Drop 165: Good Boy

bag of poopTom runs into Sarah in the park.

‘Long time,’ he says. ‘How you doing?’

‘Great,’ she says.

‘And who’s this handsome feller?’

‘Oh, this is Duke.’

‘Hey there, buddy.’ He pats Duke on the head. ‘Aren’t you a good boy?’

‘He sure is.’

Duke jerks his head away and watches Tom with distrust.

‘Well, most of the time, at least!’ she adds, smiling timidly.

‘Bet he loves the park.’

‘He sure does. Hates being cooped up in the apartment. Runs around like crazy once we get here. He’s obsessed with the squirrels and the birds. I really should bring him more often—but anyway, what’s new with you?’

‘Not much. Work is slow. Went to Montauk for the long weekend.’

‘Great. Love Montauk.’

‘Yeah. Terrific weather. Fresh seafood and–oh my, will you look at that!’

‘Duke, no!’ Sarah shouts. ‘Not here. God, I’m so sorry,’ she adds, slinging her backpack off her shoulder and struggling to produce a plastic baggy.

‘I guess you just gotta go when you gotta go, hey.’

‘It’s a new thing, to do it around people like that. Right at their feet. I don’t know why.’ She is clearly embarrassed as she crouches down with the small blue bag and picks up the sizeable turd, knotting it tidily afterwards. ‘You know, we should really be on our way. Sorry. Come on, Duke.’ She starts leading him away but he resists. ‘I said let’s go, Duke. That means now!’

‘But I don’t want to go, Mommy,’ Duke says, straightening the shorts he just pulled up. ‘I want to play on the jungle gym.’

By EM Vireo

Drop 155: Kids

park scene‘Have any kids?’

‘Kids?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Sure do.’ She’s in her forties but smiles the way pretty girls smile at handsome dogs unexpectedly passing them on the sidewalk. ‘Just the one. She’s three.’

‘Nice,’ I say. ‘I have two. A girl and a boy. Six and nine.’

‘Great.’

‘Yeah. The boy, Scotty, is getting so old already. We adopted him when he was barely one.’

‘Adopted! You don’t say. That’s wonderful!’

‘Yeah. He’s naughty, clumsy, greedy, messy and kind of chubby but we love him to pieces.’

‘Know what? Our Mandy is adopted too.’

‘Really! Wow, what are the chances?’

‘Yup. Saw her on a trip to Puerto Rico and just fell in love with her. Started the paperwork right then and there. Got her all her shots and documentation and made arrangements to get her back over here to live with us for good.’

‘That’s so great, so special!’

‘She was timid at first but she’s really coming into her own. She’s a real sweetheart, but by God is she food obsessed!’

‘It’s to be expected though, isn’t it? Our girl, Bella, is too. She’ll do anything for a piece of cheese. But isn’t it just so satisfying to watch them grow?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘Got a picture?’

‘I sure do.’ She whips out her phone. ‘Here. That’s my Mandy. Cutest little monster in the world!’

I take the phone and look, tilting my head. ‘Say, that’s a dog.’

‘Sure is.’

‘You’re showing me a picture of your dog?’

‘I sure am. She’s a border collie mix.’

‘Well, I’ll be damned. Here, look at my two babies.’ I pull up a pic.

She licks her lips while she looks. ‘You’re kidding me!’

‘Yeah, Scotty is obviously a Scotty, and Bella is some kind of terrier mix.’

‘Oh they’re gorgeous.’

‘So is Mandy. We should organize a play date.’

‘Definitely!’

By EM Vireo

Drop #103: Winston Wong

Doggy BusinessAt the dog run:

‘Lovely dog you have there. What’s his name?’

‘Winston Wong.’

‘What?’

‘His name is Winston Wong.’

‘Come on! That’s my name.’

‘You’re joking.’

‘No, I’m dead serious.’

‘Quite a coincidence, that, isn’t it?’

‘What a preposterous name for a dog!’

‘Winston Wong? I don’t think so.’

‘It is. It’s ridiculous.’

‘I think it suits him.’

‘No it doesn’t!’

‘What’s yours called, then?’

‘Nikita Caldwell.’

‘What?’

‘Nikita Caldwell.’

‘Hmm.’

‘What? Don’t tell me that’s your name!’

‘Of course not. Don’t be daft! My name’s Rex.’ He stuck out a hand.

‘Oh. I’m Winston, Winston Wong.’

‘Yes. I knew that.’

‘Of course. You can call me Winnie if you want. That’s my nickname. Is that your dog’s nickname too?’

‘Certainly not! I would never do that to him. I always call him by his full name. I suppose you call your Nikita, Nicky?’

‘Well… yes. It would hardly make sense to call him The Archduke of Crimea, for short, would it?’

‘I suppose not–Winston Wong! Stop that this instant! No, Winston Wong! Stop trying to shag Nicky from behind!–but you know what? That last line would have sounded way cooler if you did.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 88: At the Club

The club was filled with the standard mixture of idiots, clowns, douches and cunts, and the empty tarts they score with: kielbasas in dresses, with little piggy feet stuffed into stilettos; long, lithe, fish-faced deer with perfect hair and upturned noses; amazons with enormous faces and crooked mouths: frightful broken dolls in makeup, with desiccated souls strewn about haphazardly in there somewhere.

The horrible sound of enthusiastic alcoholic amusement loudly permeated the place like death stench in a basement and you could barely fight through the matted tangle of cologne. I usually avoid such fetid urban swamps, where people shout ‘Shots!’ and request songs by Tiao Cruz, featuring some or other Lil’ somebody, bottles of champagne come with sparklers, and women fall off tables; but a friend, Carl, who is far less cynical, and I must add, obviously has far worse taste in bars (probably in all things, now that I think of it) tricked me into meeting him there. Maybe, I have to admit, he can’t really be a friend—how many really are, right? By the way, his pants were way too tight, and seeing the contours of his ass so well-defined was disturbing.

‘Johnny should be here any minute,’ Carl said.

‘OK.’

‘Interesting dude, right?’

‘I hardly know him.’

‘That guy has a past. Make no mistake about it.’

‘What are you saying, that he wasn’t born this very second?’

‘You’re such a joker! Anyway, we’re going to be roommates. I’m moving into his place – the awesome one on West 4th. Isn’t that wonderful?’

‘Don’t you know?’

‘I do, I was just–’

‘So why did you ask?’

A mid-life crisis with a toupee asked a sad sack has been for the time as I walked away and bought a 15 dollar mojito, which, of course, was shit. I stood alone, looking around the joint, wishing I owned a disappearing wand. A girl pulled up beside me at the bar.

‘How do you do it?’ I asked

‘What?’

‘Manage to look so hot and pointless at the same time?’

Her ‘Fuck off’ was worth something, but God knows what, the economy being what it is, and all.

Johnny was there when I got back. He was wearing those brown rubber type shoes that look like chocolates. For the rest, he seemed to have perfected a style one could only call Gypsy Chic. His lips, naturally traced with a thin purple border, made his face both harsh and unappealing, like a sad old transvestite nobody finds charming or amusing anymore. What was I going to say to this buffoon? To all these utter tools? I’d have to spend my entire salary on booze just to get by. So I did the gentlemanly thing and left, before the familiar disillusionment grew into full-blown dejection.

I was home in thirty minutes. Zoidberg and Bender met me at the door, riding a tsunami of love that knocked me over. I sat there, petting and playing with them for a good five minutes, and by the time I got up, I had nothing in me but gladness.

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #31: Insurance

The dog needs feeding again, but then, that’s how it goes with dogs. I should call her by name, Yuki, out of respect. She’s got me through some tough days. She’s a Japanese breed, a Shiba Inu, and a lovely, fox-like little thing. She never barks, and never complains, even when I don’t feed her enough. Yuki is almost 12: still younger than I am, even in dog years. She also needs far fewer pills. I hide hers in her food, then take my evening dose: a colorful handful.

My back hurt terribly again this morning and it hasn’t gone away like it sometimes does by lunchtime; in fact, it has spread into my right shoulder as it also sometimes does. I can still get things done, but not without discomfort. The cough has become a nuisance too and now there’s this pain in the ear, which might have something to do with the cracked molar. All these things are connected, as the Chinese say.

I buzz her in and she’s up in a jiffy. ‘It’s cold in here,’ she says, throwing her jacket on the old, dilapidated grey chair. Yuki comes round to see who’s there, then patters off, uninterested.

‘Problem with the heating,’ I say. ‘Should be fixed in a couple of days.’

‘Lucky it’s not winter proper yet.’

‘Yeah. Lucky. Cup of tea?’

‘Sure.’ She follows me to the kitchen where I put on the kettle. ‘Speaking of tea,’ she says, ‘Had some with my sister yesterday.’

‘Ellen?’

‘I only have one, don’t I?’

‘That’s right.’ I smile. ‘How is she?’ I cough.

‘OK. The husband’s job seems to be going well.’

‘It always has, hasn’t it?’

‘Yeah, but now he’s making even more money. Bob is getting rich.’

‘Good for him. So, you stopped by their place?’

‘Yes—you  know: you should really try and connect again.’

‘Id love to,’ I say, ‘but I don’t think she’d want to. She didn’t happen to mention me, did she?’

I can tell she is thinking of lying but says: ‘No. The whole thing is so silly, don’t you think?’

‘Many sad and serious things are.’

‘I really don’t see how you were to blame.’

‘Neither do I, but things like to be complicated. Anyway, did you have a nice time?’

‘As nice as possible when the TV’s always on so loud. We had cake with the tea, of course. Three kinds on ugly new china. They’re always eating cake. I’m not kidding, they have some kind of dessert after every meal, and with coffee or tea in the afternoon too—oh, and get this, Bob said I looked tired. What kind of a comment is that? He probably meant old. I don’t look old do I?’

‘You look just perfect.’

I pour the tea and we sit in the kitchen with our cups. ‘Sorry, I have no cake,’ I say.

‘I’m glad.’ She makes a face. The one she’s made since she was a child.

I smile again, cough again.

‘How have you been?’ she asks, cradling the cup below her chin and then blowing on it. Little ripples wobble into circles.

‘Oh, I’m OK. They canceled my medical though.’

‘Just like that?’

‘Just like that. Said they can’t give it to consultants anymore. Kind of leaves me in a jam.’

‘I’m sure it does.’

We sit silently for a few seconds before I speak again: ‘Maybe I could go on yours.’

‘Mine?’

‘Your insurance. As a family member.’

‘Oh.’

‘Maybe we could work it out.’

‘Maybe,’ she says, ‘but I’d have to pay an extra like 300 a month, and my job wouldn’t cover it.’

‘That’s a lot.’

‘Yeah.’

‘We could have some type of arrangement though, where I make up some of the difference—I can’t afford all of it—but probably two-thirds.’

‘You know: I’m pretty sure my job wouldn’t go for that. Too much paper work. Too much procedure.’

‘I see.’

‘Can’t you get on Medicare or something?’

‘I was never a full-time employee so I’d have to pay an exorbitant sum to get on it now.’

‘What about Medicaid?’

‘Yes, there’s that, but hardly any of my doctors take it. Besides, you have to prove you have zero assets, and I’m still listed on your mother’s property in Brooklyn.’

‘Oh.’

‘Don’t worry about it, though.’

‘Sorry, dad. I just can’t afford it.’

‘That’s OK,’ I say, scratching Yuki, who has come for a cuddle, under her chin. ‘I already have another solution.’

‘Good. What’s that?’

‘I’m just not going to get sick.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #26: Dachshund

I felt empathy, real empathy, for the first time in months as I stood outside, watching her buy cookies through the large window. She didn’t know I was there, and so, made no effort to pull her face into any appropriate shape. With nobody around to fool or impress, it found relief, once more, in an anxious norm. Here was real sadness, but moreover, a deep confusion about life in general, and an inability to overcome it, and I felt sorry for her.

She reached the cashier and I went around the corner cause I didn’t want her knowing I’d seen her so bare. I hadn’t wanted to spend the afternoon with her but circumstance had made it so, and I’d been whining about it in my head. I decided now to make an effort and be nice.

We met up again as planned, a block away, and started walking to meet her brother, who was at a café nearby.

‘He has the dog with him,’ she said.

‘Oh,’ I said, showing interest. ‘Which kind?’

‘It’s a dachshund.’

‘Great! One of my favorite breeds.’ This was no lie. I had an affinity for the short-legged fellows and knew a thing or two about them too; in fact, I’d been waiting ages for a chance to tell my dachshund story. How serendipitous: a bit of civility rewarded! ‘You know,’ I said, ‘they were bred to hunt badgers. Can you imagine? They sent them down holes after the tenacious bastards.’

‘Really?’ she said.

I couldn’t gauge her interest but pushed on: ‘as a matter of fact, their original name was Dachs Krieger, or badger warrior. You might not think it by looking at one, but it really is a formidable breed. They were even used to hunt much larger prey like antelope and wild boar sometimes.’

‘Wow.’

We kept walking. I was happy. For once I had shed my cynicism and found reward in it. A few minutes later we reached the café, where her brother was waiting outside with the dog and got up to shake my hand.

‘Nice to meet you,’ I said, but I wasn’t looking at him.

‘Oh, this is Nougat,’ he said, rubbing the fluffy thing’s head. It was a King Charles spaniel: the ultimate lap dog.

Come on! I thought. That’s not even fucking close.

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #12: A Bear of a Dog

He scratches the back of his neck, leans closer, and says: ‘I know this kid who knows this kid who had something to do with walking his dog, or dog sitting or something—oh, shit! You should see this fucking dog!’ He slaps her thigh.

‘You’ve seen it?’ she asks.

‘No, I mean, this kid described it to me.’

‘He saw it?’

‘No, as I said, his friend did.’

‘Of course.’

‘Some Russian breed. Big as a bear. You know how crazy the Russians are with the vodka and the mail order brides and shit. Imagine what they get up to with dog breeding! Guy said he never saw anything like it. Pitch black and furry like a bear, with a big old snout, one blue and one brown eye, tall as a man when it stands on its back legs.’

‘Sounds like quite an animal.’

‘Eats only salmon too, just like a grizzly.’

‘You sure it isn’t one?’

‘A what?’

‘A grizzly bear.’

‘It’s some Russian breed. Forget the name.’

‘Ok then,’ she says, taking a handful of cashews. ‘Good story.’

‘Yeah’

‘Well, a decent one, I’d say.’

‘Fair enough.’ He picks up a single Pringle, puts it in his mouth, and bites down on it with a crunch.

‘Oh, by the way,’ she says after swallowing. ‘I found someone I really like.’

‘Did you?’

‘Yeah, I mean, someone who blows me away, like in the movies. I have trouble breathing when I’m around him.’

‘And he likes you too?’

‘Yes.’

‘In that way?’

‘Yes.’

‘How long have you been seeing him?’

‘Only two weeks.’

‘And you’re that sure after that short?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘Wow. That’s amazing. I’m really happy for you.’

‘Thanks… so I guess I’m going to have to break up with you.’

‘Obviously.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Ok. Wow. Well, congratulations. That really is great news. You’re so lucky.’

‘I know.’

‘I guess I’ll see you around then.’

‘You don’t have to leave or anything.’

‘No, I know. I’m not leaving. It was more of a general comment.’

‘Oh. Ok,’ she says. She hears something fall and break in the other room and hopes it’s nothing she cares about.

By E.M. Vireo