Friday, May 21, 2010

Alpha Dogs and Pomeranians

There was a heavy male scent in the air that was making the hackles on the back of Rex's neck stand up.  It was redolent of sweat, aggression and a touch of desperation, testosterone and the faint metallic whiff of dogs pissing on fire hydrants, delineating territory, territory that wasn't theirs to mark.

The bitches in the vicinity were feigning interest in grooming, licking their paws, preening, sniffing each others ears and making soft snuffling noises to each other.  They knew better than to get involved, the risk of getting nipped in the process, maybe losing a piece of their ear, and for what?  To best some dog whose entire feeling of self-worth was based upon the outcome of a brief skirmish with a bunch of other dogs: loud barking, staring each other down, ritualistic humping.  The girls were above all that, wisely, although it might mean they were staring up at an invisible career ceiling.

Rex felt a growl coming up in the back of his throat.  He wasn't looking at the vain, hyperactive Schnauzer who was aggravating him, but he was monitoring him closely -- he bore watching, unpredictable little shit that he was.  Rex felt the nearly uncontrollable need to walk up behind him, lift his leg and wet him down -- but there was a bit too much of that going on in this boardroom filled with representatives from client and agency offices around the world.

Rex and his client sat silently, both leaning back, waiting.  Waiting for the opportunity that they'd make happen.  The unspoken agreement between them was that this was Rex's turf and his meeting.  The Schnauzer, mistakenly, thought it was his -- after all, he'd called the meeting.  He'd learn.  He was younger and, in experience terms (where you live and learn or you don't live long), had half of Rex's years fighting in the pit.  The Schnauzer's ego, however, filled the room.

Rex stretched out in his chair, fingers linked above and behind his head, his feet extended out under the table in front of him into the circle of tables, examining the ceiling tiles.  A couple of women from the Durban office were watching him, smiling and tittering to each other.  He didn't notice.  His colleague from the media department did and she fixed them with a stare that cut off their staring and tittering.  Territory was being marked out among the bitches in the room as well, it turned out.

The Schnauzer stood and cleared his throat.  The chatter died out.

What had transpired was that the Schnauzer and his client, a sullen looking, shaggy German Shepherd who contributed little vocally outside of whispered commiserations with the Schnauzer, had bungled a commercial shoot that was being paid for out of an international financial pool and were now trying to justify getting everyone in the room to pony-up to pay for their mistake.  They hadn't accepted blame, however, it was being positioned as an "add-on," a second shoot to improve upon the first, to contribute additional material to the "film clip library."  No one was buying it (well, Rex wasn't sure about the South African girls...).

"So, we revisited the numbers, talked to the production company and there's really nothing we can do to lower the cost of the second shoot, everyone is going to have to contribute their 'fair share'."

Unwittingly the Schnauzer had just sealed his fate.  He'd used the trigger word: "fair".  If there was anything that pushed Rex's buttons, it was aggressive people who ran roughshod over other's needs, feelings, or toes.  "Un-fairness" made Rex see red.  His head cocked and dipped slightly.

A series of grunts of derision, barks of protest and howls of disbelief went round the circle of tables like a wave in a football stadium....until it reached Rex.  There was a moment of quiet as he leaned well forward across the table on his elbows, his hands clasped in front of him, his cheek resting on them as he stared at the Schnauzer who was standing, fingertips on the table, a smug look of determination on his face as he looked back and forth at the assembled crowd, fancying himself quite the Ring Master.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rex Does the Bossa Nova

He was dreaming, and it wasn't your typical canine dream, his legs weren't running across an imaginary field, Rex was flying.  He'd learned that if he jumped high enough, using all the strength in his hind quarters, then clawed the air above him as hard as he could with his forepaws, he could get enough altitude to stay in the air then, like "UnderDog," he could point his paws and fly, twisting and spiraling to check out what was happening down on the ground just like an eagle.

Rex was flying through a cloud above a group of females, all of them looking quite delectable, their yips and yaps drifting up, their scents wafting in eddies and puffs of warm air.  He was a happy dog, doing what other dogs couldn't.  He smiled a toothy smile, panting, soaring, as the dog voices changed, morphed, became human -- annoying human voices, feminine, "...then the cute guy said...," "NO WAY!  She wasn't even there!  HE was the one..."

He realized he wasn't flying anymore.  He was lying back, napping.  He was jiggling, too.  It was kind of nice, the jiggling.  Relaxing.  He thought about going back to sleep.  He opened one eye, seeking the source of the human voices.  Some annoying teenagers.  Females.  He'd like to bite the high-pitched one, not to hurt her, just to let her know his kind didn't like her pitch, volume or incessant need to blather on.

His doggy senses tingled and his open eye shifted to the right.  A female sat looking at him curiously, her head tipped to one side.  He opened the other eye and looked away, suddenly concerned that perhaps he'd been drooling.  He straightened out a little, bringing up one forepaw to wipe his muzzle.  He looked back.  She was still staring at him, a bemused look on her face.  Ah, she was also listening to the girls -- or maybe she was amused at them AND him.

Rex felt his collar.  Bare.  Hm, he'd taken off the black bow tie, he recalled. and had stuffed it in the pocket of his tux jacket when he'd entered the subway car and sat down.  The formal function had been one notch past tedious and the last glass of wine had contributed to his having drifted off.  He sat up a bit straighter and lifted his head off the ad poster behind him, looked down at his shoes stretched out in front of him, took a look at his watch, wondered how many stops he'd slept through.  The girls' gossip was grating.

He snuck another glance up.  She was still eyeing him.  He chewed on the inside of one cheek.  There was a Nine West shoebox on the seat beside her.   She had a tight skirt on and had legs like a dancer's.  He stirred, cleared his throat, "What did you buy?" he ventured, his chin gesturing toward the box.  She looked surprised, then said in a strong accent "Ah... Shoes."  He smiled and held her eyes, his dancing,  "Yes, last time I checked, shoes come in boxes just like that one."  She smiled, embarrassed, and looked down at the box.

She was actually very pretty, about 30-something, too pretty to be riding the subway at midnight alone, he thought.  Dark hair, longish face, high cheekbones, a Borzoi, he judged.  His protective radar switched on and he quickly scanned the car for predators before his attention returned to her. The coast was clear but she misinterpreted his surveillance and suddenly became wary, picking up the box and wrapping her arms around it protectively.  "I like the shoes at Nine West.  Always very classy" he said and shifted his head to read the station name as the train drew to a stop.  Crap, he'd missed his transfer station.
Three rambunctious young males came bursting into the car through the door facing her like a pack of

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rex Likes Poodles

Tapping into what he was thinking as he sat out beside the sidewalk staring intently at a passing Poodle’s wagging hindquarters, scratching absently behind one ear, most people would say Rex was just a dog.  Most people would be misreading him.  Rex was more than met the eye.

The Poodle turned the corner and left little for him to remember her by other than strong whiff of some expensive shampoo.  She left his brain.  Rex tended to live in the moment, even while his brain was planning for the future.  He yawned, languorously, got up and stretched, drawing out the moment while waiting for an impulse to strike him. 

Other dogs fretted over where the next meal was going to come from, which female in the neighbourhood was in heat (and which ones they might stand a chance with), whether or not they were going to get in trouble for making a mess of the living room.  Rex wondered whether or not, if you told a girl dog you thought she smelled like warm honey, she'd let you have your evil way with her faster than if you told her you thought she was pretty. 

Rex was bored and thinking, as he often did, about why humans did what they did.  Such a fascinating species Homo sapiens sapiens.  So complicated versus Canis lupus familaris, the "domestic dog."  

Satisfying a sudden itch Rex rubbed the right side of his nose vigorously with the back of his right paw.  A few Bulldogs waddled by, several cougars slinking, a couple of sabre-toothed tigers, many of them casting him a sidelong glance, a tentative sniff in his direction, but there were no Poodles in sight.

He pulled out his iPhone, checked for news from his online dating accounts and put it back in his shirt pocket.  His jeans were pushing his ‘package’ to one side and he shoved his hands in his pockets to rearrange things as surreptitiously as he could while leaning against a wall on a busy street in the city's bustling business district.

Another Poodle approached from up the street, her teased-out mane framing an attractive, though not striking, set of features.  Her snout was a bit long for her face, he mused.  She looked at him as he started his assessment down at her clacking wedges and worked his way up the A-line skirt, the ringless left hand, narrow waist, smallish B-cups and long neck, sipping her like a iced cocktail in a tall glass.  She rewarded his attention with a frigid glare.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cave-Dog

It was dark, dark and dank in the back of the cave.  Rex was licking his wounds, metaphorically speaking.  He felt the wall behind him pressing against his tailbone.  It felt good, familiar.  He'd backed in and the walls closing tight around him felt cozy, in a way that probably wasn't healthy.

He laid his chin on his paws slowly, a long, slow release of breath escaping his nostrils.  There was light at the end of his tunnel, but he'd backed in, away from it.  He'd been there, in his sanctuary, for a long, long while.


Dogs didn't measure time like humans did, but still, he knew he'd been in there too long.   His flanks were still taught, well-muscled, but his jowls were showing the first signs of grey.

He craved release, but coveted the lone wolf's monastic solitude.  He cherished the tragic hero's fate.  He longed for so much more, but contented himself with so little.

In many ways he was used to, comfortable with, licking his wounds.  In many ways he didn't want to face the cold light of day.  In many ways (most?), Rex was a beaten dog.  Living in the past.  Defeated.  Too many years of being "woman's best friend" (and emotional doormat), too much "unconditional love," not enough "alpha male time." He had always been that guy, he'd been Rex....before. But that was then and this was now.

Inside his head another voice hummed a little tune, a Duke Ellington number...


Not quite Rex's taste, he preferred melancholy country ballads in his current state of mind. He blocked out the noise and it got mournfully quiet again.

The future smiled at him.  It winked, beckoned -- a swelling belly full of potential.  The past tugged, clung, heavy with portent, light on levity, void of promise, barren.  He'd been turning back, inward for so long, it had become habit.  It was nice and dark back there in the shadows...

She'd taken him from him.  Hadn't intended to do it, hadn't planned it, hadn't even willed it into being,  but there it was.  And it hadn't been 'surgical', it had involved a bludgeon.  All those years, all that love, that intensity, that hope, those dreams -- blip...

And that was all Rex had to say about that, Forrest.

Rex rose to his feet, yawned, gave himself a vigorous shake.  He looked out at the light.  He licked his chops, lifted his snout and sniffed. He looked back at the black cave wall, worn smooth by his hindquarters.  His gaze shifted outward again.  In the dead stillness he heard another voice, female.  In the silence she said "I love you".  He blinked.  Sound where there wasn't a pin-drop.

Inside his head, he realized it wasn't a voice from the past -- she'd never said it before -- he'd heard it in the present.

Something had just happened inside his insides, like a capillary bursting in his left ventricle, a small aneurysm going 'pop' in his right hemisphere.  No -- it took place deeper in his brain, in the 'reptilian' brain, a fundamental change.  Suddenly he felt, rather than reasoned, that there'd be a similar, but different, voice in the future who would say those words.

Another blink.  Rex realized he had things to do, dreams to give life to, stories to tell and people who needed him, he'd just forgotten for a time.  He'd thawed out and needed to step out of the puddle of melted ice he'd been soaking in.

He took a step, then another, then broke into a loping run.  He burst out of the cave's entrance and kept going.  The light was bright, near blinding after the darkness.  He didn't look back.  He didn't have to.

The cave didn't care.  It just was.  Silent, dark, empty, healing, restorative, somewhere on Mars, awaiting another beaten, broken dog...
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