Pet Prose: Patrick

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“He worked for a branch of government security so secret sometimes even he wasn’t sure where it fit into the chain, and he’d been an agent for thirteen years. Internally, they were known as Wolf Pack, though an agent usually worked in the field as a Lone Wolf, making contact with local enforcement agencies as directed. On each mission, an agent was tagged with a name from the NATO alphabet combined with the mission location.

This time, he was Hotel Cairo. It sounded exotic, but he was actually stuck in Cairo, Illinois, a once-thriving town that now was underpopulated, undereducated, and underserviced. Worse, he had a partner, November Cairo, and he preferred working alone. At least she wasn’t inclined to chatter, but she had a way of leveling a stare at him that made him feel almost like he didn’t have more than a decade of experience or that he wasn’t a few years older than she was.

For three days, they’d had to stretch the bounds of credibility by pretending to be tourists in a place where he felt sure few vacationers came. It had been her idea to bring a couple of digital cameras along and give one to him.

‘Photographers are usually ecstatic over places most people wouldn’t spit on,’ she said drily on their first day out. ‘A camera gives you a good reason to size up things, stare at them.’

‘Yeah, right, I know that,’ he’d answered. ‘Sometimes a camera also catches something the human eye doesn’t register.’

‘Maybe not yours,’ she said.

That had pretty much set the tone from the outset, and it hadn’t gotten better. Now they were stuck at midnight watching a road that no one traveled, waiting for anything that looked suspicious. They’d seen nothing, not even an appearance by a deer or raccoon.

‘You know,’ November said, breaking a near two-hour silence, ‘there’s almost zero possibility of the motorcade coming through here anytime in the next three days.’

‘Doesn’t matter,’ he said, staring through the windshield at nothing. ‘It’s the assignment.’

‘How long has it been since you’ve done anything…’ she trailed off. When he remained silent, she finally continued, ‘…that you considered really relevant? Do you ever think we’re just some lawmaker’s pet project with no real mission or bearing on national security? Or even an experiment in how long someone who thinks they’re relevant will continue to do a job with no real purpose or function?’

‘Nope,’ he said. He’d liked her better when she was quiet.

‘What’s your name? Where do you come from? Who are you?’

‘Maybe this is an experiment, and they want to see how long I can resist your questions. Hotel Cairo, Wolf Pack, United States of America.’

He heard the sound that meant she was blowing her bangs out of her eyes, then she said, ‘I’m easy.’

He was sure she couldn’t see his perplexed expression as he turned his head toward her. Was this some kind of seduction?

‘That’s my name. EZ, the letters. Not easy, the word. And before you ask, the initials don’t stand for anything. My parents named me EZ because my mother was in labor about ten minutes before I made a graceful and nearly pain-free entrance into the world.’

‘I guess they didn’t consider the ramifications the name might have on a teenage girl?’

‘I survived,’ she said. ‘I grew up in South Carolina, graduated from a military academy then Boston College. Did some time in the Bureau and was moved to Wolf Pack.’

He was quiet a few minutes and finally said, ‘Code.’

‘No, it’s all true–’

‘It’s my name. Code. Old family surname that my parents made my first name.’

‘I guess they didn’t consider the ramifications the name might have on a future special agent of the United States of America?’

‘I’ve survived so far,’ he said.

Even in the dark, he was sure her smile mirrored his.”

From Patrick’s suspense novel of espionage Code in Cairo.
 

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Patrick named his characters in honor of donors to my Saving Pets fundraiser. Thank you!

Pet Prose: Pollywag

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“I don’t know why I have the dreams I do. Once for two weeks in a row I dreamed about actor Eric Roberts every night. I’ve honestly never given much thought to actor Eric Roberts, but there he was anyway. Each night the dream was a variation on a falling out we’d had and how he no longer wanted to have anything to do with me. I searched my brain for anyone in my life who looked like actor Eric Roberts or was named Eric or Robert or Rob or Robby or even Bob with whom I might have unresolved issues, but there was no one. Just as quickly as he arrived, actor Eric Roberts left my dreams without ever explaining his anger. To this day, I still can’t see him on TV or in a movie without feeling a little bitter. Couldn’t he at least have said goodbye?

There were more dream series of that nature, but recently, my dreams had been about Rocky, the squirrel from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, only he spoke French and I was his English-speaking nanny who didn’t understand a word he said. I woke up every morning exhausted by the frustrations of my job.

‘Now, Gail,’ my friend Darla said, ‘I know you’re not a believer in better living through pharmaceuticals, but these dreams you have sound like Vicodin dreams. Are you hiding a little opioid problem?’

‘I don’t even take aspirin!’ I protested.

Darla cackled and said, ‘At least it’s the squirrel. Imagine if you were a moose nanny.’

‘It would be fine if the moose and I spoke the same language,’ I said with a sniff.”

From Pollywag’s short story “Now Back to Moose and Squirrel.”
 

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Pollywag named her characters Darla and Gail in tribute to a dog and her wonderful person who contributed to my Saving Pets fundraiser.

Pet Prose: Spyro

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“Some days it felt like she had to work hard not to be cynical. It could be that she was tired to the bone. It could be that she never felt surprised by people any more. She’d had many years to see the best and worst of them, but it was their predictability, finally, that had worn her down.

Still, every night around dusk, she took the tools of her profession to the same spot outside the fenced park where the vendors gathered to wait for the tourists. She set up her table and covered it with the beautiful cloth a friend had brought from her travels in India decades before. The colors had dimmed, but in the light cast by the period street lamps and her candles, that didn’t matter. The fabric was just exotic enough to lend authenticity to the service she offered.

She placed her crystals and wands strategically on the table and took her cards from their scrap of silk. A stick of nag champa and a cleansing ritual, and she was ready for business. Until the first clients came, she could observe at leisure. She noticed the skateboarder, whose name she didn’t know, and his dog Milly. Some of the others didn’t like the skateboarders, but she’d long ago stopped being quite so precious about the marketplace. Skateboarders, musicians, beggars, shamans, or charlatans–there was room for all of them. Besides, Milly was a beautifully behaved dog and her young man was always polite. His eyes were intelligent and had a bit of mischief. As far as she was concerned, the world needed a little less meanness and a little more mischief.

Behind her, on the other side of the little park, she heard the cellist and the violinist begin. She closed her eyes for just a moment, breathing in whatever good energy there was, and then heard a sound she’d never thought to hear again, certainly not in the middle of the city. She tried to process the clamor of people’s reactions to what they’d heard, then opened her eyes just as the skateboarder and Milly hurried by. He tossed her a pouch and said, ‘Hold on to that until I find you again.’

She felt a moment of confusion and then, magnificently, wonder. The night was suddenly full of surprise.”

From Spyro’s novel Scorpio’s Deck.
 

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Pet Prose: Mr. Cookie

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“It was October of my senior year in high school when my grandpa died. I already wasn’t having a good year and taking a road trip with my parents and my kid sister to rural South Dakota–isn’t all of South Dakota rural?–was not my preferred method of ditching a week of school. Plus I’d loved my grandpa. We didn’t get to see him a lot, but he had a knack for making a kid feel like what he said and thought mattered.

The rest of the family lived closer than us, so they’d made it to his old farmhouse a day or two before we did. It was easy to see that most everybody had reached a point where they’d eaten and drunk too much and gotten all their nostalgia out of the way. They were ready to rehash old battles, argue over who should get what stuff, and generally be jerks. Nobody was talking about Grandpa.

After a couple of hours of listening to them and eating yet another scoop of another casserole brought by basically the entire population of South Dakota, I slipped into Grandpa’s room, sat on his bed–way too soft–and stared at the floor for a while. I was considering taking a nap when I noticed his old work boots tucked under his dresser. They couldn’t possibly be the same ones he’d worn when I was a kid, but they looked the same. They reminded me of times when he and I walked around the property before he’d gotten too old to farm and sold most of it off. Or when we’d slosh through the muddy ground that led to the pond where he taught me to fish. I thought of rides on the tractor, feeding the cows, and trying to make the mules let me ride them–they never did. I thought of the year he bought goats and the goats decided they wanted to live in the house. His goat stories had made my sister and me laugh so hard she’d peed her pants, but Grandpa just did some laundry and kept her secret.

I slid out of my Chucks and stuffed them into the oversized pockets of my army surplus field jacket that my mother hated. Then I slipped into Grandpa’s boots, laced them up, and stood. They were a perfect fit. I was pretty sure nobody was going to notice the battered old boots as long as I didn’t call attention to them, but I still tried to make myself invisible as I walked through the scattered groups of quarrelsome family members and outside to our car, where I hid my sneakers under the driver’s seat.

I turned to go back inside and almost stumbled when my feet suddenly decided to take a sharp left. I shook my head and again tried to turn toward the house, but my feet were not cooperating.

Or maybe it wasn’t my feet. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I considered that Grandpa’s boots just might have their own plan for where I was going next.”

From Mr. Cookie’s work in progress These Boots.
 

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Pet Prose: Herbie

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“I knew I wasn’t going anywhere that New Year’s Eve when I woke up with chills and a strong desire to borrow my girlfriend’s neti pot, which is about the grossest inclination I’ve ever had and after years of teasing her so mercilessly about it, only my sense that death was imminent could have prompted it.

‘Yep,’ Ceecee said, shaking the thermometer, ‘you have a fever.’

‘What do you think is wrong? The flu? Swine flu? Ebola? West Nile virus? What’s that other one everybody was supposed to get in South America? Zika? We ate at Bogotá three days ago. How do we know someone in the kitchen isn’t a carrier?’

‘Because there are no mosquitos in Kansas in December. What you have is a man cold. You’ll be okay.’

‘You’re not a doctor.’

‘Fine. I’ll call Patrick. Maybe he can give you a shot of something.’

I closed my eyes and willed myself not to remind her I was deathly afraid of shots. From there, my fevered brain was off and running. I was so afraid of shots that I’d never been shot through the heart. Had a double shot of my baby’s love. Then again, my baby never shot me down (bang bang). I never shot the sheriff or the deputy. Never shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Never hit anybody with my best shot. I was not a hot shot, a long shot, or a big shot.

Why the hell were there so many popular songs about shots? And why did we have a thermometer with mercury in it instead of one of those digital kind? Maybe I had mercury poisoning.”

From Herbie’s short story Fever Dreams.
 

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Pet Prose: Daisy

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“I was pretty sure saying yes to Eddie’s proposal was a mistake the night I met his family. Or maybe I mean The Family. Or maybe I just mean his mother. I saw her watching as we approached. She was wearing a sparking white dress and though she had to have been in her late forties, she had a killer body. Or do I mean a Killer’s body?

When we finally reached her, I barely heard Eddie’s introduction because my eyes were mesmerized by the necklace that covered almost all of her décolletage. Small, sparking rubies were set in a web of fragile, almost invisible gold, so that they looked like drops of blood across her chest.

She broke an awkward silence by making it even more awkward when she said in a husky voice, ‘My eyes are up here.’

My gaze flew to her face, trying to see whether I should laugh, but her eyes, as if another part of her necklace, were spiderlike, assessing what had stumbled into her web. Eddie had turned away, either looking for the quickest exit or someone carrying a tray of cocktails.

‘I was admiring your necklace,’ I admitted.

Her lips twitched a little at the corners when she said, ‘I like to think of the rubies as little drops of blood from all the unsuitable companions I’ve been forced to eradicate from my children’s lives.’

Yes, I would definitely tell Eddie I’d changed my mind about getting married. Only then I heard myself saying, ‘How precious you are. Eddie didn’t tell me about your macabre sense of humor.'”

From Daisy’s first novel Mob-in-Law.
 

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Pet Prose: Magritte

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged that no beverage tastes good after one has just brushed one’s teeth.”

From Magritte’s article “Crested.”
 

 

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Pet Prose: Skye

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“She knew exactly when and how her love of cows began. Though her house and collection had been featured many times through the years on local news shows or in newspaper Lifestyle sections when they ran low on human interest stories, she’d never shared that information publicly.

She smiled when the cameras invaded her home to document the thousands of cow figures and toys in her collection. The children’s books featuring cows. Cow art that spilled from her walls to the metal structures in her garden. Cow pillows and stuffed cows, cow sheets and cow salt and pepper shakers. Cow dishes, cow soap dispensers, the cow shower curtains in both bathrooms.

She knew that they were poking fun at her (once, she’d even called it ‘cow poking’ in an interview, which led to a discussion of whether or not cow tipping was a real thing). She’d heard all the jokes from her friends. Her family worried that she was a hoarder. Her husband’s only complaint was that he’d given up eating meat for her.

But whether they laughed or rolled their eyes over her cows, no one knew how it began. They didn’t know about the flooding in the town where she’d lived when she was six. They didn’t see a girl standing at the edge of her backyard in the suburban neighborhood of cheaply constructed houses, watching the swollen creek rush by below her. No one but her saw the cow who’d been swept into the torrent and drowned. She floated with bits of debris made of small tree limbs, grasses, and flowers clinging to her, as if nature were providing a funeral float on this small sea turned red by churned up Georgia clay.

For that all too brief passing, her soul met the cow’s soul–for she didn’t doubt then and never doubted afterward that animals have souls–and every image, totem, and bibelot since had been an homage to a single, lost cow.”

From Skye’s story “Sacred Cow.”
 

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Pet Prose: Tommy

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“It was impossible for him to convince himself he was doing nothing wrong in light of the subterfuge he practiced to set everything up. He made the reservation at a restaurant where he knew she’d never go. He told no one what he was up to so there would be no chance of anyone accidentally or maliciously telling her. He chose Thursday because that was the night she had yoga, and he was usually on his own for dinner anyway. The day before and the morning of, he changed nothing in the way of his grooming, his choice of wardrobe, or his behavior.

He would not be one of those men who got caught because he was careless.

So when the server set his steak in front of him, with its side of crisp, steamed asparagus, the reflection of the candlelight flickering seductively on his glass of red wine, he couldn’t understand why the knife and fork were too heavy to lift. Had the butter on the warm bread been tainted with a strong dose of conscience?

He gave the steak one last longing look and motioned the server back over.

‘Is something wrong, sir?’

‘I’m sure it’s fine, but you can take it away and bring me the check. Don’t worry; I’ll tip you. Here’s another tip. If you love steak, never fall in love with and marry a vegetarian.'”

From Tommy’s work in progress.
 

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Pet Prose: Marcus

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“When the Challenger exploded, she was at the end of a bad divorce after a terrible year. She’d moved to a new town, the first time she’d lived alone in her life, into a brownstone with four apartments upstairs and four down. She knew no one. She didn’t have a phone or a TV yet, and her stereo wasn’t set up.

She’d been walking down the sidewalk to the grocery store, about to pass Village Appliance, when she saw the screens on multiple televisions in the window. At first she thought it was a movie. When she was finally able to process the truth of what she was seeing–the burst of fire, the plumes of smoke, the stricken faces of the people in the stands–a woman’s parents, her parents! watching their daughter die–she forgot her errands, her plans, her lists. She walked back to the brownstone in a stupor and sat on the only chair she owned, a rocking chair.

She wasn’t aware of how many hours she sat there, rocking, dazed, wondering how a tragedy that had nothing to do with her seemed to be the culmination of months of misery. She longed for another living thing to share the silence. A cat. A dog. A goldfish. She heard the entry door open and the sound of someone going upstairs, and she wished she were the kind of person who could open her door and start a conversation with a stranger.

It wasn’t her way.

As the darkness from the windows finally permeated every corner of her three rooms, she couldn’t bear another minute of solitude. She left her apartment, crept down the hall, and took the stairs up, drawn to the back of the building where she could hear a voice through a door. It took her a moment to understand she was hearing one side of a phone conversation.

‘…so terrible…do you think there’s any hope? No, I know it’s not like a rocket with a capsule for the crew, but could they have… But all of them dead. Do you think they knew? I can’t stop thinking of her parents’ faces…’

She sank to the floor in a crouch, rested her head against the door, and let the voice wrap around her like a blanket.”

From Marcus’s short story “Falling.”
 

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.