Thursday, August 30, 2012

17. No More Dogs

As a little girl I had, a wonderful dog named Skippy.  He was brown and white, happy and friendly.  He was a faithful friend for someone like me who didn’t have brothers or sisters and whose solider-father was far away in a foreign country.  Because my father was away, my mother and I and Skippy lived with my grandparents.  One day I came home from school and Skippy was not there dancing a circle around me, joyous to have me with him again.
            “Where’s Skippy?”  I asked Grandpa.  He frowned and said slowly, “Your mom will tell you about him, when she gets home from work.”
            My mother worked at the canning factory because all work was part of the war effort and because we needed the money.  Standing on her feet for 8 hours tired her out, but she always smiled when she saw me and Skippy.  While I waited impatiently for her to get home that day, Grandpa tried to distract me with a game of Chinese checkers.
            She must have known before she went to work what was going to happen that day, but she hadn’t said a word to me.  I threw myself at her when she stepped onto our wooden front porch.
            “Mom!  Skippy’s gone.  What happened?”
            She sat on the porch chair and held me.  “Do you remember the other day when the mail man said Skippy bit him?”
            “Yeah, but that was a lie.  Skippy would never bite anyone.”
            “I know, dear, I know.  He was a good dog.”
            “Why isn’t he here?” I demanded again.
            “Well, the mail man complained to the police about Skippy and although we argued that he was a good dog, they believed the mail man.”
            “So we have to keep Skippy locked up when the mail comes?” I asked.
            “Oh, honey.”  I could see her brown eyes glistening with unshed tears.  “They took Skippy away and we will never see him again.”
            Grandpa came out on the porch.  “It’s a terrible thing.  I never want to have another dog.”
            “I know Dad.  It’s heartbreaking to lose a dog.”  Mom tried to smile at me, “Skippy is in a wonderful place, but we'll miss him.”
            I was too little then to understand exactly what happened to Skippy, but I was told repeatedly that we could never have another dog.  Until one day, months later…

            My friend, Scotty, told me his little rat terrier’s puppies were ready to leave home and I could have one for only a nickel.  Excited and forgetting about the ‘no more dogs’ rule, I stopped at his house after school to see the squirming, little bundles of joy.  One in particular kept licking my face as I held him. 
            I raced home and asked Grandpa if I could have a nickel to buy my Mom a ‘puppy” for Mother’s Day which was the coming Sunday.  Grandpa thought for a minute, then pulled a nickel from a pocket in his workpants and said, “Be sure to pick out a fresh one.”  I ignored this strange comment and happily went back to Scotty’s to pick up this special gift for my mother.
            Grandpa’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw my wriggling purchase.
            “I thought…I thought…” he gulped, “you said ‘poppy’ not puppy.
            And that’s how the ‘no more dogs’ rule was broken at our house.  Tiny as he was, he had a large enough spirit to fill all of our hearts, though he could never take the place of my first love, Skippy.
                                                               The End

Saturday, August 18, 2012

16. Cat with a Positive Attitude

My friend, Diane, was cat less due to a series of unfortunate events dooming even the liveliest cat she had rescued.
“I’m cursed, Michelle” she moaned.  “No cat should come within 100 feet of me.”
“You’re not cursed,” I argued trying to cheer her up.  “Things happen to animals that we can’t control.  You’re an excellent cat mother.  And all those cats had wonderful lives after you rescued them.”
“But their lives were so short!” she twisted her hands in misery.
“They might have been even shorter if they were on their own.  A car could have hit them, or they could have been carried off by a coyote.  They were safe, and well fed, and well-loved while you had them.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.  But I can never have a cat again.  I can’t go through this anymore.” She shook her head, her short brown hair flipping back and forth.
“Maybe a more positive attitude would help,” I suggested.
“Positive thinking?  Positive thinking will help me keep a cat alive?”
“Well, no, not exactly,” I backed off.  “Actually, I’m thinking it might help if the cat had a more positive attitude.”
“Are you out of your mind?” She looked at me with big, round green eyes that looked like a surprised kitten. “Even if it would work, how can I give a cat a more positive attitude, especially a rescue cat that’s been abandoned and mistreated?”
I held up my hands slowly.  “Just hear me out.”
Diane got up from the soft, easy chair in her living room.  “Oh, I’ll hear you out, Michelle.  How about out with you?”  She started walking towards the front door.
“Come on,” I pleaded.  “You love cats and I want you to have one for a long time so you won’t continue feeling guilty.”
“OK, what’s your idea?  Not that I’m going to follow it.” 
“Since you’re a teacher you know how important it is for your students to feel good about themselves and how you give them little chores to build up their confidence.”
“Yeees.  But cats won’t do little chores. They aren’t going to wipe down the chalk board or carry my books.”  She laughed at the thought.  Good, I was at least helping her feel less depressed.
“How about this?  What if you gave your next cat…” I held up my hands again as she started to argue that there would be no next cat.  “If you gave your next cat a positive name?”
“What? Like Norman Vincent Peale?”
I laughed this time.  “No, I mean a name like Lucky.  Call your little bundle of fur Lucky.”
“And that will help him, how?”
“There are some people who believe that names are destiny. And I do agree that the last five cats you rescued were not lucky.  Well, they were lucky when you rescued them, but not so lucky when the…”
She interrupted.  “I don’t want to talk about it.  Ok, I’ll give it a try.  If I ever have a rescue cat again, which I won’t, I will call it Lucky.”
That was all I needed to hear.  I knew she wouldn’t refuse the next offer of a cat that needed a good home.  A few weeks later she called to tell me the news.  She now was taking care of a beautiful, but skinny, black and white female cat that had been living on its own for over a month, according to the person who had noticed her and finally caught her.  The cat was in good health, except Diane needed to fatten it up with generous meals.  As time went by, Lucky thrived and even got fat and then fatter.  In fact she got so fat, Diane took her to the Vet to see if the cat was OK.
“I’m going to be a grandmother,” Diane smiled as she told me the good news.  “I’ve never had new born kittens around, lots of cats but no little ones.”
“That’s wonderful.  So this cat is having good luck.” I enthused, mentally patting myself on the back for my name suggestion.
“Not everything is wonderful.  The vet said Lucky might have some delivery problems, so she will have to be monitored carefully to get her in to the office in case she needs help.”
“I’m sure Lucky will be lucky.”
“My fingers will be crossed.  And I’ll let you know how it all turns out.”
As Lucky’s delivery date loomed near, I sent more and more positive thoughts her way.  I know it sounds crazy but I’ve read that quantum physics, a very serious science, shows everything in the universe is connected, so positive energy can be effective.
Finally, Diane called me.  “I don’t know if the name Lucky gave my kitty a positive attitude because she did have a difficult delivery.”
I broke in, “But how is she and the babies?”
“They’re all healthy and in good shape.  The vet said it was a miracle they all survived since Lucky’s pelvis must have been broken at some time in her past life.”
“I’m glad they’re all OK and if my name suggestion worked that’s great. How many babies are there?”
“She had 5 sweet things and I’ve already named them:  happy, joy, cheery, delight, and of course, Lucky2.”
                                                             The End

Sunday, August 12, 2012

15. What's wrong with Arlene?

Something was terribly wrong.  No one had seen Arlene in two days.  Usually she never missed a meal, let alone the shore excursions.  Like me this was her and her husband’s first trip to China and she had vowed that she was going to see and do as much as possible.
            On our tour we had already visited Beijing and been amazed by the ultramodern, 100 story skyscrapers that still had empty spaces near their tops so evil witches could fly right through without stopping to do mischief to the people living and working in the building.  We had also seen the incredibly primitive and cramped hutongs, courtyard areas where people had lived for centuries.  They were now being razed in the name of progress and healthier living conditions with a few being saved for historical reasons.  As we got on and off the bus at each tourist site, Arlene kept urging her husband to keep up so they wouldn’t miss anything.  Although both past 65 and breathing hard, they kept up with the rest of us.
The Yangtze River Cruise was more restful as the ship drifted with the current past tiny fishing villages and the brightly painted fishing boats.  The first day, Arlene and her husband made it to every meal as early as possible and were the last to leave.  Her little fireplug shaped body seemed to need constant refueling, although she occasionally complained that she was overweight.  It seemed unlike her to miss so many meals.
Of course if she wasn’t feeling well, she could be getting trays brought to her room.  Her husband, Henry, still appeared, slightly tipsy, at each meal and complaining of how Arlene was driving him crazy.  We wondered if he stashed bottles of liquor in his luggage.  He never drank at the ship’s bar but always seemed to be a little incoherent.  
We did sympathize with him.  His wife had started out on our tour walking without help.  The first day on the river though she brought out a cane.  Perhaps the motion of the boat upset her equilibrium because each time we docked at an interesting village on the Yangtze, it was a miracle how she maneuvered over the cobblestones, rough pavement and gravel.
Now Henry was accusing her of refusing to walk—just to drive him crazy.  When we asked how she was, he would just say, “Crazy as a coot, crazy as a coot.”
            Well, that didn’t explain why we hadn’t seen her.  Finally, a group of us first requested and then demanded that we be let in their cabin to see her.  He tried to stall us, saying she was sleeping but we forced him to open the door.  The door swung open noiselessly and we saw Arlene tied to a chair in front of the TV.  She rolled her eyes at us and muttered, “Oh, no, oh, no.”
We gaped at her and then looked aghast at Henry.  Had the man tied her up so he could drink as much as he liked.  What was going on?  Did we need to call the captain?
Henry stuttered, “Now, now.  It’s not what it looks like...”
He turned to Arlene and pleaded, “Please tell them what this is, before I’m thrown in a Chinese prison!”
Arlene hung her head, “Oh, I’m so embarrassed.  I just wanted to lose some weight and I can’t help myself when I see all that tasty food spread out, and it’s all FREE, even if it is Chinese.”
“But why are you tied up?”  I asked.
“I asked Henry to tie me up so I couldn’t go to the dining room.  Don’t worry, I had regular bathroom breaks, when the dining room was closed. And I do drink water.”
“So you’re OK?  You’re not being held against your will?”
“Yes, yes, I’m OK.  Please go now.”  She lifted up her head and smiled.  “I’m really fine and I’ve lost five pounds already.”
                                                 The End

Saturday, August 4, 2012

14. Advice from Patron Saints

Marcy gave a gasp of recognition as she realized her horoscope had finally pointed out why her life was so unsuccessful.  It wasn’t actually her horoscope that had the solution.  She was reading that with her usual curiosity but little faith, if truth be told. She told herself it was just fun to pick up the paper on Thursday when she met her friend Jackie for coffee and check out what the stars had to say to her.  She only did it once a week so how bad could it be.
           Today it said, “Your many friends love you just the way you are.  Success comes to those who keep on the path.”  She scoffed to herself, where are these many friends who love me, and what path?  I don’t have a path I’m just cutting my way through a tangled mass of foliage in a dense jungle.” 
            Her eye caught a little boxed feature next to the horoscope she never noticed before.  It was entitled, Today’s Saint.  Hmm, she mused as she quickly read it.  Today, which also happened to be her birthday, was the feast day of Santa Marta (or Saint Margaret).  The note said Santa Marta was “the patroness of housewives, domestic workers, waitresses, and food workers.  She is invoked to protect the home.”
            Frowning, Eula May considered this information.  “No wonder I’ve never kept a job for longer than two months.  I’ve been working in the wrong fields—banking, finance, legal offices, and brokerage firms.”  She continued to argue with herself, “But, I’ve got a business degree from the U. of Wisconsin so shouldn’t I be working in those areas.”
           She flinched as she thought of all the disasters that happened to her in those jobs.  She once sent her boss’ wife the Christmas gift he had ordered for his mistress and vice versa.  Unfortunately, they each got a note with the others’ name on it, too.  The wife was especially incensed when she realized the gift for the mistress was much more expensive than any her husband had ever given her. 
Marcy shuddered.  She was beginning to think maybe she should find a job in her patron saint’s fields and stop thinking about material gain. 
“Since I was born on St. Margaret’s feast day, maybe I’d be more successful if I worked with my feet and my hands, not my head”.  Hmm, she thought about it.  Did she really want a job where she would be on her feet all day.  She flipped the paper over to the want ads and spread it out on the cafĂ© table to find a job in the ‘service’ industry.
“Hey, Marcy, What are you looking so serious about.”  Blond and bouncy Jackie came bustling across the coffee shop holding her own cardboard container of caffeine.
“Oh, Jackie, I’m considering another job change and I was looking to my horoscope for inspiration.”
“You should be checking out the on-line job listings instead of that woo-woo stuff.”  Jackie gave her a quick hug, “But I know how you feel.  In this job market, it’s tough to find something you like and will pay the rent.”
Marcy smiled, “I think maybe I’ve been spending too much time on finding something that will pay the rent, rather than how I feel about it.”
“Didn’t someone once write a book about do what you love and the money will follow?”
“Well, I haven’t loved any of my jobs and the money certainly hasn’t followed.  Maybe it’s time I did do what I really like.”
Jackie plunked her large, fake designer bag on the fake wood table and asked Marcy,  “Well, what do you really like to do?”
“Eat fattening food and read, but I don’t think I’m going to get paid for those activities.” Marcy laughed, at least the laughter was helping her feel better.
“You’d better stay away from restaurant and library jobs, then, or you’ll never have time to do any work.”
Marcy tapped her finger on the paper.  “I did see a job ad where I could make some money while I look for a ‘real’ job.”
“Doing what?”
“Now don’t laugh, but being a dog walker.”
Jackie smothered a laugh. “There’s nothing wrong with that if you don’t mind picking up poop.”
“I always had a dog growing up.  I’m used to the poop parade.”
“I’ve seen dog walkers on the street and they’re usually trying to corral several dogs at once.  That might be hard to do.”
“That’s the plus of the ad I saw.  It’s just one dog and the owner wants him walked separately because he’s sort of skittish.”
“Who’s skittish, the dog or the owner?”
Marcy laughed again, “You are just what I needed.  In fact, I’m feeling so much better I will apply for that job.  It can’t be any worse that those I’ve had before.”
“Let me know how it works out.”….
However it was more than a month later, that she was able to meet Jackie again at the coffee shop.
“You certainly look a lot happier than you did the last time we were here.  Did you get the dog job?”
“Not only did I get the dog job, but I also got a career job.”  She triumphantly dropped a business card on the table in front of Jackie.
Jackie pushed up her sunglasses so she could read it better.
“Marcie Adams, Special Assistant, Oak Valley Veterinary Office.  What does ‘Special Assistant’ mean?”
“It means Dr. Vic was so impressed with the care I gave Jupiter, the skittish dog, that he asked me to work full time in his office.”
“Get outta here, you don’t know anything about taking care of dogs and cats.”  Jackie was almost speechless.
“Don’t worry.  He and his regular staff do the medical stuff.  I just take care of the business side of the business and in my free time, I help our patients feel at ease.  He thinks I have a special touch with animals and he was also impressed with my business experience.”
“Your business experience?  I hope you didn’t tell him about your disasters.”
“Sure I did.  He thought it was funny.  By the way when I told him about my patron saint and how she led me to answer his ad, he told me his story.  It seems his birthday is October 4th and that’s the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.  I’m sure you’ve heard of him.  He always loved animals and some people believe he’s the patron saint of veterinarians.  Dr. Vic just thinks St. Francis keeps his eye on vets so they don’t do any harm to his beloved animals.”
Jackie declared, “After hearing these stories, I guess I better find out who my patron saint is.”

                                      The End