Monday, August 23, 2010

Woe is me

Bear's black shape is bundled in a heap on her bed. Her chin rests on a swell of yellow blanket, making her lips pool around her face.

"Are you okay Bear?" I ask with a hop and a skip in my voice, waiting for her standard reaction of a slapping tail against the ground that says, "Yes, I'm okay." But all I get is a pair of brown eyes slowly rolled up to look at me where I stand in the kitchen leaning on the railing that overlooks the entryway.

"Bear!" I say with enthusiasm, trying to excite a different response. Nothing. I expect Bear to lift her head, perk up her ears, flash me a hopeful expression, but she doesn't move. She's given up, resigned herself to her fate. To her complete and utter devastation she's been sentenced to live with Murdoch for an indefinite amount of time. The horror.

Looking down I see Murdoch sprawled on the floor, his big blocky head lies on the corner of Bear's bed. "Murd," I say and watch his body stiffen. The one eye I can see widens and looks sideways in my direction. "Get off Bear's bed."

Murdoch lifts his head, turns it towards me while he stretches all four legs straight out from his body, then flops his head back where it was. "Murdoch, come on." I open the baby gate to go down the stairs and Murdoch springs to his feet. He's beside me in two bounds swiping his tongue across my shin. Then, after shoving his shaggy face into my hand, his wide pink tongue spills across my palm. "Stop licking me," I say, pulling my hands up to my shoulders. "And relax, we're not going anywhere I came to see Bear."

As I kneel down beside my sad-eyed girl, Murdoch jams his giant head under my arm, knocking me over. I catch myself with my hand on Bear's bed while in one fluid motion Murdoch licks my face, slides down my bent leg to the ground, flips onto his back before he reaches the floor and squirms and slithers until his face is directly below mine, flailing black paws scrabbling at my arms. "You could rub my belly if you want."

I straighten from my crouched position, pushing his paws away from my face, and stand over him. "Murdoch, in kennel." In a blur he's on his feet, then walks casually into his kennel as though every ounce of hyper energy has evaporated from his body. I tell him to wait as I kneel down again and run my hands over Bear's silky, black head while her eyes grow rounder and stare deeply into mine. I put my forehead against hers, wrap my hands around the back of her neck, kiss her nose. "I'm sorry you have to live with him," I say, glancing sideways at Murdoch who sits with his toes right on the threshold of his kennel, watching us intently.

“But, it’s kind of your own fault,” I continue, turning to look at her again. Bear was exiled to the entryway after an ill-conceived pursuit of another dog left her with a badly injured leg that would barely take her weight. Morgan and I agreed she was banned from climbing the stairs. Her big brown eyes swallowed her face in a mix of panic and disbelief as we ascended to the kitchen and told her to stay, closing the gate behind us.

I gathered up Bear's bed, a yellow and lime green comforter, from her spot below the kitchen windows and carried it down the stairs, got her settled, then set her water dish beside her. Later, when I looked over the rail to check on Bear I found Murdoch sprawled on her bed after having polished off almost all of her water. Bear lay curled up at the bottom of the stairs in a sad lump. I spent the rest of the day orchestrating dogs and beds and water dishes as guilt descended on me like an anvil dropped off a cliff.

If it were left entirely up to me I would have relented in a heartbeat and dragged her bed back to the kitchen and winced while I watched her limp up the stairs. I admit it. I'm a pushover. Easily swayed by the bat of black, curled eyelashes over a set of deep golden-brown eyes.

"It's only six steps," I say to Morgan with a hesitant shrug. "Maybe she could manage those and she only has to go out a couple of times a day." Morgan just looks at me with an expression that says, "I know you and Bear are essentially one person, but she needs to do nothing."
I cast a forlorn glance over the railing down to where Bear lies, with her eyes closed, curled in a ball on the edge of her bed. Murdoch stretches his shaggy body along the other edge and for a moment I imagine his intensions are completely innocent, that perhaps he’s enjoying Bear’s company, trying to bond with her. Then I come to my senses. “Murdoch,” I say as I head down the stairs once more, “Get off Bear’s bed.”


  1. El Chatty...the HusbandAugust 24, 2010 at 1:45 AM

    So sad when taking Murds out to play and leaving Bear behind

    When I shut the door Bear looks at me with an all too familiar look of "this is crap!"

    And now that I think about I wonder if Bear and Heather work on that look together while I am away...


  2. Nice job here, Heather. You easily get what's inside your head to the outside of your head and then onto the blank page: sadness, guilt, concern, empathy, etc. Your muscular mind, artfully working the wordmines, speaks clearly to the reader and we see you in your world. More than that, though, we also see into the heads of Murdoch and Bear. Not so easy a task, I suspect. Murdoch softly wrestling you for attention; Murdoch, slipping into Bear's bed and challenging her natural primacy; poor limping and noble Bear imprisoned with smiling and devious Murds. You see, I know these dogs and yet I've never even seen Murdoch and have met Bear only once while in the sound avalanche of a screaming pipe band. A testament to your writing - these dogs breathe, think, feel. This entry steps off the white screen and runs deeply into the reader's head.