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LAce Posted Monday, July 4th, 2005
A Certain Place
Debbie Ann Ice

When I walk my fat bulldog on snowy days like today, flakes falling from the sky like bits of angel wings, I feel the world is at a peaceful place only the fury of cold can transport it to. However, as usual, peaceful is transient, because walking my fat bulldog evolves into pulling my fat bulldog.

My bulldog plants her front paws, shoves her butt into the air and bites the leash. I step behind and tap her, hoping the slob will move to avoid my boot. She moves then stops. The snow no longer resembles angel’s wings; it is cold, annoying and stings my face.

I don’t get it. I have no idea why my fat bulldog won’t walk like other Connecticut dogs, trim and well trained, clipping beside owners who strut along chatting with friends who have dogs just as trim, just as well-trained. I ponder it as I pull.

My bulldog, now angry with my boot, splays herself upon the road, her belly spreading out like the thighs of a fat grandmother.

I sit in the snow and talk sweetly: please sweet pea, you must move or a car will smash you. She starts to eat the snow, then puts her chin on a small mound and takes on that immutable expression that signals she will do as she pleases. I build a miniature snowman and forget the walk. Why bother?

I’m glad to see Eileen coming our way with her two Pekinese, their hair freshly shampooed and brushed away from their smashed-in faces. I am reminded of Aunt Gloria, whom I lived with as a child, the year Daddy thought Alabama was a better place for me until my Mama’s nerves improved. Aunt Gloria was a heavy woman, and when she came back from the hairdresser, her hair all teased up and blown back like a wave, she looked like Eileen’s Pekinese.

Eileen looks close to eighty. I worry because she only has those Pekinese. I am not sure if Eileen has children in the vicinity, although she may have one or two somewhere and they have stopped by when I wasn’t looking. But I look often down her gravel driveway, overrun with weeds, her back door, rarely lit due to a loose light socket that hangs from the ceiling by a wire as thin as hair. Eileen, like me, walks her dogs alone.

The older Pekinese nips, which my bulldog, now standing, mistakes for play and thus does what she likes to do with little dogs—mouths their head like a ball. The Pekinese looks like she is wearing a bulldog hat. Eileen doesn’t get too nervous about teeth covering her Pekinese’s head. My bulldog is big and fat and doesn’t walk, but she’s pretty nice, I suppose. The Pekinese looks disgusted and bites my bulldog’s paw. Good for her.

Eileen and I catch up on pet medical issues. She asks about the new dog diet and exercise program. How much weight has my bulldog lost? None, I say, the same answer I gave last week. The older Pekinese’s seizures are still bad. Has the medicine stopped them? No, she says, and then tries to say something, but her mouth quivers. At first I think it’s the cold air, but she looks away. I suppose Eileen wonders who will go first, the dog or her, and then what.

When my husband died two years back, leaving the kids, this fat bulldog, and me, I remember that feeling. I felt like our family was a teaspoon of peanuts and God was beginning to pick us, one at a time. I had always assumed our family would continue on forever, and if anyone had to die, it would be me. I am a melancholy person. My husband was friendly, upbeat, and positive about life. Those types need to live. Either God has no plan or She is distracted and not paying attention.

Eileen says the Pekinese had another seizure at the pet boarding house when she went to visit her cousin in New York. She shrugs.

I look over at the older Pekinese, her face scrunched up again, ready to nip at the bulldog. I wonder about this cousin. Is she able to take care of dogs? Does she visit Eileen? And what about Eileen’s grass? Does she need me to help with her garden, fix the socket on her back porch? I say nothing.

I remember all the silent visitors the week I sat frozen in my den, holding my children, letting the bulldog, only a puppy at the time, gnaw our shoes.

We shuffle about while the leashes become tangled, and I have to undo mine and then undo the knot, then hold my panting bulldog so she will let Eileen walk on with her Pekinese.

The bulldog lies back down in the middle of the road, and I sit by her side and start another miniature snowman. The snow now comes down in thick lacey flakes, fast and heavy.

Eileen and her dogs fade into the blurry background, puffs of movement in a sea of white, and I feel peaceful again in a strange and furious way.

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Katrina Denza on Tuesday, July 5th, 2005 at 8:19 AM
I love this Deb. I love the descriptive detail; the "You must move sweet pea, or a car will smash you"; that she gives up and builds a snowman. And this is brilliant: "I felt like our family was a teaspoon of peanuts and God was beginning to pick us, one at a time."

Posted by Katie Weekley on Tuesday, July 5th, 2005 at 10:39 AM
A wonderful piece! Great details.

Posted by Leigh Hughes on Tuesday, July 5th, 2005 at 4:25 PM
Gorgeous! I love this so much. Especially "I felt like our family was a teaspoon of peanuts and God was beginning to pick us, one at a time." and the bulldog hat. And mini-snowmans. Excellent piece full of rich detail and a wonderful melancholy tone. Lovely!

Posted by Michelle Flye on Thursday, July 7th, 2005 at 12:06 PM
Excellent use of setting to set the tone of the whole story. It's 90 degrees here, but I'm still shivering from the cold of this story. Well done, Ann.

Posted by Mitzi McMahon on Thursday, July 7th, 2005 at 12:18 PM
Oh, this is simply wonderful, Deb. I love the voice, the easy going style. And so rich with details. Brava!

Posted by Miriam Kotzin on Thursday, July 7th, 2005 at 6:07 PM
You've done a beautiful job of showing the change in the narrator as she connects with Eileen until she untangles the leashes, undoes the knot.

Posted by Miriam Kotzin on Thursday, July 7th, 2005 at 6:07 PM
You've done a beautiful job of showing the change in the narrator as she connects with Eileen until she untangles the leashes, undoes the knot.

Posted by Ellen Meister [ ellenmeister@hotmail.com ] on Saturday, July 9th, 2005 at 6:34 AM
So magnificent I read it twice. Congrats, Deb. This is perfect.



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