A draft for a story of a lost dog and new connections.
|Pike Devonsted loves his dog. He remembers the day he got her from the pond, it had been a foggy day and she was just this muddy brown bundle in one corner of the kennel. Mud bundle against barbed wire. He said, “I take her”, before he ever saw her eyes, and never regretted it since. He rolled her into his green army jacket and kept her on his lap the whole drive home.
Pike Devonsted also loves cranberry juice, it was something one of is girlfriends, Becky, got him started on. It was always in the fridge, so he started drinking it, and after the relationship ended, he kept drinking it. Right now there was a half full box in the fridge door. The only other thing left of Becky in his life, were some photos, in the shoebox from the shoes he got for his high-school prom. It was stored in the top left corner of his closet, where he kept that kind of stuff, but never looked at it. He occasionally stuffed some pictures in, after another relationship ended.
Becky was over before he had gotten the dog, so they never met. Anyways, Becky was the kind of girl that said she loved animals, but actually disliked being around them. He called the dog Hazel, for her color. Mud would have been a slightly better match, but what kind of name would that be?
Ann Harling hated the white plastic phone in her cubicle, it always rang at the most inconvenient times, it had this slight high pitched sound only she would hear when talking on it and none of the calls were ever important. She still remembers how exited she was on her first day, when she picked up the receiver for the first time and began reading her text from the screen; now it was just stupidity. It was all the same every day.
Ann Harling also hated how Matt from the cubical across used to look at her, not in a creepy stalkerish way, but with pity. Matt was overweight, had to little hair for his age, surely was single and had a cup with that snail from that cartoon sponge on it. It would have been okay if he had a crush on her, but pity from this guy? It makes her wonder if this was really her life.
Ann always took the same way home, out of the office by elevator, with Matt giving her the last pity look of the day, left, walk three blocks, stop in front of the movie theater for a second, realize she’d never go alone, get into the park, cross it and get on the subway home on the other side, 12 minute ride, two more streets to cross, and she’d be at her front door.
But today was different, she stopped at the theater as usual, but even after she got into the park, she could still smell the popcorn, it seems like the smell was following her, swirling around her nostrils, mocking her for never going in. She stopped. She stretched her arms far out, trying to breath in as much air as possible; the days had gotten colder. She didn’t know what to do next, she felt like she should miraculously discover a new truth about her live, but she didn’t, she just smelled popcorn. “Darn, what am I doing here?”. But she still couldn’t move. She listened, everything was far away. “Just go home Ann, go home and forget it.” She looked down on her feet on the gravel, but they didn’t move. And they weren’t alone either. A little dark haired dog sat right in front of them. He looked into her eyes. “Hi.”, she looked around to see if there was anyone, the dog could belong to. The dog still sat and looked. It was cold, dark and the park seemed completely empty from what she could tell with the little light there was. She picked the dog up and he rested his little head against her chest, “I guess you belong with me for tonight, then.” She said and her feet finally moved. The subway ride was different, too. She wasn’t alone today, but so much more aware of her surroundings and all the little details. The dog just rested on her arm, perfectly calm, even when she used her other arm to open her front door. They sat down on the couch together, with coat and shoes still on. She sighed, as if something magical came to an end, and looked at the dog’s collar. A dog license tag and a little silver plaque, in the front it was engraved “Hazel”. “So you’re a girl, then?” she smiled and stroked her behind the ears, Hazel closed her eyes. The back was engraved with a phone number, the number that would leave her all alone again. “The smell of popcorn – it’s gone.” She whispered to the dog, “We’ll just call tomorrow.”
Ann made dinner and shared it with Hazel; her little kitchen felt homely for the first time. Ann took a shower and Hazel lay belly up on the bath mat. Ann and Hazel went to bed together and shared a blanket. “I’m going to miss you.” And Hazel licked Ann’s hand.
The next day, Ann called in sick and went back to bed to pet Hazel, she stroked her and scratched behind her ears, and Hazel made happy grunting noises and licked her hands. They had breakfast together and then went for a walk in the small park, two blocks down the street. The air was still a little chilly, but with Hazel trotting next to her, Ann felt better than she had in a long time. It felt like it always should have been like this, Ann and Hazel; but Hazel wasn’t hers. The silver plaque with the phone number made a little pling with everyone of Hazel’s steps. She considered not calling, but then when she looked into Hazel’s perfect warm eyes, she could only think of someone missing those eyes. It could be a sweet little girl, an old man, a young couple, someone like Matt or like her, without the good feeling of having Hazel around. So when she got home she picked up the phone and called, with Hazel dozing on her lap. A man answered, he sounded worried. “This is Ann, you don’t know me, but I found your dog, she’s fine.” His voice immediatly changed, she gave him her address and he said he’d be there in an hour. Only one more hour with Hazel, they spent it on the couch, listening to music, being together. “I’m going to miss you badly.” Ann said and Hazel licked her hand.
The sound of the doorbell was louder than Ann remembered it to be. She felt like crying when she pushed the button to open the downstairs door and listened to the steps coming up the stairs. She picked up Hazel into her arms and smiled “At least I got to know you." she whispered into the soft dog ear, but it felt as chliché as it sounded. Then the man was with them, Hazel looked at him but stayed calmly in Ann’s arms. “She seems to like you” he said, but Ann couldn’t answer she just starred at the man. “Hi, are you alright? I was really worried about her, thanks for the call. By the way, I`m…” but before he could say anymore Ann said “Pike!”. He seemed confused, looked at her again, squinted his eyes. “Becky? Becky Harling? Is that really you?”.
A lot had changed since someone called her Becky. She stopped being Becky years ago, started to use her middle name, started to be more serious, started to stop being the girl Becky. Becky who had boyfriends, Becky who was taken to the movies, Becky who tried so hard to be liked, Becky who only got a shitty job as a waitress, where men tried to touched her breast or butt, Becky who got used, Becky who didn’t like being Becky. Becky who had this job interview and felt like it was time to change, so she said “I’m Ann Harling and I always wanted to be in sales” and her new life began. The next day she picked up the white phone in her cubicle for the first time and started to read her lines from the screen.
“I’m called Ann now, Becky doesn’t fit anymore.” Hazel was still on her arms. “How are you, Pike?” He smiled at her “Better, now that I know Hazel’s safe. Can I maybe treat you for lunch? For you letting her stay here and to catch up? If you want to.” It would be more time with Hazel and Becky had liked him a lot, once. So she said okay, put Hazel down, where she went over to him and licked his hands; she turned around and got her purse and coat.
They went to a place not far away, but Ann still had never been there. Hazel lay below the table and they sat across from each other and smiled at each other. Ann felt like something was about to change, something was about to begin. Hazel stretched and her paws touched Ann’s feet and it all felt like it should have always been that way, Pike, Ann and Hazel. “Do you maybe want to go see a movie tonight?” Ann said to start their new life.