Friday, July 22, 2011

Follow Me Home

I have a little story to tell. If you know me personally I’ve probably bored you with the details already (perhaps multiple times on the same occasion, depending on how deep into the wine I’ve dipped). But the series of events in this small true tale won’t leave me be. They are pinching me at my desk and poking me awake at night and I fear I will have no respite until I commit them to paper. Instead of simply writing them down, however, I’ve turned the whole shebang into a writing exercise. I’m somewhat obsessed with point of view. My inclination is to write in the first person or in third person omniscient as the main character. But I’m always intrigued by multiple points of view, as in One Day or The Help. I’m also a tad in awe of authors who utilize a minor character’s point of view to drive the story. And so, here, though it might be gimmicky at best and painful at worst, I give you my story as told by. . . wait for it . . . my dog. Apologies in advance . . .

The woman was straight up pissed. Cartoonish, even. Red-faced with steam coming out her ears, her eyes bloated and bulb-like, that vein at her left temple threatening to blow. You know why? Because it was her fault. She left the gate open, even after jabbing her finger at the boys and threatening a Gulag-type existence if they let me escape. She forgot I was outside. Worse yet, she hadn’t taken me running for a few days, even though she knows I’m a Husky and I’m born to run, baby. And, frankly, I think she was hungover. I can smell those things.

I saw that cracked gate and popped smoke. I didn’t mess around this time, either. I didn’t stop to sniff road kill or mark the neighbor’s mailbox (Though, for the record, if your mailbox is shaped like a wide-mouth bass, I think you have it coming). I got my sprint on. I felt badly for a moment. I knew she’d had a rough few weeks. I’d sensed the tension in her movements, heard her crying, felt the long, hard exhalations that jostled my head in her lap. She was taking up less space. The house, which was too cumbersome and too expensive for a half-time mom, was swallowing her a little each day. I thought about running back and leaning into her legs, but then the delicious heat from the asphalt hit my paws like a drug.

Honking, swerving, yelling with pumped fists—all the world noticed me as I tore down the street, crossing from one side to the other and back again. She and the boys followed me in the car. The older boy, he tried to entice me with cookies as she pulled alongside. But what’s a cookie compared to the open road? I’m a traveler, man. I won’t sell my soul for a treat. Eventually he became angry and started chucking them at me as hard as he could. Rotten kid’s got an arm. The little one? He just cried. “I don’t want to watch her die!” I heard him scream. This from a boy who has not only run into traffic on numerous occasions, laughing maniacally in the face of certain death, but who recently licked a wild mushroom “just to see if it was really poisonous.” Pots and kettles, my child. Pots and kettles.

A few miles down, she almost got me in the pool enclosure of an apartment complex. I thought the jig was up. I was cornered, trapped in some sort of fancy celebration amongst silver serving dishes and ladies in ruffled dresses. She wore running shorts and a sports bra. And pink slippers. I won’t lie; I was a little embarrassed. I was like, “Nah, party people, she’s not my owner. My real owner washes her face occasionally.” She lunged for me and I leaped over her like a creature of the Serengeti. Real Discovery Channel shit. (I’m still replaying that one). And then I was off again. Born Free . . . until I tasted pavement. Ouch. Some dude—some dude barely outta high school in a plaid button down and shitkickers—jumped out of a truck (one of those ubiquitous Northern California trucks sporting a gun rack and duck decals) and took me down. Game. Over. I guess he’d been following me the whole time, trying to help. She offered to compensate him, but he declined and, with a literal tip of his ball cap, disappeared. I heard her tell the kids, in her hyperbolic way, that he restored her faith in humanity.

This is where things get interesting. Fast forward four weeks. (Four weeks filled with a dive down to the rockiest of bottoms. With the paralytic odor of depression. With late night conversations about fear and loss and a yearning for peace in the abstract, and concrete discussions about the market and downsizing and a fresh start.) She was reluctantly suiting up for a run (which, between you and me, usually ends up being more of a walk/run these days). She had the shoes on, the earbuds in, the thick layer of sunscreen that makes her look like a Kabuki actor dying of consumption. “Alright,” she sighed, “let’s go girl. We’ll run by the cottage today.” The cottage. The cottage that was the perfect size and the perfect price and only a mile away and in the kids’ school district and biking distance to the creek. The cottage with the red door and the blue shutters and the big-ass lawn with the big-ass tree for climbing and swinging. The cottage she’d seen online a few days back and emailed about but had heard only crickets in response. The cottage she knew she couldn’t actually have because the ad said, quite clearly, No Dogs. (And besides, she’d never admit it, but I think she had started to believe she didn’t deserve good things.)

We stalked it anyway. Just as she was about to turn the corner and head back home, she paused and, for some reason, turned around. A car pulled up in front of the cottage right at that moment.

“Do you live here?” she said to the guy getting out of the car.

“Yea, but I’m moving in a couple of weeks,” he said. And then, “Hey! I know your dog.”

I narrowed my eyes. He did look familiar. I sniffed the air. Oh Snap! IT WAS THE DUDE. THE DUDE WHO TACKLED ME.

They chatted for a bit about me--how fast I am, how pretty I am, how nice I am--and then she mentioned her obsession with the house. He invited her in to see it. She may have actually swooned. It’s like the space was designed precisely for her. And can I just tell you about the kitchen? That kitchen was ripe for all sorts of culinary nonsense.

But, alas, the ad said No Dogs. And the landlord hadn’t returned any emails.

“No problem,” the dude said. “My mom grew up with the landlord. I’ll put in a good word for you. We can call her now if you want.”

Call it kismet, call it providential, call it serendipity . . . I now call it home. And this place? This place smells like hope.