Monday, August 11, 2008

Vingnette Vignette

She sees the dog first. He’s tiny, maybe 8 pounds soaking wet. Looks like a miniature Doberman or a Chihuahua. The dog wears a little leather hat, and sunglasses. He is walking on the concrete barrier between the esplanade and the sand like the barrier is a tightrope. The dog has been visiting a group of people, and turns on the barrier, carefully picking his way to a man who is leaning against it, half seated, half standing. The dog snuggles up to the man, and rests his head on the man’s shoulder. They belong to each other, that much is clear.

She looks at the man's clothing: hat matching the dog’s; sunglasses matching the dog’s. The man wears baggy Bermuda shorts, and a wife-beater shirt. He’s overweight. Even from the distance, behind the window screening of the restaurant, she can almost smell the man. He looks filthy. But god, he loves that dog. The dog is so well-behaved, she decides that this is probably a really nice man who is down on his luck. Clearly he would never hurt a thing.

So she finishes her coffee, pays her bill, and strolls over to meet the dog. “What’s his name?” she asks. The man points to the dog. The word “Killer” is burnt into the leather, front and back. She smiles up at the man, and notices the tracheotomy, the tubing, the hole. He puts a device to his mouth and croaks “his name is Killer.” A crowd is gathering, and Killer is smiling. The man says “He is a service dog for me.”

She bends down to scratch Killer’s chin. Killer loves to have his chin scratched and tilts his head back for more. The man continues, “He is three and I love him. He wakes me every two hours to make sure I am breathing. He knows how to dial 911 if something happens to me. He is very sweet.”

Killer flops down on the pavement, and several of the people who have gathered around crouch down to pet him. The man loves an audience as much as Killer, it seems. He talks about how he got Killer, and how much it cost to train him. But that training for the dog was subsidized. And that he has diabetes – the man, not the dog. And how he had to bottle-feed the dog when he was a baby. And how Killer will follow his hand commands without question. The man confirms that Killer is a miniature Dobe/ Chihuahua mix. Both are normally high-strung breeds, but Killer is as calm as a soft summer breeze. And Killer loves his person.

She is mesmerized by the dog’s smile, his sweet, sweet demeanor, and his very stylish sunglasses. She is mesmerized by the man's mechanical voice. She is mesmerized by resilience.

She gets up to go, and thanks the man for his time. She walks along the esplanade feeling quite happy for the experience, that out of adversity comes love. The summer sounds of the ocean waves, the beach volleyball games, the skaters, the bicycles, kids playing in the sand, her encounter with Killer have all conspired to lift her from a dark mood that was punctuated by a headache. She decides that hers are high-class problems but she’s deep in fear and has to walk her way through it. But she doesn’t want to. She wants to fling herself onto the ground, kicking and screaming, like her three-year-old granddaughter in full tantrum mode.

But it’s a gorgeous summer Sunday. There’s not a cloud in the sky and enough breeze by the ocean to keep the heat tolerable. This is why she moved to Los Angeles after all. She realizes strangers are saying hello to her – she must be smiling. She starts to say hello back to them. It is a gorgeous summer Sunday.

So she stuffs her fears into a corner in her brain. She knows this will come back to bite her later, when she goes to bed. She can’t think about her over-drawn checking account, her huge debt, the harassing phone calls from creditors. She really can’t do that on a Sunday afternoon. She can’t do that any more than she can think about getting her prescriptions refilled, or making her appointment for the cancer-screenings she needs, or paying for her insurance. She can’t think, and it has nothing to do with the day being gorgeous. It has everything to do with her Scarlet O’Hara syndrome, “Oh, well, tomorrow is another day.” Who will rescue her, if not herself? Who will be her Killer, her service dog, if not herself? She’s almost 60 and she’s about to re-invent herself again, only with no financial safety-net. She’s terrified.

But she is almost 60, and she cannot tolerate toxic environments any longer. She can’t be micro-managed by someone who plows through the office like Napoleon. Her boss crowned himself emperor of a small marketing world with dreams of becoming a Consultant. He can’t spell; he has the manners of a low-class thug; he bullies his employees; he has no friends. She can’t get up the energy to drive into that office one more day. She can’t. The result: she is willing to trade a steady paycheck to regain her life, willing to lose all material possessions in order to be independent and creative. She is bored. She is annoyed. She feels her life being sucked out of her quite slowly. She is leaving this company for total independence and she’s terrified.

So. What comes out of terror? Emotional paralysis? The entire nation has been paralyzed with fear for the last 7 years. Isn't that why the economy is a mess? Oh, god, she's doing it, she's thinking about the global situation instead of what's immediately in her path. She wants to fix the world when she can barely fix herself. She can't fix herself. She can only do the next indicated thing, and decides that today, that next indicated thing is to stick her head in the sand. She giggles and turns to look at the waves. Then she thinks, "damn, I should have worn my swim suit." This stretch of beach has really gentle waves, much easier than where she usually goes. She makes a mental note.

So what's ahead for the day? Michael Phelps will swim. And there's gymnastics, always exciting to watch. And laundry. And laundry. Oh, yes, there's always laundry on Sunday. She walks back to her car to re-enter her life. No ticket, she's lucky. She takes the scenic route home.

28 comments:

DCup said...

Nicely done, Diva. I wish I could hand her a monster wad of cash, a trunkload of new clients, and a month of dates with Alan Rickman.

Randal Graves said...

I'll one up dcup and have Alan Rickman just move in. And he does laundry, with gusto, dressed like a fireman.

DivaJood said...

Dcup, thank you. Now, let's see: cash vs. a month with Alan... Hmmmm.

Randal - see? THIS is why you are campaign manager. Especially the costume choice - to quote okjimm, WOWZER.

DCup said...

Randal!!!! YOU are a total suckup!

I'll so have you banned for the airwaves when we get in power!

Oh, wait. We're on the same team, aren't we?

Nevermind.

DivaJood said...

Dcup, you can't ban Randal - he's brilliant. I love that he's a suckup, especially when it comes to combatting Dr. Z.

FranIAm said...

I.
Am.
Completely.
Awed.

Seriously- awed beyond awe.

DivaJood said...

FranIAm, thank you. You are making me blush.

Unconventional Conventionist said...

I see that there is a rift in the Jood camp over LAUNDRY! Hah! Yer underpants must not be that happy.

Mariamariacuchita said...

wowowow. Simply wonderful and riveting.

DivaJood said...

UC, no rift at all, and all our underpants are happy. Thrilled, in fact. So there!

Mariamaria, thank you! I am blushing.

Dean Wormer said...

Wow.

That is some wonderful writing.

You had me at "chihuaha."

DivaJood said...

Dean Wormer, do you have something against miniature Dobermans?

Randal Graves said...

If I wasn't a suckup, all I'd have left to fall back on would be my marketable skills. There's a reason I work in the public sector.

I wish I had some extra loot lying around, you would totally be my travel guru. Plus I bet you have the most literary brochures, by far. You could make Cleveland sound enticing.

DivaJood said...

Ah, Randal, when you win the lottery, you will travel in style. Besides, if you weren't a suck-up, I would not have tripled your salary.

NOBODY can make Cleveland sound interesting. I'm sorry, it's just not possible.

susan said...

I must join the 'WOW' chorus. What a wonderful piece of writing and you paint too?

The world will definitely be a brighter place once you take righteous charge of the Office of Preznident.

Randel should watch out or he might get his salary quadrupled and have to pay taxes. What's the rate on quadrupled nothing?

DivaJood said...

Susan, I think 4 x nothing is nothing. No taxes on that, I think. I don't know for sure. I'm a natural blonde.

enigma4ever said...

wow...good for you ..wow..still sitting here stunned...you brave wonderful lady...we gotta call Alan for you...

you are an all blonde wonder...

DivaJood said...

Enigma, I left the office today, after cleaing up everything. Ran final payments on two cruises. And left - I will give notice on Friday via email. I feel strange at this moment, unsure where this road leads, but surely glad to not have to listen to that little ferret's voice again.

Dianne said...

I absolutely adore you!

and you have managed to make me feel so less alone - thank you.

T.Allen-Mercado said...

"She" is an awe inspiring writer, great post.

Dusty said...

I love you Diva. This is so beautiful yet scary too.

Hugs sista..

Fran said...

Bravo!!!! You know you could have fun crafting that final notice-- unless you don;t want to bur the bridge....

I would love to start my resignation something like this:

To Whom it may concern:

Slavery was abolished in our Country in 1805.
........

D.K. Raed said...

Diva, this will work out for you! I just know it will. I spent the last 25-yrs working for myself and can truly say, it was the scariest but best thing I ever did. Only the first year was awful because I started with no client base. So see, you are already ahead of the game there.

ps, aren't they called "mini pins" (short for miniature pinschers)? I know this because my in-laws breed them for show dogs. I can't imagine a worse family pet (high strung doesn't even begin to cover their mental problems). But I'm happy to know there is at least one good one out there.

Spartacus said...

This is one of the most inspiring posts I have ever read, Diva. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for writing this. I know things are a bit rough right now, but that's right now; not tomorrow, not a few years down the road. All I can say is do what makes you happy...and if Alan Rickman or a fireman should darken your doorstep, all the better.

(I'll put in a good word to my FDNY friends for you.)

DivaJood said...

Dianne, thank you for that. If we all of us can feel a little less alone, that's a good thing. (oops, I just channelled my inner Martha Stewart.)

T.Allen, thank you. Your own work is inspiring. And "she" walked out of the office last night and hasn't looked back.

Dusty, back atcha. I'm just sort of out there now. Love you, sista!

Fran, omigod. I just nearly got hot tea in my nose. I love the idea of "To Whom It May Concern", actually. But no, I am going to write the sweetest piece of trash - I should post a version.

DK, it's the second guessing that can kill me: I "should" have done this earlier. I "should" blahblahblah. It's a steaming pile of "should". As for the dog, I am convinced that the combination of two high-strung breeds cancelled out the insanity - but Killer was a complete sweetheart.

Spartacus, thank you. If nothing else, the one thing I feel has happened from leaving this company is the opening of my ability to make art - be it visual or writing, I am going to pursue it. And pursue it as part of my job in travel, to tell the truth. And if you have friends in the FDNY, tell them from me that I think they are true heroes.

Mary Ellen said...

I would say that you should move back to Chicago, Diva, but then I think about the crappy winters and realize you'd probably be happier in CA. Besides, your governor could kick our governor's ass. Hell, I could kick Blago's ass.

I'm glad you're leaving your old company, and I'm sure you'll find something a lot better very soon.

Dean Wormer said...

Dean Wormer, do you have something against miniature Dobermans?

Maybe. A miniature doberman maliciously mauled my miniature model of Minneapolis.

HelenWheels said...

Diva, WONDERFUL writing. It IS scary as hell jumping ship. I did it 8 years ago and still manage to work at home. The exact thing you need will come along, all you gotta do is work on what you love.

I can so relate to your fears ... we are so alike... thanks for having the courage to write about it.