Happy Dogs Read (reposted from www.open.salon.com)

My neighbor down the street plants a flower she will not water in a clay flowerpot she places next to her curb in the street next to a line of ball hedges — coffee bushes, I think.   A short flower she made herself that brings me to stop, make a U-turn to see the cut foam flower up close, a daisy center, stuck with card paper petals, a note at the center.  The note reads: “Please do not walk your dogs too close to this bush.  It is full of wasps.”

I am shocked to realize I am tearing at the compassion this neighbor has for animals. Neighborhood dogs that start at one house often become hers.  Several times a day she walks her four large well-mannered dogs up and down hills out in front of her body.  There is no struggle, no pulling, no scolding.  For two of Mary’s four dogs, this was not always the case.  Two of the dogs used to be wild, rambunctious, bellowing barkers spending their days behind an adjacent neighbor’s high iron fencing.  Now the dogs are serene. A crew of priests.

Seeing the flowerpot sign, I do not doubt Mary’s content dogs can also read. Maybe this is why they are so mild now.

It gets me to wondering about my assumptions too.  About all the dogs I have assumed cannot read.  How many dogs go about their entire lives happy in an illiterate dog fog.  Happy one minute.  But because they cannot read, stung, limping the next.  Reading, good for people, good for dogs.

I wonder which dogs read, maybe have been reading entire libraries for years? 

Which dogs struggled but put aside their egos through the ABCs, unafraid to ask for directions about reading, about being lost in a text, figured it’s okay to start over again, sound things out and start different the next time.

When I see my neighbor Mary I query her about her sign, try to thank her for lighting a candle for me, for her enlightenment, for enlightening the neighborhood dogs about the wasps.  She just laughs.  Maybe thinking about her crackpot neighbor and her flowerpot sign.  She brushes me off.  The neighborhood is full of them.  Dogs.  Nuts. I imagine she’s thinking.  I drive on. 

Have you read to your dog today?  Now, about them cats…I’m thinking happy cats paint. What do you think?

Image(c) M. Smyth 2012




I’m the bride in the room.  Eight bridesmaids on the altar and only now do I realize I do not know what keeps my sisters awake at night.  All those white wine spritzers wasted talking about ribbon.That I should have picked my best friend Marianne I don’t pick her because she’s fat. Now I’ve broken something I can’t fix.  Oh, I hate how I feel, that and, that my fiancé and I fought last night gives me the creeps.  Did I make a mistake?  I’m thirty, so all right already.  I just want to forget my best brother is dying and get that man and that woman over there to see there’s a bride in the room.  That everything’s perfect.  

I see Pat, my dying brother up front.  At least you’ve got a plan man, I think.  A bartender, sailor, a ‘gonna be big kind of guy,’ HIV deadbeat inside of three years.  Me?  Hah!  No plan.  I’ll give it a year, maybe two, but at least I’m not going to get stuck like Mom. 

I’m looking down the aisle toward the front of the church, right hand on Dad’s left arm twirling my engagement ring with my left thumb, Mass’s about to begin.  Whoa, got a train to catch Dad?  In four strides, we are at the altar.   Wait, gotta think this thing through.  I tilt a look at Dad, a dog sending signals.  Start the car, man.  I am scanning all the nice people looking my way, smiling, nodding heads, looking at the flowers, the dresses, each other, at me.   Hey Dad, get a load of the Fishers.  Oh, how I wanted to be in that family.  God soaped faces, the kind of love at 80, found on the head of a pin.

Pat and my eyes lock.  Idiot’s busting a smile.  I’m framing him.  He’s framing me, for a picture for later.  You’re not leaving me man I’m leaving you.  Don’t even think about it, or, you know I’ll murderize you.  (How we talk love in those days.)  I smile until my face hurts.  Damn no.   Then, I tell him a lie with a look.  Looking good man.  I want to stop this madness.  Stop, no, run, no, give.  Give God my right arm, my right lung, my left kidney.  Whatever God wants God gets, right?  He can have it.  Except for Pat.  All I want is for God to give Pat back to Pat, Pat back to us, back to me.  Then run, tell the jerk world, our folks, the jerk him self — guess what man?  God’s only kidding sucker.   Your ass is saved.  You’re off His short list.  Just one thing though — you owe me big.  God was just kidding.  Then, we will have one f***ing long, long, long laugh. 

I watch my brother as he rubs his cheek, his hand doesn’t stop though, goes around to the back of his neck.  Sure looks tired.  He squeezes some loose flesh inside his jacket through his tux shirt, bet he didn’t eat again today.  A straight line forms where my smile should be.  Alongside my brother now, I get in his face and think.  What kind of tough Mick are you?  Drink that thick shake the doctor told you to drink and M.’s gonna grow on you.   Maybe Pat has some sixth sense about junk maybe its just weirdness. 

I pass by Mom.  Stop.   In my tracks.  Nice. Dress. Mom.  Guess you didn’t get the memo. Remember me saying just please no white dresses unless you’re the bride?  I look back at Pat.  What about this man?  You couldn’t take care of this?  Thanks for nothing buddy.  Now I got a sixty-year-old twin with the same name wearing a white dress all day long.  Oh, God, my fiance’s a Gemini too, not that I believe that crap.  I look over my right shoulder see my mother-in-law.  She’s wearing white too.  I look back at Pat.  Bartender, make it a triple.  We got a theme party of mothers wearing white.

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