Pet Prose: Polly

Author photo.

“The problem with being roommates who were best friends and did everything together was that when one roommate was fired from her job at Mr. C’s Sizzlin’ Steaks for having a bad attitude (translation: wouldn’t let the kitchen manager grope her in the supply room), the other roommate was collateral damage.

The roommates fled to Doug’s apartment full of righteous fury and threats, and as usual, his was the voice of reason.

‘You’re students working a shitty, low-paying job for a moronic thug. The workforce commission doesn’t care. You’re not going to get unemployment benefits. You’re not going to get Yelp revenge because the public cares less than the government. Mr. C serves a cheap steak in a college town. Plus he could probably put out a hit on you. There’s nothing noble about dying young because you can’t be a server at a steakhouse, is there?’

‘Well, no,’ Amy said, but her face didn’t look convinced.

‘We need new jobs fast,’ Lindsey said. ‘Like every other student without a parental bankroll.’

‘That’s why it’s so easy for bad bosses to terminate anybody in this town,’ Doug said. ‘Amy, you pop the corn. Lindsey, you pick out the movies. I’ll go out and grab the beer. Doug’s Sanctuary offers a one-night break from studying and working.’

‘In other words, you don’t have a date tonight,’ Amy said.

‘He’s out of town,’ Doug admitted.

An entire wall of Doug’s den was lined with DVDs collected during the decades before streaming services existed, mostly from end-of-semester yard sales. With limited funds and bandwidth, Amy and Lindsey depended on him for free entertainment. When the girls were sophomores, Doug had been a TA in Amy’s English Lit class. He always wrote the best comments on her discussion exams. After the semester ended, she’d stayed in town and run into him and his boyfriend at a poetry reading. They invited her to join them for a glass of wine afterward, and by the end of summer, she and Doug were solid friends. The boyfriend exited just before Lindsey came back to town, and the girls nursed him through a short mourning period.

Two years later, they’d stopped counting the number of bad dates, lost boyfriends, crappy job experiences, bad classes or bad teachers that the wall of movies had barricaded them against. Doug was working on his dissertation; Amy and Lindsey were edging toward graduation and the so-called “real world.” Neither was sure where Amy’s English degree or Lindsey’s degree in Design and Theater Tech would take them.

It was because of Lindsey’s theater background that Amy usually got to pick the movies. Lindsey gravitated toward anything with music in it. Amy preferred romantic comedies or dramas based on literary masterpieces. Doug liked thrillers.

Both Amy and Doug rolled their eyes when they reconvened and saw Victor, Victoria and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

‘We’ve never seen them,’ Lindsey defended her choices.

‘I’ve seen everything,’ Doug said. ‘But no worries. This is your night.’

‘I’ll allow it,’ Amy said. ‘After all, you were the one who was manhandled among the industrial cans of condiments. You earned your musicals.’

In their personal history, the night would always be referred to as when drag queens and impersonators inspired The Great Idea. Two broke college girls, in need of a job, pretending to be two sassy boys pretending to be divas in costumes and wigs (“on loan” from the theater department), lip-synching and trash-talking for tips at every club and LGBTQ event that would let them perform. Amy masqueraded as Andrew who morphed into Miss Prissy Paisley Pants. Lindsey transformed into Lucas who morphed into Princess Sparklebutt. Doug became the secret-keeper who morphed into their Pepto-Bismol swilling manager.”

From Polly’s farcical novel Drag It Out.
 

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.

Parts of Polly’s story were inspired by a donation to my fundraising team for the 2017 Saving Pets Challenge.

Pet Prose: Buddy

Author photo.

“My sister was six years older than me and an overachiever. She had two degrees, a happy marriage, and three children. However, today I was wondering if her middle child was more like me than like her mother. She was wandering the house wearing what looked like her brother’s football helmet wrapped in aluminum foil, along with a discarded hazmat suit with a long sash–possibly from her mother’s bathrobe–tied around her waist and dragging behind her.

When I raised an eyebrow at my sister, she said, ‘She’s an astronaut. I think she’s on a mission to Pluto and apparently right now she’s out of the craft on a space walk.’

‘Fancy silk tether. She knows Pluto was demoted, right?’

‘I don’t care. This is the quietest vocation she’s had in a while. Apparently she communicates only with NASA on a closed channel. I’m just so glad she changed jobs.’

‘What was her last one?’

‘She was royal.’

‘Like a Disney princess? That’s pretty standard.’

‘No. She was queen. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, to be exact. She found one of Granny’s old pocketbooks, someone gave her a tiara, and she purloined my pearls. Dave had to hang a Union Jack from the flagpole to let the neighborhood know she was in residence. Then she got into a huge fight with Bobby across the street about Brexit.’

‘Wow. It’s impressive that kids are debating world events!’

‘Bobby is fifty-one. And she made him cry.'”

From Buddy’s new novel.
 

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: Krypto

Author photo.

“The silence on the phone stretched between them until she remembered that he was one of the few people she’d ever known who didn’t nervously fill space with words.

‘Listen,’ she said, ‘what happened between us was a long time ago. Maybe something’s missing from your life, but it isn’t me. You married your college sweetheart. You finally settled into a job that turned out pretty well for you. You have two adult children. You succeed at life. I remember you well enough to know you probably didn’t do it without some…transgressions along the way. But it’s the life you built, and it didn’t have room for me. If you want my advice–and no one ever really does want advice, do they?–whatever this is you’re going through, don’t try to go back. When you were a younger man, there were things you respected in a way you didn’t respect women. Playing keyboards. Preparing elaborate meals. So start a band. Go to cooking school. Don’t hurt your family.’

She ended the call.”

From Krypto’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: Ophelia

Author photo.

“‘No,’ Adele said. ‘I don’t want to hear another word.’

‘But Mama–‘ Nikki said.

‘No! I have four daughters and one rule. No funny business with the food business. Your sister Lorraine met Joey’s father when they worked on the food truck together. She got pregnant; he got lost. Penny worked the counter at Reno Pizza. Mickey was the delivery boy. She found out he was delivering more than pizzas all over town. Mary Kate was the hostess at Kaiping Buffet and got tangled up with that dishwasher whose name we don’t say in this house. My daughters, men, and food don’t mix. I will not give my blessing for another case of heartburn to one of my girls.’

‘Mama, I don’t work at his restaurant. I just take care of his website.’

‘Well, I take care of my daughters. And I say no.’

Nikki twisted her mouth as she thought. Mama hadn’t snapped her fingers yet, so she could still get in one more sentence before the subject was really closed.

‘What if,’ she began slowly, ‘the food we met over had nothing to do with his business? What if I invited him to dinner at your table? What if he was getting to meet your lasagne while you were getting to meet him?’

Adele unconsciously twisted her mouth the same way Nikki had. Finally she said, ‘That could be possible. But no dates until I meet him!’

‘Do I get a say?’ Nikki’s father asked from behind his newspaper.

Both women turned toward him with a resounding, ‘No!'”

From Ophelia’s romance novel Hungry Hearts.

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: Peyton

Author photo.

“In a different world, it would have been the beginning of a romantic comedy with America’s sweetheart of the moment. Lifestyle blogger is invited to speak at a conference in Chicago. Packs light in her father’s old hand-me-down black Samsonite. Flight is delayed. Grabs suitcase out of baggage claim and races outside the terminal. Takes forever to get a cab, so when she arrives at the host hotel, she asks the desk to hold her suitcase until she can check into her room later.

Her talk is a success! They laugh in all the right places and stand in line to meet her and get her autograph. She enjoys her little taste of celebrity. Finally she checks in and her suitcase is brought to her room.

Except when she opens it, it isn’t packed with her comfy loungewear or the bath salts, scented oils, and face masks and moisturizers she’s been planning to spoil herself with before joining other conference attendees for dinner and drinks. Her little black dress and strappy heels are also missing.

She stares dumbly at the thick packets of files jammed into the suitcase. She opens a few, and as the words and numbers begin to register on a brain that can barely remember the access code to the gate of her apartment complex, she has a nightmarish realization. She is Emma Stone or Anna Kendrick dropped without warning into a Jason Bourne movie.

Her mind races–call the desk? wipe off her fingerprints and throw the suitcase out the window? figure out if she took the wrong suitcase at the airport or if the hotel made the mix-up?

Does some international spy have her bag, and how long will it take the KGB or Interpol or the CIA to track her down? She’s not built for this.

Come on, come on, she reproaches herself, the world is not always about Will Smith or Harrison Ford or Daniel Craig.

‘What would Super Spy Angelina Jolie do?’ she asks the suitcase, then claps her hand over her mouth and scans the ceiling for where the bugs are likely to be planted.”

From Peyton’s work in progress I Can’t Even Pronounce John le Carré.

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: Sabi

Author photo.

“He wasn’t sure why the phrase ‘Do you want fries with that?’ was intended as an insult. He liked working at McDonald’s. Those golden arches had promised a treat during his childhood when his mother or his aunts took him for a Happy Meal. Now he liked watching little kids get their own Happy Meals, even if there were fewer fries and the addition of apple slices. It wasn’t about the food. Most kids wouldn’t finish it all anyway. It was about the toy and the playground and being somewhere with their families.

He also liked the people who pulled up and ordered a Soft Serve for their dogs. The breakfast customers who needed that first cup of coffee to start their days. The old guys who sat at a table for an hour or more talking to each other.

Nope, he wasn’t a rocket scientist or a surgeon or a college professor. He was just a guy who liked seeing people smile, so he tried to give them every reason to do that when they drove to his window or stood at his counter. It was the only legacy he had to offer.”

Sabi from his novel A Regular Guy.

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: Cherilyn

Author photo.

“After my mother ran away with my baby brother, leaving my sister and me with our dad, I began to understand why she might have left. I wasn’t any less angry about her vanishing act–for one thing, I missed Joey–but I had new insights about my father.

First, he never noticed the way the neighbors in our building started treating him. I was sure they thought the circumstances of her leaving were suspicious and that he’d done something to her. It didn’t matter that the police had a clear chain of evidence of her exit from Oker, South Carolina, thanks to grainy video images from convenience stores and mysterious cameras I didn’t even know our town had, along with credit card receipts and bus tickets. They even knew where she ended up–Miami. The cops suspected she’d run off to meet a man. But nobody else in our town was missing, and my mom had never turned on our computer. That ruled out an online romance, and anyway, what secret, beachside lover wanted a woman to bring her toddler along? The cops were willing to pursue parental kidnapping charges, but my father said no. She and Joey were just taking a break, and she’d come back sooner or later.

Besides noticing nothing about the neighbors and indulging in this fantasy about my mother’s return, my father was also clueless about Mandy and me. He left for his job at the lab in Greenville at six every morning, getting home after six every night, so it took a while for him to notice I never seemed to leave the apartment. I told him I was part of an at-home work study program for seniors–I was a junior. While my absences were adding up at Oker High, Mandy, who actually was a senior, had perfect attendance. She went to school every day with her boyfriend Stoney–most accurate nickname ever–after he spent the night in her room, showered with her, and crunched Rice Krispies at the table with her, none of which my father knew.

When Aunt Winnie came over one Sunday to bring chicken and potato salad, she cornered me in the kitchen and said, ‘Your father is a superhero to take care of you girls and put up with your mother’s desertion.’

Yeah, I thought. Captain Oblivious.

From Cherilyn’s novel 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: Asher

Author photo.

“Every day for the first week of school, Edwin’s feet dragged all the way to his sixth period class. He’d almost been late twice, which would land him in detention and put his misery on his parents’ radar.

But English. Ugh. Like it wasn’t already the worst class, he didn’t know any of his classmates. And the teacher, Miss Kick. She hadn’t really even been teaching. Every day they’d had to write dumb paragraphs about stuff. What was their favorite TV show and why. What were they most likely to be doing on Saturdays from three to five. What would be the best place to live and what kind of house would they have. Describe their favorite store. None of it had anything to do with English, and the paragraphs weren’t even graded. A whole week of school was behind him, and it wouldn’t be long before his mother got nervous and started asking what his grade was. All because he’d almost failed seventh grade because of stupid English. That was going to follow him around forever.

He made it into his desk just before the bell rang. Miss Kick was peering at her grade book and didn’t notice, so at least that worked out okay.

Everyone got quiet as she looked over her glasses at them then began calling roll. Edwin thought Miss Kick was kind of witchy looking, with her sharp nose holding up her little black glasses. Her teeth seemed too big for her face, and her head seemed too big for her body. She had a habit of pushing her long, dark hair behind her ears. At least her ears were okay. Mrs. Green, his seventh grade English teacher who was about two hundred years old, had ears the size of his hands. They hadn’t helped her hear any better. Miss Kick was a lot younger, and though he’d heard she was new at this school, like he was, she didn’t seem new to teaching. He usually did better with new teachers because they were more nervous than he was. Miss Kick wasn’t nervous.

‘Today we’re starting our unit on poetry.’

Sixth period had just found a way to get worse. Judging by the groans, he wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Miss Kick smiled and said, ‘Sometimes people don’t like poetry simply because it’s called poetry. The same people have favorite songs, and songs are poems set to music. Poetry allows you to create the music in your head. The rhythm, rhyme, the words the writer uses, all appeal to your sense of sound.

‘The more of your five senses a poem engages, the more you can appreciate it. We’re going to approach the same poem, Michael Lee’s “Pass On,” from a different sense every day this week. Today’s sense is sight. I’ve broken you into groups of four, and I’ll be giving you a copy of the poem along with magazines, scissors, paper, and glue. After I read “Pass On” to you, each group will create a picture book together, using images cut from your magazines, to illustrate any parts of the poem you choose. Create between five and ten images, and if you don’t finish today, no problem. We’ll be with this poem for a while.’

Edwin ended up in a group with two other boys and one girl. They had to put their desks in a circle. When Miss Kick brought them a stack of comic books, Edwin’s eyes widened. Maybe she was a witch. How else could she know he loved comic books?”

From Asher’s novel There Goes My Hero.

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: Angela

Author photo.

“Every Sunday the five of them went to Maury’s Home Cookin’. It was buffet style, and though none of them could eat enough to make it a bargain at one sitting, their ‘knitting’ bags were loaded with enough plastic bags and containers to ensure they’d get several meals out of their single visit. They chose Sunday because it was so busy with the after-church crowd that no waiter, waitress, or manager could pay attention to a group of larcenous seniors who made a suspicious number of trips to the food bar.

Beatrice suspected they weren’t really getting away with anything, that Maury’s son, who’d been running the buffet for more than a decade, was not the tightfisted old curmudgeon his father had been. At forty-four, Maury Jr. had three divorces and a few other mishaps behind him. Instead of making him hardhearted, they’d made him indifferent. Better the food should go to old ladies than to the trash. At least that’s what Beatrice figured he thought.

They were a mostly quiet group until the first round of salad and yeast rolls had been consumed, so Beatrice wasn’t sure what surprised her more when Wylene spoke: what she said or that she said it.

‘I don’t believe in fortune tellers,’ Wylene said, her eyes on the cucumber eluding her fork. ‘Does anyone remember that carnival we went to when we were fifteen? Well, you were sixteen, Beatrice.’

‘I was the only one with a driver’s license,’ Beatrice said.

‘I remember that you stripped the gears on my daddy’s truck,’ Linette said. ‘He knew one of his kids had taken it out, and since no one would confess, we all got a whipping.’

‘Nobody told me I’d be driving a stick on the column.’ Beatrice took the defensive tone out of her voice when she turned to Wylene and said, ‘I never knew you went inside the fortune teller’s tent. How did I miss that?’

‘You were on that dinky ferris wheel for the dozenth time.’

‘I was making out with Junior Hayward behind the cotton candy stand.’ Bobbi’s tone was wistful.

‘What did the fortune teller predict?’ Linette asked, clearly in no mood for Bobbi’s romantic reminiscing.

‘She said I would have three babies and die young.’

‘Ha!’ Luann barked. ‘You passed both opportunities long ago.’

‘You did once have three kittens,’ Bobbi mused.

‘And it’s possible you died and you’re a zombie,’ Linette said.

‘Has she been a zombie for several decades?’ Luann asked.

‘I don’t believe in zombies,’ Wylene said.”

From Angela’s novel 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: Sylvan

Author photo.

“There were some concepts he could accept even if he didn’t understand them or agree with them. After all, not only could he not know everything, there would always be someone who knew more than he did, or who knew anything on subjects about which he knew nothing.

There was, however, one mood or feeling or idea–whatever it was called–that he didn’t understand and didn’t want to understand: boredom.

How could anyone be bored in this world? Not just because of the unending creative efforts or activities designed to keep us from being bored–music, movies, books, art, sports, recreation. The beauty and ferocity of the planet was something to wonder over and enjoy constantly. The study of human and animal nature was anyone’s for the taking. Even getting lost in a daydream, a fantasy, a reminiscence–these were free, available anywhere, for the young and old, well or unwell, rich or poor. The mind was an infinite playground.

Boredom. Bah! He just didn’t believe in it.”

Sylvan, from his novel Bartie Conquers the World.

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.