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“Bloodflowers” excerpt 3

April 2, 2013

March 14th, 2013 

I’m standing bleary-eyed in the kitchen, making juice as the sun starts to come up, swearing over an orange that refuses to peel. I’m trying to regain my sanity during Dave’s mute period by getting real sleep, drinking juice with better fruit and vegetables, and running, but I’m on edge this morning, even after five-mile run. I carry the recalcitrant orange out the kitchen door and onto the deck that overlooks our backyard and part of the driveway. “Stupid ass orange,” I mutter, and then I throw it at the driveway as hard as I can. It splatters, bounces twice, just slightly, and comes to a stop. “Stupid ass orange. Serves you fucking right.”

Whoa, boyfriend. You sure showed that orange. I guess it’s not gonna work out between you two, huh? But really, did you have to give it the boot so brutally?

“Good morning, Dave. Always lovely to have you stop by my brain for a visit. What’s new? I haven’t heard from you in a while.” It’s actually been a boring couple of days, this sanity building thing, and I have almost missed his torture, especially after my conversation with Jinny last week.

I came to see the dog.

I didn’t get a dog,” I tell him. “I said I would think about it. Look around; do you see a dog? No.”

“But I really want a dog! You have to get us a dog,” he whines like a petulant child. I missed this? I shake my head. What? he demands of me. Why are you shaking your head?

“David, we are not getting a dog. I’m probably not even getting one for myself. I just wanted to get Jinny off my back. Now why are you here, really? You knew I didn’t get a dog. What do you want me to be sorry for today?”

Hey, Mr. Sensitive, I didn’t mean any harm. Actually, I’m here because I picked out a dog for you. You’ll adore him. The Humane Society opens in a few hours, okay?

“Dave, you are not picking out the dog. I don’t want a dog that my husband’s ghost picked out from beyond the grave. That’s just too much, even for me.”

I can beat that, truth be told. I can think of something way worse.

I raise my eyebrows. This almost feels like a conversation we would have had before the accident, a jesting but willful contest of one-upsmanship. He has my attention. “Okay, shoot.”

Ghost sex, he replies simply.

“Ghost sex.”

Yup. Like in The Entity. Remember that one?

“The movie where the woman gets raped by a ghost over and over again?” I am incredulous that this is where he decided to take the conversation.

Yup. That’s the one. He sounds proud. Like, what if we could do that? How friggin’ sweet would that be?! Not just proud: excited.

“No, Dave. Just no.”

You’re seriously not even going to entertain the idea for a second? I stand my ground and tell him no again adamantly, and he sighs. Fine. Will you at least go to the Humane Society today? I won’t tell you which dog it is. You have to see if you can guess. I think you’ll know, though.

“What do I get if I just go to look?” I think it might be worth driving across town if I can get something out of it.

Hm…I’ll leave you alone, or at least won’t say anything horribly inciting for two days. But I will really try to stay out of your way for two whole days.

I think about this some. “You were just gone a whole week. And now you’ll give me two more days?”

Sure.

“Deal. Not that I don’t just love your company, of course, but I’m really not in the mood to argue with you or be made fun of by you. I’ll go look at dogs. I don’t guarantee I’ll get one. I’m just going to look.”

Deal.

“I can’t believe I’m even going in there,” I tell Dave as I pull my car into the Humane Society’s parking lot.

This is going to be epic. If you pick the dog I wanted, can I name it? I can picture Dave as an eight-year-old, bouncing around in the back seat of his parents’ car. I’m not nearly as nice as his parents.

“No.”

Ass-hat.

“Sticks and stones, douchelord.” I shut off the car and look at the building warily. I’m going to feel really badly if I don’t leave with a dog. But what am I going to do with a dog when I’m on the road? How irresponsible can I possibly be?

Just go look.

“Fine.” I brace myself against a cold wind and walk toward the building. I really have always wanted a dog. I’ll figure something out, I’m sure. Maybe the perfect dog is inside waiting for me with sweet, puppy-dog eyes. I’ll know him when I see him. I’m sure of it. I step inside.

The truth is that since I’ve never been to a pound or kennel before, I’m struck immediately by the loud barking that echoes around the stone walls of the building and by the strong smell of dog. I blink fiercely a few times, like it’s going to make a difference to my hearing or to my sense of smell. I look around the space I’ve entered, and spot a reception desk with a perky woman, maybe a little older than me, standing behind it. As I make my way toward her, she looks at me and grins, and it’s a grin of pure joy, someone who loves her job. I used to feel that way on stage, and I recognize the intensity of emotion radiating from her. “You look like a dog kind of guy, am I right?” she beams.

“I’ve never been here before,” I explain. “You have more than dogs here?”

She looks shocked at the question, but never loses her smile. “Oh, definitely! We get all sorts of little buggers around here, from birds to boas! So, I guess I’m right about the dog thing, huh? Wanna take a look?”

“Sure. Do I need to fill out any paperwork first?”

“Nah, only if you fall in love with one of our heartbreakers. And you will.” She smiles even more widely. “That’s when we reveal the red tape,” she tells me. “But it’s not bad, really. Let me show you around. Then you can look on your own, and if you want to meet any of the dogs, just let me know.” She shows me around to the dog room, I guess, which is more like several rooms, each filled with varying numbers of fenced cages depending on each room’s size, one after another. And dogs. Lots of them. Begging dogs, barking dogs, whining dogs, scratching dogs, and sleeping dogs. At the first cage, the receptionist shows me how to read the tag hanging on the outside of it at eye level, and then tells me again to just “holler” if I need anything. How she would possibly hear me, even at a holler, over the noise is beyond me.

“Dave,” I whisper fiercely, “if you say a single word or give me any hints which one you picked out, I swear to gods that I will leave without a dog! Do you understand me?”

Yes, sir! he mocks. Mute, sir!

I stifle a laugh, and start browsing through dogs.

If you’ve ever been to a pound, you are likely already acquainted with the poignant emotions and realizations that surface during your visit and that make “browsing” such an inappropriate term: how all of the animals deserve a loving home, and how some look so heart-achingly beautiful that you want to cry (or do cry), and how some are so ugly that you just want to scoop them up and adopt them since you’re sure no one else will. Maybe you realize that no sooner will you have taken a pet home with you than a new animal will take that space in the pound, and you start to feel overwhelmed by the sadness of the situation and your complete inability to do more than make a difference in one or two animals’ lives. I’m overcome by all of this within seconds of being left by the perky receptionist, and I fight the urge to run out of the place altogether.

There are a lot of dogs. Big dogs, small dogs, fat dogs, young dogs, old dogs – just dog after dog after dog. I pet many of them through the wire fencing of the cages and I wish I could take each of them with me. And yet, none of them truly calls to me, and that’s what I expect to happen. I keep walking, waiting, petting. I’m walking down a third aisle of seemingly endless dog cages when a quiet voice speaks up behind me.

“What kind of dog are you looking for?” the voice inquires. I turn on my heels, startled, to find none other than James standing there, holding a pooper scooper and a fairly ginormous bag of shit. This, I realize, cannot be a mere coincidence. David told me to come here, rather than the pound 10 minutes away from the house. I fight off the urge to narrow my eyes and curse his name.

“James?” I stammer, still shocked to find him standing there.  “Wow… It’s really good to see you! I’m, um, looking at dogs, yeah, but I don’t know about adopting one. I just wanted to look and see. I’m thinking about it. I thought the perfect dog would just appear or something, but I’ve been here for twenty minutes, and I’m starting to doubt that. So… I thought you were a photographer. How did you end up on pooper scooper patrol?”

“Wow, indeed.” He studies me closely, I guess still trying to determine if I’m honestly as surprised to see him as I appear to be. Then he grins widely at me, and his glasses slide down some on his nose. Given his current state of sanitation, he tries to push them back up using a sweatered forearm, but isn’t quite successful. “You really didn’t expect to see me here, did you? It’s just sheer luck, huh? And it’s the same sheer luck, I suppose, that earned me poo patrol. I’m a volunteer. Not that anyone complains about their jobs when they volunteer, but I honestly don’t mind doing this. It seems like the least I could do while all these dogs wait for homes…” He seems sad; his voice trails off, getting lost in a renewed fervor of barking as a mother and teenage daughter enter a few aisles down. I get the impression that James doesn’t have a dog of his own, at least not right now, but wishes he did. I don’t want to pry. I’m feeling more than a little guilty right now for never returning his call.

“Bryan!” he perks up immediately, as if he’s just remembered something. I jump, surprised at his sudden enthusiasm.

“What?” I ask, curious what could possibly account for such a burst of excitement.

“I know the perfect dog for you! Don’t ask me how. I just know!!! Follow me, okay?” I’m reminded again of a joyful child, and I wonder how old James is. He seems younger than he did a week and a half ago. I wonder if he’s taking me to meet David’s dog, like maybe there’s some psychic connection between David and James. I decide it’s a freaky thought and try to dismiss it.

“Okay,” I agree. Dave says nothing, and I wonder what he’s thinking as I follow behind James and his giant shit bag. Finally, I wonder if James isn’t the “dog” he has picked out for me.

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From → Bloodflowers, fiction

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