A short story by JoAnn Chateau… humor, dogs, a tiny bit of politics…
Gus’s next door neighbor, Lacey Cooper, dropped Chester off early that morning, before light. Not only did she have the dog in tow, her arms had been laden with dog paraphernalia: toys, food and water bowls, an old towel, zip-lock bags of kibble and treats, a tote bag full of plastic grocery bags, notebook with important phone numbers, and a miniature dog house with a handle on the roof!
Normally Lace worked from home. The next three days, however, she was conducting a workshop at a regional ROE conference. Radical Online Entrepreneurs. Something about social media and building “community.”
She had been wired! Gus wondered. Too much coffee? Public speaking anxiety? Surrogate child separation?
There had been instructions. Most of them common sense. Gus gathered that Chester was more or less like a high-functioning toddler. It was important to remember he could walk, and run. Always use a leash. Keep the water bowl full and fresh. The mini dog house was Chester’s “safe place” to rest. Pick up and dispose of Chester’s poop. Wait a minute.
Apparently, there were dog-walking protocols. When Gus looked aghast, Lace had been adamant. “It’s the law!”
There was the parting ritual. Lacey solemnly lifted the fluffy, chubby-looking dog, held him to her chest in a two-armed bear hug, swayed back and forth exactly four times, and planted a kiss on each side of the dog’s furry face. For Chester’s part, he obligingly turned his head from side to side to recieve the kisses, then licked her chin in return. Finally, Lacey squeezed him like a bundle of Charmin bathroom tissue, and gently returned Chester to the floor.
Chester stood placidly, cool as a cucumber. He knew the routine, remaining stoic for Lacey’s sake.
Closing the door behind his departed neighbor, Gus held still for several beats, listening. No whining. Thank God. He looked down, about to say, “Good boy,” but stopped.
Chester’s eyes sparkled, his tail wagged vigorously, as if… with conspiratorial glee. Gus thought, “If this dog thinks he’s going to have an adventure, he better have low excitement standards.”
Gus planned to go online. And let the dog sleep.
With his computer and television connected, Gus could view Internet videos on the TV’s wide screen. Somehow Chester ended up in his lap. They had gotten into Bernie Sanders video clips.
Sanders had been invited to address the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on “A Moral Economy.” He had abandoned the campaign trail in New York in order to fly to the Vatican and give his speech. They watched the full-length video. Gus, raised Catholic, was impressed. Chester yawned.
From the Vatican high-point, to this week: Brooklyn-born Sanders lost the New York Primary. Badly. Gus shook his head grimly. No matter how it seemed God smiled upon The Bern, earthly powers snatched away any advantage. If Bernie lost the Democrat nomination, how would the Calling play out? In his gut, Gus knew that Destiny was laid upon the shoulders of one Bernard Sanders. “To Hell with the others,” the war-torn veteran growled lowly.
As if in response, Chester gave a subtle “woof.” Gus appreciated the Little Guy’s consensus. Chester hoped the Big Guy understood that a walk should be imminent. Sensing they needed cheering up from Bernie’s New York shellacking, Gus asked the dog, “Ready to go outside?” Chester’s body tensed. His eyes gleamed.
Before Gus knew what was happening, Chester used Gus’s left thigh like a launch pad (ouch!) and sailed through the air. The dog’s shimmering white fluff flowed and rippled back like the cape of a super-hero. (Gus couldn’t be sure he really saw that.) Projecting past the perimeter of the carpet, Chester landed on the bare floor boards with a resounding thud. He turned about neatly, looking to Gus. Why was the Big Guy still sitting?
Gus hustled the best he could (without knee caps) to the pile of dog gear lying near the door. He snagged the leash with the red box, snapping the service end to the dog’s collar. Chester danced back and forth excitedly. Gus quickly counted out four plastic grocery bags and jammed them into his right hip pocket. He lunged, grabbed the handle, and wrenched the door open.
Chester stood stock still.
Gus quickly grasped he was supposed to go first. He stepped through the door smartly. Chester bounded after him. And beyond. The dog leash spun out of the red box like a fishing reel! Intending to lock the door behind them, Gus just managed to close it.
Chester had immediately darted around the board fence that shielded the patio. Out of sight, the 20-pound dog rapidly built momentum. When he reached the end of the 25-foot leash, all happening so fast, Gus was caught off balance. Nearly plunging to the cruelly hard cement, Gus grabbed at the outdoor grill as he swept past. His long frame folded over it with a whipping motion. The grill crumpled to the ground, crashing loudly. But breaking his fall. Somewhat.
Gus limply rolled onto his back. To regroup his body parts. Squirrels chattered angrily in the tree boughs above. Gus continued to grip the leash handle firmly. That showed presence of mind, he congratulated himself.
Testing for neck injury, Gus slowly turned his head to one side. Chester was peeking at him with one eye from behind the patio fence. Keeping cover while surveying the damage. Gus let out a weak chuckle. With that cue, Chester padded softly to Gus and offered his commiseration.
Sometimes, even Big Guys take a fall, Chester pondered. And when they do… POW! He licked Gus’s nose, which was turning blue and shiney.
To read more of The Chester Chronicles, go to The Chester Chronicles.
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