Writing

“Dog Track,” A Short Story by Little Dobes, Part II

Continued from Friday’s Part I, I now give you the conclusion to Matt Dobie’s “Dog Track.”

Dog Track

By Matt Dobie, my little bro

Ed began to stand, but Margaret clutched his hand and yanked him back to his seat. “You’re just going to leave me here, alone?”

“You’re not alone honey, Thatcher’s here to keep you company.”

She squeezed tighter. “You’re going to leave me here?”

“Don’t worry,” Ed pried her hand from his. “I’m leaving you in the loving hands of my good friend, Thatcher. I shall return momentarily.” Ed began to scoot down the aisle. Margaret stared him down, sending him the sad puppy-dog face in desperation.

“You better hurry. The third race is about to begin,” said Thatcher. Ed scampered away without responding.

“Why would Edward care if he missed the third race? He isn’t betting or anything is he?” said Margaret.

“N-no, no. It’s … that’s not it … it’s, uh …” Thatcher scratched his head as he fumbled over his words. “It’s just that, ya know. We come here every week, and you, you gain an attachment to certain dogs, especially Ed. You know how sentimental he can be. And one of Ed’s favorites is in the third race.”

“Oh, yeah? What is the dog’s name?”

“Hmm, you know, I don’t … Oh, I think it’s Beach Comber. Yeah, that sounds right. Beach Comber.” Thatcher dropped another empty cup to the floor. “Ya know, Miss Hummel. You got a great guy in Ed. I mean he really gives you special treatment.”

“Yes, he is a good man.”

“No, no. It’s more than that. He brought you to the tracks. This is our sanctuary. This is where the boys can be boys. No stress here, just an afternoon out with the guys. And he invited you to come along? That’s special.”

“If he thinks I’m so special why did he just leave me here alone?”

“Well, he just wanted us to get acquainted.” Thatcher swayed towards Margaret and flung his arm around her. “I have a feeling we are going to be the best of friends, Marg.”

She shrunk, trying to avoid as much contact as possible.Down the aisle came Clark, with his bald head reflecting the sunlight and a giant beer in his hand. “Hi, you must be Ed’s wife. I’m Clark.”

“Oh, so you’re the one with the turtle.”

“Yep, that’s me. So I guess you’ve already met Frankie.”

“Excuse me, but don’t you think it’s dangerous bringing a turtle to an outdoor event like this? I mean, a bird could get him or all the people around might frighten him. You never know what could happen.”

“Oh, it’s fine. Frankie’s a pro. He’s been doing this a long time. I never have to worry about him.”

“Nevertheless, he is still just a turtle. You never know what it might do if it feels threatened. He could run off or even bite someone.”

“Oh, he’s more than just a turtle, he’s my best friend. You just need to get to know him better. Here, pet him.” Clark dangled Frankie in front of Margaret’s face. “Come on, pet him.”

She recoiled in horror, ducking under Thatcher’s arm and using it as a shield. “No. Please, no.”

“Come on.”

She shivered and contorted. “No, seriously.”

“Come on,” Clark persisted.

“Get that turtle out of my face!” Margaret’s shrill voice echoed throughout the bleachers.

“Sorry,” said Clark sincerely. An awkward silence fell on the group as he placed Frankie gently back on the bench. He got out a small bottle cap, filled it with beer and placed it in front of his beloved pet.

“What are you doing?” asked Margaret.

“Oh, he’s just a little thirsty. He loves the stuff, but I only let him have a cap-full every Saturday.”

Margaret stared wide-eyed at Clark and said, “So now the turtle’s drinking beer? I don’t understand. Doesn’t that strike you as wrong?”

“Oh, it’s just a little bit. It’s not like he gets drunk.”

“I can’t believe this,” Margaret began to shake her head. “This is ridiculous.”

Ed returned wielding a smile and a bag of peanuts in hand. “So what did I miss?”

“Oh, honey. Thank God you’re back.” Margaret clung to his torso.

“Well,” said Thatcher. “Your boy lost in the third. Badly, too, I might add. And some no name won in the forth. The next race is about to begin.”

“Beach Comber blew it? Dammit. I mean, darn it.”

“Why would you care, Edward?”

“Oh, no reason. I just like him. That’s all.” Ed snuggled up to Margaret. “Here you go, sweetie. I brought you these to snack on.”

“Peanuts?”

“Yeah, is that okay?”

“They’re all salty and disgusting. I can’t eat these. I can’t believe you would even give them to me. What were you thinking?”

“I’m sorry, honey. I thought they would suffice.”

“Well, you thought wrong,” Margaret pouted. “And did you know he feeds that turtle beer?”

“Yeah, he likes it. Just a little bit, it couldn’t do any harm.”

“Are you kidding? I can’t believe you’re fine with it. What’s wrong with you and your friends? Letting a turtle drink beer is not okay! I’m still in disbelief that he would even bring a turtle to the dog tracks.”

“Why wouldn’t he? Frankie likes to watch.”

“Don’t raise your voice to me.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just, why would he deny his pet the pleasure? He enjoys watching the races.”

“So you’re siding with them?”

“Sides? There are no sides,” said Ed.

“Fine. Fine Edward. When can we leave?”

“Just after the seventh race. I want to stay at least that long.” Edward turned his attention towards the track. “Ah, man. Sunny Concern didn’t even show in the fifth.”

“Another one of your favorite dogs, dear?”

“Umm, yep. Yep, I’m been watching him for a while, now.”

“I see.”

“Don’t worry, sweetie. The seventh race will begin soon enough, and then we can leave.”

“And I can get away from these turtle abusers. It’s so irresponsible. I can’t believe he would bring such a delicate creature here,” Margaret muttered under her breath.

“Why wouldn’t he? He likes to watch!”

“I get it. I get it.”

Thatcher dropped the last empty cup to the floor and stumbled up to the fence, leaning on it for support. Ed followed right behind him. “I’m excited. The race is about to begin. I made the switch to Cactus Noel.”

Thatcher burped. “Good, good.”

And they’re off…

Frankie’s head followed the dogs down the track. Cactus Noel leading the pack, followed by Prickly Steve, followed by Miss Whirly Whirl.

“Come on, Cactus Noel. Go baby, go.” Ed pounded on the railing.

Miss Whirly Whirl is making a move. She passed Prickly Steve, now she and Cactus Noel are neck and neck heading down the backstretch.

“Come on, boy. Hold on. Hold on!”

And Cactus Noel is fading, fading fast. It looks like … yes! It’s going to be Miss Whirly Whirl, followed by Prickly Steve, followed by Cactus Noel.

“Dammit, dammit, dammit!” Ed stomped his feet on the ground.

“Yes, all right … oops.” In Thatcher’s drunken state he was unable to control his glee.

“What do you mean, ‘yes?’ Who did you pick in the seventh?”

“Ahh, man. Look, I’m sorry. That’s the way betting works. The more people that pick my dog, the less money I get. I didn’t mean to be a jerk, but I couldn’t have you picking the same dog as me.”

“Are you serious? You picked Miss Whirly Whirl and didn’t tell me?”

“I got to go collect my winnings.” Thatcher ran off, leaving Ed behind with his mouth hanging open in disbelief. Defeated, he slowly shuffled back to his seat and plopped next to his wife.

“Wait a minute, Edward. Did Miss Whirly Whirl just win race number seven?”

Ed nodded.

“No way. I can’t believe it. I won!”

“What? Wait a minute. You bet?”

“I know, it doesn’t seem like me, right? But I figured what’s the point in coming to a dog track if you’re not going to bet? And she had the cutest name so I picked her.”

Ed held his head in his hands, scratching his scalp vigorously.

“What a rush. I can’t believe I actually won. This is so exciting. I’ve never won something like this before. And the scenery here is so nice. The perfectly cut grass in the middle, the well tended track. This place is growing on me. I might want to come back next week.”

Ed’s shoulders slumped, and he stared down at floor, beaten.

Margaret’s eyes perked up. She nudged Ed, “Hey, you want to get a beer?”

***

Thanks for reading, everyone, and thanks again, Little Dobes, for allowing me to share your work with the world!

Wedding

A Bachelorette/College Reunion Week to Remember

I flew back to Phoenix Monday evening after eleven days in Ohio filled with wedding shenanigans, happy tears, and beer. I missed my Jake terribly (Ripley, too), and I’m indubitably happy to be home. Now looking back on my trip, I feel it was all very, very necessary. Yes, even the penis veil.

Susie's spectacular backyard.
Saturday the 20th of August was my bridal shower and bachelorette party. Was I nervous? Holy hell, yes. I don’t like to be the center of attention, especially when being the center involves opening kitchen utensils in front of twenty of my mom’s best friends. Aunt Susie, my Maid of Honor, made it a lot easier. Her yard looked like a magical fairyland. It usually does in August, living in the beautiful summer climate of Perrysburg, Ohio. She even picked fresh mint from her garden and made me a mojito as the guests arrived. It turned out not to be as scary as I expected. I’m a small talk diva, and my mom’s sangria helped.

I ran home and changed and then, at 6:30, was escorted to my bachelorette party. I need to say it again: my bachelorette party. It was so surreal! I’ve been to several bachelorette parties in my day, but it was always for someone else. It was never me getting married. Now, it’s ME! I’m getting married! I won’t get into all of it. I will say we drank quite a bit of tequila. My girlfriends—from elementary school through to post-college—got along as though they’d known each other for twenty years, and I wore several penis-adorned decorative items.

Randy, my stripper.
The best moment? We were at a bar when my gal pal January grabbed me and shoved me into a chair. Journey’s “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” started playing, and the door to the bar opened. I looked left and there was a man in naval garb. No, it wasn’t Jake. It was Jan’s husband, Randy—a dear friend of mine and Jake’s—and you guessed it, he performed a rousing strip routine down to his leopard-print boxers. It was … amazing. I was hung-over the next day, so my dad and I watched Lonesome Dove—all six hours of it. He had his usual beer and Cheez-its at 4:30 PM. I did not (blech).

Skip ahead to Thursday. If you do, yes, you’re skipping over great days and nights spent one-on-one with some of my favorite people. This trip was really about one-on-one time. The moments spent catching up with friends and family members are some of the most memorable moments of the past two weeks, which is why Thursday was so important. Not only did I get to spend countless hours with my little brother, but I spent those hours in Athens, Ohio, home of me and Matt’s alma mater, Ohio University, recently named the #1 party school in the country.

That Thursday night I was up until 5 AM. The night was spent eating at my favorite Athens restaurant, Casa Nueva, and drinking freshly handmade margaritas. It was spent at my favorite bars, cackling with my brother and some of his best friends (who were wonderful). After hours, Matt sang me the song he wrote for me and Jake’s wedding ceremony, and I sobbed. He said I once told him that great relationships are “easy.” There’s no drama, no muss, no fuss, only peace, love, and laughter.  The song he wrote for us is about that, and I hope he’ll soon find a woman who makes his life feel easy, too.

Little Dobes on Ohio University's College Green.
Friday morning, Matt and I walked around campus. We visited our old dorms. We walked across College Green and talked about life, my wedding, and Matt’s music. I’m so blessed to have my little brother. He’s one of my favorite people on earth, and I miss him almost every day. Before leaving town, we headed up to the old Athens Lunatic Asylum—a decrepit insane asylum that opened in the late 1800s and closed in the early 1990s. As students, we used to sneak up there at night and scare the crap out of each other. It’s easy to do, even in daylight, but it was the perfect end to my Athens adventure, and I bit back tears when I said goodbye to Little Dobes.

Over the weekend, I got to meet an old friend’s new beau, who I adored. We had a lovely dinner party together—the kind you only see in movies—while sitting on the back porch, overlooking a huge pond in her backyard. I walked among lightning bugs, and we listened to screaming cicadas. Saturday, I saw a different old friend get married. She looked like a Barbie doll princess, and we danced and rejoiced, while looking at each other knowingly as she said, “You’re next …”

And I am next. I’m getting married November 12th! By Monday, all I wanted was my fellah—my future husband. I flew out from Detroit Monday night. My suitcase weighed exactly 49 pounds, filled with embarrassing gag gifts and bridal shower paraphernalia. I cried a little pre-plane. I guess it’s because I know the next time I see all my friends and family, it will be the week of my wedding, and I can’t wait. I’m getting married, and I couldn’t ask for a better circle of friends, better family, or better husband-to-be in Jake. I am so blessed, and well, this trip was a constant reminder of all God has given me. Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful trip home. And thank everyone who made it just right!

Music

Music Will Move You

Every congregant at Christ Presbyterian Church in Goodyear is blessed to have a piano player like Paul Tipei. Jake and I knew this our first Sunday there, directly following the doxology. Paul was born in 1987; he’s from Romania, but he currently attends Arizona State. I’ve asked him to play in our wedding, and this past Sunday, he played a concert at our church, featuring Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21.

Have you ever heard Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21? If you haven’t, you should hear it—right now, by heading to YouTube. Go on, head over. You can play it in the background while you read. Granted, these things are always better live, and Paul did a stellar job on Sunday (even better than the YouTube version). But the concert Sunday did so much more than make me pray for Paul’s availability on November 12. It made me remember classical music.

How could I ever forget? ME! I used to listen to Chopin constantly in high school. Some nerds in the science community said it made studying more effective. That’s how it started—I wanted to be better at school. Soon, the random Chopin CD (I think it was his etudes) served as a distraction. I stopped studying, closed my eyes, and listened to the music. Switch gears, right now, and stop listening to Beethoven. Listen to Chopin and my personal favorite, Etude Op. 10, No. 3. I tried taking piano lessons as a child, and I hated them. Yet, I loved the sound of someone else playing piano. I still do—always will—but I’ll get back to that in a moment …

The Rent classic song, "La Vie Boheme."
Also when I was in high school, my crazy Uncle Barney used to take me estate sale shopping all over Toledo. We discovered some wonderful finds, but more importantly, we connected. Barney and I were very much alike, artistically and musically. He introduced me to Giacomo Puccini—Italian composer of Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, and Tosca. Think you’ve never heard his music? When you’re done sobbing over Chopin, listen to O Soave Fanciulla! Not only was this the song obsessed over in 1987’s Moonstruck, but Jonathan Larson used Puccini’s chords in his late-nineties iconic musical, Rent. I literally rock out to this whenever I’m upset. I crank it up, because you can’t be sad when music is so lovely.

Back to piano … I didn’t fall in love with jazz piano until I lived in Charleston, SC. At Charleston Grill, I used to go see this drummer, Quentin Baxter. Quentin was an impeccable jazz drummer. You couldn’t help but stare at the guy, and he often had an entourage of equally talented musicians to surround him—namely, several jazz piano players. (You can hear a sample of the music when you click on the Charleston Grill website.)

Quentin Baxter on drums at Charleston Grill.
I spent many a late evening sipping cocktails and ignoring friends at the Grill. It’s what really good live music does; I go away to my own little place, where only the music can touch me. This is why I still sing the blues. When I sing Billie Holiday, I go to that quiet place, too, and nothing reaches me there—no worry, no stress, and no anxiety. It’s just me and the music.

Have you heard enough music for one day? Do you feel highbrow, with all this classical music, opera, and jazz? Well beautiful music ain’t always classy. An epic song (that I’ve written about before) comes from Band of Horses. It’s called “The Funeral,” and most recently, you saw it in the trailer for Oscar-nominated film, 127 Hours.

My little bro’s music kills me every time, too. He’s writing a song for the wedding, and I know it’s going to break me. Seriously, I can barely hear his music without getting teary. Here he is singing his song “Desert Breeze.” (See, I’m almost crying again. DAMN IT.)

Music doesn’t have to be classical to be respectable. It doesn’t have to be Italian opera to lift you up and carry you away. It doesn’t even have to be live (although it helps). It just has to reach you, where you are, right now, and make you move—inside or out. What have you been listening to lately? What should I know about?