Thursday, December 9, 2010

Last Will

              A short story by: Thomas Pryce

I’m trembling, but she’s holding me so tight I can’t be sure it’s not her. Lying on my side I look up to see tears streaming down her cheeks. Some fall free and touch me. I sense pain as much as I smell the salt in her tears. At the moment I’m confused, I don’t know why she’s crying. Of all the tricks I’d learned over the years - sit, fetch, roll over, play dead - none tested my intellect, or were anywhere near as important to me, as mastering the trick of how to stop a little girl from crying.

To start, I’d wag my tail and circle and walk into something clumsily. Once distracted, I’d nuzzle in close and put my long nose on her lap, or feign a whimper of my own. Or sometimes I’d simply take the tears from her cheeks with a few playful licks of my tongue. And in no time at all she’d stop crying. Then she’d hug me and sing the song that I always longed to hear, forgetting why she’d been crying. But tonight, I can do nothing to stop her tears. Because for the life of me…

I can’t even lift my head.

As you might’ve guessed, I’m a dog, Canis lupus familiaris - German Shepherd, to be exact. William Princeton Wanderlust is my full AKC name, but most folks just call me Willie. At the moment, my mind’s a little fuzzy, and I’m at a loss. Why I’m lying here in the arms of my best friend, I don’t exactly know. When it comes back to me, I’ll fill you in. Meanwhile, to kill time, I could tell you about my life. Especially since, for some reason, it’s all right in front of my eyes right now.


I was born almost nine years ago in the luxurious home of Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Stratford of Bedford, NY. The Stratford’s were wonderful folks, generous and caring, and had been human friends to my parents since they were puppies. Like my parents, the Stratford’s were of the finest pedigree themselves, blueblood and pure-bred, no ifs ands or mutts about it.

My folks were both famous; dad won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show two years in a row, and mom was a cover-girl for Purina before she got pregnant. But those accomplishments paled in comparison to the job they did as parents.

Mom took up the lion’s share of raising us. And even though dad spent a lot of time traveling, when he was around, he was caring and supportive. Retired from the dog show scene, his top-dog genes were in such high demand that he was often called away for stud. It would seem that Mr. Stratford’s seed was also highly desirable. For almost every Tuesday while Mrs. Stratford was off playing tennis, he’d breed with the Spanish housekeeper, Dominga, bending her over the custom-made luxury leather sectional in what could only be described as doggie style style.

Of a modest litter, I was the first to emerge, followed by two brothers and two sisters. Along with mom, dad, the Stratford’s, Dominga, and a fancy Himalayan cat named Gertrude; we made up a tight knit nuclear pack. I remember those days like it was yesterday, can see it all in my mind’s eye, hear the echo of my mother’s soft canine voice as she’d tell us we were good doggies. Blessed with health and a caring family, we enjoyed a storybook puppyhood from the moment we nursed until we grew into weenagers. The sky was the limit with a start like that.


Months later, one by one, we began leaving home. My four younger siblings all left before me, each time to a handsome human couple in exchange for a handsome pile of green paper. The excitement of those moments was always an emotional conflict; the promise of adventure neutered by the stark reality of splitting up. Since we were bred as show dogs, there was always the chance we’d meet again at competition. But there were no guarantees.

It took a while, but my day finally arrived. Mom kept my spirits up by assuring me that every dog eventually has his day. Having been passed over so many times it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was somehow different. It seems I lacked the sloping spine that was essential to show dogs of my breed. And although healthy and strong, even stronger than most of my kind, a straight back was the kiss of death for a German Sheppard show dog. In a case of categorical canine irony, my flawless spine made me flawed, I’d never be able to follow in my father’s paw prints.

I never let it bother me, far be it for me to cry in my kibble. Besides, I never really craved fame and fortune anyway. I was a simple pooch, all I ever really wanted was to be wanted, to have purpose, to be a good dog, to be somebody’s best friend. And in exchange for a modest pile of green paper, I got all that, and I was off to run with a new pack. I couldn’t have been happier with my fate.

I was off to protect and serve.


I worked for the state troopers in Westchester, N.Y. and I loved my job; and at the risk of sounding immodest, I was one a heck of a cop. My partner Jeb was also a great cop, and one heck of a human. Kind and understanding, Jeb had a delightful aura. From the moment we met my instincts told me we’d be best friends. Dogs know these things because dogs can see a lot more than meets the eye. A kind of ESP (extra sensory pawception), we see animal essence as glow, and Jeb had an almost saintly glow about him.

Jeb and I did everything together, and I even got to live with him. Although I sometimes missed my biological family, I never regretted not becoming a show dog. Weighed against my day to day endeavors as a police dog - busting drug pushers, search and rescue, arresting drunk drivers - the notion of strutting down a runway posing for ego treats seemed more than a trifle frivolous to me. I’d found my niche, I was happy, and more importantly, thanks to Jeb’s constant reassurance, I knew I was a good dog.


A year later my life changed dramatically. It happened during a routine stop along the Taconic State Parkway. We pulled over to help a woman whose car had broken down. Jeb got out and helped her with a flat tire as I watched from the back seat of the cruiser. Although not really our job, with snow falling a few miles north and heading our way, the Road Rangers were all already slammed, and no way Jeb was going to make the poor woman do it by herself. Besides, it was the holiday season, the time of joy and giving. Jeb’s aura reflected the spirit; he glowed like the road flares spaced along the road behind us.

I saw the threat coming from several hundred yards away, my danger radar set off by a faint squeal of rubber audible only to the ear of a canine. Through the back window I could see the SUV swerving as it approached from behind. My first instinct was to bark and show teeth, which I did, enough to make a grizzly bear shudder and shit. But the gesture couldn’t be any more irrelevant to this predator, a hulking heedless beast of steel. As the vehicle drew nearer I could see the driver behind the wheel. His diseased glow told me more than anything that trouble was imminent. I turned and barked as loud as I could to try and warn Jeb. But my cries were lost amid the sounds of the running engine, traffic, and the interloping shrill of storm. Jeb and the young lady remained unaware of the approaching danger.

Shatter-proof glass or not, I had to get out, I needed to warn my partner. Without thought, I slammed my shoulder against the side window. Nothing. The glass absorbed the blow. I regained my balance and looked back. The car was now closer, still swerving in a careless and inebriated pattern. At all costs, I had to get out. It was my job to warn them, or take the bullet. Coiling back on my haunches I launched at the glass again, head first; hoping the hard bone of my skull would do the trick. The glass spiderwebbed with an earsplitting crack, but the window remained intact. My head filled with fog and my vision went dark. I smelled blood and tasted dripping metallic warmth. I shook my head to clear it, looked out. The noise had been enough to get Jeb’s attention. Kneeling by the front tire, he looked up to see the out of control SUV. But it was too late. My warning only served to allow Jeb the witness of his death. Through fading vision I watched as the SUV swerved past our police car and slam into the car parked ahead. Jeb and the woman were crushed road-kill flat. The driver of the SUV managed to survive the wreckage. His only injuries were a broken collar bone, a few scratches, and a hangover.


Following a long stay in the hospital, I mended, at least as much as I ever would. A good part of me wished that my coma be eternal. Measured against the loss of my best friend, the lingering pain of a shattered orbital bone and permanent blindness in my right eye were trivial.

They told me I was a hero, that I was special; they even gave me a medal - honors I felt I did not deserve. The surveillance camera on the dash had recorded the entire event – video of the crash along with the audio of my actions - even the so called animal experts couldn’t believe the degree of my resolve. The praise did little to offset my inner pain, and only served to underscore my failure to protect and serve. Jeb was gone forever, and I shouldered a great deal of the blame. No longer was I so certain that I was a good dog.


My days taking a bite out of crime officially over, I was adopted. I remember the moment I met my new owner. I call him an owner, as opposed to human friend, because that’s what he was, and I was a possession. Although a cop too, his aura was all wrong, his glow sick and misshapen with distemper. His deception carefully portrayed and cloaked in blue, nobody else could see the lies of course, but to me it was obvious. From the taint of K-9 rage on his skin to the nose on his face, this person was no friend to animals, least of all dogs. I knew this experience was not going to be good, I’d rather have been adopted by a Korean chef, but what could I do. I was just a dog. So I did what I was told and left obediently, tethered on the end of his leash.

His name was Vic Michael.


Several months later, after allowing the fanfare to die down, Vic drove me to a rundown warehouse on the edge of the county line. Approaching the warehouse, it didn’t take long to put the pieces together, the smell told me everything. Although packed with ugly odors and ugly animals, human and canine alike, the makeshift arena inside the warehouse triggered nostalgia, reminding me of my family. I’d never been to a dog show before, but the arrangement, crude and as it was, brought me to the occasion of such an event. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief knowing that my siblings were somewhere far away from here, somewhere safe; and glad that it was me that fate had dropped here instead of one of them. I was pretty sure that an elegant sloping spine would be no great advantage in this dog eat dog world.

Turned out, it was a dog show alright. But this extravaganza was geared to entertain a whole other type of crowd. A crowd made of people that glowed with callous souls, the very breed Jeb and I had once spent our days trying to bring to justice. Like the wretched spread of fleas, the many caged dogs had taken on the parasitic glow of their owners, mangy and frayed and red with rage. Looking at them, I was never so happy to be born with a strong feral spine and the spirit of the wolf. At least it’d give me a fighting chance. Before heading off to take in the festivities, Vic sold me to some thug with an equally scabrous glow for a fistful of dirty green paper.


The dog standing before me was clearly built for this shit. All muscle and mandible and boasting the name Mayhem, that it was a dog was only vaguely apparent. The beast could’ve just as easily been a monster bred in the womb of nightmares. Standing eye to eye with this aberration, I’m not afraid to admit…

…I was afraid.

Tossed into the arena without warning, it was trial by fire in this survival of the fittest meat grinder. There was no doubt I was the underdog. Mayhem had the obvious advantage – experience, pit-bull pedigree, teeth like a crocodile – but I was not just a helpless herding dog. And although not so obvious, I had a few tricks of my own - superior intellect, leverage, and a displaced rage just looking for a pound of flesh in which to be placed. Mayhem also didn’t have three metal plates screwed into his skull. Knowing how much humans valued their little green paper, I hoped Vic had placed his entire pile on Mayhem.


I knew Mayhem wanted to taste the gore of my throat, because I wanted to taste his just as bad. But if he got hold of my neck with that drooling bear-trap of a mouth, I was in for something mawful. And to make a lunge for his would risk just that. He was clearly a quicker dog, but not so quick. So I knew I had to use my head.

The look on his face was one of utter shock – eyes going wide as lips lifted in lupine surprise - when he saw me bend down, crawl close, and let him bite down on my head. I was careful to offer my right side, the side with the metal plates, the side where I had lost the eye. Truly blind-sided, Mayhem never saw the ruse till it was too late. He clamped down eagerly; certain he had the upper paw. Once affixed, I knew he’d hold on like a tick. Even as I stood to my full height and he came up off the ground, his front paws scrabbling in a heedless dog paddle. He held on even as I began to lope across the arena. He held on even as I began to pick up speed and growl so deep and menacing that many in the crowd flinched in primal fear. Only when I slammed him into the steel I-beam support did he let go. And to his credit, it was not because he wanted to. A mouthful of shattered teeth and a severely fractured spine simply made it impossible to do anything but.

The tactic I used to kill Mayhem was the same I used to beat all the rest. From the likes of Animal Lector, Jaws, Disembow-wow and David Barkawitz; they all fell for it. Sure it took a toll; my once majestic good looks shredded to rawhide and my psyche corrupted with hot spot anxiety. But I did what I had to do to survive. With victory came great sacrifice.

I beat up more dogs than I care to remember, but never killed another after Mayhem. It wasn’t that Mayhem deserved it, or was any worse than any of the other mongrels. They were all bad dogs. Mayhem just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The others simply needed to know that there was a new sheriff in town, and what better way than to convey by example. As I tore out Mayhems throat all I could think about was the drunk driver that killed Jeb. After taking out Mayhem, my bloodlust for revenge had been sufficiently slaked. I had gotten my eye for an eye.


The police raid came a year later. I was in the midst of a fight and cut up pretty bad at the time. Odd as it may sound, I was one lucky dog. Had I been penned when they came, I’d have been trapped and taken away like the others, instead of being able to flee. I actually felt a little sorry for the poor bastards stuck in their cages, for their fate would no doubt be cruel. They’d likely pay for their crimes with their hides, while the Pavlovian puppeteers of their sins would get a mere three to five.

Once free, I ran and ran till every molecule of rot from the warehouse was free from the sky. Only then did I stop, rest, and lick my wounds. Hunkering down in an overgrown culvert behind a strip mall, I sighed and counted my blessings, the nightmare was finally over. Under no circumstances would I ever go back to fighting, not even at gunpoint. My time as a gladiator was so dreadful that it seemed much longer than a year. To me it felt more like seven.


The next few months I wandered the streets, rabid with distrust, doing my best to avoid human contact. And anytime anyone did see me, even a glimpse, their reaction was always the same - dogmatic fear. Even friendly folks looked away and hurried off with their proverbial tails between their legs. Who could really blame them; I was hideous, my face damaged beyond the point even a mother could love. On the upside, at least I now had dog show talent; I’d be a lock to win any ugly dog contest.

I survived by feeding on urban Alpo; squirrels, rats and occasionally cats, which turned out to be my new favorite food. A single cat not only provided sufficient protein to last several days, but had great texture, and tasted like chicken. Dumpster diving could be productive, but the risk often outweighed the reward. Making too much of a mess could upset the man, and in so doing, bring down the wrath of the local Animal Control Office.

I eventually settled down in a narrow alley a little closer to the city of White Plains. It was the perfect place to rest my bones. Although dark, dirty, and cold, the alley was quiet and seemingly safe. Save for the occasional human strays that slept in cardboard condos, the place was all mine. Three busy restaurants were backed up against the alley, making it a happy hunting ground. Plenty of garbage not only meant plenty of leftovers, but plenty of rats. And since one of the joints served traditional Chinese fare, I still got to enjoy my favorite dish. Even sautéed and vigorously seasoned I could still smell the cat meat a mile away. More than once I was amused by the study of homeless people squatting in the alley eating cans of dog food while I dined on leftover human cuisine.


Trying to mentally escape the dark walls of alley and skull was about as productive as chasing my tail. Dogged with chronic depression, all I did was sleep. And that’s how the Animal Control Officers were able to sneak up on me. Sure, I could’ve escaped, fought my way free. But my body just didn’t respond, depression manifesting itself in shock-collar surrender. Besides, evading the two ACO’s would’ve meant putting teeth to flesh. And although I’d bitten plenty of other animals, I’d never bitten a human, and I didn’t think I even could. These two ACO’s were just doing their job; there was no trace of malice in their aura. A heavy set black man and a young blonde lady, they both glowed brightly with animal empathy. So I laid my head down and allowed them to slip the harness around my neck, and without even a whimper of protest, I quietly left with them, even knowing full well I was a dead dog walking.


Three weeks locked in a cage at the pound and I was about ready to do the deed myself, but I lacked the suicidal will of humans and lemmings. Miserable as a mutt with a severe case of heartworm, and my nose crusted dry with depression, I’d truly lost hope. The folks at the shelter were all humane humans; the decision to destroy me did not come lightly. Dogs subjected to violence rarely got a second chance, that’s just the way it goes. By scanning my micro-chip, they knew I was a police dog at one time, and they were all duly sympathetic. But weighed against a dubious history since, a poor attitude, and a truly menacing appearance, I was not a viable candidate for adoption. I couldn’t really blame them. If I was a person in search of a shaggy companion, I’d probably go with the cute frisky schnauzer mix in the next cage over as well.


I sensed her before I even saw her. The leading edge of her glow enlivened the air with hope, even from down the hall. Basking in her aura at that moment was like chewing on a Prozac Milk-bone, exhilarating and calming all at once. A strange sound suddenly issued fourth, pulling me from my thoughts. Thump, thump, thump. My head came up off the floor as my ears stood tall. Why were they knocking, was my first thought? Then I realized that the thumping noise came from somewhere else. I looked behind me and more surprised I could not be. But there it was, slapping against the side of the cage in time with my racing heart. I couldn’t remember the last time my tail wagged.


Along with her parents and a volunteer from the Animal Control Unit, she entered the holding area. The anticipation in the air was palpable as this little girl made her way down the corridor; you didn’t have to be a bloodhound to sense it. Dogs all up and down the line were aquiver with hope, tails flailing at the prospect of adoption. Even flea-bag Phil, the 13 year old setter across the way was up and doing the pick me dance. Starved and left for dead in an abandoned old building by his former owner, I found it more than laudable that at his age, and after all he’d been through, he had not abandoned hope.

As one of the largest shelters in Westchester County, there were always folks coming through, which usually led to several successful pairings of man and best friend each week. Feeling unworthy and resigned to my fate, I had never once taken part in these dog and pony shows. But on this day, that all changed. Frisky with desire I stood and moved to the front of my cage, eager to meet her. The competition was stiff, no doubt about it, and I was far from the pick of the litter. But I just had to give it a go, ugly face and all.


Coming into view, I became aware of her damage. The crutches, the body cast, and the cautious gate told me less of her condition than the powerful smells of daubed tinctures and blood weeping from derma that had yet to fully knit. The rest of the story came in sound bites as her parents shared details of their eight-year old daughter’s surgery with the attending ACO. The little girl had recently undergone an extensive procedure to help correct the scoliosis she’d been born with. I was deeply moved by the news, felt solidarity of spirit with this young creature, and was convinced more than ever that we were meant to be together. I knew I could provide her with all the love and protection she’d ever need, as well as the service of a sturdy back to lean on while hers continued to mend. I just had to convince her that I was the one, and, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that I was a good dog.

With willowy brown hair and innocent blue eyes, her physical beauty outshined the promise of her glow. Her charming smile appealed to my inner puppy, and I began to smile too. I moved to the front of my cage, allowing her to see me fully. As hideous as I looked; it’d do no good to start off with a lie. So I muzzled my anxiety and stood tall, and looked into her eyes. She stopped before my cage and slowly reached out. Careful not to startle her, I pushed my nose through the bars and gently licked her hand. And in that instant, I knew that she wanted me too. Somehow, someway, she managed to see the beauty beneath the beast.

With all that this child had been through, and all she undoubtedly still faced, she was undaunted in her joy. Even burdened with countless titanium rods and wires, her smile never faded, her glow never dimmed. Against the backdrop of her courage, I suddenly felt embarrassed by my recent behavior. Her mettle gave me strength, reviving my will to go on.


On that day a bond had been formed, without motive, without explanation, two souls merging in wonderful symbiosis. Apparently the powers that be took note of our connection, because my adoption was green lighted. Exactly how it happened, I don’t know. But after considerable debate and a long afternoon of closely supervised interaction, the miracle happened. It would seem that they realized I was only a sheep in wolf’s clothing after all. Later that day, following the signing of disclaimers and the exchange of a paper thin pile of green paper, I was free. Happy and inspired I was once again hopeful of the future, now that I had a new leash on life, a new home, and a new friend named Lisa.


In the dog show of life the next years were the best in show. Six years seemed to pass almost as fast as the replay flashing before my eyes right now. Coming nearly full circle, the Duckworth’s home was not far from the idyllic upscale neighborhood where I was born. Quiet and filled with suburban bliss, we even had a fenced back yard that encircled half an acre of manicured greenery. I did my part to keep it all well fertilized. So content was I with my new home that I didn’t even mind sharing turf with Larry, Curly, and Moe; the cat, the hamster, and the goldfish that lived with us. I was just thankful to be part of a well bred pack again. We were all family, even the stooges, and that’s all that really mattered to me.

From the moment of my rescue Lisa and I did everything together. Over the years I watched her grow from a little girl into a fine young lady. Her spine healed straight and strong, only a thin scar remained as evidence of the surgery. When we played in the yard, she was even able to run and roll in the grass with me, and did so with the full blown zest of adolescence. Life was good and Lisa was the best, and in my eyes, she could do no wrong. It didn’t even bother me when she dressed me up as a reindeer each Christmas or a bumble bee on Halloween. It never bothered me when she painted my toes with pink nail polish or combed my hair till it hurt. And it didn’t bother me when she washed me in the bathtub and got soap in my eye, normally a major pet peeve of mine.

Over the years, Lisa made sure to always tell me that I was a good dog, something I had not heard in some time. She even put the words to a song that she made up as a child, and sang it to me every night before we went to sleep. “My Willie, Willie, Willie…My Willie is a good doggie.” Simple as it was, the song was more reassuring to me than she probably ever realized. Considering what I had been through, and after some of the things I had to do to survive, I had grown more than a little insecure about myself. But thanks to her unconditional love I learned to trust again, which restored my self esteem to its former rank. Once again a proud dog, I gave myself over to her without terms. Lisa and I became BFF’s.


I’m trembling, and now I know why. The scene has just replayed in my mind’s eye, the confusion has cleared. I now know why I’m lying in her arms on the side of the road. It happened only moments ago. We were in the midst of our evening walk. I had my nose in the grass checking out the smells left by other dogs and leaving a few marks of my own…you know, doing the Facebook thing. The stroll had been uneventful, the night sky beautiful and still, the quiet scratched only by crickets and toads offering hymn to the moon. But as we walked slowly along Green Lane the peaceful night suddenly turned threatening.

I had just lifted my leg to a shrub when I heard the sound from behind. Subtle as a dog whistle, Lisa did not hear it. But to me it was jarring, enough to halt my pee stream mid-squirt. The growl of Goodyear on pavement had my head up in an instant, the hair on my back stiffening in kind. The car turning into the neighborhood took the turn way too wide and way too fast, and I knew right away that something was wrong. From the haphazard manner of its advance to the sick glow behind the wheel, I knew what it meant; I’d seen the symptoms before. The metallic beast was diseased.

I stared for a moment, monitoring the creatures advance, but the drunk driver made no correction. The swerving vehicle was still approaching from behind on the wrong side of the street, and heading right toward us. I looked back to Lisa. She was still unaware of the danger. I thought to bark out a warning, but then I thought better. That would draw her attention to me, and not to the fast approaching apex predator. And by the time she reacted, it might be too late - a chance I was unwilling to take.

An idea struck, and I took note of the leash. It was wrapped around her wrist, as it usually was. Perfect. I knew the move would be sudden, and might startle her a bit, but I also knew that it would insure her wellbeing. And that’s all that really mattered to me. It was in that moment that I had a strange rush of clarity. It all suddenly made sense - my path, my purpose, my reason for being alive; even my strong straight spine factored into the moment of fate.

I leaned back and pulled to take up the slack in the leash. Then in one quick move I stepped back and turned, pulling harder. The move was perfect; using my strong back I was able to sling her off the street and onto the grass. She landed a yard and a half onto the neighbor’s lawn, and there was even a thick Maple Tree between her and the car, just in case - this beast was so unpredictable.

Lisa was safe, and I was proud of my action. It was a perfect maneuver, textbook in both execution and result. The fact that the move left me exposed did not diminish its perfection. Lisa rolled once and pushed up to a sitting position, shocked but uninjured. She opened her mouth to question my action, but by that point the reason had already become apparent. I looked into her eyes and watched them fill with terror. She screamed. I moved to escape, tried to jump away from the out of control automobile, but it was too late. The speeding beast slammed into me.

Her scream hurt me far more than the impact.


Lying in her arms, I taste blood and I know that I’m going to die. I know this because I know what death looks like. Based on the damage and what I know of deaths timeline, I can count my remaining breaths on one paw. I look down to see that my body has been cut in half, my spine crushed and twisted horribly. Most of the pink tubes that keep me alive have spilled out on the pavement and glisten in the moonlight. Steam rises slowly from the pooling blood. I’m a mess, I’m weak, I’m afraid. Surprisingly, there is little physical pain.

Lisa hugs me fiercely in her arms; I can feel her anguish in tremors and tears. Her glow is blue with heartache, her cries cutting and cold. I am worried about her. All I want to do is lick the tears from her face and let her know that everything will be okay. But I cannot lift my head to do so. My mind fills with panic - I don’t want to die. I don’t want to leave her. But I must stay strong, for her distress is already in the danger zone.

Lights come on in the houses around us. A spot light comes on from the closest home. A young man runs toward us. He has a good glow; he’ll help see Lisa through this. Hearing the commotion, others come out of their homes to help. My breathing has suddenly slowed and my thoughts begin to fade. A sharp pain stabs at my chest, and I know that my heart cannot go on. I will not be here by the time help arrives. I hear someone shout to call the police.

The moment has arrived and I’m cold and frightened. Before my eyes close for eternity, I look up at Lisa. Her face brings me comfort. Her tears have slowed and her aura has regained strength. Through fading vision I see her lips moving, then hear her soft voice. She is singing. “My Willie, Willie, Willie…My Willie is a good doggie.” Over and over she sings the words as she strokes my head. The song eases my pain and I am no longer afraid to die. Because I know that in time she will be okay. And I know in my heart, and without any doubt, that I was a good dog.

Author’s note:

Although a work of fiction, this story was inspired by true events. Twenty-something years back, I was sitting in my parents basement, hammering away on my Brother word processor when I heard the squeal of tires, a sharp thud, and a short scream. It was evening, maybe nine PM. I quickly got up and ran outside, turning on the spot lights as I did. Down on the ground on the edge of the front lawn was a young girl from the neighborhood (maybe 14 years old, Jeremy was her name as I recall). In her arms was her dog, a large German Shepherd mix that she walked around the block every evening like clockwork.

As I approached my heart nearly stopped. I could see that the dog had been run over and nearly cut in half, its torso twisted and horribly broken. Blood was everywhere. The young girl was holding the upper portion of the dog in her arms, rocking and crying. The leash was still wrapped around her arm as well as fastened to the dog collar.  I was stunned, felt a cold stab of panic and my knees weaken. I don’t know what affected me more at that moment - the fact that the dog had been so badly crushed, or the depth of pain in this young girls tears. She was in shock and trembling uncontrollably. To this day I am hard pressed to recall ever seeing tears so genuine and powerful. I thought the poor girl was going to spontaneously combust on the spot. I kneeled down and put my arm around her, asked if she was hurt (she wasn’t) and told her that everything was going to be okay. To her credit, she actually handled the situation about as well as anyone could have. On the periphery I heard other neighbors running out to help. Mr. Lemaster was running over from across the street, and I breathed a sigh of relief knowing the stability of an adult was on the way.

The dog took two breaths as I kneeled next to them. Two breaths. Two breaths and then he just stopped breathing. I’m no dog whisperer but I swear I saw three things in that dog’s eyes during those two breaths – he was scared, he was proud, and he loved Jeremy with all of his heart. I have forgotten much over the years, but I will never forget those two breaths.

The dog had been hit by a drunk driver. Given the direction the car came from, he had to have swerved all the way across the street to hit them. He never stopped. A witness had gotten a fleeting look at the car, and we all had a pretty good idea who had done it. But somehow the guy got out of it. The details are vague on how he managed, but as I recall, his wife had covered for him somehow, and there was little follow up by the police. Back in those days the crusade against drunk driving had yet to really coalesce, and the cops just let him slip away without much follow up or investigation. The fact that the girl was not physically hurt probably played into their lack of effort. And after all, it was only a dog that got killed.


*photo courtesy of

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This is the other project that has kept me from getting any writing done over the past few months

Aside from our efforts, many others were involved in bringing this extra cool koi pond to fruition.  And given the time constraints, this project was no easy task.  Stop by to see it at the new DaRuMa Japanese Steakhouse located at the Bell Tower shops in Ft. Myers, Florida

what we've been up to:

New shark exhibit at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples, Fl.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

All work and no play makes Tommy a dull boy.

Sorry for the drought.  Site is temporarily closed for construction.  Have new blog ideas, but no time to let them coalesce.  Hope to be back up and running soon.  Several rather daunting projects have come in all at once and squarely shut down the machine. 

Stay tuned...


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sweet Toots

Smell can be a trigger of both memory and thoughts. The odor that stirred my brain to action was utterly dreadful, and about the last aroma anyone, with the exception of a fly or perhaps a worshiper of Crepitus, would ever care to smell. The offending odor hit me while standing beside the entrance to the ladies room, in of all places, an upscale strip club in Miami. I knew not which stripper had dropped the bomb, as a steady stream of hotties had made their way in and out of the bathroom just prior to the incident. My first thought, how could such an ugly odor come from such an attractive gal? My second thought (and this was the trigger that sent my mind to wander), I’ve never heard a woman fart before, at least not that I can recall. I suppose there’s a chance that I had and subsequently subdued the memory, like the mind of a Vietnam vet repressing visions of war too damaging to directly address. But I don’t believe so.

Now at first blush, this may seem inconsequential and more than a trifle obtuse. And left uncultivated, it most certainly would be. But like many a passing notion, my mind expanded upon it, fermenting the premise and asking the question; maybe there’s a reason why I’ve never heard a girl fart before? By natural course of thought, I considered my relationship history. I’ve had my share of long-term relationships, but never married. Invariable, when things got too serious, and conversations of marriage reached critical mass, I’d always find a way out, even if it meant chewing through a limb to be free of the trap.

But now, as I stood there staring at the estrogen gems swaying on stage and smelling freshly shed methane, I started to think that maybe it was time for a change. Maybe it was time to grow up, to man up and once and for all allow a relationship to ripen fully, before running off. Maybe it was time to make a solid commitment, take it to the next level, and finally form the kind of bond with a woman where she’d feel comfortable enough to fart in front of me.

My thoughts then turned to Katie, my current girlfriend. She was top shelf, no doubt about it. She had it all; character, class, smarts, personality, and was as attractive as any girl in the strip club to boot. We were pretty close. Soul mates? Maybe not just yet, but perhaps someday, the potential was certainly there. We’d talked about marriage, kids, family, the whole plot, which is to say that she talked while I pretended to listen.

Watching some of the guys from the bachelor party getting lap dances across the way, I began to feel more than a little guilty for not taking those conversations with Katie more seriously. And in that moment I was struck by a change of heart that could only be described as seismic; it suddenly became profoundly important that I get Katie an engagement ring, and did so ASAP. I couldn’t be more surprised, as much by the debut as the depth of revelation. The notion was underscored further by the backdrop; this was not exactly the place one would expect to have such an epiphany.

The very next night I had Katie over for a quiet dinner. I really felt the urge to spend time with her, and more importantly, talk. I even cooked; chicken, rice and beans, fresh salad, my go to recipe. After dinner we sat on the couch with a glass of Merlot to watch TV. Almost right away Katie sensed something coming, the fact that I let her hold the TV remote must have given it away. She hit the mute button and turned to ask me what was up. Following her prompt, I preceded to tell her my thoughts from the night prior, skipping no detail. I even told her the part about the fart, and how I felt that the reason I’d never before heard a woman let one go was because I’d never allowed myself to get close enough. I told her how that really bothered me, and how I felt like I was missing out. I told her that it was time for me to make a change.

As she listened I could see she was a little shocked at first, especially with the mention of farting. But as I continued to speak, and the analogy began to coalesce, and she realized the depth of my conviction, I could see her slowly soften and smile with joy and understanding. She said very little after that, but I could tell by her actions that my little speech had hit home. She snuggled in tight on the couch, and without any petition from me, she even clicked from Bravo Channel’s Real Housewives over to the football game. I made no mention of buying her a ring during our heart to heart, but the proposal had clearly been implied.

The game went on with little fanfare, our heartbeats and breaths synced as we cuddled on the couch imbibing wine and each other’s energy. By the third quarter I started to feel the effects of the wine, and since Katie was a glass ahead of me, I could only assume that she was feeling it too. It was at that point when Katie shifted, leaned, and ripped one. I don’t think I could’ve been any more surprised, or impressed. Ripped one was probably not the best way to describe the fart. It was more of a delicate purr, almost dainty in its delivery, a sweet toot. Moreover, it hardly even smelled.

We laughed and laughed, accidentally spilled a glass of wine and laughed some more. What a night, Katie was definitely a cool chick; I had to give her that. I couldn’t believe she actually had the nerve to do it. I had gotten exactly what I asked for - I’d finally heard a woman fart.

The event did not have the effect that I thought it would, however. In my defense, at least I didn’t lie about one thing - it was indeed time for a change. The next day I broke up with Katie.  Did it via Facebook, hearing her fart was so traumatic I couldn't even face her.  There’d be no recovering from this, the damage as permanent as paralysis.

Today as I write this I have plans to go to the strip club again this weekend with a buddy, TJ, who recently got divorced. I find myself wondering if maybe his wife made the mistake of farting in front of him one time too many. Maybe I’ll ask him when we get there. Then again, maybe I won’t. It’s probably better not to think too deeply in such a place. I did that once and look where it got me. More importantly, I’m definitely going to steer clear of the ladies room door.


*photo courtesy of

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When the mood should strike, please check out  They have published a small piece from this blog titled Running out of Time.  Look in on all of the other wonderful works by authors from around the land, most of whom are far more talented than this chimp.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

you might be a writer...

To be read like Jeff Foxworthy’s – “You Might be a Redneck”

If Wikipedia is higher on your favorites list than your favorite adult website…you might be a writer

If you stare at clouds in search of inspiration far too long…you might be a writer

If you select your doctors because they have Writer’s Digest in the magazine rack…you might be a writer

If you read your Facebook page merely to study human behavior…you might be a writer

If you catch your girlfriend having sex with Cormac McCarthy and all you can think is when’s he gonna finish so I can get his autograph…you might be a writer

If you are sometimes hesitant to even refer to yourself as a writer…you might be a writer

If you have a stack of old scribble filled notebooks taller than the health care bill…you might be a writer

If you ride the bus or subway just so you can study weird characters…you might be a writer

If you almost always know the ending of a movie midway through…you might be a writer

If you think Scrabble should be an Olympic might be a writer

If you have an old thesaurus that looks like it’s been through a John Deere threshing machine…you might be a writer

If you start to get genuine withdrawal DT’s when your laptop is in the shop for more than a day…you might be a writer

If you’d do more to learn a neat new word than you would for a Klondike bar…you might be a writer

If the word rewrite brings you a tinge of panic…you might be a writer

If you’d rather be writing even more than you’d rather be fishing right now…you might be a writer

If you’ve ever searched through the phone book to find the perfect name for a fictional character…you might be a writer

If you’ve put off sex because you needed to finish reading one more chapter of that new novel you just bought…you might be a writer

If you sometimes dream in words instead of might be a writer

If you can wallpaper a small cathedral with rejection letters from agents and publishers…you might be a writer

If you’ve ever stalked a literary agent…you might be a writer

If you’ve ever spent an entire vacation in Wi-Fi café…you might be a writer

If a beautiful woman with a short skirt struts by and all you can think about is how you can cleverly describe her legs in poetry or prose…you might be a writer

If you’ve considered divorce when your wife throws out your copy of Writer’s Digest before you finished reading it…you might be a writer

If you’ve ever scribbled a great idea for a plot down on the dashboard of your car while driving on the freeway…you might be a writer

If you consider Starbuck’s coffee to be one of the four main food groups…you might be a writer

If you’d rather be in Barnes and Noble than in Vegas…you might be a writer

If you are genuinely perplexed why network television has yet to come out with a show called American Writer Idol…you might be a writer

If you’ve just stayed at a Holiday Inn Express…you might be a writer

If you’ve ever asked a cop to toss you in jail for a few days because you want that prison scene in your new novel to be perfectly might be a writer (but if you’re in jail for incest, poaching or stealing a pack of Chicklets to fill in your missing teeth before that date with your cousin…you might be a red-neck)

If you are on the NSA’s watch list due to all the unusual Google searches you’ve done…you might be a writeer

If you are over thirty and you still live in your parent’s basement…you might be a writer

If you feel that Hallmark should make a sympathy card to send to friends suffering from writers block…you might be a writer

If you take vacations to areas you think would be a great setting for a future novel…you might be a writer

If you’ve ever referred to a west coast sunset as a red-hot ingot meting thru an infinite blue block of Pacific paraffin…you might be a writer

If you can think of at least three more of these without even thinking…you might be a writer

If your written words have ever brought someone joy, tears, rage, or a smile…you might be a writer

If you’ve ever dreamed that you could change the might be a writeer

If you wasted your time reading this entire thread…you might be a writer

or you might just be insane! (which in and of itself would mean…you might be a writer!)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Running out of time...

I just want to run, like I once did when I was a kid, effortlessly and pain free, fast and easy, like I can still do in my dreams. I want to feel the rush of air against my face, taste it as it flows through moist ducts and beyond swelling alveoli to nourish a racing heart. If I fall, I’ll get right up. Let wounds ooze and weep without worry, for they can be dealt with later. Because right now, I just want to run.

Faster and faster, I want to run, and leave it all in the dust. I want to sprint like Usain Bolt, a bipedal blur, strong and relentless, despite being trapped in a body now withered and bleached and cankered with bedsores. No beckoning cell phones or laptop to slow me, no IV tubes or dressings or wire leads tethering me down to monitors glowing with jaundice news. If only for a moment or even briefly, I want to run away from the responsibility of being ill; outrun the incessant hemorrhage of bills and pills and insurance forms.

I want to push it beyond the limit, because I know that I can. Leave behind the handicap of fatigue and analgesic and the arthritic solder of chronic disease. I want to run away from life, but I want to live. I want to breathe without the worry of a next coming breath. I want to cry without fear, like tears loosed by the joy of seeing family members triumph. Let those tears paint my cheeks without consequence, in simple brushstrokes of saline, like they did as a child. I want to run and run and run along the floor of the sky, unburdened by crippling uncertainty and the never ending question terrorizing my mind - am I going to live or die?

Through whiskered fields or unclean streets, I just want to run - like I once did, like I once could - limbs swinging with the emancipation of youth. Because I know if I could run, nothing else would matter. Because if I could run, I know I could do anything.


It’s a unique experience (dare I say blessed) to suffer, and survive, as I did. Several years ago I lay in bed, so sick that lifting my head off the pillow was the physical equivalent of summiting Everest. All the time, helpless and embalmed with uncertainty, hope a distant echo in a mind fettered in surrender, taut faced family members orbiting like satellites in close orbit around a dying sun. I remember feeling for them more so than myself. Beyond the obvious concerns for my family, and the uncertainty of whether tomorrow I would stand atop the earth or lay a flat fathom below, all I could think was…

I want to run.

Last night I was able to do just that. For the first time in a decade at 11pm est, I was able to run. Then I ran home and scribbled this out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shark week is over....

I'm always saddened when shark week is over.  At over twenty years running, The Discovery channel's shark week is the longest running event on cable TV.   I don't watch much TV, but definitely try to check in on this special as it speaks to my child-like curiosity and inner scientist alike.  Thank you to TDC for another successful year.

And thank you to the crew of the USS Indianapolis for their service in WWII.  I am always reminded of the events surrounding the Indianapolis when Discovery Channel runs its annual special, a harrowing historical debacle where sixty-five years ago this past week, many brave Americans were inadvertently part of the first shark week. 

880 in the water, only 317 survivors.

One more case of brothers lost to the seemingly insatiable appetite of freedom.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The ins and outs of creative writing:

Be inspirational and devout, but never sell out.
Be outlandish without being insulting.
Be outspoken, never inaccurate.
Use insight to incite.
Be outrageous without being inappropriate.
Be inventive, never outdated.
Intoxicate and invigorate, but never be out of touch.
Avoid the insipid and outmoded.
Above all, be outstandingenious

Although probably incomplete, I'm out -TP

Monday, August 2, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Massage table musings:

I went for a massage the other day, as I do on occasion. Having dealt with health issues in the past, I discovered their capacity to nourish the immune system, and thus enhance the body’s ability to self-heal. Although now in good health, the habit of going for an occasional massage has continued. They are a wonderful treat. For those of you who’ve had the experience, you know what I am talking about. For those who haven’t, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Not long into the session, I began to slip into a semi-conscious state, as is often the case, drifting somewhere between sleep and synthetic free fall. Neurons hummed in blissful cadence as chakras began toking on the zenergy of air, earth, ether, and even the therapist – who just happened to be an extremely attractive little spirit indeed. Lysandra was her name, I believe.

In my trance-like state, thoughts dislocated and ran uninhibited through fields of dreams. Abstract neural imagery merged with physical ecstasy as my body continued to throttle down and offload stress by diastolic degrees. If ever a case could be made for heaven on earth, it was moments like these that would be convincing evidence for such a case.

Enjoying the rub, as she worked her hands across my back, I was reminded of an article I had read about massage just a few weeks prior. The article theorized that the reason a massage feels so good is, at least in part, due to neural anticipation - the fact that you don’t know exactly where the therapist is going to go next keeps your nerves on their toes, so to speak; and your body alive with the thrill of wonder. An easy way to demonstrate this, according to the article, was to rub on yourself for a moment. Massage your arm or shoulder and see how it feels. You’ll note that, although it feels okay, there’s really no comparison to the high voltage delight of being rubbed by another. This is because you know exactly where you are going with your next move; there’s no anticipation, no drama, no uncertainty, no wonder.

As my mind continued to ponder this notion, Lysandra shifted aft to work my lower body, moving with the free flowing grace of a ballerina. Although she was fairly young, maybe mid-twenties, she was clearly experienced. With the shift in location, my mind did the same, taking the line of thinking and seeing if it could be somehow twisted with writing - which is the ultimate fate of most thoughts that sashay through my brain these days. And in this case, it didn’t take long to make the connection between the joy of massage and the joy of reading. I realized right away that anticipation while reading is indeed a key element, at least from my view, in the level of pleasure derived from plot and prose alike.

By natural course of thought, I then reflected back on some of my favorite books, (Jurassic Park, The Positronic Man, Red Dragon) and sure enough, anticipation was, among other factors, a direct corollary to whether I enjoyed a book or not. The anticipation of not knowing what was coming next kept brain cells delightfully confused and heightened with amorphous anxiety, and often kept me reading late into the night. I found the connection between massage and reading quite cool, especially while prone on the table, and still buzzing from endorphin overload. It’s amazing what the brain will concoct while broadcasting alpha-wave test patterns.

My mind must have chewed on this thread of thought for some time because before I knew it, Lysandra was asking me to turn over so she could work on my front side, and finish up. Shaking free of the zero-G coma I’d slipped into, I complied, completely unaware that there was even a world beyond the small candlelit cubicle surrounding us. As I settled into a comfy position, and Lysandra slipped a pillow under my head, my mind almost immediately picked up on the analogy it had been ruminating on for some time - the comparison between the pleasure derived from massage, and that of reading a great book. Anticipation, uncertainty, surprise were all definitely hallmarks in the excellence of each. Lysandra then began to work her way down my torso, slowly massaging silky circles over my abs. And as her hands ventured lower, I found myself wondering, with the same anticipation I feel when I’m deep within the plot of a really cool novel. I can’t wait to find out if this story will have a happy ending.


Infinite wisdom

I fear it might take forever for me to fully grasp the concept of infinity.


Friday, July 23, 2010

How to spell success

I feel I owe the cheerleader squad from my high school Alma mater a debt of gratitude. For it is thanks to them that there’s at least one difficult word that I know how to spell - success. And that word, along with the dance routine that accompanied it, for some reason, are indelibly etched in my mind to this day: “S-u-c-c-e-s-s, that’s the way we spell success….success, success, success, success!”

Beyond my success with this word, to this day, I still struggle mightily with spelling, not to mention punctuation; odd, perhaps, given the most recent chosen path of this wayward mammal. I’m sure anyone reading this blog possessing even a rudimentary background in copy will find errors, as the work here is essentially unfiltered. You could only imagine what these blog posts look like prior to their run through the MS word spell/grammar check. I could’ve sworn I heard my laptop mumble the word moron the other day when I keyed said function.

I do recognize my shortcomings in this area, and apologize for any errors. So please be kind, and perhaps even a little forgiving, as you read through this blog. Best bet, wear your grammar goggles as you read, and try to just enjoy it for what it is. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, so maybe someday I’ll improve, but I doubt it. Beyond the basics, for some reason I’m just not motivated. Good thing god created spell check and copy editors.

The origin of this problem, I do not know – mild dyslexia, acute ADD – who’s to say? Is it nature or nurture? It’s anyone’s guess. Perhaps it’s a hard-wired perceptual issue, or what they once called stupidity, before the whole world went PC. I don’t blame my teachers. I know that I was taught this stuff, not only in high school but college. I vaguely remember learning it, which is to say that I vaguely remember forgetting it. For some reason it just never stuck. What could I say, the time I spent on girls and sports back in the day left little neural bandwidth for anything else. Like many folks, I wish I studied harder back in high school, focused on the more important stuff; maybe then I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed when I sit down to watch Jeopardy and a spelling category comes up, or feel that stab of panic when a grammar related question pops up on Are You Smarted Than A Fifth Grader.

Apparently not!

How it is that I can so easily spell success, but never (and I mean never) correctly spell necessary, I don’t exactly know. Maybe it’s a simple matter of rote memorization from hearing our cheerleaders chant the word so often; maybe it had something to do with those short sexy skirts. Perhaps if Mr. Coles (my ninth-grade English teacher) had worn a cheerleader outfit when he taught, I might not be so grammatically challenged. I’m immensely grateful to the gals in green and gold of yesteryear. I can only hope that the final journey of this novel, like my favorite LHS cheer, also ends with success!

Photo of Eagles cheerleaders taken from NFL Preview

Sunday, July 18, 2010

gravity is gay?

If the apple Sir Isaac Newton observed plunging earthward didn't fall far from the tree, and Newton is generally considered the father of gravity, does this mean that gravity might be gay?

not that there's anything wrong with that.


Manuscript update

According to my agent the manuscript is still in a holding pattern.  The book is currently in the hands of several publishing houses.  However, to the best of her knowledge the story has yet to be read.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Misery loves company

Of all the beasts that inhabit this glorious orb, only Homo sapiens have gods. To the best of my knowledge, my dogs have no dogma. Coincidently, humans are also the only creatures to be aware of their mortality. Many have speculated that there is a connection, claiming that the fear of death has given rise to religion, as well as the notion of an afterlife. The thought of rotting amid worm laden loam for all eternity must’ve been as frightening to the hominids of Paleolithic yore, as it is to the slightly bigger brain editions of today. But could it have served as inspiration for the concept of heaven?

Life is our most precious gift; it’d be difficult to argue otherwise, the fear of losing that gift a valid anxiety. An afterlife would allow us, at least in some spiritual rendering, to continue on, which would go a long way to help ease that anxiety. But even if there isn’t life after death, one can at least take solace in the knowledge that we all die at the same time. This is because from the perspective of the dead, time stops. Without afterlife, the instant would be eternally frozen, similar, I imagine, to the blank slate of pre-life. A man falling at the hands of a Clovis point spear (circa 11,500 BC); dies at the same time as a person today, because from the perspective of the ancient, time stopped, rendering the ensuing millennia nonexistent. Likewise, time will stop from the POV of today’s dead. This rationale may not be as comforting as heaven, but by way of the age old misery loves company principle, knowing that we all die at the same time might help assuage the fear of death at least some.

Authors note:

For the record, this is observational fodder with no agenda beyond an attempt to provoke thought. I have read many works (as well as in between the lines) that clearly have a theological slant in one direction or another, and invariable, due to what I consider a deeply personal choice, I find them off putting. Where we go when we hurtle hereafter into that legendary light; Heaven? Hell? Nothing? I don’t know. Sorting out religious matters is not a crusade of this writer, but that doesn’t mean these issues won’t occasionally be probed. Where I stand on this particular matter will remain unrevealed. But I will say this, it seems that I was appropriately named.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

HEADLINE: The case of the missing blogger finally solved.

Call off the search party, don’t delete from your favorites list, and whatever you do, please don’t boil that dust-speck – “I am here! I am here! I am here!”

To my 4 loyal followers, and transient fans who venture through, I appreciate your patience, and apologize for dropping off the face of the earth for a spell. Life has been utterly chaotic over the past few months, as the business of existence has kept my dance card effectively punched. Aside from tending to elementary life functions, (eating, sleeping and other biological imperatives) most of my time has been dedicated to keeping the wheels greased (i.e. running my business), which helps finance the aforementioned essentials, and as such, allows for the ongoing output of fresh blog excreta! (hey….at least it’s FREE)

Now back on-line, at least for the moment, new works should be appearing in very short order, and hopefully with a little more regularity moving forward. In the mean time, to give you an idea of what we’ve been up to over the past few months, I’ll mix it up a bit and post some pictures to help tell the story. And save us both the burden of at least a thousand words.

Projects of this scale (pond resets) usually only come around once, maybe twice a year. They’re extremely time consuming and labor intensive (in this case several tons of gravel replaced by spade and sweat alone), and must be carried out while simultaneously managing at least 200 service calls each month. We completed three of these projects over the past several months, a more than laudable task for a few mere mortals. This self imposed stretch in Gulag was as exhausting as it was necessary to keep body, mind, and laptop alive, as well as a roof overhead. Nobody said saving a world (even a fictitious one) would be easy.

To our clients, we are grateful for keeping us busy, especially given the current economic climate. Much gratitude also goes out to the thousands of aquatic critters under our care. Fish poop, to us, is like ambergris, gross but treasured; who’d’ve ever guessed teleost turds would be the base of such a sound economic stimulus package.
The Gulag
(the koi pond is on either side of the stairs)

Temporary accommodations for fish:
(definitely up-scale!)

Dominic and Josh
(the dream team)

The Fish Whisperer


pondering what's next?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Gross Art of Seduction (a short story)

Samantha was a passionate little spirit, adventurous as she was sexy. We dated for some time, some time ago. She was a fairly tight yin to my moderately fitting yang. For the while we were together, I never really thought about other women - unless Samantha wanted me to. Yes, Samantha was a little wild when the lights would go down. Based on our relationship's rather humble beginnings, the discovery took me a bit by surprise. The revelation was not entirely disappointing.

When the work week was done, Samantha transformed. The lust for fun that gleamed behind her beautiful blue eyes would be set free. Samantha was a devoted social worker by day, but evenings and weekends were devoted to games and getaways; time to vent the stress of a civilized grind. One holiday weekend trip was quite memorable - although for the life of me, I don't remember the exact holiday, nor do I remember the precise where or when. But it was somewhere along the eastern seaboard, and it had been sometime during that summer when hypodermic needles were washing up along the shores of New England. None of those minor details are what made the weekend so unforgettable, however.

Samantha had made reservations at a quaint bed and breakfast, a cozy little place a block off the beach. We arrived late afternoon, tired but not too tired for a quickie. Dinner and a few drinks capped off what was, at least from my perspective, the start of another great weekend.

The following day was a bona fide beach day; the kind of day that seems to come around far less frequently anymore, even with the advent of a warming globe. Save for the fingers of smog rising from the scalp of the distant cityscape, the views were perfect. Out over the ocean, the sky was postcard blue and graced with clouds that glowed like visual Valium, their images bringing calm with each address. Despite the inspiring sky, my attention was drawn to another sight. Samantha had joined a group playing Frisbee in the surf. And the view as she gamboled through the shallows in her new bikini with her new friends far exceeded the draw of any atmospheric mural, manmade or otherwise. There was something about finely estrogenized legs and bouncing female body parts that always seemed to have the greatest say over of my gaze. Especially in this case....where there was a fair chance that one of those body parts might accidentally slip out. Sure, I'd seen Samantha's breasts a hundred times before. But like seeing a lion on the African plains as opposed to a cage at a zoo, the thrill of viewing mammary's in captivity was far less fascinating than a chance sighting of a boob in the wild. A lesson learned years later by all humanity during a highly publicized wardrobe malfunction.

By noon, the beach was sardined, the invisible boarders of our personal space violated as much by physical as pheromonal drift. The beach started to take on a vibe somewhere between an inner city block party and a Greatful Dead concert. At one point a fight had broke out, several rowdy frat boys threw down with two grungy biker dudes and their grungy girlfriends, the dispute triggered by an alleged lewd comment. So when I suggested a walk along the shore to get away from the crowd for a spell, Samantha eagerly agreed, pouring out the dregs of her wine cooler and tossing it in the wire mesh garbage can already full with bottles and boxes and other recyclables yet to achieve the privilege of their own can.

As a grad student in oceanography and a naturalist at heart, I'd been looking forward to exploring the water's edge. Traipsing through the shallows and kicking over stones looking for aquatic life was nearly as exciting as Samantha's kiss - although I certainly never made mention of such. Given the calm of the bay, the setting was bound to be home to some really cool stuff. Just to the south, a motorboat had recently sunk, much of the nearby stretch of beach cordoned off and posted with hazard signs - probably the reason the north beach had become so packed. A salvage crew worked to reclaim the wreckage, most of the gnarled hull already lay sprawled on the deck of a barge - Humpty dumpty pieces to a thirty-two foot speed boat that had slammed into a jetty the prior evening, the apparent handiwork of a drunk driver. Despite the efforts of the salvage team, the shattered boat had already bled out, a sheen of oily albumen covering the south side of the bay. It had also made the decision as to which direction to walk a no brainer.

Beyond the throngs of humanity, the first fifty yards had yielded very few signs of life, although there was no shortage of bottle caps and cigarette butts and floating mats of gooey green algae. A myriad of shell frags tumbled musically amid the gentle surf. The tidal zone had already been combed like a crime scene, and was still under constant surveillance for potential keepsakes, any appealing sea shells ready to be snatched the instant they rolled ashore. Only a few steps farther, something caught my eye in the shallows of a sand bar. Edging nearer, I realized it was a big crab. As I waded out and leaned in closer I realized that it was actually two crabs, one on top of the other. The crab on the bottom was difficult to see, its fringes dusted in muck and eclipsed by the shell of its peer. I'd never seen such an arrangement. But based on the evidence, and the intuitive abilities of a big brain primate, the crabs were doing it.

Arriving to see for herself, Samantha found the whole affair quite entertaining. I couldn't tell for sure, but I even think she might have gotten turned on. She certainly had fun with the event as she pretended to talk dirty while doing her best crustacean impersonation. Stopping suddenly, she pointed to a spot just behind the crabs. Leaning in I realized there were several plastic syringes drifting with the motion of the ocean. To prevent anybody form getting stuck, I reached down and removed the hypodermics, careful not to get pricked myself, or pinched by the humping crustaceans.

From behind, we heard a squeaky little voice, ew...that's gross! Both of us turned. So enthralled by the spectacle were we that we hadn't noticed the arrival of a family, the foursome wading out to see what all the commotion was about. Although the epitome of the American family dynamic, two adults with 2.5 kids, this was not the Cleaver's. The father was a beer keg on legs, and covered in hair from neck to toe. His head was the only surface without hair and it glared with watts of welfared sunlight. The two offspring looked like they'd stepped right out of the movie Deliverance. In that instant, my mind flashed to a scene in the movie, the legendary scene of the mentally challenged boy playing dueling banjo's - the tune ringing likewise in my mind - dew dew dew dew, dew dew, dew dew, deeeeeew...

But the most disturbing image was that of the chick filling the niche of wife in this nuclear group gone horrible wrong. To call her a crack whore would be a monumental insult to all other crack whores around the world. The fact that she had a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other while clearly pregnant was nearly enough to make me hurl. The bun in the oven was well on its way to becoming a bouncing baby retard.

In the same exaggerated shrill the little girl cried out again. Ew...gross!

Gross? I didn't find the crabs particularly gross, but as a scientist that had yet to shed the inner child of an inquisitive little boy, I found most all creatures interesting, no matter how gooey or creepy or slimy or bizarre.

The beer keg was the one to speak next. "Them there crabs may be gross but they make gooood eatin!" In a similar redneck dialect the boy by his side agreed, serving as stanch validation to the apple-doesn't-fall-far-from-the-tree theory. The boy smiled and showed missing teeth, eerie foreshadow of an almost inevitable dental future. At maybe ten years old, the young lad had already begun to cultivate a sizable keg of his own.

At first, I thought the remark was all just an attempt at humor. But when the father began to lumber toward the crabs and reach to try and grab them, it was not I that came to the little critter's defense.

Samantha was sharp, no doubt about that. But to watch her quell the big hillbilly's assault was a sight to behold. After stepping in the way of the advancing grizzly she began a defense that was patently brilliant. I'll do my best to paraphrase. "wo,wo,wo... back off. You can't touch those crabs during this time of the year."

The salvo not only brought the hunter to a stop but it aroused a questioning expression. Whatta ya mean I can touch em? Was the obvious interpretation of the furrowing flab.

Samantha continued. "Don't you know that it's against the law to collect crabs form this area at this time of year? This area is considered a sanctuary from the start of May until the end of September; any removal of this species of crab will result in a hefty fine. I think it's like five hundred bucks." They say the most outlandish lies are the most believable. I couldn't fathom how she could know any of this, so I was pretty certain she was lying. But she sounded so darn convincing that she had me wonderfully baffled.

Samantha went on. "My brother works for the fish and wildlife commission; we were just discussing that very rule earlier today. If you want, I can go get him, he's here at the beach today, he's sitting right back over there next to the lifeguard's chair." Samantha pointed. Now I was certain she was lying, Samantha didn't even have a brother, and we'd come to the beach alone. Her deception could have fooled the devil himself.

That was enough, the man threw up his hands in standard I don't want any trouble fashion before turning to stalk off with family in tow, mumbling and disappointed, leaving the crabs to continue their business uninterrupted. Without a word, I gave Samantha a smile and playful swat on the rump. Samantha smiled back at me; her unique blend of free spirited intellect had always turned me on as much as her sexy figure. We then continued our walk along the beach.

Eventually the crowd thinned as we paralleled a residential area where a series of monolithic new condos were squeezed between sections of quaint clapboard homes yet to knuckle under to the obvious transition. An hour or so later we reached a canal and could go no further. It was time to turn around anyhow, it was getting late, and we were getting tired. Besides, given the dizzying stench of low tide and fresh brewed waste wafting from the canal, crossing the basin would be every bit as difficult as traversing a tar pit. Just as we'd turned a pickup truck with wheels the size of a lunar rover screeched to a halt on the other side of the canal, and two guys quickly jumped out. After looking to see if the coast was clear, they proceeded to dump bags of cut grass and detritus into the canal before speeding off. The canal was already depot to quite a bit of trash, including what appeared to be an old washer and dryer dappled in scabs of rust.

The walk back was pleasant. My curiosity for aquatic critters satiated and the sun about to melt into the horizon, I held Samantha's hand. Yes....even a scientist can feel romantic at times. Nearing our starting point, Samantha suddenly disengaged and splashed out into the surf. Right away I knew where she was headed. I figured there was little chance that our little friends would still be there. But lo and behold, they were. The crabs hadn't moved so much as an inch. The water was a bit deeper but that was only due to the shift of the tide.

Needless to say Samantha was enchanted, more so, it seemed, by the fact that the crabs were still stuck together than the discovery of them still there. She then went on to commend the male crab for his staying power, along with several sexy moans of encouragement for him to keep going. This time it was me that was getting a little turned on. At first it was funny, but then I started to feel a little pressure building. I couldn't help but think that there wasn't a subtle hint underlying the exuberant display. Could it be that she felt I could take a lesson from the crabs? Was I not satisfying her fully in the sack? She had never come out and said as much, but then again, it wasn't a topic so easily brought up. But the clever little vixen may have just found the perfect way.

Arriving back at our beach camp we realized right away that we'd been ripped off. Someone had stolen my sneakers and Samantha's tote bag. There wasn't much in the bag and the shoes were over a year old, but nothing sacred? Young as we were at the time, we didn't let it bother us. We simply chalked it up to an almost fitting end to what had been a strange day at the beach.

Later in the evening, following dinner, drinks, and a little dancing, Samantha suggested a moonlight stroll on the beach - a suggestion I was more than up for. When in the mood, Samantha loved making love in unusual places, and I sensed one of those moods coming. The conditions were perfect, the moon was full and her projected mischief hummed in the air around her like a Van de Graff generator.

Once on the beach, Samantha made a beeline toward the water. Awesome. Fornicating in the shallow surf would be fine by me. But then I realized what she was up to. She was checking on her little friends again. I was a little disenchanted, my hope of getting laid in the warm salt water superseded by my girlfriends raging case of crustacean fascination. My disappointment was promptly shelved when she started shouting and jumping up and down. "They're still here!"

I couldn't believe it. Sure enough, there they still were, still coupled, still in the very same position; only their tiny antennae and little crab mandibles flickering and pulsing in the moonlit shallows. I was truly amazed by their commitment, found myself wondering how they did it. Samantha again remarked on their ability to screw all day, but didn't dwell on it. She'd made her point earlier, and she was smart enough not to risk overdoing it. She must've sensed that taking it too far could wilt my confidence to the point where I'd be no good to her at all. Perceptive chick.

Less than ten minutes later we were lying naked on the sand between dunes tufted in Marram grass, the crabs and the events of the odd day all but lost amid a mindscape fettered with lust. Samantha's skin was still warm from the sun and radiated passion like a space heater. The main event had begun from the moment our clothes were impatiently shucked and tossed, so much for foreplay. Fine by me, I was eager to make her pay for her snide remarks anyway - we'll see who has the last laugh. But only a few moments inside and my confidence began to wane. The writhing, the moaning, the dirty talk, the moonlit tan lines were all too much to bear, and I was bordering on the brink. Impending failure never felt so good.

Slowing down wasn't an option, I'd break the rhythm, and I couldn't just stop. Besides, Samantha was on top, and decidedly in control. Shit, I was out of options, and about to come up short again. As much for the pleasure of a girl I'd grown to adore as the support of my ego, I really wanted to hold out. Then, rising from the thin air of a desperate mind, solution - something I'd heard while listening to the Howard Stern show. As luck would have it, they'd been discussing this very topic earlier in the week. Think of something gross had been the most popular suggestion made be the members of that Algonquin round table discussion. The theory - if you think of a gross creature while having sex, your mind will be so distracted you can go all night. It was an excellent suggestion, certainly worth a try, and not a moment too soon, because lift off was only a few seconds away.

How about the crabs? My mind suggested amid the bedlam. Certainly they were gross, at least to the standards of most. The exact word had even been used to describe them earlier in the day.

So I did just that - I thought of the gross little creatures that had provided us so much entertainment throughout the day. But it didn't work. I just didn't find the little critter's all that gross, and Samantha was really dialing up the sexual amperage. I was still holding out, but only by a thread, and there was still a long way to go. If she wasn't so damn sexy this wouldn't be a problem. I needed a better mental image, something really distracting - an image that would totally gross me out. I could feel the urge to conclude surging to the surface, like a spent cetacean rising to breach, spit, and breathe. Samantha was almost where she wanted to be, but no way was I going to be around to get her there. A more helpless feeling there could not be.

Suddenly, the image of the crabs returned to my mind, this time with a different twist. Somehow, my frantic mind had me wondering how they did it, how did the crabs last so long? Did they also conjure images of gross creatures in order to hold out for so long? And if so, what gross creature did they think of? And then it hit me, striking with the suddenness of a stun gun zap, the answer to my question shining crystal clear in a mind storming with passion. And in that instant I knew the gross creatures the crab thought of to distract his mind. No longer was it a riddle how crabs could have sex all day.

From that day on, I never again had problems with such issues. I knew exactly which gross creatures to conjure should I ever need distraction in the heat of passion.


Author's note:
Although based largely on true events this story is a work of fiction. The part about the crabs is absolutely true. Later, as part of my master's thesis, I researched the mating behavior of these crustaceans. Turns out, what we had witnessed was actually a precopulatory embrace known as a "doubler" or "buck and rider". These unions precede the actual mating process in this species and can last for 2-7 days - a fact that I never shared with Samantha.