Monday, December 15, 2008

A Reindeer Tale

In the spirit of giving this Christmas season, I am donating all my spare time to the ministries and charities in our community I support. As such, I won't be writing again until January, 2009. Please endulge me and allow me to post a true story I wrote for my wife and two dear friends a few years ago:

A Reindeer Tale

My phone rang at 7:30 in the morning, just moments after I sent Jill off to school with her homemade breakfast and lunch, hot coffee, a love note, and a pre-heated car. Laura was on the line. “She’s here,” she said.
“Already,” I asked, thinking I had another hour before this fated moment was to come.
“She starts early.”
“How long will this take?”
“Beauty takes time,” my friend responded.
I looked down at Princess. In some cases, a lifetime, I thought. “I’ll be right there.”

I slipped on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, looked into the mirror and saw that my hair was pointing due east with authority. I grabbed a baseball cap and thought no one would notice as I shoved the errant strands underneath and out of sight. I called the dog and made my way to the front door where the leash is kept on a coat hook. As I reached for it I heard Princess shift into reverse, her nails trying desperately to obtain some traction on the hardwood floor. She was running 90 miles an hour and getting nowhere. I reached down and scooped her up. She looked at me with terror in her eyes as if to beg me not to drop her off on the side of a desolate road. I held her against my chest with one hand and managed to clip the leash onto her collar with the other. Just as the clip snapped closed she peed on me. I suddenly remembered a long dirt road in south Georgia that ended in a swamp, but I wasn’t sure I could get there and back before Jill returned home. Another time, I decided. “You get to live another day,” I said to the dog as I washed my hands.

As we walked down the street toward Laura’s house Princess kept trying to pull me along. Doing my best Caesar the Dog Whisperer impersonation I kept tugging at the leash and making a “tissstt” sound, but we’re talking about a stupid dog here and she thought I was asking her to mark the territory along our way. Four houses down the street and a dozen squats later, I knocked on Laura’s door.

“You’ve got bed hair,” she said as she greeted me.
“And overnight face,” I said, hoping my own self-deprecating humor would help me to explain the urine stain on my chest. Fortunately, Laura didn’t see it.
“Is she ready? Is she excited?” Laura asked, scratching the dog behind her ears.
“You know you’re killing me,” I remarked.
“Her outfit is here!” she exclaimed, jumping up and down clapping her hands. “Allison picked it out, it’s so special!”

I looked up as the dog groomer came around the corner and introduced herself. Then she spied Princess. As a long and screeching “Ahhhhhaaawwwwwww” began to roll off her tongue my head began to spin. I thought I was going to puke.
“Do you want me to do anything special with her?” she asked as she took the dog from me.
“Slit her throat,” I responded without hesitation.
“It’s just an act,” Laura chimed in. “He really loves her.”
“I love my wife and my tolerance of this dog proves it,” I retorted.
“Really,” the groomer insisted,” what do you want me to do to her?”
“Can you make her look like another dog? One I could get attached to?”
Laura punched me on the arm. “Bath her really well so she can get on the furniture,” she said.
“Huh?” the groomer inquired. I could tell by the way she had turned away from me and was now glancing at me over her shoulder that she wasn’t taking a shine to me.
“He won’t let her on their furniture,” Laura explained.
“She stinks,” I defended myself.
“He’s a mean man,” the groomer said without shame or reservation just before she kissed Princess.
“Here,” Laura said, shoving a reindeer costume into my hands and turning me toward the door. “You’d better get out of here before she calls the Humane Society. Be sweet and dress Princess before Jill gets home.”
“Bah humbug,” I growled as I was escorted to the porch.

Hours later, and much too soon for me, the groomer delivered a trimmed and washed dog. As the mutt sat at my feet looking up at me, waiting for a compliment I think, I saw that she looked nothing like a new dog and everything like herself. Except for the Christmas bows tied to her ears. “You’re killing me,” I said as I looked out my window and at Laura’s front door. I swear I could hear her laughing. I sat the reindeer costume on the breakfast table, determined not to get sucked into this plot to humanize what is in reality a freak of nature.

Jill arrived home as I was cooking dinner. She came inside, said hello and half kissed me with one of those Frenchie cheek kisses meant for dignitaries you’d rather spit on. She was distracted, I told myself, trying not to be hurt. It was only later, when I was getting undressed and pulling my sweatshirt over my head, that I realized the brush off might have been because I carried with me the faint odor of dog urine.

“She’s beautiful!” Jill said repeatedly, jumping up and down clapping her hands (this seems to be a common trait among the women I love), sending herself and the dog into a frenzy that looked to me like it might end with them both rolling around in embrace on the floor. “It’s a reindeer!” my smart, cultured and dignified wife (I need to reassure myself once in a while) yelled as she pulled the costume from the bag and held it up for the dog to see.
“Looks like a torture corset,” I said.
“She’s Rudolf!” Jill shrieked as she finished dressing the dog.

Princess just stood there, unsure what to do, her head weighted down by the oversized antlers over her ears and the big brass bells hanging from around her neck.
“It’s going to choke her,” I said. I hope, I thought.
“I have to take a picture,” Jill said. As she rummaged through her briefcase looking for her camera, the dog looked at me and for one moment she seemed to be asking me for help. We connected; even she realized she looked ridiculous and wanted to escape. I grinned and let the moment pass.

Jill plopped down on the floor in front of her dog, focused and snapped a picture. The flash went off and blinded the little mutt. She stumbled backwards and ran into the cabinets, making her big brass bells jingle all the way. Jill was thrilled. I noticed how the little reindeer booties made the mutt walk in a goose step.

After dinner we left the dog in her costume as we went to visit a neighbor and enjoy some holiday libations. During the visit Jill talked endlessly about how wonderful the dog looked, how glad she is Laura and Allison understand dog love and work together to counter my bad attitude about allowing Princess on the furniture and giving her a clothing budget.

Soon we headed home and I was hoping for an evening of holiday romance as I unlocked the front door. I gave my wife the look of loving lust and winked at her; she screamed in horrified panic. I followed her gaze into the house and saw the dog lying on her side in the middle of the floor. “Oh my God!” my wife shouted so many times I couldn’t count them all. “She’s choked to death!”
God answers prayers, I thought, but before I could whisper “thanks,” the dog moved; her bells jingled. Jill cried with relief.

The dog tried to approach and console her momma, but it took her a while to get to her feet, her head so over-weighted. As she marched down the hall Jill dropped to her knees, reached out with desperate hands and called her dog, who goose stepped toward her, jingling with every deliberate step. I left them there and went on to do something important.

After what seemed like an hour Jill put the dog to bed and then climbed into our own. I reached for her, my own holiday plans still in mind. “I’m emotionally exhausted,” my wife said. “What if she’d died?” I almost said something about how happy that would make me, but I was sure it would ruin my chances of seeing my agenda come to fruition. I remained silent, and hopeful.

“I can’t get that vision of her lying motionless on the floor out of my head,” Jill mumbled as she started to fall sleep.
I lay there looking at the ceiling, trying to remember when Jill and I were dating if she told me about her obsession with this dog. Eventually, I too became sleepy. As I finally began to drift off, I thought I heard a reindeer on the roof.

Laura, Allison – you’re killing me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your visit to my blog. My daughter gave me the book as an early Christmas gift. And I have to tell you I love it. She also got the one for boys and their mother for her son. It is a fabulous collection of reasons and everyone is so true. Hope you don't mind that I post.