Finally home from our trip to Seattle, we sit on the hard, wooden benches in the little waiting area at the vet's, staring at the open door just past the reception counter. We've paid the bill for Nicholas' boarding and now it's been five whole minutes, and they haven't brought us our dog yet. And that couple. The guy in the brown slacks and the girl in the jeans and sandals and qué será, será tattooed on the side of her foot. They're standing in my way. Between me and the door where, any second now, one of the ladies is going to appear with my precious doggy.
Tattoo foot lady is completely blocking my view.
I should say what will be will be, but goddamn it, I've been waiting for this moment.
I lean over and whisper in Stephen's ear, "She's blocking my view!"
I shift on the bench and try to look around her, but even though I can see through the door when I'm slanty (see through to where the ladies in back are milling around and decidedly not rushing to bring me my dog), it's ticking me off that I also have to have madame qué será, será right there in the almost middle of my vision. In a moment, I get up and move down to the next bench, where I have a clean shot again. Fuck you, qué será, será.
Stephen laughs, hesitates, finally joins me on the second bench. We sit and stare at the open door.
We sit and stare at the open door.
Under his breath, in a very quiet sort of low growl, Stephen says, "Give me my dog."
Qué será, será takes a couple meandering steps and suddenly - yes, of freaking course - she's standing right between me and door AGAIN.
I lean over and whisper in Stephen's ear, "Oh my god, oh my god."
Under his breath, "Give me my dog."
Now one of the ladies appears in the angelic light of the open door. For one tiny moment, I'm filled with joy.
Then I see that it's not a beautiful caramel-colored perfect-miniature-deer-like Chihuahua but some scruffy, bedraggled runt of a fluffball being returned to Qué será even though we got here first.
"There, now," the vet lady tells Qué será and Mr será as she lifts over the dog into the woman's arms, "keep a good eye on this tube. It's to drain the fluid. But he should be just fine."
"Oh, what a good boy," Qué será coos at him, "what a brave boy."
OK, I am a jerk.
The couple step toward the exit, and once they're gone, I've forgotten them and whatever their plight may have been and I'm back to staring at the open door.
Low, under Stephen's breath: "Give me my dog."
I mean after all, we've been away from Nicholas for one whole day.
It's sweltering in the back room of our third floor apartment, my writing room, the farthest spot from our small window unit air conditioner. I've been eating ice pops and trying to concentrate on my work, but the thick heat pushes all inspiration and motivation from my brain and makes my wrists itchy and chafey against the edge of my laptop.
Stephen peeks through the open doorway. He says, "You don't even have the fan on."
I look at the fan sitting on the floor three feet from my chair. "Oh yeah."
As I go to turn the thing on, Stephen says, "What would you do without me?"
"I'd die," I say. "I'd die an embarrassing, embarrassing death."
Here's the last in my little series of the authors' own favorite passages from their stories in the Forest Avenue Press short story anthology The Night, and the Rain, and the River. Today's edition: Alisha Churbe, Ellen Davidson Levine and Trevor Dodge.
ALISHA CHURBE From "All is Not Lost"
My story is non-traditional in form. I didn't get to start my story with a first line that had any kind of impact. The form was restrictive and didn't follow many of the guidelines that are laid for short stories. I didn't get to think about that as the story couldn't start anywhere other than with "Dear Gary." I did try other forms for the story, but Marlene really demanded to be center of attention. In looking for the line for your project, I was able to choose something that would really draw a reader into the story. ---
Two for ELLEN DAVIDSON LEVINE From "The Dog War"
I like the way the words sound together and what they say about the narrator of "The Dog War." He's a high school teacher at the end of the school year, a philosopher, and a romantic who can savor both the smell of lilacs and the scent of passing animals. Here, I try to create a moment of quiet before conflict erupts. I like this quote also because the only time of year I awaken willingly at dawn is in summer. I remember when I wrote this, I wanted to show how Jim Shuster, the narrator, observes life through the lens of history. I also wanted to reflect the part of him that's connected to nature and rural life. Here too, I like the way the words fit together. ---
TREVOR DODGE From "Real World Reject"
I've been a letter writer and pen pal of some kind my entire life, and I’m always intrigued at how our personal correspondences with others can both buoy and drown us. In “Real World Reject," the narrator sees the opening and reading of the mail as a simple form of validation. I mean, there are few things more depressing than going to the mailbox and finding it empty; in a way, we’re all like Charlie Brown when we go there, waiting for a letter from The Little Red-Haired Girl that is never going to come.
--- If you want to check out the book, more info is here.
The Night, and the Rain, and the River is edited by Liz Prato and is available through all the usual places, but my favorite is here..
More of the authors' own favorite passages from their stories in the Forest Avenue Press short story anthology The Night, and the Rain, and the River. Today's edition: Domi J. Shoemaker, Christi Krug and Steve Denniston.
DOMI J. SHOEMAKER from "Left Right Wrong"
I chose this quote because it captures that moment in a child's life where they really start to differentiate from the parent or primary caregiver. That moment they start to see the parent as something other than just an extension of themselves. In this case, the moment is terrifying to the little girl. She sees her mom as someone else. Someone beautiful, yet distant. It gets further complicated in a split second in the mom using the little girl to soothe herself, ostensibly reversing the bond, so it is the mom who sees the child as an extension of herself and the child gets stripped of her own identity before she really has the chance to form one. ---
CHRISTI KRUG from "The World, the Flesh, and the Devil"
I love the idea of a narrator coming face to face with her own lies, and I love the possibilities of looking at “sin,” a word which is so weighted in our culture. And, a list of sins is totally provocative. ---
STEVE DENNISTON from "It's No Good Telling Me That" There seemed to be two different kinds of choices, quotes that worked well out of context, and quotes that meant something to the story. I tried to find two quotes that did both things, would work well for someone who hasn’t read the story, and if someone has read it, the quote would resonate.
This quote was an easy one to choose. It’s quirky enough to be eye catching, intriguing by talking about the mom having left more than once, and the odd way the father has of dealing with it. I’m also drawn to this quote because it’s where the story begins to open up and reveal why this particular moment is a story, why it’s important to the narrator, John. A few lines later we find out John has never heard his dad talk about this before. A shift takes place as the son and father begin to talk about a taboo subject, the mother abandoning them multiple times, yet at the same time they still aren’t quite able to talk to each other about it. This quote comes from the son early in the story. It’s his first line of dialog that stands alone by itself and gives a sense of his attitude, which made it an easy choice to be one of the quotes.
What I really like about the quote as part of the story is that even though it’s an outrageous thing for the son to say, the father doesn’t react at all. They’ve been having two different conversations while talking to each other, and even that comment about dynamite doesn’t pull the father in. What I really hope happens here is that the title, “It’s No Good Telling Me That,” has begun to resonate early in the story. ---
More to come. In the meantime, if you want to check out the book, more info is here.
The Night, and the Rain, and the River is edited by Liz Prato and is available through all the usual places, but my favorite is here.