park, Dallas, Texas

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.

Advertisements

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Fourteen – The Embassy Of Cambodia

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day fourteen – The Embassy Of Cambodia, by Zadie Smith

Read it online here:

The Embassy Of Cambodia

I played badminton a lot, for some reason, when I was a kid. When summer came along, the cheap filmy net with its too-delicate poles and always-tangled stays would come out and be pinned into the yard somewhere. We would each get a delicate racket and then the shuttlecock would fly. I never met anyone, among the hundreds that I know I played badminton with, that actually had any idea of what the rules of the game were. It didn’t matter anyway – I always seemed to live in windy climes and the motion of the shuttlecock in the air was always more random than not – no fair game was possible.

I don’t see badminton played in people’s yards anymore – they play washers or cornhole or pool volleyball. Maybe it’s a Texas thing. Sometimes, though, when I’m randomly punching channels into the remote, I see a game taking place in a professional badminton league. Professional badminton players. Professionals.

This is a strange world.

Zadie Smith is a writer, possibly the premier writer, of the immigrant experience. I know her, as you probably do, as the author of White Teeth – a touchstone novel.

Today’s story The Embassy Of Cambodia is a long short story – or a very short novel (complete with numbered chapters) that was actually published in book form after appearing in the New Yorker. It’s the harrowing story of a semi-legal immigrant housekeeper in London. She is doing the best she can to maintain a life of her own.

In a discarded Metro found on the floor of the Derawal kitchen, Fatou read with interest a story about a Sudanese “slave” living in a rich man’s house in London. It was not the first time that Fatou had wondered if she herself was a slave, but this story, brief as it was, confirmed in her own mind that she was not. After all, it was her father, and not a kidnapper, who had taken her from Ivory Coast to Ghana, and when they reached Accra they had both found employment in the same hotel. Two years later, when she was eighteen, it was her father again who had organized her difficult passage to Libya and then on to Italy—a not insignificant financial sacrifice on his part. Also, Fatou could read English—and speak a little Italian—and this girl in the paper could not read or speak anything except the language of her tribe. And nobody beat Fatou, although Mrs. Derawal had twice slapped her in the face, and the two older children spoke to her with no respect at all and thanked her for nothing. (Sometimes she heard her name used as a term of abuse between them. “You’re as black as Fatou.” Or “You’re as stupid as Fatou.”) On the other hand, just like the girl in the newspaper, she had not seen her passport with her own eyes since she arrived at the Derawals’, and she had been told from the start that her wages were to be retained by the Derawals to pay for the food and water and heat she would require during her stay, as well as to cover the rent for the room she slept in. In the final analysis, however, Fatou was not confined to the house. She had an Oyster Card, given to her by the Derawals, and was trusted to do the food shopping and other outside tasks for which she was given cash and told to return with change and receipts for everything. If she did not go out in the evenings that was only because she had no money with which to go out, and anyway knew very few people in London. Whereas the girl in the paper was not allowed to leave her employers’ premises, not ever—she was a prisoner.

On Sunday mornings, for example, Fatou regularly left the house to meet her church friend Andrew Okonkwo at the 98 bus stop and go with him to worship at the Sacred Heart of Jesus, just off the Kilburn High Road. Afterward Andrew always took her to a Tunisian café, where they had coffee and cake, which Andrew, who worked as a night guard in the City, always paid for. And on Mondays Fatou swam. In very warm water, and thankful for the semi-darkness in which the health club, for some reason, kept its clientele, as if the place were a night club, or a midnight Mass. The darkness helped disguise the fact that her swimming costume was in fact a sturdy black bra and a pair of plain black cotton knickers. No, on balance she did not think she was a slave.

On the way to her illicit swim every Monday she passes the Cambodian Embassy where she notices two people playing badminton beyond the high brick walls. They are unseen – only the shuttlecock is visible as it arcs above the barrier. In one direction it is smashed – in the other it is returned in a high, graceful arc.

And then Fatou does something terrible – she saves the life of one of her employer’s children. That upsets the whole thing – the power doesn’t work anymore. Fatou is sent packing – though somehow we feel that she will make it through OK, depending, of course, on what your definition of OK is. Yours is probably different that Fatou’s.

And these are the days of our lives.

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 14 – Go-Between

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day Fourteen – Go-Between, by Peter Rock
Read it online here:

Go-Between

So many of the stories I have collected in this month of short story writing are by familiar authors that I have read before. Either classic masters of the form, well-known maniacs trying to stretch what’s been before, or modern acclaimed virtuosos at throwing letters on the page.

That will not do.

I wanted something novel, an author I didn’t know – I need a new drug. So I turned to Google and some literary magazines that are willing to stick an occasional piece on the web for free (I’ll pay for it, but will you?) and struck a vein. Luckily it turned out to be gold and not hemoglobin.

The author is Peter Rock and the story is Go-Between.

I wanted mystery – something that left important (the most important) details to my imagination, I wanted clean prose (a little description is fine, but no rococo showing off), and I wanted some oddly off-kilter excitement.

Go-Between fit the bill perfectly.

It’s a sad commentary on my belated position on the mediocre arc of my nondescript life that I felt more of a kinship with the clumsy besuited disheveled stalker than with the attractive young characters trying to figure out where their skinny-dipping habits are about to take them. It is what it is.

So now I have someone new to read… a freshly-dug rabbit hole to tumble down. I don’t know if everything else he wrote is so attuned to what I’m looking for – but I’ll do the work to find out.

“How’s your grandma’s house?” he said. “Is it creepy, at all, living there?”

“I don’t know. It’s nice having all her old things, I guess, but I keep expecting her to be in the kitchen or come down the hallway. I never had to feed myself, there.”

Two long yellow kayaks slipped past. A lady in a bright red hat, a man with a gray beard. Naomi waved, and the man lifted his oar.

“Have you seen Sonja lately?” Alex said.

“We had breakfast this morning. Is that what you wanted to talk about?”

Off to the right was a tangle of bushes and trees, some of them tipping over into the water. Hidden on the other side of those trees, down the river, was an amusement park. Screams rose up every minute or so, every time the people on the rollercoaster made the big drop, headed into the loop.