Not So Fast

Today, Sara wakes me up on her way to Wellson for a funeral. A woman who had been in our church, whose girls were my age, died of an illness, something — I don’t know what — but she was too young. Sara kisses me on the forehead before she leaves and I feel bad about yesterday asking Clark if he’d stay behind today because I can’t drive right now. And then Clark drives me around and I’m okay.

As I wake up, Sharky wakes up, too, and he tip-taps his mouth and stretches way out on his side until I can see the webbing between his toes. We agree it’s time to go and Sharky runs to the door, ready for his leash, while I brush my teeth and put on the D.O. for my B.O. and put my hair in a bun and, should I wear these earrings or not?, and select my shirt and OH-MY-DEAR-SWEET-MEAT-TREAT-YOU-HUMANS-ARE-SO-SLOW. So we go.

A black Jeep rounds the corner as we walk past it, and driving the Jeep is a woman of about 75, shock of white hair hidden underneath a sequined black top hat. A top hat. I can see through the rolled-down window that she is wearing a Columbia tan ventilated fishing shirt, and I wonder where it is she is going. I think of Clark and Sara’s old neighbor Beth who had Alzheimer’s and used to come out in the yard in bright red above-the-belly slacks, yellow and red suspenders, a blouse that looked like it was straight out of Little House on the Prairie and a blue trucker’s cap, her long light gray hair stringing down her back. She was rail-thin, had very few teeth and she squinted behind large square glasses when she talked, which gave the overall effect of a long-haul operator with sorceress tendencies. Oftentimes Beth would have some kind of tool in hand, usually a light rake, and she would stand for hours brushing bushes and trees like they were the heads of very large Cabbage Patch Kids being born. Though she had about a 2-minute short-term memory, Beth was very sociable, loving Sharky to pieces and talking about Clark’s fine legs, calling him a hunk all the time. During these interactions, Sara would usually be talking to Beth at her house across the street, and Beth would see Clark from a distance and would cat-call at him, causing Clark to blush like he came from Sephora. Ol’ Beth was a dirty ol’ card. Thank god they are getting closer to a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Sharky and I make it to the park, humming “Cheek to Cheek” from that old movie “Top Hat” with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I lead Sharky around the grassy area like we’re at Westminster, except I’m not on my tip toes and we’re not dance-running around with our arms splayed out like we’re very welcoming and we’re about to serve a batch of hot cookies. Sharky and I realize there are people out on the docks so I let him sniff around in the grass about a block away. He sniffs, and I type some on my cell phone, and suddenly out in the distance I hear a woman’s voice cry “Noooooooo!!!” like she is is having a baby and wants it to go back in. I look up and it feels like it’s slow-motion and I hear her pleading for him to come back, to please, please come back and then I look and I see him, tearing up the grass as he charges our way. A dog, a hotdog with more feet than legs and ears that touch the ground as he bounces and jowls that display his little vampire teeth over and over again as his back legs nearly thrust too much and shove his snow-cone-shaped face in the dirt. Hotdog is going so fast, and yet, it takes so long. Sharky and I prepare for the inevitable. Sharky is no good with other dogs, probably because he got picked on as a kid by other dogs that took his food away, so he and I have been practicing. Sometimes he sniffs and wags his tail with his hackles up when another dog comes around, sometimes he sniffs and bites the other dog’s face off with his hackles up. It is never good when another dog is off the leash and Sharky is on, there’s a power differentiation thing there and I just can’t help it if Sharky snacks on your face when you come up to him while you’re off the leash and he’s on. After what seems like hours, Hotdog gets to us and lunges into Sharky immediately. Sharky hackles a bit, then low wags, then sniffs around Hotdog’s face, while I the whole time am talking to Sharky in a high sweet voice that slides up and down like one of those whistle trombone things. I see mustard and ketchup in Sharky’s eyes, so I pull his leash taut. Hotdog’s mom is yelling and running and waving and I am thinking “Geez, lady, get a grip. Your demeanor informs your dog’s,” and I keep yanking Sharky in, not at all strangling him. As it were, Hotdog’s mom gets to us and very slowly handles her dog and then lifts him into her arms, apologizing to me that she didn’t notice he was running away. “I take Sharky off the leash all the time down there,” I say. “I understand,” but I don’t. I am sweating bullets and thank God Sharky didn’t knife somebody.

We get back to the house and Clark and I leave, telling Sharky to guard the house on the way out the door. We have lunch to eat and errands to run. Clark and I decide to go to IHOP because Sara is not around to disapprove. We drive to IHOP, all is normal. Get our food, all is normal. I go to the ladies’ room and come back and Clark has almost eaten his whole plate of food, all is normal. The waitress, who has lip penciled in lips two times the size of her own, and they are weirdly angular and she also has done some kind of Cleopatra jello pudding strata thing to her eyes, asks if we would like the check and Clark says, “Sure.” Totally normal. Then Clark asks if I think people are thinking that I am his daughter or his wife. Ew. I barf into one of the little pockets on my waffle and I shoot him a look that says, “You’re gonna pay for this,” and then when the check comes I scoot it his way. There is a dude about my age three booths up eating lunch with what looks to be his two grandmothers and his mom. He favors John Mayer and of course I wonder if he is single and is a sensitive starving artist that his family has to feed or if he is a Mormon elder-chaser. Mayer is dark-headed and has some eyebrows, and his fingers, when I see them, are long and skinny like a stick-bug. I think he might be a grieving pianist, and every time I walk past the table I look at my own hands because that’s something I’ve seen grandmas do, and I think that he might dig it. Mayer never checks me out, he’s too into his Bavarian creme-stuffed fried donut with Nutella and strawberries and whipped cream on top, sprinkled with pecans and dusted with powdered sugar. I just have one question to ask you, sir. “Excuse me, Mr. Mayer, are those your grandmas or your wives?”