by Raud Kennedy
It was a good day to fleece treats off the customers coming out of the 7-11. The hot weather brought them in for beer and chips, and I sat outside pretending to be someone’s pet dog by sitting calmly and looking like I was waiting for my master to return from inside the store with a six-pack for him and a bone for me. Pet dogs were safe to feed. Moms didn’t have to worry about their kids trying to talk them into bringing home the stray. Don’t feed the stray, they’d say, he’ll follow us home. I’d heard that one a lot. So I put on my act of belonging to someone and it worked for me.
This section of Burnside was on the east side strip where gentrification hadn’t been able to take hold. The soup kitchen and the strip club kept it firmly anchored in reality. It wasn’t a usual stop for the west side whites, unless they got lost or the husbands got horny. You’d be surprised at the number of hookers who bought Ho Hos, but they were the best at sharing those Ho Hos and Ding Dongs. They saw me there often enough that they were on to my scam and knew I was nothing but a stray working my thing.
I’d tried to be a pet dog once, I even still wore the old collar my first family bought me, but the life didn’t take. According to the trainer my owners had brought in it was due to my lack of impulse control. What a load. It took more impulse control than he could ever muster to sit through his long-winded spiel about finding the right kind of treat to motivate me and him clicking that damn training clicker. Hey, click this! Find the right treat? What did they think I was trying to tell them by stealing all the food bits off the counter tops? How dense could they be when I’m stealing everything except the dry little biscuits they’re trying to “motivate” me with? My life might have turned out entirely different if those first owners of mine had shared their Triscuits and cheese instead of just stuffing their own mouths with them.
After a point I couldn’t make the effort anymore and one day they left open the gate in the backyard and I took myself for a walk and never went back. Sure, I’ve been through the system a few times since and there’s been attempts to re-home me, but this is the life for me, eating Ho Hos and scamming strangers. I know the drill when it comes to domestic life. Do this, do that, sit here, lie down over there. Oh, don’t do that! And after all that nonsense they trap you inside all day long with nothing new to do, day after day until your life has passed by and you’re off to the vet for the big shot. It isn’t worth the dry biscuits they try to give you in trade. Give me your love, they say. Give me your loyalty. In exchange I’ll give you this dry biscuit bought in bulk at Costco made in China of carcinogenic wood shavings and lock you inside all day long. And oh yeah, if I’m feeling energetic when I get home from work, I might walk you around the block. What a load. I was given the opportunity to be free and took it in an instant.
“Hey, Pimpster, want some Ho Hos?” asked one of the girls who was a regular on the strip. She shared everyday, like she was buying the Ho Hos as much for me as for herself. I wagged my tail and started to drool. Who knew I was such a sucker for sugary cakes?
She broke one in half and held it out to me. “Here you go, little man.”
I gobbled it in a second. She ate her half slowly and I waited for her to take the second one out of the package. When she did, she broke it in half, too. “More?”
She didn’t need to ask. I gobbled it, too.
“You know what? You’re looking kind of skinny.” She reached down and petted my sides. “I can feel your ribs through that mangy fur of yours. I tell you what, baby, if you’re still here later I’ll buy you a can of dog food.”
A car pulled up and she leaned in through the open passenger-side window to talk to the driver, then got in and they drove off. I went back to pretending to be someone’s pet, but eventually fell asleep. Later, her voice woke me.
“They didn’t have any dog food, except in the bag and I’m not feeding you a whole bag at once. You’d eat yourself to death.” She held a can in her hand. “But they had chili, and believe me, it looks just like dog food. Maybe even tastes the same. But my can opener is at home. You can follow me and I’ll get this opened for you.”
Once we got a block away from the strip the night was quiet and cool. It’s funny how when things are busy around you like me running my scam in front of 7-11 you think the whole world is like that, but then you walk a few blocks and it’s entirely different. We walked four blocks down a side street and then she opened the door to a basement apartment in an old house that smelled like the rhododendrons in front of it. I followed her inside and she opened the can, put it in a bowl and set it on the floor. It wasn’t bad, but I knew it would give me gas. She also put a bowl of water next to the chili and it tasted best of all after a long day in the sun.
She left the door open to air out the musky smell of cigarettes and sex, and I could leave anytime after I finished, but I didn’t particularly feel like going anywhere. That can of chili was like a lead brick in my gut, so I put my head down and closed my eyes for a moment. It felt good to rest in a quiet spot without any traffic sounds around, a little confining but I was too tired for it to bother me. I must’ve nodded off because again her voice woke me.
“Okay, Pimpster, I’m going to shut this door now.” She had her hand on the faded brass knob. “Are you staying or going? I don’t want you waking me up because you want to take off night-crawling with your buddies.”
I’d been having a dream where I was chasing this cat down an alley. It was a recurring dream, and I’d gotten to the part where the cat disappeared amongst the overflowing dumpsters leaking restaurant grease and I had to search him out with my nose, so I was eager to get back to sleep, back to my dream, and back after that cat. That cat was a mean piece of work, and the natural order of things drove me to take him down, so I just closed my eyes and let her close the door.
She slept late and so did I, and as soon as she opened that door, I went outside and got rid of some of that canned chili and marked the trees out in front of the old house. When I heard her making noise in her kitchen, I went inside and was treated to a bowl of scrambled eggs, something I’d never had before, and they were a big improvement on the chili. A while later we walked back to the 7-11 and she got in a car with some guy and they took off. I fell into my routine of hustling the 7-11 customers for some of their chips, though I wasn’t quite as motivated since I’d just eaten a bunch of eggs, and eventually I curled up and took a nap. The cat had returned in my dream and I’d discovered which dumpster he was hiding behind, when the fat man from animal services woke me by slipping a noose collar around my neck, and I was tethered to the end of the long pole he held firmly with both hands.
All I could think was that I was on my way back into the system again and this time it wouldn’t be so easy to get out. My puppy cuteness was gone, and I had the physical and emotional scars from living on the street. At least I knew not to bite the rubber hand they used to temperament test the dogs being processed into the the pound, even though its rubber skin smelled just like a chew toy I’d had in my first home as a puppy.
I was being led to the back of the truck when I heard her shouting. “Hey, you! Asshole! Where the fuck you think you’re going with my dog?” The car she’d just gotten out of drove off behind her and she was waiving her arms and marching right at the fat man holding the noose-pole.
“This isn’t your dog,” he said.
“Like hell he isn’t.”
“Well, he doesn’t have a license and you don’t have him on a leash.”
“Look around, man. Do you think anyone gives a damn about leashes and licenses around here? Get real.”
Then a big man carrying an eighteen-pack came out of the 7-11, stopped and stood very still, staring at the fat man. When another dog did that to me, they meant trouble. “If she says he’s her dog, man, he’s her dog,” he said.
The fat man shifted his weight uneasily under the intensity of his stare. “I’m going to cite you for failure to license your dog and having him off-leash. It’s a pretty hefty fine. Are you sure this is still your dog?”
The big man with the beer set his eighteen-pack down, squatted down next to me and gave me a pat. Before the fat man knew what to say, the big man had loosened the noose and I was free. “There you go, boy,” he said and thumped me on the rump.
“Sir, you can’t do that.”
The big man stood to his full height. “It’s already done.” He tucked a few bills into the fat man’s shirtfront pocket. “You look like you could use a break. Why don’t you go on inside and get yourself a couple of those chili dogs they sell here.” He picked up his beer and opened the door to a big car. “Come on, babe,” he said to my friend. “Get your dog and get in. I feel like having a party.”
As she hustled me onto the car seat in front of her, she whispered to me, “You owe me one, Pimpster.”
“Pimpster, huh?” the big man said and chuckled. “That’s my kind of dog.”
Bio: Raud Kennedy is a writer and dog trainer in Portland, Oregon. To learn more about his latest work, Gnawing the Bone, a collection of dog fiction, visit raudkennedy.com
Just Plain Elaine
by Bonnie York
Elaine is such a plain name. Plain and boring. If they only knew…
“Elaine! Elaine Annabelle May Redman!”
I looked up. As my eyes slid into focus, I saw that teacher’s face was a bright Cherry Red color. Then it was Pistachio Green just before it changed to a beautiful Cerulean blue. The color wasn’t the only thing about her head that was changing. It was swelling. The louder her voice got, the bigger her head grew. I thought she was gonna pop like a balloon.
“Elaine May Redman! Have you been with us at all this period?” Her voice was reaching the level of a jet taking off. “Do you know ALL the names of the explorers of Florida in the 19th century?"
I took a pin out of the sleeve of my shirt and gave her head a quick poke. Words flew everywhere. Whooshing and whirling around my head til I was dizzy from the sight. Most went whizzing past me and then... words were everywhere. The word ‘expend’ hit Jimmy Reed square on the chin. ‘Keg’ landed with a solid smack on Alison Tyler’s forehead. The word ‘pedestal’ tangled itself in the flag. A whole family of words hit the blackboard with sharp, snapping sounds. Words were landing splat, all over the classroom and my classmates.
The sight of my teacher’s shrinking head finally brought me back to the normal classroom setting. I mentally dialed my way back to regular reality.
“Elaine? Are you all right? You look very pale young lady.” My teachers voice was softer now, and she sounded worried. Her warnings of being sent to the principal changed to wonderings of whether she should send me to the school nurse.
I looked down at my hands. They looked fine. I held them up to show the teacher. “I’m fine, no blood, and I’m breathing too.”
Her eyes narrowed until they folded deep into her face. With whatever sensing devices she had left, she drilled with her laser vision into my eyes like she was trying to figure out where I had been. Then she gave up and asked,“Why can’t you stay with the rest of the class? I should send you to the principal, but after last week’s events I don’t want to have to bring your poor mother in again. I do however want to speak to you after class Miss Redman.”
Teacher resumed the class with, “Now on page 86...”
It was Friday and when the last bell of the day rang everyone headed out the door of the school. Everyone except me. I sat waiting...
I noticed a spider in the corner above teacher’s desk. It was just beginning the first rounds of a new web. I started doodling in my notebook. My notebook is always close by. I draw what I see and write what I observe.
Once when I ran spell check on a story from my notebook, it wanted to change Elaine to Alien. That sounds right to me.
Bio: Bonnie York is an urban shaman working in the field of energy healing. The story she shares with us here may give you some insight into the color of the sky in her world and her sideways sense of humor. She has a blog at edgeofthevillage.wordpress.com and is currently working on her first book, “Loving Lily ~ A Dog Gone Good Story”.
by Rob Mason
This night is filled with a beauty not descriptive with mere words. And none are spoken. The moon shines radiantly akin to a romantic candle on a table set for two. The stars plentiful play the supporting cast of ambiance for the prelude for a night of pleasure. The backdrop of the evening sky presents as a curtain dividing two lovers from the calamity of the outside world. Silence can give us such beautiful sounds as harmony overshadows distortion. With less to hear, more is heard, as unspoken is the language of lovers. It is not the cool breeze which causes my shivers but the anticipation of your touch. It is not in the prospect of earthly pleasure that causes my heart to palpitate, but the knowledge that we will find that place yet go farther. As my eyes focus to find you moving towards the light, I am suspended as a dream begins to unfold to reality. A silhouette at first, moving slowly and elegantly and treating each step as precious. Then out of the darkness, I suddenly feel as transparent as the sheer that now covers your body.
With that first touch you breathe in. A second has me sighing. I kiss your lips soft and moist. Begging for more, we shed our garments and then our inhibitions. My impulses pulsing and urges that urge me on. My fingers caress through your hair then with fingertip touches gentle, to more guarded places. You rise to meet me face to face. Whispering in my ear, I take charge obediently. Soon our bodies rhyme to perfect rhythm as two hearts beat in time with one another. Two lost in one moment and lost in a passionate embrace. There is no tomorrow, just the here and now. Time passes with emotions finally spent. We lay drenched in satisfaction as the lusting animal is re-caged. And soon tenderness avails.
The morning nudges me gently as I wake to find you still by my side. Still trapped in our passionate embrace, my thoughts wander as I am aroused. Your essence remains on my skin while the night’s memories become etched in my mind. Our bodies once heated are now tempered with a morning breeze that flows effortlessly through an open window. In the distance I can hear the songs of the Blue Bird excited. It sings of a beautiful morning that should not be wasted. My thoughts continue to linger until the breeze carries them away. Glancing my way, your lips part a smile as our eyes meet to greet each other and the new day. As my hand retraces curves once discovered and inviting, you stir and two bodies once again become entangled. The morning could not be ignored but for a little longer, it would be made patient.
I can smell the aroma of coffee freshly brewed as we both come alive yet at our own pace. Outside the world has had a head start, but we have our short cut to paradise. The sand on the beach feels warm and inviting and every step feels like a first. The water is frigid yet refreshing as the sand between our toes washes away with the tide. As a morning breeze compliments the warming sun, two lovers revel in these times and friendship. Two hands touch and hold on carefree with an occasional kiss for times made less busy. It is serenity I find in your calming effect as my eyes see beautiful and you are always in focus. These are moments that seem timeless to me as I am in love with a love affair always in need of rekindling. My worries are distant when you are near and so for now, this day belongs to you and I.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the beach and exploring our emotions. For whatever we could not understand of this world or of each other, we just accepted. With no eagerness for the future and no regrets for the past, we embrace who we are in the moments allowing.
At the day’s end and the sun now setting, I am alone and my thoughts are still of you. It was the most memorable of days and I wish you could have been here with me. And this heart of mine is still pretending.
Bio: Rob Mason is a 46 year-old divorced construction worker with no literary training who just loves to write about anything and everything. He is currently working on his first documentary style book about family law and has started his first fictional novel. When not working or writing, he enjoys a love affair with the outdoors via his rollerblades and mountain bike. He never goes anywhere without a pen, a notepad and his camera so that when one of those definiing moments suddenly avails, he can capture and hold on to more than just a memory. He works to pay the bills. He writes because he loves to and believes in the philosophy that Nobody wins unless Everybody wins.