Abby peered deep into the old dog, saw right through him. Butch knew it, turned from Abby and gazed up to Evelyn Brown perched on the edge of a couch. Evelyn feared the worst.
“What is it, Abby? What–?”
Abby waved her off, picked up her drawing pad and started sketching.
Butch turned away from Evelyn, avoided Abby’s eyes and looked up at the walls of his therapist’s office filled with pen and pencil drawings of horses, cats, dogs, rabbits and a grinning burro. Butch particularly liked the murals of other-worldly Shangri-La’s filled with animals and humans all playing in perfect harmony. The old Doberman heaved a sigh and dropped his head between paws on the big floor cushion. Nothing more to hide.
Might as well enjoy the sweet smell of Lavender mingling with Debussy’s Claire de Lune, and catch a few zzzz’s while Abby blows my cover.
“He hasn’t been himself for a couple of weeks,” Evelyn said. “Moping around. Wants nothing to do with Sundance.” Evelyn stroked the head of another old Dobie sprawled on the couch beside her.
Abby continued to draw.
“I know the Boys have lost some of their youthful vigor, but something else is going on. Whatever it is…” Evelyn took a deep breath, then added with dramatic flair, “We can handle the truth.”
The drawing finished, Abby got off the floor, tore the page off the sketch pad, and with a grave shake of the head, handed it to Evelyn. The eighty four year-old-woman couldn’t contain a wide-eyed gasp at the image: a gorgeous Afghan hound with long silky hair flowing around her slender nose and seductive eyes.
“Well…” Evelyn eyed Butch with reproach, “Where did you meet her?” Evelyn turned to Abby, “Just like my last husband, Maurice!”
“And Manny, Moe and Jack,” Abby added. “The Three Stooges.”
“I think those are the Pep Boys, dear. Larry, Moe and Curly are the Stooges.”
“Whatever. Oh, Evie, I am so screwed up!”
Butch sat up. Abby pulled a bison biscuit from the pocket of her work shirt and offered it to her client. Not interested, Butch turned away.
“What’s wrong with me!” Abby screamed. “The men I’m attracted to are all self-absorbed, work obsessed, humorless— The good guys are all married, gay… or both!”
“The trifecta! Maybe it’s time to try women,” Evelyn offered.
“Is that a proposition?”
“Maybe. In the next life.”
Abby turned away, took a bite of the bison biscuit and stomped across the room crunching the dog treat. Still a Texas tomboy at heart, Abby was the girl next door – her natural beauty and athletic body needing no help from cosmetics or cosmetic procedure. Dressed in jeans, boots, denim work shirt, hair pulled back under a weather-beaten western or baseball cap, she was good for a hike in Big Sur or cocktails at Pebble Beach.
Evelyn pointed a stern finger at Abby. “You know your problem?”
“No.” Abby turned to face sentencing. “But you’re going to tell me.”
“You have wonderful taste in friends. But you’re lousy with lovers.”
No argument from Abby who took another bite of the dog biscuit.
Evelyn jumped up, marched across the room and grabbed the biscuit out of Abby’s hand. “First, stop eating dog food! Second, your problem is… you expect men to be good listeners. Considerate. Thoughtful… Faithful! You don’t want a man, Abby. You want a dog in a man suit!”
“Look who’s talking.”
“Don’t start, young lady. As far as I know you’re still only a two-time loser. When you get to six, we’ll talk.”
“I thought it was seven.”
“But only six different men. Married my first husband twice.”
“I’m not encouraged.”
“But Harry…” Evelyn sighed, “Ahhhh… number four.. The love of my life. Along with all the dogs I have ever known. So quit your whining. You’ve got Murphy. And I have my Boys. Better companions than any man.”
Abby’s look questioned that.
“All right… perhaps not any man,” Evelyn said. “But… the Boys never suggested I lose a few pounds. Don’t care if my hair’s a mess and I’m wearing an old shmatte.”
“Murphy doesn’t care if his water is bottled or from a bird bath,” Abby said. “And happy to snuggle and leave it at that when I feel like crap.” Abby turned to her desk and smiled at the small framed photo of the four-legged man in her life.
A big diesel motorhome pulled into the Riverside RV Park nestled into the cottonwoods beside the Carmel River. The driver of the big rig was impressed with the quality of the high-end motorhomes and fifth-wheel travel trailers inhabiting two long rows of camping spots. His wife was already contemplating an extended stay in this serene oasis when she saw their designated parking place – directly across from a filthy nine-year-old pickup truck parked in front of an equally vintage, maintenance deferred 27-foot trailer, awning patched with duct tape.
Inside the trailer, Jerry Newman typed furiously on an old laptop at a small dinette table. The combination living room/dinette/kitchen in the front half of the trailer looked in need of much rehab – like the man serving time inside.
Stopping to read his work, the words on the screen made Jerry wonder how he’d ever made two cents as a writer.
“Worthless hack…” Jerry muttered.
A woof of agreement echoed across the living room where Jacques sat on a worn hide-a-bed couch.
“Nobody asked you, Jack. So just keep your yap shut.”
Jerry got up from the dinette, took two steps into the tiny kitchen and grabbed a Trader Joes Mexican beer from the frig. Back to the dinette, Jerry guzzled beer, looked through several diaries spread around his laptop. Inspired by the amusing notations, Jerry started typing again. Half a page, he stopped, read… deleted everything, grabbed a handful of manuscript pages and hurled them across the room.
“One more word, you’re going to solitary!” Jerry took a step toward the Poodle and pointed down the hall to the bathroom in back.
Jacques lowered his head with a pathetic whimper.
“Come on. Don’t be a wuss. Just kidding.”
It would take more than that for Jacques to forgive, and he curled up on the couch turning his backside to his jail keeper. Jerry knew the game and hunkered down beside Jacque’s head.
“A Chihuahua, a Doberman and a Bulldog walk into a bar. A gorgeous French Poodle, long legs, sexy tail, comes up and says, ‘Whoever can say liver and cheese in a sentence can have me!’ The Dobie says, ‘I love liver and cheese.’ Poodle says, ‘Not good enough.’ The Bulldog says, ‘I hate liver and cheese.’ Poodle says, ‘Not creative enough.’ Finally, the Chihuahua says, ‘Liver alone, cheese mine!’”
Jerry grinned. Jacques was less amused.
A knock at the door and Jacques was off the couch bounding past Jerry.
Outside the door, an older weathered woman in ranch clothes watched the man from the big motorhome give her a haughty stare, then back to arguing with his wife, now behind the wheel trying to maneuver their bus into position across the row.
Jerry opened the door and Jacques leaped outside almost knocking Betty over.
“Sorry, I’m late,” Betty said. “Any problems?”
“Naw… We’re best buds. Right, Jack?”
Sitting tight beside Betty, Jacques offered a barely audible grrrrrr.
~ ~ ~