Chapter 8: Hope

“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.

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