Archives for April 2015

#142 What do Turtles Eat

What Do Turtles Eat

When I was six years old, my small world was called Hano. Comprised of Blaine, Hano, Everett, and a few other streets. About the only thing that grew there were weeds breaking through cracks in cement and an occasional stalk of rhubarb that would grow in an alley beside someone’s house.

Wherever there wasn’t a building, cement or asphalt covered the ground.  A few streets still had cobblestones as a surface. The empty fields where buildings once stood were covered with broken bottles thrown by men angry at life or sometimes just drunk.

I too hurled empty bottles into the air and watched them spin and spin like they’d dance forever. But they always returned to Earth and smashed with a sound that thrilled my little boy brain. Over the years, I probably contributed as much broken glass to those fields as any man.

The best place in town for me to be was playing on the 20 sets of railroad tracks that ran through Hano. I used to balance on one rail and try to walk a mile without stepping off. When a slow-moving freight train came along, I’d run alongside as if in a race. Surrounding the tracks were smokestacks, factory buildings, and Dorothy Muriel’s Bakery that mixed aromas of baking bread and pies with industrial smoke.

Above the rails, the Everett Street Bridge stood over the tracks on steel stanchions that beckoned me to climb them. The steel girders holding the bridge aloft were ladders I could climb to the underside of the bridge. Birds built nests there from twigs, pieces of string and other things, and then laid their eggs. To see a cozy nest with little chirping chicks made the treacherous climb worthwhile.

Gaining confidence, I soon climbed to the top forty feet or more above the road that crossed the bridge. Once on top, I could see far away downtown Boston’s buildings that glittered; their windows gleamed like faceted diamonds.

If I looked down, I’d see anything on the tracks that moved. If a freight train happened by, I’d watch and smell the acrid black smoke from the locomotive as it swirled in circles climbing to the sky. White steam flowed around the engine with a cowcatcher in front. When it rolled on by with its wheels clickity clacking on the tracks, and the engine singing that choo choo Charley song, I wondered if I’d survive if I jumped from the bridge onto a box car. Tempted to try, but never did. At times I’d race along the tracks and hop aboard a ladder on the side of a boxcar attached to a slow moving freight train and climb to the top. Once there, I’d jump from car to car as the train rolled and rocked on down the tracks. Cowboys did this in movies popular at the time. I thought it a brave thing to do until a boy I knew fell beneath the wheels. His brother carried part of him home to show his mother he wouldn’t be coming home for dinner—ever again.

One bright and sunny day I found a place beside the tracks where trees and weeds grew as tall as me, behind the Ryerson Steel Factory. I thrilled to be in what I called the woods. My friends and I gathered railroad ties and used them for walls to build our own cabin in our wilderness.

Hidden by grass growing on a small hill, our log cabin was a secret place. No one but us kids knew it was there. Soon after we built it, we heard that a hurricane was coming up the East Coast. To get ready, we put cardboard on top of the ties for a roof and covered the ground with it too. Inside was so cozy I’d rather be there than home. I could imagine I was Abraham Lincoln or even Davy Crockett hiding in my cabin waiting for rebels or Indians to come. If they did, I’d shoot them with an arrow from the bow I made by bending a green branch and attaching a string.

The hurricane came while I hid inside my cardboard cabin. The wind blew hard and rain began to fall. I heard every drop hitting the roof, some slow and others like a beating tattoo, a sound so sweet and comforting I wish I had it on tape. When memories arise, I still hear those raindrops beating on my cardboard roof until it collapsed from the pounding it took. Once the roof was wrecked, I ripped off my shirt and ran in the downpour feeling the windblown rain stinging my skin. I watched the flood beginning as all the sewers I ran by overflowed with water. What a thrill to be in the middle of a tropical storm called a hurricane. If I hadn’t been six and believed myself immortal, I would have been scared when the flood came and washed me away.

Down the sewer I went in a swirl going down the drain to be expelled into a cresting river full of floating debris like me. I called for my mother and heard no answer, other than the one from Mother Nature who unleashed lightning bolts to light my way. I saw a giant turtle with snapping jaws and knew it saw me as a floating meal.

If the turtle ate his fill, would there be any part of me left to show my mother I wouldn’t be coming home again? I cried for her and only heard sobs from my little boy lips.

 

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#142 Hired Killer

#141 Hired Killer

Hired Killer

Accused of a crime that carried a death sentence if convicted, I’d die before I’d say where I had been when it happened to prove it wasn’t me. Death before dishonor was tattooed on my arm and it was a constant reminder of what I was obliged to do. She was married to another man, and I made a vow I’d never tell she slept with me while he was away.

I spent twenty years in a four by eight space waiting to be killed for something I didn’t do. The one I protected never came to save me from the state paid assassin that wanted to do the job all doctors refuse to do.

My nights were filled with nightmares of being strapped to a table while eyes filled with hate watched as that state sponsored murderer stabbed my arm with needles full of Sodium Thiopental, Pancuronium, and Bromide Potassium Chloride.

If lucky I’d be unconscious and wouldn’t be aware of the poison traveling through my veins setting all my nerves on fire, burning me with industrial pain. If I stayed awake after I was injected, I’d be paralyzed and wouldn’t be able to move my mouth nor breathe, and only a tear would show how much I endured while waiting for my heart to stop its routine.

The chemicals were in such demand that states had to wait in line to get the drugs needed to kill. It’s hard for me to accept as true that people discounted this state-inflicted pain because a person, once convicted of a crime became something less than a man, not worthy of belonging to the human race, nor deserving to be treated better than a dog. Not worthy of being protected from pain that is against the law to inflict on any animal, but a criminal is deemed below that.

Even though I could save myself from such a horrible fate by telling the truth, I’d keep my vow to remain silent. Labeled by society as a murderer and a criminal deserving death, I knew I was better than those paid by the state to take my life.

As they strapped me onto the execution table, I held my arm high so all could read my tattoo, Death before dishonor. I didn’t tell the warden that the night the crime they convicted me of happened during the time I slept with his wife.

#140 What’s in the Shadowbox?

What's in the Shadowbox

Linda heard her husband Tim trying to fit his key into the front door lock. After a few minutes, she got out of bed to open it for him, but before she could, he kicked it open.

“Damn lock’s no good,” he mumbled in his drunken stupor as he crashed into Andy’s crib.

The baby woke up screaming in fear. For a six month old, Andy had powerful vocal cords and woke up the downstairs and upstairs neighbors who started beating their broom handles against the floor upstairs and the ceiling downstairs signaling the Crowley’s to keep quiet.

Linda looked at the clock she had found in a dumpster and saw it was three AM. Shaped like a cat, its tail wagged with each tick and tock. She knew it kept perfect time because she had fixed it.

“Tim, I don’t mind you stopping after work for a beer or two, but don’t you think staying out until three in the morning is overdoing it?”

“Bitch, bitch, bitch, that’s all you do besides sitting on your ass while I work mine off at the foundry.”

Linda knew better than to reply to his accusation. He made her quit her job as a bookkeeper, as soon as she got pregnant. He promised to take care of her and the baby, another of his broken promises. Almost as soon as she quit, he drank up every penny they had. Now they lived in a two-room flat on the second floor, sandwiched between an old crabby Jewish couple above and a Puerto Rican family of seven down below.

She kept her tiny place clean, but roaches infested the building and she couldn’t keep them out of their food, their bed, their clothes and almost anywhere she looked, there was always one or two staring at her, warning her not to kill them because she was outnumbered by ten thousand to one. She feared they may bite Andy and constantly checked to see if any crawled on him. She had heard how they crawled into baby’s ears and stayed there. Once in that warm and moist place the cockroach was in heaven and never wanted to leave.

She didn’t know what to do. Tim wouldn’t allow her to work. She had no one to care for Andy if she did find a job. She saw homeless women pushing shopping carts around and dumpster diving. That was something she could do and she’d take Andy with her. Maybe she’d find a treasure, or at least make a few dollars to buy some Raid now and then to give her a fighting chance against the bugs commandeering her apartment.

She went behind a shopping center located six blocks from her run-down apartment building. Twenty stores stretched along a block long area, so there were at least twenty dumpsters of varying sizes in the rear.

She went around the back and the first dumpster she came to belonged to a framing store. The only thing in it was a catalogue. She reached in, pulled it out; saw a picture of a strange looking frame on the front page. She turned to the next page and read the description,

A shadowbox is a framed box, usually square or rectangular in shape, with a glass front; it is used for displaying and protecting valued items.

There are varying accounts of its history. In the middle of the 19th century, many of the Victorian elite enjoyed viewing the world through their Sterio-Opticans. These were small boxes with a scope through which viewers looked at bright paintings and rare photographs of sights around the world. The Sterio-Opticans were so sought after that the women of that time period began putting together small boxes with pictures and other items, which did not require the viewer to look through the small scope.

 

She threw it back into the dumpster and went on to the next one that belonged to a supermarket. In it she found fruits and vegetables too spoiled to sell, but not so spoiled they were inedible. She found two bunches of brown bananas, some moldy tomatoes, carrots that had fungus on them and an open bag of bagels. We’ll eat well tonight; she thought as she loaded her bounty into the shopping cart.

Dumpster diving became her job. As soon as Tim left for the foundry, she got ready and was out of the apartment five minutes after he left. He never asked where the food came from, because he was happy to have more beer money when he didn’t have to give her any for food. She’d also find and save odds and ends that she thought she’d be able to use someday. One day she found a couple of broken-up dolls and some doll clothes, another time she found a deck of tarot cards.

She filled boxes with her little treasures and stacked them in her apartment. One night Tim tripped over the boxes and threatened to throw them all out.

Up to that time, she tolerated his alcoholism, his mistreatment, his broken promises, and most of all, making her live in a roach infested apartment. His threat changed her compassion to anger, then to hatred, as if those words ignited a fuse and her opinion exploded and revealed the truth about him.

The next morning behind the mall she found thirty shadow boxes with glass covers in the dumpster behind the frame shop. She figured they must be going out of business to be throwing them away. Then she pictured the treasures she had dug from the garbage filling the frames with her clever designs.

She loaded the frames into her shopping cart and carried baby Andy in one arm while she pushed the cart home with creative ideas flashing through her mind.

At home Linda took a two foot by two foot frame that was twelve inches deep and wired parts of a doll, some doll clothes, a few dried out bones and the death Tarot card to the back of the shadowbox, replaced the glass and hung it on the wall just as Tim walked through the door.

“What’s for dinner?”

Linda hadn’t found any food today and Tim hadn’t left her money to buy any. “We’re not having dinner tonight,” she said.

His right fist smashed into her head. “I expect to eat after working hard all day,” he said before he left, slamming the door so hard on the way out that the shadow box swayed on the wall. When it moved the dolls head bobbed so it looked like it was alive. Linda liked the effect he had caused. She took parts of an old electric clock and fixed it so the second-hand mechanism moved the dolls head back and forth. She attached an electrical cord for the clock and added a light behind the dolls head so when it moved its head, the eyes would shine, blink out and shine again, as if it were a specter from hell.

Linda had hidden her computer from when she kept books, so Tim wouldn’t sell it for booze. She took it out and used its camera to make a video of the moving collage inside the shadow box. She posted it on Craigslist by hijacking an internet connection from the people upstairs. She asked $500 for it on a whim. People liked what she had made so much; she received three offers in an hour.

A collector of oddities, he claimed, came with cash and took it away. Linda went grocery shopping, so she could cook Tim a good dinner. She even bought baby Andy a new toy and dreamt of all the shadow boxes she could make and sell. Poor no more, she thought  as Tim came barging in the door, tripped over her boxes of accumulated treasures, picked one up and threw it out the window.

There goes my way out, she thought as she stood in the kitchen. When he continued to pick up box after box of items, she had scrounged through trash to get; another explosion went off in her head. She picked up the boiling water for tonight’s spaghetti dinner, carried it into the room where Tim was throwing stuff out the window. She threw it onto Tim’s face. He screamed, stuck out a hand to try to grab her.

“I’m going to kill you bitch.”

She believed he meant what he said. She ran into the kitchen, he followed by listening to her footsteps. He swung wildly and knocked a lamp over. It sparked where the wires had broken away from the lamp. She picked up the wires as Tim opened his mouth and said, “Bi…” she stuck the sparking wires into his wide-open mouth. He stood up straight, danced a jig as steam came from his nose as the electricity burned into him.

Linda knew there was no fuse to blow as Tim had stuck a penny behind the one that had blown last week in the ancient electric box. Tim shook all over and went from a jig to a Saint Vitas’ dance before his eyes glowed, smoked, and he fell to the floor twitching and sparking.

Oh, what am I going to do now? She wondered when she saw his skin burst on his hands, causing his bones to show through. She got a vision of a skeleton hand holding aces and eights in a shadow box. Another picture in her mind showed her a skull used as a cup, and about then, Tim’s hair began to burn.

She pulled the plug and dragged him to the tub. The roaches’ smelled blood and came to feast. It only took minutes before the tub filled with a brown undulating mass feasting on fresh flesh in a tub. They drank from the leaking tap as they ate.

Linda knew museums removed flesh from animal bones by letting beetles eat it. She wondered if roaches could do the same. The tub held so many roaches; she could hardly believe there were that many in the entire building. It took three hours and forty-five minutes for them to pick Tim’s bones almost clean. She spent the night boiling bones to remove any bits of meat left and to help them turn a bright white. She made fourteen shadowboxes from his bones and sold them all. The skeleton hands holding cards brought the highest price, but she found there were people who liked feet and other bones too. In some of the boxes, she pasted dead roaches, so they appeared to be licking the bones clean.

Linda made a lot of money selling shadowboxes, so she didn’t feel bad about killing Tim. Now she could save any money she earned without him finding it and drinking it up. She wished she had more bones for the rest of the frames. Just then, someone knocked on her door. It was old crab apple from upstairs.

“I don’t know what you’re cooking down here, but it’s stinking up my house.”

Linda figured it was the odor from the bones. “I’m so sorry; it may smell bad, but it’s delicious. Won’t you come in and have some?”

Her neighbor stepped through the door.

“Close your eyes and open your mouth, this is a surprise.”

Her neighbor did as told. Linda plugged the electric cord into the socket without a fuse, then she stuck the bared wires into her neighbor’s mouth. As her neighbor started dancing around the kitchen floor, the roaches headed for the bathtub because the buzzing noise of the electricity meant it was time to eat.

#139 Gold

#139 Gold

#139 Gold

Four men wearing straw hats, boots, and nothing else sat in the Honeyhive sipping clear volcano juice flown in daily from Jupiter’s moon, Lo. Others miners who worked the volcanic terrain dressed like those in the Honeyhive. There were over 400 active volcanoes on Lo, spewing liquid gold into the air that puddled on the ground after cooling in the turbulent atmosphere. The clearer the juice, the more it weighed, and that meant a higher price.

The juice stimulated new skin growth and accelerated bodily processes. If a man worked as a juicer for five Earth years, he’d age 50. The juice enhanced the nervous and respiratory systems, sped up brain function to a level where those who drank it became superior. With their accelerated thinking, miners were always one step ahead of the law that forbade them from importing the juice. It wasn’t always illegal, that happened when the extremist took over the world government. Those hypocritical bastards claimed their prophet preached that any that drank volcanic juice violated the covenant between man and the overlord. Yet, the biggest customers for the juice were the ruling clerics.

Any miner worth his salt knew they drank it to keep their minds above the populace. If everyone drank the clear stuff, they’d see the fallacy of all the doctrine preached at them. But any bootleg juice sold to the public was watered down enough to only increase the average IQ twenty to thirty points. Undiluted, the juice increased the average intelligence at least100%.

Try as they would, the clerics couldn’t stop the importation, because the miners had access to as much juice as they wanted and even the top cleric couldn’t afford more than a small daily dose. The four men in the Honeyhive discussed ways of supplying the populace with all the juice they wanted.

Tom pulled his boot off and shook out one of the crawling rocks that had crept into his boot. He picked it up and watched its undulating movements. “See this here?” he said loudly. “It used to be a dumb rock until a pool of clear covered it. Less than a week after that, it became alive. What used to be a dumb rock is now a living thinking thing.” He held it over the table and Bruce, Jim, and Joe watched as the smart rock twisted free and rolled across the table, fell to the floor, rolled out the door and disappeared into the rocky landscape.

“What I want to know is, how come the juice can give a rock brains, but dissolves the brains of the clerics who drink it?” Joe asked. He drained his glass and his eyes lit up. The juice had fired up his neurons. “You know that law they passed last month that everybody has to wear something to cover their body?’ They passed that to punish us for raising the price of the juice.”

“Yeah, once they did that, I pissed into every quart of juice I sold them,” Bruce laughed.

“That’s good, but I one upped you, I gather up all the dog shit I can find and put it in an extractor with juice, make a slurry out of it and sell it to them.” Jim smiled

“That’s why they’re as smart as dog shit,” Joe laughed out loud and the others joined in. “But listen up, I’ve got an idea.”

“Thought I smelled volcano smoke,” Jim said.

“Seriously, that stupid law the council passed that says no juice can be brought to Earth.”

“Yeah, what about it?,” Bruce pointed his finger at Joe.

“Home brew, we produce the juice right here on Earth,” Joe smiled and waited to hear what they had to say about his idea.

“Been tried a hundred times before,” Bruce scratched his head. “No one ever has been able to brew the juice here.”

“I drank two entire quarts last night and after . . .”

“Two quarts? I don’t believe it. How come you’re still alive?” Tom said. “Everyone knows your brain burns out after one quart.”

“Do I look brain burnt?” Joe asked. “I melded minds with my dog and he helped absorb the neuronal bursts of the second quart. We thought together, and he told me about a formula to seed volcanoes here. Once we pump a million gallons or so into an active volcano, it’ll spit out liquid gold all day.”

“Your dog?” Bruce looked befuddled. “Your dog told you about a secret formula?”

            “You heard right. Let’s do it and show those clerics we’re smarter than them.  We’ll pool our resources and seed three big ones, and when they blow, Earth will be covered with liquid gold. That’ll fix those controlling clerics.”

The others followed Joe to his depot where he had already manufactured millions of gallons of his secret formula. They loaded the four ships and two went to Mount Aso and the others to Mount Aetna and Mount Bromo. They dropped the formula through the top and within an hour, all three spewed the banned substance.

The clerics tried to stop people from drinking the clear, but couldn’t because it was ubiquitous. Erupting volcanoes spit so much liquid gold into the atmosphere that cooled it and sent it hurtling to the ground where puddles formed in every area of the world. The entire population drank their fill of clear volcano juice, they thought!

Not long after the human population had gorged itself on clear volcano juice, canines around the world became revered. Pampered by humans to such an extreme, it became obvious that dogs ruled. People fed them, picked up their shit and never expected them to do anything but lie around and be friendly.

After Joe took one drink, he knew he had been outsmarted by his dog, because the formula turned out to be a dog love potion. The knowledge couldn’t overcome his urge to bow down and worship every dog he came upon.

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#137 What’s Cooking

#137 What’s Cooking

I sat quietly at my desk when my wife said, “What are you thinking about?”

She expected me to say, “Nothing, I was only thinking of you,” but I surprised her when I said, “I often wonder when I get to heaven if Filet of Soul will be dinner that night, and if desert will be pie in the sky?”

“Sounds like something you’d cook up,” she said with mockery in her voice, when I told her how my thoughts rumble roll and circle into sizzling uncertainties about

the afterlife, and that her scorn cooks my composure into passion by adding spice and silently stirring synaptic energy mixing it into wayward paths that only add to my sagacity, I told her, “You’re flowing to dark areas of the psyche and are tasting our world from behind an impenetrable shade of black that’s jamming logic and rationality.” she said, “Your dark thoughts control instinctive actions taken without consequence or penance, and this can’t go on.”

“My simmering feelings crave to boil over and are only held back by my humanity lowering the flame, by instinctively knowing moral from immoral, separating insane thoughts created in that black hole of my mind.”

She smiled and said, “If we had the power to turn off unwanted feelings sautéing in our brains we’d never cook up so many neurotic responses and wouldn’t stew because somebody said a few unkind words.”

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#137 What's Cooking

#136 Deceit

#136 Deceit

At a UFO convention in Las Vegas, I couldn’t take my eyes of a girl with multi colored hair.  She wore a skin tight Star Trek uniform that outlined her curves as Jeri Ryan’s costume did in Voyager.

The girl I eyeballed was smoking hot too as my friends used to say about Ryan. I shuffled over to her on my size 18 web footed snow shoes I had purchased to leave Bigfoot tracks in the snow, but wore now with my one piece alien costume that covered me from head to toe in green and purple splotched latex that represented an alien from a snow covered planet.

“Hi, my name’s Joe.” I said. “Are you from Earth?”

She gazed at me through her purple irises that spun and changed color every two seconds. Never knew they made contact lenses able to spin.

She smiled showing filed down teeth. Must be fake, but they looked real. Then her calming voice washed over me as an ocean wave replacing years of rejection and opened a world of possibilities. Her sharpened teeth became a thing of beauty. I wanted her to bite my tongue. I put a hand to her waist, and she threw me against the wall.

She smiled again and said, “You can look, but never touch.”

I looked for a battery pack, but nothing could be concealed under the clothes she wore.          “Damn girl, are you electrified?”

Her hair, it must be hidden there. I raised my drink as if to make a toast and dumped it onto her head. Sparks flew, her face melted, and metal shone through.

The Jeri Ryan lookalike pointed a metal finger, grabbed me with her vice-like-hand, and hung me out of the window on the 25th floor. I kicked and screamed and tried to return inside, but she laughed a sweet robotic sound and said, “Joe, never, never make a robot mad.”

“How can a robot be as beautiful as you?”

Her sharpened teeth took a bite of the glass she held in her free hand. I heard it crunched when she chewed it and then spit out a fine spray that cut through my latex costume and into my skin. I felt her metal fingers that were holding me losing their grip, so I tried to reach safety by swimming through the air. During my struggle the glass she had blown onto me cut into my skin and a stream of blood ran from every cut.

“Look,” she shouted in her robotic voice. She yanked me inside and shook me until my blood flew like drops of water from a wet dog “I’ve found a human,” her mechanical voice said.

The conventioneers surrounded me in a circle when she dropped me to the floor.

“I want to operate to see what makes it tick,” came from an armpit of one alien who had six. “No fool,” came from another, “Have sex with it to see if it can conceive hybrid beings like us.”

A snakelike alien with two heads said, “Be careful, where there’s one, there’s a thousand.”

Fear lit all the aliens’ eyes. I blew the Boy-Scout whistle I wore around my neck and the Disintegrating Swat Team burst through the doors and windows with laser’s blasting and soon only puddles of melted metal and some sparking wires covered the dance floor.

All that was left of my dream was a memory. I’d never know how it would have been to have sex with Jeri Ryan even if she were a robot look-alike.

“You really liked her, huh?” The swat commander said.

“Hate to admit it, but I did.”

“Birds of a feather,” the commander said.

“Huh?”

“Made it so you’d bleed and think like a human.”

The commander aimed his laser at my hand and pulled the trigger. My skin melted and blood dripped from my metal fingers.

 

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IMAG0108

The complete Molly Story

#135 Another Molly Story 

Raphael finished his shift at the foundry, hot and thirsty; he sauntered into Hungarian Joes as a tear jerker country and western song played on the old Wurlitzer Jukebox. He tore the electric cord from the wall. The music whined to a halt as he strode to the bar where Hank sat at the end.

“That was my favorite Charlie Pride song you pulled the plug on. What’s eating you, acting like that?” Jay the bartender asked.

“Nothing, I told you before-I ain’t listening to that shit kicking music Jay. Now give me a beer and one for Hank there too.”

“Thanks,” Hank said and raised his glass in salute from the end of the bar.

“You know I don’t butt into nobody’s business, but looks like you’ve got a hair across your ass.” Jay said, as he opened two bottles of beer and served them. He stopped in front of Raphael. “Hank said the next one’s on him. So tell me, what’s going on? How come you storm in here bitching about some harmless song?”

“I thought they trained bartenders to mind their own business.” Raphael drained his beer.

“Don’t mean to pry-just when someone looks as downhearted as you do, it’s usually woman trouble.”

“Trouble, my woman was never trouble, she died three months ago, second wife who up and died on me.”

“I remember Helen, good woman, helluva loss, but we didn’t get to see much of you other than on Saturdays while she was alive.” Hank said.

“Couldn’t stop for a beer after work when I knew she’d be home waiting for me. After all that time of her being there, I still expect her to see her waiting for me every time I open the door. After a half dozen beers, it’s not so bad when I open the door and she’s not standing there.” Raphael sniffled as a tear ran down his nose.

“Goddamn Raphael, you’re getting all teary eyed on me. Suck it up, people die, but we go on drinking beer until our time comes.”

“You can be such an asshole Hank; it’s my allergies that make my eyes run. Jay, give me a couple of napkins to wipe my nose with will you.” Raphael held out his hand for the napkins Jay handed him and wiped his eyes and then blew his nose.

“Don’t let him get to you, after my wife died, every time someone mentioned her name I could barely hold the tears back. Some jerks think men don’t cry, but they do,” Jay said. “Believe me, I could name a hundred guys that sat on that side of the bar and cried into their beer.”

“I’m not crying into my beer, it’s just that I’m lonely as hell, but after two died, I don’t believe I can marry a third time.”

“Third time’s the charm.” Jay said.

“Hell, I’ve been married three times and the third one was the worst ever,” Hank said. “The hell with this woman talk, turn on the TV and observe what’s going on in the world.”

Jay turned on the big screen TV  behind the bar, all three sat watching TV in silence, and after a short time, a program came on about hunting dogs, and how smart and loyal they were.

“If I ever got married again, I’d marry a dog,” Hank said, “and I don’t mean no ugly woman either, I mean a real four legged dog. Dog’s got qualities none of my wives ever had. If one of them had been as smart or as loyal as one of those there dogs on TV, I’d still be married.”

“Got something there, ain’t no woman as loyal as a dog, or nearly as smart. I’m turning the sound up so we can hear what they’re saying.” Jay said.

“Goddamn, I’ve seen this commercial at least a hundred times, so turn the damn station to a ball game or something, will you.” Hank told Jay and Raphael. “They’re announcing a special this week at the downtown animal shelter. For a total of fifty bucks a guy can have any dog in the place, shots included.”

“The dogs seem to be happy, running around and playing with one another.” Raphael pointed to the screen that showed several dogs rolling around and playing.

“Happy? My ass,” Hank said. “In a couple of days they’ll all be dead.  Ain’t none of them dogs suffering enough to justify killing them.”

“What else are they going to do with them?” Jay asked.

“Dunno, but it ain’t right, killing them and making cosmetics, and other shit out of them.”

“Ever dream that pretty soon they’re going to round up homeless humans and treat them  the same way?” Jay asked

“I don’t assume they’ll be doing that anytime soon. Let’s drink to that they never do.” Raphael raised his glass in a toast. Hank and Jay raised theirs and all three drained their glasses.

“Maybe having a dog waiting for me to come home is a good idea-at least someone will be waiting for me after work.” Raphael said. Think I’ll run over to the shelter and get myself a dog.

“Hold on, you don’t know nuthin about dogs. I’ll come with you to be sure you get a good one that ain’t goin to give you a lot of trouble,” Hank said.

“Okay, we’ll take my truck.”

After a short drive they walk through the glass entrance door at the animal shelter, “Man, what’s that stink?” Raphael said.

“Help you boys?” An old feeble security guard asked them.”

“Lookin for a dog.”

“Special on this week.”

“Yeah, we know.”

“Go on in and look around.” The security guard directed them to a door that led to the kennels.

“God, don’t they ever clean this place?” Raphael said.

“Used to, but cut-backs, ya know. I’m the only one works here now.” The Guard said. “Couple a volunteers, but they don’t like to clean much. Ya’all want to do some cleaning, go right ahead.”

Hank opened the door leading to the kennels. Behind the door where the dogs are kept they found over a hundred dogs crowded into twenty cages built to hold two or three dogs each.

“Damn I had no idea they kept these dogs locked up in cubbyholes that ain’t big enough for a cat. And the stink, I may puke it’s so bad.” Raphael put his hand over his mouth and nose to block some of the stench and in the dim light there’s a cacophony of barking and yelping. Dogs were jumping up and down, trying to get their attention.  “I can’t believe they’d kill all these dogs just because they’re homeless.”
“You better believe they will.”

“Can’t we just open the cages and let them run free?”  Raphael said.
“We’d get thrown in jail.”

“Wonder if they know the executioner’s waiting for them?” Raphael said. “Look in that cage. A poodle just had her litter, boy are they cute.”

“Poodles are ankle biters,” Hank said. “You want to get a real dog, not some toy.”

“I don’t want to see those little puppies killed.”
“Don’t be such a woose, the puppies will get adopted. Everyone wants babies, cats, dogs, humans. It don’t matter cause they’re all cute, it’s when they get older that the problems begin.” Hank said.

“Look at that one.” Raphael pointed to a little skinny wisp of a dog in the next cage so thin it could be a greyhound. “Wait Hank, that dog, see her soft brown eyes? They kinda remind me of Helen’s.
“Helen didn’t have dog eyes, you’re imagining things. Sign here says this dog’s name is Molly, and she’s three months old”.

“Helen died just three months ago,” Raphael said. “Do you think there’s any connection?”

“Sure, if you want to believe in that reincarnation bull-shit,” Hank said, “but if you do, I’ll think you’re kinda weird.”

“That’s the one I want.” Raphael stared at the skinny dog.

“Okay then.”

I can’t believe the way they treat these unfortunate dogs,” Raphael said.

“You didn’t know how strays got treated?”

“No.”

Need to open your eyes Raphael, lot’s of shit going on all around us that we don’t see unless we look for it.”

“I want that dog,” Raphael pointed to his chosen dog, and the security guard reached into the cage and picked up the trembling pup. Raphael wrapped the puppy in a blanket and cuddled her like a newborn baby. He knew the puppy must be a her with a name like Molly. He paid the security guard who was also the night manager and carried Molly to his truck and laid her gently on the front seat.

*

Puppy Love

The next day Raphael walked into Hungarian Joes, strode to the jukebox, ripped the electric cord from the electrical socket, the music whined to a halt. He sat beside Hank at the bar.

“Goddamn it that was my favorite Patsy Cline song. Gonna start charging you for every song you interrupt from now on.”

“Here’s the money for your song,” Raphael threw a dollar bill on the bar, “Two beers for me, and one for Hank. Don’t you get any business in here, Jay? This is the second day in a row Hank has been your only customer.”

“Nighttime, business picks up.”

“Thanks.” Hank said as he drained his beer.

“Couldn’t sleep, Molly whined all night.”

“Why?”

“How n the hell would I know.”

“Didja feed her?”

“Gave her a piece of steak, didn’t eat it though.”

“She’s just a pup.” Hank said. “She needs special food.”

“I’m going to the pet store. Come with me. You know what a dog needs.”

“You’re cutting into my drinking time.” Hank said.

“If you’re my friend, you’ll help me. You know I don’t know anything about raising a dog.”

“Pull that friendship shit to get what you want, and before you know it, you won’t have any friends.” Hank turned his back to Raphael.

“Don’t do it for me, do it for the dog. If you don’t help me, I may choose the wrong kind of food, and she may die of starvation.”

A look of exasperation crossed Hanks face. He spun around, faced Raphael and got up from the barstool.

“All right, let’s git it over with.”

They went to a pet-smart store. Hank grabs a shopping cart and starts throwing many objects into the cart.

“Hold on, what’s all this stuff for?”

Shit you’re going to need and books that tell you how to potty train her and the others tell how to raise a healthy pup.

“You don’t know nuthin about raisin a dog, so I’m getting everything you’ll need to learn how to potty train her.”

“Potty train?”

“Yeah, what do ya think, a dog’s born knowing she ain’t spossed to shit in the house?”

“Never thought about it.” Raphael picked up the book and glanced at the introduction. I’ll train her, and I’ll be the best master a pet ever had.

“Master, you think you’re going to be her master? You really don’t know nuthin bout dogs. They’re so smart they let you think you’re in charge, but you end up doing what they want. Same as a woman does to a man.”

“Can’t argue Hank, never had a dog, so I don’t know.”

“Ya know you need to get up at six in the morning and take her running don’tcha.”

“Maybe I should have gotten a wife instead.”

A week went by and Raphael hadn’t been to the bar, but on Saturday morning he strolled through the door smiling. Walked to the bar and handed Jay five dollars. “Go’n play some of those tearjerkers you like so much.”

“Whatcha do, get lucky last night?”

“No, nothing like that. I’m just happy with Molly.”

Hank walked in while they were talking and said, “Knew you’d like having a dog once you got one. He walked to the bar and stood beside Raphael. You can buy me a beer if you want.”

“Yeah sure, can’t believe I’ve never owned a dog in my entire life. Must be because my mother said she was allergic to animals.”

“Been running her?”

“Who, my mother, or Molly?”

“The dog dummy.”

“Every morning at six sharp, and she’s gained five pounds in one week, no matter how far I run her she gains weight and I lose it. She’s getting me in shape.”

“Be a real dog before you know it.” Hank grabbed the beer Jay put on the bar and took a long swallow. “Dogs’ have been known to do that.”

“This may sound weird, but when I’m sitting home and get bored I gaze into the painting hung over my fireplace.  Helen and I spent many hours just looking at that painting and imagining we were in it. Now Molly studies the painting as intently as I do.”

“You’re bullshitting, right? Dogs don’t care nuthin about pictures.”

“Molly does, come over and see for yourself, and while you’re there, you being an artist and all, maybe you can tell me if the painting’s an original or not.”

“You know I quit painting years ago and swore off it once those critics tore into my work. I’ve deprived them of ever seeing any of my paintings again.”

Raphael remembered the exhibition. He and Helen had attended it and both thought his work outstanding. The day after, Hank got a stream of bad revues from the critics who attended. He carried all his paintings close to the river the next day, piled them one atop the other, poured gasoline over them and lit a match. “Want to see some hot paintings?” he asked no one in particular as he set them on fire.

“You okay? Gazing at a painting with your dog instead of drinking beer ain’t normal,” Hank said.

“Hell yeah, Molly’s there every day waiting for me to come home, just like Helen used too.”

Hank gave Raphael a funny look as though there was something wrong with him for equating his dog with his dead wife. “Maybe I’ll stop by later tonight, take a look at that painting for you.”

“Yeah, okay, anytime. Molly will be happy to see you.”

Hank went to Raphael’s house that night. They sat by the fire in the living room, drinking beer. “See how she just gazes into the painting and has her doggie dreams?”

“What makes you think she’s dreaming and not just lying here soaking up the heat?”

“She loves to swim in the river, and I think she’s looking at the vast expanse of ocean, wishing she could swim in it.”

“Got bad news for ya, that ocean she’s looking at is a copy of one of Monet’s, and the original was painted in Europe.”

*

Two years passed since Molly was adopted. She’s now an eighty pound Retriever. Raphael allowed her to run without a leash in their small community, and no one cared because Molly was friendly to everyone. One day a five-years-old boy wandered away from his mother who was distracted while buying an antique painting. He was about to run into heavy traffic. Molly saw what he was about to do. She nuzzled him backwards onto the sidewalk. The boy tripped on the curb and scraped his hands when he hit the cement. He started to cry. Raphael saw what Molly did and figured she deserved a reward for saving the boy’s life. The boy’s mother heard him cry rushed out of the store followed by the shopkeeper.

“My god, did you see that dog attack my son?”

“Did he bite you sonny?” The shopkeeper asked.

“He’s bleeding.” The boy’s mother said. “Call an ambulance.”

Darting in and out of traffic Raphael ran across the street. He avoided getting run over and arrived on the scene breathless.

“There’s a leash law in this town ya know,” the shopkeeper said.

“Lady, Molly just saved that boy’s life. If she was leashed it wouldn’t have happened.”

“Of course you’d say something like that. You’re liable for injuring my son. My lawyer will be talking to you.”

A police car arrived at the scene. An officer got out to investigate. “Is the boy all right?” He asked.

“I want that vicious animal locked up.” The mother pointed at Molly.

“Raphael always ignores the leash law and lets that dog run loose,” the shopkeeper said.

“Is anybody hurt, did the dog bite the boy?” The cop grabbed Molly by the collar, she didn’t resist, not a growl or a bark came from her as her big brown eyes were set on the boy as he cried.

“That dog attacked my boy for no reason.”

“She was inside while the boy was about to step into the street.” Raphael pointed at the boy’s mother. “Molly saved his life by knocking him back onto the sidewalk.”

“Is that what happened?” The cop asked the boy.

“He was only a few steps in front of me when that dog came out of nowhere and attacked him. I want that vicious beast locked up,” his mother said.

“You know that’s not true.” Raphael said.

“You calling me a liar?” She asked.

“Please tell the truth, I can’t have Molly locked up. She means as much to me as your son does to you.”

“Then why don’t you obey the law and keep her on a leash?” The shopkeeper asked.

“Same reason she doesn’t have her boy on a leash.” Raphael said.

“Sorry, got to get animal control to impound the dog for five days,” the cop said, and opened the door of his squad car to put Molly in the back.

“But she saved a life, and you’re going to lock her up?” Raphael said.

“Got to follow the law,” the cop said. “A Potentially Dangerous Dog is one that bites, scratches or bruises any person.”

Raphael reached through the car’s window and patted Molly, “Everything will be all right. I’ll come and visit every day until you get out.”

**

Raphael, Hank, and Jay stood at one end of the crowded bar at Hungarian Joe’s discussing the day’s events. “Dogs are required by this city to be kept on a leash and under control of their owner. Says so right here in the city code.” Jay pointed to a section of the handbook he read from.

“Ain’t right, that bitch having Molly arrested.”

“She’s not arrested, just put in the pound for a few days to be sure she doesn’t have rabies,” Jay said

“Probably going to sue Raphael for damages.” Hank pointed at Raphael who had his head down and looked like he was about to cry. “That’s why she insisted on Molly going to the pound.”

“Could be, I read where half of all homeowner insurance claims are for dog bites,” Jay said

“But she didn’t bite anyone,” Hank said.

“The cop didn’t have any choice once Molly was accused of attacking the boy,” Jay said

Raphael sat up straight and said to no one in particular. “That’s it; I’m breaking her out, tonight.”

“You’re asking for trouble.” Jay said.

“You sure that’s what you want to do?” Hank asked. “Where will you take her?”

“Never been surer about anything. There’s a spot out in California I know that looks a lot like the painting Molly likes so much. I’ll take her there for a while and I’m sure these assholes will forget all about her after a few weeks.” Raphael said.

“Okay, if that’s what you want to do,” Hank said. “let’s go get Molly.”

“You don’t have to help.”

“I know, but I’m hankering to go to California and see that spot you say looks like the one in the painting,” Hank said.

Raphael and Hank went to the pound where Molly was being held. The cages the dogs were kept in are made from chicken wire. They brought wire cutters, located Molly, and when they did, she jumped for joy at the sight of them. Hank was about to cut a hole in her cage. Raphael grabbed him by the arm. “Hold on for a minute. If we cut a hole in the wire they’ll know we broke her out.”

“The hell with what they know, we’ll be in California before they can do anything,” Hank said as he cut a hole big enough for Molly to squeeze through. Unseen by anybody they got in Raphael’s truck and headed for California.

Molly was so happy, she wouldn’t stop licking Raphael. “It’s okay, calm down, nothing to worry about now,” he said, as he rubbed her back and patted her head.

“Think she understands? ” Hank asked.

“Sure she does.”

“Hope no one saw us,” Hank said.

“Do you think they’d charge me with a crime for releasing my own dog?”

“Stupid question, of course they will.”

“She didn’t belong in there anyways. Damn people always blame dogs for their fuck ups.”

“What do ya mean, what fuck ups?” Hank asked.

“That woman who accused Molly of attacking her boy, she was just passing the blame on to Molly.”

“Blame, for what?”

“For not watching her kid like she should have been instead of getting all googly eyed over some antique.”

“I thought she smelled a good lawsuit when she said her lawyer would be talking to you. Not that she felt she had fucked up,” Hank said.

“Maybe it’s both. She fucks up, but thinks she can make some money from it.”

“Crazy world,” Hank replied.

They drove up route 101 in CA and came to the spot Raphael said looked a lot like the scenery in the painting. There was a redwood forest on the east side of the road densely populated with trees and shrubbery.  Molly saw the ocean from the parking lot and got impatient to be let out. As soon as Raphael opened the door she ran down the path leading to the ocean and jumped in and swam for a long time.

“You weren’t lying. This looks identical to the painting,” Hank said. “Let’s gather some wood for a campfire – Molly’s going to be cold when she gets out of that cold ocean water.”

“Are you kidding? She jumps into the Mississippi river in the middle of winter and her fur is coated with ice by the time we get home. Cold don’t bother her none.”

“Hell of a dog.”

“She sure is. Other than you Hank, she’s my best friend. Don’t know what I’d do if anything ever happens to her.”

A man, woman, and several kids were camped on the beach. Molly ran over to them and the kids started playing with her by throwing a stick into the water and Molly swam out to retrieve it.

“Howdy boys. Nice dog.” the man of the family said as they approached the family gathered to watch Molly retrieves the sticks.

“Yeah, that’s my dog, Molly. Best dog ever.” Raphael said, his face beaming with pride. Two boys rushed into the campsite. Raphael had seen them coming from the woods across the road.

“Eddie’s lost.”

“You kidding?” The father asked

“He was right behind us, and suddenly he wasn’t there anymore. We looked all over for him, then figured we better tell you,” one of the boys said.

“We better go look for him,” the woman said. “Right now,”

“Where do we start looking,” Hank asked.

“They followed that trail.” The man pointed to a trail across the road leading into the dense woods.

“How old is Eddie?” Raphael asked.

“Five,” the woman said.

“Boy that small could get eaten . . .”

“Quiet Hank.” Raphael gave him a soft punch on the arm to let him know he shouldn’t be saying what he was about to say to the boy’s mother. She had enough to worry about without thinking her son may be eaten by wild animals.

“Better call 911 and get some help. Them woods’re full of wild animals.”

The mother broke out in tears at the mention of wild animals. The boys all huddled around her with a look of fear on their faces. The father gathered up flashlights and said, “Everyone grab a light and lets go. Stay within shouting distance of me, so we don’t have anyone else lost.”

Hank reached into his pocket for his cell phone and called 911 and attempted to hand the phone to the father. “You tell them where we are,” the father said. “I’m going to start looking right now,”

“Yeah, operator, we have a five year old lost in the woods. Yeah we need help to find him. Can you get some help out here? We’re at highway marker 249 on 101. There’s a trail right by the marker leading into the woods. Yeah, that’s where he was last seen. We’ll all be in the woods looking for him. I’ll call again if we find him. Goodbye.” Hank folded his phone and put it in his jacket pocket. “They’re sending search and rescue right out, should be here within the hour. Said the temperature would go down to freezing tonight, let’s go find that boy.”

Hank, Raphael, and Molly came across police cars with flashing lights and a dozen men in a circle on Highway 101. The family’s flashlights can be seen glowing in the dusk as they searched through the nearby trees. Fog rolled in from the ocean. Visibility was down to about ten feet.

“You the one that called bout a missing five year old?” The Search and rescue commander asked.

“Yeah, that’d be me,” Hank said.

“We better find him fast, lots of mountain lions round here,” the commander said. “and the temperature’s dropping fast,”

“Then what are you waiting for?” Raphael asked.

“Dogs, won’t find anybody in the dark without dogs.”

“Use Molly,” Raphael said.

“She trained?”

“Never took her hunting, don’t know how good a tracker she is,” Raphael said.

The boy’s father came out of the woods to talk to the rescuers. “Found his jacket, poor kid must be freezing.”

“Give me that.” The commander grabbed the jacket from his arms, bent over and held it in front of Molly. She sniffed it a few times and took off up the trail with Raphael, Hank, the father, and members of the rescue team following.  After a few minutes Molly whined, barked and ran off the trail into the heavily wooded area of the woods  Molly led them to Eddie sitting under a tree, cold wet, and hungry.

The boy’s father ran to him and picked him up, wrapped his arms around him, “How many times have I told you not to be running off on your own?” he asked as tears of relief flowed from his eyes.

A newspaper reporter arrived on the scene and took a picture of Molly and the boy. “Picture will be in the Examiner tomorrow. Want to give me the dog’s history?”

“No,” Raphael said. “And don’t you publish her picture either,”

“Why not?”

“It’s a long story.” Raphael told the reporter what happened and why he didn’t want the picture published.

The next morning Molly was licking Eddies face and Eddie hugged Molly. Eddies family treated Molly like the heroine she was. “She deserves a medal for what she did.”The boy’s mother said and looked at molly with adoration in her eyes.

“Glad you appreciate her.” Raphael said.

The boy she rescued opened a package of hamburger meat and lays it in front of Molly, and she wolves it down in three big gulps. The boy puts his arms around Molly’s neck in a gesture of love.

“Least he appreciates what she did. Not like that bitch back in Galena,” Hank said.

“Damn, I wish you wouldn’t have reminded me.” Raphael said.

“Sorry. Can’t get those scumbags out of my mind.”

“Molly’s loves it here. From now on when she looks into that painting, she’ll remember this place.” Raphael said. “I’m thinking it’s safe to go back now. Been long enough for them to forget about a little dog incident.”

“I guess,” Hank said, but his face showed he didn’t think they’d forget so easily.

Raphael, Hank, and Molly drove straight through to Galena, and the first place they stopped was Hungarian Joes.

As soon as they walked in Jay said, “Cop’s been in here looking for you guys.”

“What for?” Raphael asked.

Jay pulled the Examiner newspaper from under the bar and showed them the picture of Molly displayed on the front page and a story telling how Molly had been locked up when she saved a boy’s life in Galena Illinois, and how she found a lost boy in the woods in California. “If Molly would have been held in detention in Illinois, this little boy would probably not be with us today,” the reporter had said in the story.

“The cop showed me this picture, and said, ‘They’re making us look like idiots. I’m going to lock that damn dog up as soon as I see her.’”

“Damn, we told that reporter not to publish her picture,” Hank said.

“Don’t know if telling someone like that not to do something, only makes them want to do it all the more,” Jay said.

“You’d think the cop would want to thank her, not lock her up,” Raphael said.

“Think the cop’s related to that bitch who’s suing. Probably needs Molly as evidence to sue Raphael’s ass for letting her run loose.”

“I ain’t going to let them lock her up again. Hell, she saved a life in California, don’t that make a difference?”

“Think anyone here gives a shit?” Hank asked.

The next day, Raphael, Hank, and Molly were in Hungarian Joes when the cop who had been looking for Molly walked through the door.

”Knew you’d come back sooner or later. Your dog needs to be impounded.” The cop reached for Molly’s collar.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about. Just got this dog in California,” Raphael said.

“Nice try. We chip every dog that comes to the pound. Think when I scan her, I’ll see that I have the right dog.”

Okay, I lied. I just can’t have my dog locked up. You know what she did in California don’t you?

“Don’t make no difference here. Law says she needs to be locked up.”

“Told ya,” Hank said.

The cop had Molly by the collar, but Raphael yelled, “Run, Molly run.”

Molly broke free and took off through the door with the policeman in hot pursuit. He couldn’t keep up with her and returned to the bar.

“You know I can jail you for interfering with a police officer?”

“Go ahead.” Raphael said.

“One more stunt like that and I will.”

Raphael went to the lawyer’s office across the street. He told his story to a sharply dressed man showed him the newspaper with Molly’s picture in it and the story about how she had saved a boy’s life.

“Dogs don’t have any legal rights, but you do. I can file a counter suit. I’ll accuse them of conspiracy to defraud your insurance company by misrepresenting the facts,”

“Do that then.”

“I’ll get an injunction too, so they can’t take Molly to the pound. I’ll need a $2,000 retainer before I can start the paperwork.”

“Today is Friday, I’ll have to wait until Monday to get the money from the credit union.”

“Okay, I’ll file the injunction Monday morning, as soon as you pay.”

Raphael left the office, and went home, changed into running clothes, and took Molly for her daily run alongside the river that was fast flowing from recent rainstorms. As they ran along the river bank they saw a crowd gathered. A woman screamed that her son was drowning. Raphael saw a boy in the water being swept down river by the fast moving current, too fast for any of the men who ran along the bank trying to catch up to him. Molly ran along the river’s edge passing up the men trying to catch up to the drowning boy. She got ahead of the boy and jumped into the water and swam to the center of the river where he was being dragged along in the swift current. Molly got her teeth into the boy’s shirt collar and swam to shore. She was dragging him up the river bank when the men who had been chasing the boy arrived and took over. They all patted Molly.

“That dog should get a medal for what she did,” one of the men said.

“Yeah, and a life-time supply of steaks,” another man said.

Raphael and the crowd of people who watched the rescue arrived at the scene. Raphael hugged and patted Molly. He became aware that the boy she saved was the same one Molly had prevented from wandering into the traffic. Raphael recognized the boy’s mother who held the boy and cried in relief.

“Spose you’re going to accuse my dog of trying to drown your boy.” Raphael said.

“I’m so sorry. Your dog is a real heroine. Thank you, thank you.”

“She saved the same life twice. Bet that belongs in the Guinness world’s record book.” A bystander said.

“What can I do to thank Molly?” the mother asked.

“Drop the lawsuit for number one.”

“Done, what else can I do?”

“Maybe let your son walk Molly now and then.”

The police officer who had been looking for Molly arrived on the scene and saw Molly. He tried to catch her, but Molly took off running with him right behind her. Raphael and several other people chased after him.

“Wait, she just saved another life.” Raphael shouted, but the cop ignored him and all the shouts. He was intent on catching Molly. She ran across the main street trying to get away from him. Tires screeched as drivers slammed on their brakes. Molly was narrowly missed by two cars, she turned around to run the other way, but a truck hit her and threw her to the center of the road. She struggled to get up when a driver who didn’t see Molly, ran her over. Raphael ran to where she lay, picked her up in his arms. Tears flowed from his eyes. He looked at the cop who chased her into the street, and sayid “Fucking murderer.”

The crowd that had followed the chase started berating the cop, “Killer, Pig, Asshole, Should’ve been you that got run over.”

Tears flowed down Raphael’s face as he dug a hole in his yard to bury Molly. Later, Raphael sat in front of the fire, drinking beer and staring at the painting he and Molly used to look at and daydream. He fell to sleep in the chair.

The next day Raphael walked in to Hungarian Joes, yanked the jukebox cord and Elvis’s heartbreak Hotel whined to a stop.

“Anybody don’t like what I just did, say so.” Raphael appeared angry and was looking for a fight.

“Have a drink on me.” Jay said, attempting to calm him down.

“We’re all with you, no need to be upset with us,” Hank said.

“Can’t believe she’s gone. Jay give me a shot of Irish Rose and leave the bottle.”

Raphael quickly downed three shots of whiskey. Everyone avoided him because of his belligerent attitude.

“Stupid cop. All his fault for chasing her into the street,” Raphael mumbled.

All the patrons at the bar look at the intoxicated Raphael with sorrowful looks. Not a one disagreed with whose fault it was that Molly died.

Next Morning, Raphael woke up in the chair in front of the fireplace, rubbed his eyes and looked twice at the painting. He washed his face and looked at it again. He couldn’t believe what he saw. He wrapped the painting with left over Christmas paper and carried it to Hungarian Joes. He walked through the door, and Jay rushed to the jukebox and yanked the cord from the receptacle. Elvis’s “You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog” whined to a halt. Raphael gave Jay a grateful look and carefully set the painting on the floor in front of his usual bar stool.

“Give everybody a drink on me.” Raphael said.

“Feeling better?” Jay asked.

“Don’t know, depends.”

“What dya mean? Depends on what?” Hank asked.

“If I’m seeing things or not. Any of you believe in God?”

“I do.” Jay said.

“Sometimes when I’m in a jam, I’ll pray. Why you want to know?” Hank asked.

“Seeing you believe Jay, I’ll ask you.”

“Ask away.”

“Do dogs go to heaven?”

“Don’t know, but if they do, Molly sure as hell is there.”

“What makes you ask something like that?” Hank asked.

“First tell me if you see what I see in this here painting.”Raphael picked up the painting and walked behind the bar, set it on the back bar against the mirror and ripped the Christmas wrap from it. Jay and Hank stared at the painting. An image of Molly, soaking wet from swimming lied on the hillside with a happy look on her face.

“You had an artist paint her picture on the painting?” Jay asked.

“Nope, her picture just appeared out of nowhere.”

“Must be her way of letting you know she’s happy in doggie heaven.” Hank said as he put his hands in his pocket so Raphael wouldn’t see the dried paint on them.

 

 

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molly upright

Pussy Cats

#134 Pussy Cats

Jay was tending bar at Hungarian Joe’s, and Hank sat on his usual stool.

“What’s the matter Raphael? You look like you just lost your best friend.”

“I did,” I said, and paged through the journal I’ve been keeping for years. I opened it to a story I wrote 14 years ago. I smiled when I saw it.

“What’re you smiling about?” Hank asked.

“Came across a story I wrote way back when I first got Molly.”

“Well, come on, read it to us,” Jay said and opened a beer for me. “If it can put a smile on that sour puss of yours, we’ll probably be rolling on the floor laughing. So, go on, read it to us.”

 

Stealthy paws silently fall as felines strut onto my lawn of sand, a Siamese’s drawn out meow heralds throughout the cat hood, telling all cats, that my yard is the place to go, To show their glee, that they can pee for free on my turf, cat trinkets are left for me, covered in tiny mountains of sand like miniature burial mounds.

“You’re not welcome here,” I shout and chase them away. But they soon return to use their outhouse made of sand, where they don’t have to pay a damn thing to do what nature demands. A dog is what I need. I go to the pound and put a kitten in my hand, to see which dog

hates cats more than me. Pitiful pups crammed into stalls, unfit for a dog, or even a cat, they’re all waiting to be gassed. Aroused by my human scent their adoption hopes rise. They beg to be saved, with made up yelps, and all forget about the feline in my hand. Except, Molly, a sixty pound white Lab, she snaps, snarls, and tries with all her might to get her lunch at first sight of the cat I hold.

She’s the one I want, I tell the keeper of these surplus pets. I’m happy to think that my home turf will be cat free, once Molly comes home with me. I stop at the store to get what she needs, a bone, a blanket, a bed, a bag of food. I brush and bathe her in my tub, getting her ready to show those cats, they no longer rule. Rough, ready and smelling sweet from doggy shampoo, we sit and wait until a Persian saunters into my yard, and begins building a burial mound in the sand. My heart fills with glee as I point at the Persian and declare, “Get him Molly.”

She can’t wait to get out the gate, barking, and snarling, her feet slip on the floor

as she tries to push through the door. I fumble the latch in my rush to free this horrible hound onto my monument strewn lawn. To show those cats, a beast now lives here. Finally the door bursts open, a ball of white fur speeds towards the cat lazily scratching through the sand. A hairy back balls up to the sky, claws extend, a screaming yawl that scares even me, stops Molly in her tracks. She turns around and heads back to the entry in fearful flight, with an apparition from every dog’s nightmare in hot pursuit. Yelping in fear, she burst through the door that I barely close in time, to stop the demon cat from coming through. Shivering from fear Molly sits there, ashamed that as a dog, she is nothing but a pussy cat.

**

Jay and Hank were smiling. I had a tear dripping of my nose. Jay opened another beer for me. “That one cheered you up, let’s hear another,” Jay said.

To be continued.

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Puss

# 133 Hungarian Joe’s

# 133 Hungarian Joe’smolly upright

Trying to forget she wouldn’t be there when I got home, I sat drinking beer in Hungarian Joe’s bar. Six months have passed since Sherry, my wife died, and every time I open the door, I expect her to be standing there to greet me as she had done for fifteen years.

After a half-dozen beers the feeling of loneliness and desolation wasn’t so bad when I opened that door. I guess my face showed my feelings because Jay, the bartender asked, “Raphael, have you ever been married?”

“Twice now, and they both died,” I said, and I felt a wet spot beneath my eye thinking of them. “Sherry passed just six months ago,” I barely held the tears back when I said her name.

“Third time’s the charm,” he said, not noticing how emotional I was over the subject.

“Hell I’ve been married three times, and the third one was the worst ever,” Hank butted in from the end of the bar.

We sat watching TV in silence, and after a short time, a program came on about hunting dogs, showing how smart and loyal they were.

“If I ever get married again, I’m going to marry a dog, and I don’t mean no ugly woman, I mean a real dog. Dogs got qualities none of my wives ever had. If one of my wives had been as smart or as loyal as one of those their dogs,” he pointed to the TV, “I’d still be married,” Hank said.

“Got something there, ain’t no woman as loyal as a dog, or nearly as smart,” Jay said, and reached up to turn the volume up so we could hear what they were saying about the dogs.

An advertisement came on announcing a special this week at the local animal shelter. For a total of fifty bucks a guy could have any dog in the place, shots included. The ad showed several happy dogs running around a fenced in exercise area.

“See them dogs?” Hank asked. “In a few days they’ll all be euthanized— that’s the word used in all the shelters— a politically correct word. Euthanize means to kill to stop suffering from an incurable disease. Ain’t none of them dogs suffering enough to justify killing them. Why don’t they say this animal’s going to be killed, slaughtered, murdered or something closer to the truth?”

“Do they have public executions so the taxpayers can see what they’re paying for?” Jay asked.

“No, they stick em with a needle when their time expires and send the bodies to medical labs for dissection,” Hank said and swallowed the rest of his beer stood up and said. “They at least give murderers a last meal. Why not innocent animals condemned to death for being homeless? But wait, did you guys ever think that maybe this is an investigational program. Don’t they always use animals experimentally before trying the procedure on humans? Maybe pretty soon they’re going to round up homeless humans and treat them to the same procedure? Ever think about that?” Hank slammed his glass down and staggered out the door.

I didn’t think they’d be doing that anytime soon, but it was food for thought. Maybe having a dog waiting for me to come home was a good idea, and fifty bucks was less than the usual cost of rabbi shots and spaying. I drank my beer and headed for the animal shelter.

Once there, I saw so many friendly beautiful animals and everyone under a death sentence that I was unable to choose. How could I choose to save only one life? I wanted to save everyone of them. I desperately wanted to open the cages and let them run free, but I knew they’d be hunted down.

All the dogs in the place jumped and barked, acting like I was their long-lost master and friend. I wondered if they knew the executioner waited for them if they weren’t adopted soon. The way they behaved, trying to impress every visitor to take them home, indicated they knew what fate awaited them. The attendant told me all I needed to do was pay the fifty dollars for spaying and licensing, and then any dog there could be mine.

I came to the first cage with a white mongrel bitch that had just dropped a litter of pups, absolutely the cutest little dogs I’d ever seen. Not wanting to break up a family I went to the next cage with a picture in my mind of Czar Nicholas and his family being murdered. An image I’ve always found extremely sad. I didn’t think the murder of this animal family would be any less sad.

In the next cage, there was a Pit bull that had recently given birth. Whoever used her as a puppy machine dropped her off to be killed as soon as the puppies were weaned. Owners sell or trade the pups for drugs and didn’t want to be bothered taking care of a dog they couldn’t fight. I’d love to save this dog, but I knew I couldn’t handle a dog as strong as her. I pictured her being executed with the family in the next cage, and my heart felt like it broke into a million little pieces.

I moved on to the next cage and saw a Boxer pup about six months old, and instantly fell in love with this strong, pretty dog. I was about to choose this dog above all the others.  I was reminded of Sophie’s Choice. How could I choose one above the others? Would I regret it?

Before I could make a decision, I noticed a little skinny wisp of what looked like a Greyhound in the next cage. She lay on the floor, her white fur and few brown spots looked drab in the dim light. She didn’t have the strength to greet me, but she turned her head, and her soft brown eyes said it all. When I looked into those round brown eyes, I saw so much love my knees got weak. I read her nametag on the door, “Molly.” She made an effort to come to me but didn’t have the strength. That was it. I was able to make a choice after all. This was the dog I would save from being murdered. I carried her to my car and wrapped a blanket around her for the drive home. I stopped to get her some food; instead of dog food I got ground round, and a few soup bones, and I found some doggie vitamins for her too.

I fed and bathed her as soon as I got home. Then I built a fire in the fireplace, so she wouldn’t get chilled as she dried. She sat on my lap wrapped in a blanket like a helpless baby. I gazed at the painting hanging above the fireplace, “Calm Seas by Monet,” and she looked in the same direction. I wondered if she saw what I did in that painting.

Molly grew fast, and it turned out she wasn’t a greyhound at all, but a Lab. She got strong, and I took her jogging by the river every day. Once we got close to the river, there was no keeping her out. She loved to swim, anytime, anyplace. Temperature was no barrier to her, and often it was so cold her fur would be coated with frost by the time we got home. Anytime we got close to a fountain she’d jump into it and go for a swim.

As time went on, whenever I gazed at Monet’s painting, Molly’s eyes would be glued to it too. It seemed whenever she was home, she would lie in front of that picture, staring at it. I surprised Molly when I took her to Northern California to a stretch of ocean front that looked just like the painting. Molly spent days swimming in the ocean; she obviously didn’t want to leave when it was time to go. I guess that was one of the reasons a dog is a good companion, it can’t complain when it doesn’t get what it wants.

When we returned home, Molly spent more time than ever in front of that picture. I guessed she was having doggie daydreams and reminiscing about our vacation.

The years flew by; Molly is 15 years old now. Old for a dog — I could see when she moved it was painful for her. I thought about bringing her to the vet, for a shot to end her pain by ending her life, but I couldn’t do that to my best friend. I’d rather do it to myself. If I could trade places with her, I would.

I had to lower the picture to Molly’s eye level so she could see it when she lay by the fire. She would stare at that painting for hours and hours just dreaming her doggie dreams.

One day her ears stood up, and she ran to the door. That meant she had to go out. I opened the door and was surprised to see her take off at full speed, heading for the river. I ran after her but couldn’t keep up. The river was only a few blocks from our house. She reached the river and jumped in and furiously swam toward the middle. I saw a crowd on the opposite bank, all looking in Molly’s direction, and by the time I got to the river’s edge, Molly was coming out of the water, dragging a two-year-old boy who had fallen in trying to catch a duck. Somehow, Molly knew what happened and rushed over to save the baby. She was a heroine. The crowd that witnessed what she did came over and patted and thanked her for being such a good dog. Sitting by the fire that night I got up and moved the painting closer for Molly to see. She looked at the painting, then toward me, let out a long sigh, and died. I glanced at our favorite painting, and there she was in the painting, soaking wet and happy like she had just had a swim and lay down in the grass to dry herself. Her appearing in the painting is impossible, I thought. But there she was, the look on her face comforted me — Mollie was in doggie heaven.

I buried her in the yard; then went to Hungarian Joe’s, same as I did when Sherry died. Jay was tending bar and Hank sat on his usual stool.

“What’s the matter Raphael? You look like you just lost your best friend.”

“I did,” I said.

 

 

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#132 Misguided Love

#132 Misguided Lov

 

Home is solitude where I only go to lay my head. Pictures hung on the walls in my perfect home portray bygone times. My house is empty now and as quiet as a mausoleum. When I come home, no one’s there, and no one seems to care I’m all alone, and so lonely I could die.

Alone in the dark, in my bed that’s cold and empty without my wife,  who used to fill it with warmth and love before she left and took my kids to stay in another place. Loneliness wounds my heart and I can’t sleep. I lift the blind and an explosion of light from a ten thousand kilowatt sun sends bright blinding beams of light bursting through cracked and broken window panes, illuminating dust-filled rooms.

Lying in bed I think of better days when the sun wasn’t so bright because it filtered through my love, and dust filled beams didn’t float through all my empty rooms. When kids and dogs romped throughout before my misguided love caused my kids to go hungry, and my dogs to starve to death.

When my wife left me, I wasn’t upset until I discovered she took it all. I begged and pleaded that she come home, but she knew what I wanted and refused. I see how wrong I was. So if I had it to do all over again, I’d never let her hold my cocaine.

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Misguided Love