Shasta Grant

DOG WALKING


It all started and ended in the rain. They met outside of a cafť. Irene was sitting alone at a table and a man was juggling a cup of coffee and a leash with a dog on the end, while looking for a place to sit. All the tables were full so she offered him a chair at her table. He nodded agreeably and sat down.

"Whatís your dogís name?" she asked.

"Buckley," he said.

After the introductions they talked for a while and Irene liked the sound of his voice -- soft, yet masculine. She liked the way he talked to his dog -- not like a person but not like a baby either. He was a lawyer and he had strong hands and a sturdy smile. Irene was suddenly aware of everything she said and how she moved. She said things that were cleverer than her usual way of communicating, and she moved more gracefully than normal. Suddenly dark clouds moved overhead with the threat of rain.

"Well, Irene, looks like you should get inside before you get wet. And I should finish walking Buckley," Chad said.

"I like the rain. And Iím not made of sugar. I wonít melt," Irene said. The truth was that she hated the rain, but she wanted to keep talking to him. The hardest part about their relationship was remembering that she liked the rain. The rest was easy. Chad was beautiful and kind and they took long walks and he held her hand and was never the first to let go, but he wasnít smothering or overbearing or too perfect either. When he laughed, his tongue trilled up and down in his mouth, which strangely made him resemble a turtle. But she liked him anyway. When they were caught in the rain she had to suppress her natural instinct to tuck her chin into her chest and run. Instead she would throw her head back and let the rain hit her face. She could tell that Chad liked this free-spirited quality in her.

Theyíd been dating for two months when he asked her if she could walk his dog one day after work because he had a seminar and wouldnít be able to come home until late. She eagerly said yes, because it seemed like a very girlfriend-like thing to do. She liked his dog well enough. He was big and black and had floppy ears. He wasnít prone to licking or jumping which increased her affection for him.


"Iím walking Chadís dog after work," Irene said to Sandra, her co-worker across the hall.

"Why?" she asked with a sour face. Sandra didnít care for boyfriends or dogs.

"Because he asked me too. He has a conference or something. Iím so excited. I hope he behaves."

"Who -- Chad or the dog?" Sandra said.

"The dog," Irene answered, before she realized Sandra was joking.

"Want to have lunch at the pizza place?"

"Oh, canít. Iím having my hair colored at noon."


It began to rain slightly after 3:00 p.m. Irene and Sandra were in the office kitchen, sipping coffee and looking out the window.

"Do you think it will stop by five?" Irene asked.

"Doubtful. Itís coming down pretty hard."

"Maybe Chad will call and see if I still want to walk the dog. Since itís raining?"

"Donít count on it. You agreed to walk the dog. It wasnít contingent on the weather."

At 4:00 p.m., Irene sat down in Sandraís office, "I canít believe I have to walk that goddamn dog in an hour."

"Well, this morning you were quite pleased with yourself about walking the dog. Now itís the Ďgoddamní dog?"

"Itís raining. I hate the rain. Plus, I just got my hair colored and it will ruin it if I get my hair wet." Irene colored her hair blonde, but Chad didnít know that. He thought she was a natural blonde.

"Carry an umbrella," Sandra said.

"Oh, thatís useless while trying to walk a dog. I canít get my hair wet. Chad doesnít know that I color my hair."

"Just tell him you forgot to walk the dog. Pretend you thought it was tomorrow. The dog wonít die over it. Maybe you could bring one of those pads over. You know those things that dogs are supposed to pee on inside the house?"

"You think heíd go on it?"

"Itís worth a shot," Sandra said, "or maybe heíll just hold it until Chad gets home."


At 5:00 p.m. it was still raining. Raining isnít an accurate description though. It was pouring, coming down in sheets, a storm really. Irene devised a plan that she deemed quite clever. She ran into Chadís apartment, struggling briefly with the key he had given her the day before and which she wondered if she was to return or if it were hers to keep. Chadís apartment was elegant and masculine: brushed chrome fixtures, muted red furniture, and shiny hardwood floors. He had a closet full of expensive suits but he preferred to wear khakis or jeans. Buckley was anxious and excited inside. He jumped up and down, but not on her, just in place a few feet in front of her.

"Hey, Buckley boy," Irene said, stroking the dog.

The rain was striking the windows in the living room and she saw a flash of lightning. She explained the plan to Buckley and he just wagged his tail, which she took as a sign of agreement that he was in cahoots with her. Irene felt that in general, Buckley liked her, and he wouldnít want Chad to know that she was actually a brunette. Buckley was sworn to secrecy. Irene was slightly worried for herself that she was talking out loud to the dog.

She scurried Buckley into the kitchen, which was difficult because he kept angling for the door. She told him to sit and he did. She pulled at the spray hose from the sink and pointed it at the dog. He stood up and shook and the effect was that the floor was wetter than the dog. Next, she picked him up and put him in the shower. She turned the water on and he promptly jumped out. But he was sufficiently wet enough to look like he had been for a walk. She took a neatly folded towel out of the linen closet, where the towels were in precise alignment and stacked by color. She wiped Buckley off a little and mopped up the bathroom floor, then hung the towel over the shower curtain rod, like she had seen Chad do after walking the dog in the rain. Then she gave him fresh water and food and a treat at the last minute, for being so cooperative. She wrote a note for Chad that Buckley was very well behaved and she tried to dry him off from the walk in the rain as best she could. And that she would return at 8:00 p.m. as planned for dinner.


At 7:55 p.m., Irene knocked on Chadís door. She briefly thought of using her key and decided against it. He opened the door and his face was flushed.

"Hi," she said, walking into his apartment. He stared blankly at her, his eyes were cold, not wild with humor like usual. "Is everything okay?" she asked.

"I donít know. You tell me."

"What do you mean?" she felt her heart tighten and her pulse speed up.

"Did you take Buckley for a walk today?"

"Of course I did. Didnít you see my note?"

"Well, if you took him for a walk like you say you did, why did he piss and shit all over my bed?"

Irene stood frozen, with her mouth gaped open. She really thought the dog could hold it until Chad got home and took him out again. She saw the last two months flash before her in a series of overlapping motion pictures that made her dizzy and sick. Irene saw perfect Chad and imperfect her: checking her lipstick as she walked up the stairs to his apartment, smoothing out the wrinkles in her skirt before he opened the door, dreaming up sharp and witty things to say and then trying to fabricate conversations to weave the lines into, reading books and articles that were of no interest to her but that she thought would impress him. And perfect Chad whose clothes were never wrinkled and who said cunning and humorous things effortlessly and who never had a blemish on his face. She saw all this while her mouth opened and spoke without her permission.

"I hate the rain! There you have it, okay? I hate the rain! And I color my hair. Iím not really a blonde. So thatís it. Thatís the truth -- I hate the rain and I got my hair dyed today and I couldnít go walking in the rain or it would all come out and youíd know the awful truth about me: that I color my hair and I hate the rain."

"So you lied?"

"Well, if you want to call it that," she said.

Chad stood there and stared at Irene. She turned around and walked out, shutting the door behind her. She waited the obligatory fifteen seconds but he didnít come after her.






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