Monday, January 30, 2006

Texas, Part 1

If three fire engines race past your bedroom windows, speeding the wrong way up your street, it’s a pretty safe bet that something really, really bad is happening.

The first and second trucks’ red lights had spun across my ceiling before I hopped up off the mattress and stumbled over to the bay, threw up one sash and stuck my head and torso out, craning left towards the commotion of strobes and shouting men. The identical house fronts’ square bays formed a uniform row of white boxes lining the adjacent porch roofs. The compressed perspective of the narrow windowless sides facing me resembled milk cartons lined up in a grocer’s cold box. Six or eight houses down, from a window identical to the one from which I leaned naked, white and yellow flames shot straight outward, looking surreally like the flapping silk tops of those Statue of Liberty costume flashlight torches, where the sheer fabric “flames” are made to flicker by a tiny fan in the handle with the bulb and batteries.

Six or eight houses up to where my friend Mike lived, with his dog Texas.*

Ten years earlier Mike had decided he needed a dog. He visited the Morris Animal Refuge a number of times, each time being greeted by the wild “Pick Me! Pick Me!“hysteria of the four legged inmates (dogs like Mike), In spite of their enthusiasm, he selected a golden yellow brown chow looking mutt, from among the boisterous contenders, impressed by how the year old animal responded enthusiastically only to his keepers, remaining cool, and almost diffident towards the hopeful would be dog owners who’d passed the shelter’s rigorous screening process. To avoid confusion with a room mate already having the name, the dog’s handle was changed from his original Pete, to Texas (the suggestion of a girl across the alley) for no particular reason other than that the percussive syllables would make it easily distinguishable by the new wolf dog’s pointy ears.

Mike and I became buddies in our Post Graduate “between” periods, before real jobs had been secured or life courses plotted. We’d met at the North Star Bar, where we both worked waiting tables, just around the corner from his house. A bunch of us started hanging out at his place, listening to Cds, guzzling local craft beers by the case, and passing around a well worn red plexiglass Tobacco Master, before, after, and (if we snuck out the kitchen door while waiting for orders to come up, and sprinted across Poplar and down Bailey Streets) during our shifts. That’s where I first met Texas.

At first, he gave me the wolf dog evil eye, coldly evaluating me through narrow slits and making great sweeping arcs around me; as distant as the tiny cluttered rooms would allow. The next half dozen or so times Texas treated me as though I was invisible, generally ignoring me completely except to growl if I strayed too close or once, to bite me. The non-person status was more of an injury than the teeth marks; my self-esteem was eroding at the onslaught of indifference. Up ‘till now, dogs ALWAYS liked me.

One night when we staggered in, the dog rushed up, slipping and skittering on the smooth hard oak floor, legs in all directions, just like he always did when Mike came home. This time, his excitement was shared. This time he was happy to see ME! I’d survived my hazing and was now worthy of excited jumping and fierce tail wagging. I kneeled down to rub his jowls and receive his kisses, roughly scratching his haunches and confirming for him that he was indeed a good boy. For the next decade, we repeated this ritual each time we met.

Texas was alone in Mike's house, at that end of the block.

*to be continued*
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