The Dog – Chapter 8 (The Girl Next Door)

I have always wanted a dog. One with long ears, and a wet nose, big enough to sleep against after a long day out and about.

“A dog” my mother would exclaim. “A dog in my house! Really, I don’t know where you get such ideas? And don’t use that argument that all of your friends have dogs, because they don’t!”

I knew it would be one of those discussions, long and drawn-out. It’s kind of like taking a test at school. You’d rather be reading the funnies, or looking out of the window thinking of how girls make you crazy, and things, instead of studying why a right triangle is right and anything else is wrong. I guess, I spent too much time on other things, when the teacher would ask”How could you only score 43 correct out of 100? That was the easiest test, we’ve had this year.” If only I had prepared a bit more, and was really ready, when I needed to write a 30 word essay about the hypotenuse, and why it was important to me, and all. It might have been one of those tests that would have changed my life forever, making me the next Einstein, or Neil Armstrong, instead of being some nobody with a name, who no one ever remembers.

It was there when discussing with my mom, that I needed to use my carefully thought out, ready to convince argument about the good things with dogs. I just hadn’t done my homework in enough time, before her face got all red and puffed-up, looking like she was going to explode. I knew, I was on a runaway train with the end of the line coming, over the cliff into the alligator-infested waters below. Not even the caboose survived that fall, and I was there clinging to the smokestack of the engine while sinking down toward certain death, wondering why the word “caboose” seemed like a funny thing to say…

“A dog”, mustering my courage once again, “A dog would protect us from intruders”. “A dog would – but I wasn’t allowed to continue, before my mother jumped in. “A dog is an intruder! Waking us up when the Good Lord meant us to sleep. Tearing apart our best linens. Leaving disgusting piles of yuck everywhere! Don’t tell me that won’t happen, because it will!”

“We don’t need protection from intruders, when we have your father! He has assured me during our monthly security check, that the house is intruder-proof! Not even some wander-through-town Canadian could gain access to our home sweet home. That’s how safe we are!”

I knew, even before I asked her about getting a dog, that I was doomed to failure. I really thought that somewhere, deep down inside, she wanted a dog too, making my argument seem unnecessary to continue with. But then, I was some sort of dreamer, you know?

Time went on, with my Dog-Dreams fading into the sunset. You know kind of like John Wayne who didn’t get the girl, (I think it was Jeffrey Hunter,who did), but was satisfied to kill all of the Indians, saving the fort, and the settlers during the worst snowstorm to hit the Rockies since the Donner Party, while playing some sad music. The popcorn box was empty and my shoes stuck to the floor, making funny sounds, when I lifted them up, and my mouth still remembered the cinnamon red hots, when the movie had just started. No dog, No girl and no more red hots. I didn’t have anything to look forward to at all!

“Hey you” said a voice to me one day, while lost thinking about the Hardy Boys and their father, racing around Bayport in their roadster. “Hey you – Ninny, I’m talking to you!”

I was just minding my own business, walking down the street, when a familiar voice awoke me from my dreams. “Psst. Look here”. Around the corner of a squarish tree my friend emerged, pulling a long cord with something that pulled back. “Look what I have”. I looked, but couldn’t believe my eyes – A dog. She had a dog on that cord.

“Whose dog is that?” I asked, while being all wide-eyed, and a bit jealous that she had a dog on a cord, while I only had my fading Franklin W. Dixon daydreams.

“It’s mine, of course, Silly. I’ve had him for some time now, but this is the first time we’ve been outside taking a walk”.

I looked at her dog. It was just perfect with the right kind of ears, wagging tail, and wet nose. I just couldn’t believe, she had the most perfect kind of dog, but not me. It wasn’t fair!

“What’s his name?” I asked, hoping it was a tough-dog name, like Butch, or Killer.

“Uh, I forget. Just a moment.” She moved over to his head and began studying his dog tag.

“His name is Chester. You know, like  ♬♬”Win-chester Cathedral – “You’re bringing me down.♬♬♬♬♬♬ The song, you know? Sheesh. Don’t you ever hear the radio, or anything?

I was getting suspicious, “How could you have forgotten his name? Is he really your dog?”

“Of course, he’s my dog.” She said, looking appalled at my statement.

“Do think, that I’ve just been out and about, finding some wandering about town, looking for its owner, without his leash firmly attached to his collar, kind of a dog, or something?”

I was just about to open my mouth to reply, but decided not to make a federal case out of it. It was like arguing with my mother, and that was a cul-de-sac type of thing, you know?

“Uh-huh”, was all that I could muster as a quick reply. “Can he do anything. Like tricks, or something?” I said.

“Of course, he can. I’ve taught him a few things, but he knew a lot of them already. We bought him from the Circus, you know. A real Circus dog!”

How could she do this to me? We lived next door to each other. She had a dog, and I didn’t. Heck. I hadn’t even heard it bark before, or see it walking the high wire, or other Circus things!

“How long have you had him? Can I walk with him and scratch his stomach, and those kind of things”. I tried to sound cool and everything. I wanted to think “cool” standing there on the street, with my bell-bottomed pants and Engelbert Humperdinck sideburns, singing Quando Quando Quando with the girls dancing around me. Everyone would be clapping and saying that I was going to hit it bigger than the Singing Nun, and….

“Hey. Anyone at home in there?” Someone was tapping on top of my head like it was a coconut. “You ask me a question, then you go off into dream-land, with a silly smile on your face and all. Honestly. If you didn’t have a friend like me keeping you on the straight and narrow, then who knows what would become of you?”

“Hey, come over here. Hurry up before someone sees you”. She suddenly broke my train of thought and dragged me behind the tree. “Wait just a minute, then it’ll be safe”. I didn’t dare to look around the tree, at what was so dangerous. Who knows? It might have been a Canadian or something, rampaging the neighborhood, pillaging and stealing Circus Dogs, taking them away to some foreign-sounding city, in the cold and the snow. I won’t let them do that! I won’t let them take my friend’s Circus Dog away to Toronto, or wherever. I won’t.

I boldly peeked around the corner of the tree. There was a middle-aged couple holding a dog’s leash, calling frantically its name: “Chester. Chester where are you?” Suddenly my friend’s dog slipped out of her grasp, running excitedly to the people in the street. “Chester! Good to see you again, boy! Now we’re going home again!” And with that they proudly walked down my street, with my friend’s dog, taking my dog-dreams with them.

“Why don’t you stop them? If that had been my dog, I would have lost my mind if someone just up and took him away! I’d be crying for a week, and not even the Hardy Boys marrying Nancy Drew, and her friend Beth, would save the day!”

“Look here Poindexter. You can take the dog out of the Circus, but not take the Circus out of the dog! It’s just like that Doris Day song, Que Sera, Sera.”

I was really upset with her. I wanted to accuse her of stealing that dog, and making me believe that it was hers and all, but when she told me that statement about dogs and circuses, I just about hugged and kissed her. It was one of the most beautiful, but sad things anyone had said to me, and I could only nod in agreement.

We both watched as Chester and its two newly-found owners walked away down the street, feeling a bit relieved that he, Chester was happy all the same.

That part about hugging and kissing her was perhaps a bit premature, when she turned toward me once again, and said, “Wipe that goofy grin off your face, and remember who works so hard keeping you on track. It’s me, you know, and I won’t let you forget it!”

It almost sounded like a threat, her being my friend and all, but I couldn’t wait to be with her again, insults and all.

Women! They make me all crazy in my head…..




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