I Bark, Therefore, I Am

1

I’m not going to yank your leash – it’s been a busy month. A few weeks ago, my humans took me into the scary place with the man in the white coat. You know the place. It’s where everyone gathers around me as I lay on a cold. steel table and they poke and prod. Seems I had something called cancer and my human’s seemed really, really worried and sad. It couldn’t be all that bad, I thought, as the treats seemed to triple recently… but before I could whimper, “let’s get out of this place”, they left me and went away.

Now, I know I’m a brave boy…at least that’s what they told me as they left. But I certainly didn’t feel brave as the man in the white coat took me into the back room and put me into a deep sleep.

I dreamt of all the eight, wonderful, play-packed years I had spent with my humans. I must have chased ten thousand bouncy things in the park, and they always bought me squeaky things to keep me occupied as they went to work each day. I dreamt of the day they rescued me. I had been kept in a breeders cage since birth, and when I was freed, I had seizures brought on by the new flood of attention and love. But as they said, I’m a brave boy, and I was so happy when they took me home to share their kennel with me. Over the next 8 years, I learned to play and cuddle and found my utmost joy in the little humans that would pet me, cooing, “Oooh..he’s so soft!”

I confess, nothing was as much fun as Christmas at my human’s owners house in Grass Valley when I get my new toys and treats! Didn’t much care for the firecracker day each July, but I found my comfort behind Mama’s legs. Oh, how I dreamed some big dog dreams.

When I woke up, the scary man in the white coat was smiling, and there were my humans!! They had come back (as they always do). My tail thumped as I could see how joyful and happy they were! “I got it all,” beamed the white coated man. “It’s was a low grade cancer and I’d be surprised if it comes back,” he said. I don’t know what all the fuss was about, but my humans were no longer sad, and that was all that mattered to me. I’ve got a lot of living, chasing, and loving to do still yet.

As I left the room, I looked back at the white-coated man and gave a little bark. He wasn’t so scary after all, and I felt I owed him a bark of thanks.

 

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The Reluctant Father: A Serial Novel Where the Reader (You) Determines the Next Chapter

What follows is my first attempt at utilizing WordPress to write a serial novel (a novel printed in installments.)  You, the reader will play a significant roll in the evolution of this story.  Read the current chapter and leave a comment briefly letting me (the author) know where you think the characters and story should go next.

FATHER

THE RELUCTANT FATHER

Chapter One: Tatiana and Irina

Had she shot me point blank in the heart, she could not have done more damage.

I met Tatiana eight years earlier.  She was sitting alone in an Armenian café on the corner of Santa Monica and New Hampshire.  This was the “Little Russia” enclave of Los Angeles. Not the safest place for a 28 year old red-headed Anglo to be perusing at fifteen after midnight.  People disappeared in this neighborhood for a lot less than satisfying a piroshki craving.  Reflexively, I patted my .32 Baikal pistol tucked beneath my sweatshirt. My stomach gurgled with hunger.

She was stunningly gorgeous. And well, she wasn’t exactly alone.  Clutched  close to her ample breasts, wrapped in a coffee stained tattered blanket with “LA Children’s Hospital” emblazoned across the hem, was a baby.  Normally, this is when I tune out and continue on my way, but she was too fucking beautiful.

“привет,” (hello) I whispered, not wanting to wake the child.

“ебать с,”  (fuck off) she whispered back, glaring at me with the softest brown eyes I had ever seen.

“Why?” I replied, in full voice, hoping I would wake the child just to annoy her.  “Is Daddy coming…ever?”  I felt mildly ashamed at offering such a cruel comeback, knowing full well she was probably a single mom struggling just to keep her sanity for one more night.  Now she had to further her misery with flirting from some asshole the likes of me.

As if it were possible, her soft brown eyes turned even softer, as tears started to well.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “you didn’t deserve that.”

“I’m sorry, too.” she replied, in broken English.  “My name is Tatiana.  This is Irina, and no, Daddy isn’t coming…ever.”

“Tony,” I offered. “So, where’s Daddy?”  I looked at the sleeping child.  She was so pink and I swear there was a smile on her cherub face.  A beauty, just like her mother…but without the stain of a hard life that her mother was wrestling with at midnight in an Armenian café.

“In prison, “ she replied.  “He doesn’t even know he’s a Daddy.”

“Well, he couldn’t have been in long.  How old is she?”

“One month.  We broke up when he was arrested.  I was two months pregnant.”

It was a bit of an uncomfortable introduction, but we meet people how we meet them.  It was obvious that Tatiana was starving for some contact other than the baby she held.  Without thinking it through, I offered:

“Do you need help?”

“Help?  How can you help me,” she spit.

“Do… You  …Need … Help? I repeated, softly.

She looked away for a moment, lifting the corner of the baby blanket to dab her eyes.  After about 15 seconds of silence, she replied,

“Yes…we need help.”

———————————— end Chapter One

Pirate, the Island Dog

Byron

Pirate is everyone’s, yet he is no one’s. Vacationers arrive, discover him, and dote on him for two weeks, then disappear. He is their holiday project – a story they’ll tell over dinner at home. On those soft, warm-winded Caribbean nights, some allow him in, to sleep at the foot of their beds, to guard their front door. In passing, some even toy with the idea of a rescue. Could we? Should we? Shots? Papers? Questions asked with the exuberance of the relaxed and the happy, but as the time to leave draws near, reality encroaches, the idea stalls.

There is an eternal sadness in Pirate’s eyes that comes from continual loss. People come and offer love, then go away, leaving him vainly searching for those he has loved so loyally in return. Yet his heart is enormous, and mixed in with his grief is boundless hope that the next one will be the one. He sits beneath the warm sun when the ships come in, panting in anticipation of the people off-boarding into his life. He lives in the moment, and the moment is glorious when the kids swarm to him, petting, cooing, and hugging. In that moment, he finally belongs…if only for a moment.

Every couple of weeks, Pirate sadly watches his loved ones depart, on the same ship that delivered them into his heart in the first place. A new band always takes their place, and he is robbed of his grieving as he prepares for the newcomers. This island dog waits, knowing it will take only one; one, to give him a name that won’t change, one, to call it out in the dark should he wander too far. One to call to him and him alone: Come home!

Appalachian Woods

Our lives can best be understood in all the things we craft from wood
The dogwood laid our cabin floor, hung knotted pine our shanty door
Six bowls we carved from fallen maple, a burnt mahogany sets our table
A dozen spoons and forks by hand, hewn perfect fit for every man

And woman, too, with sharpened knife carve etchings of our humble life
Soft wicker thatched this rocking chair and spruce the toys sprawled everywhere
In wooden homes that we have built we hang on pegs our history quilts
Each patch a memory lovingly stitched, our purses poor, our lives quite rich

Our beds and wardrobes never falter, we hand-carved those from summer alder
Our coffins, too, of stout mesquite, for when our journey is complete
In wood we find our heart’s desire or pain if come the wayward fire
And even so, most grievous sin: not to build from wood again

So now you better understand how we live upon this land
Within the forest, and it in us, in God we hope, in wood we trust

Ingenuity on Display

She walked into the pet shop with her precocious seven year old son in tow. They had obviously just come from the mall movie cineplex as they each carried the tell-tale striped red and white boxes of popcorn. Immediately upon entering, the child tore from his mother’s grip and rushed to the bank of windows displaying this week’s crop of new puppies.

In his manic exuberance, the box of popcorn he was precariously clutching went flying, raining white puffs of popcorn all over the store’s recently vacuumed carpets. The mother shrieked, mortified by the mess, and gathered the little hellion back into the relative safeguard of her motherly clutches. She shook him excessively and in response to her own embarrassment, launched into a tirade about how he had promised to behave and how utterly disappointed she was that he was acting like such, well, a child.

The teenage store manager, herself embarrassed by the mother’s harsh recriminations, swooped down upon the conflagration and assured the mother that “these things happen.” Then, demonstrating the ingenuity that made America great, she unlatched the window of the nearest puppy corral and placed three junior rottweilers upon the popcorn laced carpet. In a blur, the puppies went to town, and within thirty seconds the entire floor was returned to its previous pristine condition.

The offending waif shouted in glee and the mother’s scowl was quickly replaced with a smile. The universe once again spun on its steady axis.

Juggling Life

Consider for a moment that we are all jugglers. For in truth, that is what life demands of us; constant juggling – of time, relationships, responsibilities. We feel ourselves, at times, caught up in the endless task of keeping so many things up in the air and smoothly rotating, round and round.

Now suppose we see that we are juggling three balls: one rubber, one wooden, and one crystal.

In the course of our juggling, we slip and drop one ball. Let’s say it’s the rubber ball. What happens to it? Well, no real damage done, right? It bounces. It comes back to you. This ball is your education, your job, your career. In the course of your life you may drop this ball several times…you change jobs, you advance, you are laid off, you go back to school…it is constantly moving in new directions. So do not overly concern yourself when this ball drops. It will retain its resiliency and everything will be fine.

Suppose now you drop the wooden ball. What becomes of it? Well, it’s a bit noisier, true, but in all likelihood, it will become scratched, perhaps chipped. In time, after a few falls, it may even take on a new shine. This is your health and your spirituality. It changes, constantly. It evolves.  It will not look the same today as it will tomorrow. That is its nature. Be mindful of keeping this one aloft, but do not distress if you drop it from time to time. It, too, is resilient and in the long run, it endures.

But what then of the third ball? The crystal ball? What happens if you take your eye from it for a moment and it hits the floor? What becomes of it? Of course, it shatters. It will not return to you for it is utterly destroyed. This ball is your relationships, your family. If you drop this ball, no amount of effort will repair it. It is lost forever. For this reason alone, you must be acutely focused on keeping this ball in the air, at all costs.

As you juggle life, keep this lesson in mind, and keep your priorities likewise aligned.