The more I get to know humans,
The more I love my dog.
The more I love my dog.
Animals by Patrick Cooper
I’ve been waiting maybe twenty minutes already. My watch says 5:15, but I swear I’ve been hampered down in this backseat longer than that. I have a pretty good sense of time too. My internal clock is fine-tuned from running this caper so much.
The past two days, I’ve watched her get in her car and drive home. Always a couple minutes after five, like clockwork. What’s taking her so long today?
This part, the wait, used to get me sprung. Now it’s just part of the routine. Like the straights who get up at seven, get to work by nine, and punch out at five, just like she does. Where is she?
Past two days, right at five, she practically sprints from the building like it’s on fire. I don’t blame her. I used to have a nine to five. Didn’t take though.
Where is she? My bladder is swelling to the size of a small child’s, but I push that sensation to the back of my mind. The pressure won’t bother me because I won’t let it. It’s a Zen thing I read about one time.
Boredom kicks in and I sit up to stretch my neck and shoulders. I should do yoga. It would make the time spent folded up in backseats easier. Yoga, that’s the ticket. How much is a yoga class though? Probably expensive.
Through the windshield, I can see the parking garage is pretty vacant. Christ, the fluorescent lighting in these parking garages are hell on the eyes.
A picture of her holding an obscenely adorable boxer puppy dangles from the visor. I had a boxer once named Joey. He came down with cardiomyopathy – an irregular heartbeat that eventually led to death. I miss that goofy dog everyday.
I hoist myself up and open the center console out of sheer boredom: eye drops. Yeah, I thought I smelled traces of weed in here. Some earrings, nothing fancy. A travel bottle of mouthwash. Here’s the dime bag. Right on. I sniff it. It’s cheap. Pushed down to the bottom of the console is a folded-up envelope. The return address is some bank. Maybe it has her account balance inside, which will be useful when we stop at an ATM later.
There’s no account statement, but it says she’s a couple months behind on her student loans. The letter has OVERDUE stamped on it in furious red. It threatens action if she falls further behind. The vultures are circling.
Inside the glove box, I find an insurance card and registration in the name of a Katherine Newman; a compact, some perfume, and another envelope. Inside, there’s a sonogram photo. Judging by the blurry bulge between the legs, I’d say it’s a boy.
Mazel tov, Katherine.
The elevator doors ding open and Katherine walks out slowly like she has weights around her ankles. I put my hood up and fold back into my cramped position down between the backseats. Her footsteps get closer, echoing in the garage.
She walks to her car and leans against the hood. What’s that sound? My ears perk up. She’s crying.
Through the windshield, I can see her shoulders bounce up and down like pistons as she weeps into her hands. She tries to compose herself. Wiping snot off on her blouse, she unlocks the front door, and slides into the driver’s seat.
I brace myself.
Her cellphone rings.
“Hello? Paul? Hi.”
Damn. Wait it out. Breathe slow.
“Absolutely not,” she says. “You’re not taking Denny. He’s my dog, Paul! I’ve had him since he was a month old! I take care of him! You only want him to hurt me. I know what you’re doing! He’s all I’ve got, Paul! And don’t think for a second that…hello? Paul, Paul?!”
Katherine tosses the cellphone in the backseat. I don’t move. Close your door, Katherine. I never pounce until they close the damn door. Close it.
She takes the picture off the visor, stares at it, and resumes crying. What’s that sensation down in my gut? It’s not my bladder. It’s a pang of sadness and sympathy. Christ, Joey. I miss that stupid dog. It’s not fair they die so young and we continue living our shitty, selfish lives. Joey, goddammit.
Katherine places the photo back on the visor and exits the car. She heads back in the elevator and leaves me there, thinking about Joey and some guy named Paul who’s taking her dog away. Screw it. Where’s that registration card?
I wait for Katherine again the next day. This time, I’m standing next to her car and not concealed in the backseat. A little after five, the doors ding open and out she comes, looking as despondent as the day before. Then she sees us and her eyes light up.
I unhook Denny’s leash from the harness and the little boxer runs up to Katherine. The pup’s little ass shakes the whole way, his tail wagging so wildly he can’t run straight. He wiggles into Katherine’s arms.
When the initial shock is over, she looks at me uncertainly.
I say, “I visited Paul last night. I explained to him that it wasn’t right he takes Denny. He belongs with you.”
“But what…who are you?”
I squeeze my hands together. The knuckles are swollen, still throbbing from my visit with Paul. Thick skull on that guy. “I’m just a guy who used to have a dog once.”