Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Deception (#196)

Deception is almost always an unpleasant bit of business, isn’t it? Sure, a situation might develop wherein one might ethically use deceit, like in the classic, do-I-look-chubby-in-this-muumuu? example.

One might also hide intentions, along with a gift or two, when it comes to a surprise birthday party. Nothing wrong with deceit there.

Deception becomes a problem when it starts occurring regularly in a relationship. We’ve all been there haven’t we? Betrayed by a lover. Stung. Angry. Confused. We become temporary (usually) students of the school of Men/Women-Are-No-Darn-Good. But eventually our wounded psyche heals and we decide to give love another shot.

From a lover, from ambitious co-workers, from those kindly folks phoning and ringing doorbells to offer us wonderful goodies, deception can be expected at some point along life’s path. But how does one deal with it when it comes from man’s best friend, from that most loyal and noble of companions?

Yes. Sadly, I’ve discovered Benny is a four-legged fibber.

Look at this face:

Hard to believe isn’t it? Yet daily, I am confronted by the evidence.

Here’s the sad story:

Ben is crate-trained which basically means he sleeps in a wire cage. It’s not bad. He has a cot, a teensy window, a toilet in the corner and a slot for his food tray.

Hehehe. Almost had you going there, didn’t I? Admit it. Hehehe.

Kidding about the prison thing. Ben’s crate has a bed and a pillow (I spoil that animal) and has always represented a safe place for sleep and for transport. It sits beside Lucy The Parrot’s cage near the front living room window and when at home, we lay a pad across its top. Ben likes to sit atop the crate. From there, he can keep an eye on the front yard in between catching a few winks in the sun. It’s also where he can be seen every time I back out of the driveway to go somewhere. Without fail, every time he realizes I’m leaving the house without him, he leaps onto his crate to watch me go.

Now, I need you folks to picture this. My house is laid out in such a way that upon entering the front door, one can see through the hall, directly into my office/library/den. Behind my desk are sliding glass doors leading to the backyard. Anyone entering the front door has a clear view of those rear doors. Ben long ago determined that our backyard was to be a squirrel-free zone. And rabbit-free. And occasionally mourning dove-free. But squirrels are the main bane of his existence.

So, particularly when I’m in the room, he spends much of his day staring through, lounging beside, or hurling himself at, those glass doors.

Several weeks ago, upon returning from a short errand, I walked through the front door and saw a rear-view of Ben gazing out those patio doors. It was impressive. He was the very Poster Pup of vigilance. His back was ramrod straight, tail erect and unquivering. His ears were perked forward. He did not so much as twitch at the sound of my arrival, let alone do his usual Daddy’s Home! leaping and bouncing off various parts of my anatomy.

This dog was On The Job.

Over the next week or two, the same tableau was presented to my eyes every time I came home from an errand.

I was touched. How comforting to know I could go to the grocery store for 15 minutes, secure in the knowledge that my house would not be teeming with squirrels upon my return. Surely such devotion to duty warranted a treat and an extra dollop of gravy in his evening kibble.

And then it happened.

I guess he wasn’t expecting me home so soon and I caught him red-pawed. As I pulled into the driveway, I saw him through the front window, lifting his head as if from a sound sleep. But, by the time I entered the house some 12 seconds later, he was standing at those rear patio doors, ears, back and tail erect - guarding his fool head off. He didn’t even turn around when I called his name, though his tail wagged once.

I told the boys and Hilary about it and each has now witnessed his deception several times themselves. We’ve all watched him jump off his crate upon our return to the driveway, only to find that seconds later, he has traversed the width of the house and negotiated a set of stairs to pose in front of those patio doors.

So there you have it. Canine deceit. Who’da thunk it? After mulling a while, I decided there’s not much point in talking to him about it. We’d both just be embarrassed. So, everybody pretends we don’t know that he’s only pretending to guard the backyard while we’re gone.

He still gets some gravy or soup mixed into his kibble. He might not guard real well but he’s a heck of an actor.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Life Less Ordinary (#195)

I knew living an ordinary life was not for me when I was seven or eight (or nine, heck I can’t recall exactly) years old and broke Billy McIntyre’s arrow.

Billy was a couple of years older and lived next door. We didn’t go to the same school and weren’t exactly friends but obviously we knew each other. I was a little afraid of him. He was big and had a temper and wasn’t averse to beating someone up.

Back then in the 1950s, at our ages, “beating someone up” meant cuffing them a few times and shoving them down on the ground. You might end up with a few scrapes and a bloody nose. Nobody died and most guys wouldn’t even tell their Mom - as long as they could cover up the evidence - but it still wasn’t much fun being on the receiving end.

At the time, we lived in very modest part of a small working class city. Billy was an only child and probably the kid on our street who came closest to being rich. He never wore hand-me-downs from his cousins and always got really neat stuff for his birthday and Christmas and sometimes just because.

One summer day I went outside to see Billy in his backyard shooting a for-real bow and arrow. I could hardly believe my eyes. It was just like the ones on tv and in Dad’s hunting and fishing magazines. There were no rubber cups on the end of those missiles. The business ends of the arrows were metal, rounded but conical, and with something of a tapered tip.

It would likely bounce off a bear but you could certainly put someone’s eye out with it. My mother would have a fit if she saw me shooting one.

So I had to work fast.

I hopped the fence over to Billy’s yard and starting chatting. I remember acting cool, like it was an everyday thing for me to be talking with someone who was shooting a for-real bow and arrow into a target pinned onto stacked bales of hay.

I watched him for a few minutes and casually asked if I could take a couple of shots. He said maybe later. He had to go in for lunch soon.

I was in agony. Every minute I waited brought my mother a minute closer to seeing what I was up to and forbidding it.

About two eternities later, Billy’s mother finally called him in for lunch. He looked at the bow in his hand and then at me.

“If you wreck it, I’ll kill you.”

I barely heard him. I took the bow and fetched the arrows from the hay. There were only two. That was fine. One would have been perfect.

I walked to the back of Billy’s house, as far from the target as I could get. As I notched the arrow to the bowstring, I was struck by a thought: I wonder how high I can shoot this thing?

I squinted up into cloudless summer blue and decided to find out. I bet it would go three or four times higher than a house.

I drew back the bow and aimed nearly straight up, then fired. I watched, delighted, as the arrow soared skyward, impossibly high, tilted, and began its earthward plummet. It landed, quivering slightly, nearly at the foot of the hay bales at the end of the yard.


I notched the second arrow, pointed skyward, pulled and watched - watched as the arrow followed a similar trajectory to the first. Watched, with mixed horror and delight as it followed the exact trajectory of the first and landed atop it - splitting the first arrow down the middle.

Holy Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the saints!

I walked over, not quite believing my eyes. Bending down, I marveled at the perfectly bisected arrow.

My amazement was tinged with dread, of course. I had a hunch Billy’s focus might be on the ruined arrow instead of where it belonged -- on the phenomenal circumstance that resulted in the ruination.

Now here we are at the end of the story and I can’t help but feel I’m going to cheat you folks a little. I honestly don’t recall if Billy beat me up or not. It was immaterial, really. What I took from the day is a perfect recollection of that brilliant blue sky and a deep-seated sense that the extraordinary could be just around the next corner.