“Wow! That was fun!” Polly said followed by deep long breaths as he stood looking at his reflection through the glass enclosure of the salon. He was eye to eye with himself, quietly asking his reflection whether the effort was worth it. Although deep inside he knew the answer did not lie on the image before him.
“Hey, Reggie, what are you looking at?” Sonny noticing Reggie’s amusement.
Sonny and Reggie were both hairdressers at Charlie’s Beauty Salon and Spa. They were taking their lunch at the cafe just beside their salon. They were seated by the window where they had a view of the busy street and of the passers-by. Reggie’s attention was not on the street nor on the passers-by, it was focused on this tiny dog that looked sick and dirty. The dog wasn’t just sitting around waiting for mercy, it was twirling in front of their salon many times as if dancing to the music.
The owners of the salon placed two large speakers just outside the establishment maybe with the theory that good music could attract more customers. Some customers liked the idea, some didn’t.
The receptionists were in-charge of the playlist and that day, it was Bridgette, a 60-something former lead singer of a band, that was keeping the music going.
“Look at that dog.” Reggie said pointing at Polly.
“Oooh, is that a dog? That’s really ugly!”
“Well, I’ve been watching it for a while now. It seems like a smart dog!”
“What made you say that?
“It was dancing and now, it seems to be talking to itself.”
“Of course not! How can it do that? It seems to me that it’s just looking if there’s food inside.”
“That, you’re right. It looks really hungry!” Reggie decided he was full and gathered still about half a cup of rice that’s left on his plate and a good amount of meat and potatoes from one serving of menudo that he ordered.
“Are you going to finish that?” Reggie pointing at the food on Sonny’s plate.
“Well, I was going to but it seems like you have a better plan.”
“You read it right.” Reggie said smiling looking at the food he had collected in a disposable plastic container.
Sonny and Reggie headed back to the salon. Sonny went straight inside while Reggie stood just a foot away from Polly.
Polly’s instinct told him to run away from the human that had stood near him but he smelled food. The human that’s standing in front of him has food! “Okay, Polly, this is it!” he told himself. He turned around, wiggled his butt, opened his mouth, put out his tongue and pulled back his ears.
He looked up at the human, he was smiling! “I can’t believe it is working!… Come on now, Polly, one more time!” On his third try, the man squatted and hovered his hand over Polly’s head. Polly ducked and closed his eyes waiting for a smack on his body. What he felt was a finger rubbing the tip of his head. He squinted to see what the man was doing. “Oh, he is petting me with one finger?… This feels so good.” Polly leaned his head closer receiving that one finger - that one finger that managed to show a huge act of kindness, something that Polly had not felt in a long time.
The man placed the plastic container of food before him. With the hunger that he was feeling that moment, he thought he could finish the food in one go but he fought the urge to do that. He didn’t want the man to think he was ill-mannered and so he waited for the man to give him a signal that it was okay to go ahead and eat.
The man stood up looking down at him smiling. He nodded and Polly took it as the sign.
He opened his mouth and took in the chunk of rice topped with menudo sauce. “It’s not just rice! He chewed. “There’s meat!” And chewed again. “There’s potato and peas!” And chewed some more. “And carrots!… This is just a feast!” It was party in his mouth and his stomach could finally stop churning.
Next problem - water. “Okay, let’s make it clear - clean water!… Oh, what I would give to have a taste of clean water!” He had tried different kinds of water, or liquid. “Okay, Mom had taught us how to tell which ones are edible and which ones are not just by the smell so I kinda know I couldn’t drink gas or bleach… ‘Cause it’s really easy to mistake them for water because they both are transparent!”
He loved rainwater. It’s cool and fresh and it’s quite fun to try to catch them as they fall from the sky. Rainwater on earth, “Not so enjoyable.” He learned to stay away from the chocolate-colored rainwater “ Cause it tastes muddy.” And even the clear ones have that muddy taste to it but better than nothing.
While he loved the taste of coffee and chocolate drink, they gave him diarrhea, and milk, too. He had licked some ounces of pineapple juice from a Del Monte can. The sour taste took some getting used to but “I must say, it’s delicious!”
The only water available that moment was the water from the sewer that had tadpoles, mosses, trash, soil - “Interesting mix of flavors but disgusting!”
He imagined he was Anthony Bourdain as he described the taste of each beverage he had pulled out from his memory. “I watch too much television!” he said laughing at himself.
He decided he would sleep instead. It was always nice to sleep after a good meal. He circled a spot in front of the salon three times and curled his body with his head resting on his forearms.
A couple complained immediately as they entered the salon. “Why are you letting dogs like that stay in front of your place?… It’s disgusting!” It was the husband that said it.
“Yes, it looks sick and it might be contagious!” The wife, who was holding a dressed up Shih Tzu, said in agreement, her voice so loud that everyone in the salon heard her, even the manager that was doing inventory in a room.
The manager stopped what she was doing for a while to see what the commotion was about. The couple repeated to her their complaint about the dog that was sleeping outside.
“Sonny, why don’t you take care of that dog and Bridgette, please assist them…” referring to the couple.
Sonny looked everywhere in the salon for Reggie but remembered that he had finished his shift two hours before. He went outside hesitantly, he just didn’t agree with the couple’s opinion about that dog. “It may not be as good-looking as that Shih Tzu but this dog is certainly not a nuisance here.”
Sonny gently nudged Polly with his foot to wake him up. Polly lifted his head up. Polly couldn’t understand what Sonny was trying to tell him.
Out of nowhere, a kick sent Polly flying a few inches from the ground and a few inches away from the salon. “There!” the man said. “You were having such a hard time getting rid of that dog.” And the husband went inside laughing and was uttering words to his wife who was also laughing.
Sonny felt sorry for Polly but that was all he could do - to feel sorry.
Polly walked away backwards eye-to-eye with Sonny who could only whisper - “I’m sorry, little doggie, I’m sorry.” Polly only stopped walking when he hit a wall. There was no more space to move any further at least along that strip. He felt like he broke a leg or some of his ribs. He licked the part that still hurt hoping that it would have the same healing effect like that of his mother’s. He learned to endure pain in silence. Nothing good could come out if he cried or screamed. No one cared. How could there be such contradiction? How could humans say they love dogs? On the one hand they dress up their dogs or puppies like babies, give them food and treats, buy them expensive toys, bring them anywhere they go - to malls, to salons - allow them to sleep in their beds, chew up on their favorite shoes or slippers and find all that cute. And on the other, kick, laugh at, sneer, do nothing to dogs that were sick, hungry, alone - “Wait, that’s me!”
It was quite odd that Reggie went home the previous day looking and acting differently. He was unusually quiet and only managed a forced smile and a raised pair of eyebrows when he bumped into the family next door. On regular days, he would go home tired from more than eight hours of work but he still found time to crack jokes…yesterday, he did not. “Blag! Blag! Blag!”now there were more people knocking, kicking, and banging the door calling, “Reggie! Reggie!” the sound of their voices panicked. Their reaction was understandable. It was 10:00 in the morning. Reggie was supposed to be at work by now and he was not. He was still in bed sound asleep. Polly slept late the night before. Something wasn’t quite right with his human. After feeding him, Reggie went straight to bed without taking his usual late night stick of cigarette or a cup of coffee. Polly would sleep on the doormat by the foot of the bed. From there, he could hear
Polly hid and sulked behind a plant, his body folded for as small as he could. His eyes were closed, his mind awake, ears open - eavesdropping for every possible sound that’s Reggie-related. Stuck in that position for hours, Polly realized that aside from his nose, his ears have got some great power as well, like he knew who had been coming and going within the vicinity just by the sound of their walks and their voices. Reggie barely lifted his feet when he walked. The friction of his slippers or shoes against the floor produced a much louder sound than someone who walked on a heel-toe, heel-toe motion. The daughter of Reggie’s landlord and landlady walked like that. Her walk had a certain beat to it especially when she wore those stilleto shoes that made her look even taller than she already was. “And I know Reggie’s voice very well.” His voice got a deep timbre that one would think it was coming from a tall bulky man. Reggie was neither
It’s been only a few days with Bridgette but it feels like forever. “How can I begin to describe what it feels like to be with her. Ahmmm, It’s been far from heaven and almost like hell. Not that I have experienced hell… but heaven? I think I have.” Bridgette didn’t really like Polly. He could tell she didn’t like animals in general. She had a certain smell that told him that. That smell that also told him she was not the usual 60-something woman. She had also been through a lot. She was raising three children from three different fathers all by herself and was taking care of her sick mother in that small house she’s been renting only for a few months. She’s been house-hopping since her teenage years when she dropped high school to pursue a career in music. That decision broke her parents hearts. They had hoped she would be the one to bring home a college diploma and maybe make their family’s life a little easier. What she brought home however, was a
Despite the inconsistencies in the way Bridgette dealt with Polly, he still gravitated towards her. It was like she had a magnetic wave that kept pulling Polly near her. Polly couldn’t understand it but it was like he didn’t have a choice. He still felt sad when she was away and would excitedly wait for her by the door for her arrival at night. Early morning on a weekday in Bridgette’s household was a bit chaotic. The floor area of the house was only 50 square feet with three adults - Bridgette, her mother, and her first born, Rachel - and four children - Bridgette’s Roxanne, 16 years old, and Ivan 13, and Rachel’s Willy, 10, and Winonah, 8. Every day, they would all compete as to who got to use the bathroom first. Bridgette always won. It was a feast watching them move. It was much like the people Polly used see in the streets weeks ago. It was as if they did not know one another. They were all in a hurry they were just passing each other by.
“Mother! Mother!” Roxanne calling out to her mother as she was standing in front of Pilita’s dog house. “What is it, Roxanne? I have lots to do!”Bridgette angrily replied as she hung her head out of the window to look at her. “Just come over, mother. I want you to see this.” Roxanne said still holding a plate of leftover food. “I don’t understand why you need to bother me.” Bridgette said as she walked towards Roxanne. “The dog is still here!” “Huh? Which dog?” “Remember your co-worker’s dog?! … Look!” Roxanne said pointing at Polly who was curled inside Pilita’s house still asleep. Bridgette let out a cackle. “I thought we have finally gotten rid of that dog!” “Should we put a chain on him also?” Roxanne asked. “Don’t bother. I don’t think he is going anywhere. Just feed them both in separate
It had been raining non-stop for days due to the monsoon. Bridgette’s laundry had been in and out of the house as she tried to catch even just a little bit of sunlight but she had been unsuccessful trying to get them to dry. She said their clothes all smelled like molds because they were not drying properly. Brigida had been praying for the rain to stop. She said the water had found all the holes on their roof it felt like it was raining inside the house, too. They had placed all sorts of things to catch the droplets - pots, dipper, pails, and laundry tubs. They could all be seen scattered all over the house. All the members of the family, except for Brigida, Willy and Winonah took turns emptying them, and they did it quite a lot in the last few days. And what about Pilita? She did not have a place to go. Her dog house had been wet for three days straight. She couldn’t get a decent sleep because everything was wet. Her fur was wet, too, she smelled like dog even more
Polly watched Pilita sink. Her eyes were still open and was looking at him. Polly could not stand watching her sink like that. With all his might, he gathered all the emotions that were running in his body - fear, worry, confusion, but also hope, determination that he could throw a lifeline to his sinking friend. For the first time, he screamed. One that can be heard all around. He screamed - “Pilita! Pilita!” over and over and over again until Roxanne noticed what was happening. “Mother, your co-worker’s dog kept on barking!” Roxanne told Bridgette. “It’s probably cold. He’ll be alright.” Bridgette reasoned. “Yeah, I know. But the bigger dog is not. I think it’s drowning.” “We can’t do anything about that, Roxanne. We have our own worries to attend to.” “How can you say that, Mother?… Look, it’s sinking!” Bridgette turned to look and caught only Pilita’s black snout.