Leah Rogin-Roper: Chapter 4: Zeke

Fall '10 TOC

            I think of all the lost people adrift out there.  All the ones who floods, hurricanes, monsoons, have displaced.  The little baby girl who four families claimed rather than admit their own children’s deaths.  I think about the dogs waiting on porches as the water laps at the steps, staring across, whimpering to themselves, waiting for their beloved masters and mistresses to save them. 
            Last night when I was walking home from the hotel, this big black dog started following me.  He had a huge head and fluffy fur that made me think it probably wouldn’t hurt for him to get lost in the snow.  He followed me all the way back to my house, about a mile from where I work.  First he was just dragging behind me, a few hundred feet.  The last half mile or so he trotted right beside me like he was my dog.  I started talking to him.  Maybe I am a little lonely.  But there is something comforting about a big black dog walking you home. 
            “It’s not that I don’t like Stoneboat, I love it here.  It’s just that there’s no advancement.  There’s no sense of movement.  Living here is just like living in Never-Neverland.  Not Michael Jackson’s pad.  The fantasy world in Peter Pan, where no one ever grows up.”
            He wagged his tail.  “I mean, I know dogs don’t care if things always stay the same, but people… people crave change.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it would be better if we just accepted where we were and didn’t want things to be any different.”
            I looked at him and I swear to God, he winked at me.  I smiled down at him and felt closer to anyone than I had in months.  When we got to the trailer he looked as if he expected to be invited in, so I opened the door wide for him and in he came, shaking his gigantic head from side to side.  He sat down politely in the entry way.  I brought him a bowl of water which he slopped over the floor and then laid his head across my feet as I sat on the couch.  For a minute, I thought about just keeping him.  But he was such a nice dog, someone somewhere must have been worried about him.  I patted his head and felt around on his collar.  Rufus 878-4000. 
            “Rufus, eh?”  He thumped his tail into the floor in confirmation.  I scratched him behind the ears and pulled out my phone.  “Guess someone is probably missing you somewhere, Rufus.”  I dialed the number on his collar.  The phone rang several times and an answering machine picked up with a woman’s voice on it.  I left a short message with my phone number and the information that I had Rufus with me.  It was late.  Maybe his parents were out at the bar and he had gotten out.  I felt better knowing he was here.  I gave him a tour of the trailer.  He seemed quite impressed. 
            My phone started its trill of rings.  “Bet that’s your Mom, Rufus.”  I answered the phone. 
            “Do you have Rufus?”  The voice did not give any introduction.
            “Yeah, he followed me home.”
            “For Christ’s sake.  Where do you live?”  I gave directions to my trailer.
            “Right down the road.  I’ll be there in five minutes.”
            “Umm, thanks.”  I don’t know if the voice heard me before it hung up.  I hardly had time to start thinking about the implications of the rudeness of the voice on the phone when someone was banging on my door.  Rufus looked at me and gave a brief wag of his tail.  I opened the door to find a skinny blonde woman with stringy hair staring up at me.  Rufus strolled over to her, looking neither guilty nor excited. 
            “For Christ’s sake.  Every night I have to pick up this dog from somewhere.”  For a moment I felt like apologizing, but I did not know why.
            “If people would just leave him alone he would come home.  He knows his way home.”
            “Well, that is, he uh, he just followed me.”  The woman glared up at me. 
            “Yeah, just followed you, yeah sure.  If people would just leave him the fuck alone or tell him to go home I wouldn’t have to pick him up every night.  What is wrong with people?”  Her voice got high and I started feeling confused.  Did I do something wrong?  I try to think back.  Did I encourage Rufus to follow me?  Did I offer him some delicious kibbles?  I did start talking to him, but that was after he’d already been behind me for a half mile. 
            “Well, I just figured you’d want to know where your dog was,” I told her. 
            “My dog was in my front yard.  Now he’s here in your house and I have to get out of bed and come and get him.  If you had just left him the fuck alone like you were supposed to, if you had just left him outside instead of inviting him into your living room, for Christ’s sake, then I could still be home in bed.”  Something about the size of this lady’s pupils made me doubt she was home in bed when she received my call.  The more I listened to her the more I wanted her out of my house.  She looked the way JP used to look after not sleeping for two or three nights. 
            One of JP’s paintings fell off the wall.
            “Look, lady, my roommate is sleeping.  Maybe if you don’t want to come pick your dog up every night you should keep him inside your house.”  Her eyes were starting to spiral.  Don’t antagonize her.  Just get her out of here.
            “Maybe if there weren’t people like you out there, taking my dog home with you, I could just let him be a dog.  He knows his way home, okay?  He doesn’t need you, okay?”  I nodded at her and started moving my body into the frame of the door, pushing her out so I could close it.  She was still ranting when I nodded goodbye to Rufus and clicked the door shut in her face.  I locked the deadbolt and sank back onto the couch.  I snapped the TV on with the remote, took off my shoes and propped my feet up on the coffee table.  I looked at the half-empty bowl of water on the floor, thought about going to the pound tomorrow.  The phone rang. 
            “Look, it’s me, the crabby lady who just picked up Rufus.  Look, I just called back to say I’m sorry.”
            I feel a bit more vindicated.  “No worr…”
            “I guess it’s not your fault, not entirely.  I mean if you had just left him alone things would have been fine, but I guess you couldn’t know that could you?”
            “I just thought…”
            “You didn’t know any better I guess, you don’t seem to have any dogs so I guess you don’t know that dogs can find their way home and that they don’t need your help.  I’m sure you thought you were doing us some kind of favor but the thing is that you weren’t because if it weren’t for people like you…”
            I hung up the phone.  A man can only take so much.  It rang again.

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