Category: Animal Fiction


Chapter 16 Best Dog

I remember Patsy’s wedding. It drove the whole Spencer family up the wall. Nobody spoke to each other for months afterwards. To this day I know all the bad feelings are only underground ready to surface during the next big fight. The only Spencer who was cool through the whole thing was Auntie Buffy. She is Mamoo’s sister who never gets upset over anything. At least, not when I’m around.
Actually, Patsy getting married caused Mamoo to start wandering about the world with me. I remember the day, a cold day in January when Patsy called to say she was going to get married. Mamoo felt really left out because she hardly knew the groom-to-be, and figured rightly she would be used as a way to a big glamorous wedding with none of the fun and all of the work.
Work she did! Patsy screamed at her morning, noon and night. I learned my whole vocabulary of nasty words from those two. The phone rang every five minutes. Ella Mae even came to stay because Mamoo had attacks at night. Most of the time Mamoo held her stomach in pain. I learned later that she had a rock inside herself. She went to the people vet and he took a knife and cut it out. Isn’t Mamoo brave?
She came back from there all bandaged up and moaning. She couldn’t get out of bed for days and had a little bottle with a small round stone she showed to anyone who would listen. I started sleeping by her bed at night to let her know I would be there to watch while she slept. It was at this time we really became friends.
Ella Mae came to stay with her while she was on her “bed of pain” and the two of them complained about their respective children morning, noon and night.
“Nobody appreciates my hard work and all the effort. Nobody helps me. I hope I am around when their children grow up. Then they will see,” they chorused.
The two of them whined and moaned and chain-smoked cigarettes until my lungs coughed and wheezed. Ella Mae drove a big black Cadillac car and smoked Kools. I can see the green cellophane pack in my dreams. She had a way of letting the cigarette hang out of her mouth that defied gravity. The filter tip sorta attached itself to the side of her bottom lip and stayed there until it burned all the way down. The ashes dropped wherever they wanted. She squinted one eye as the smoke curled around her ear and a little hack of a cough would follow every time she sucked in the smoke.
Her skin was chocolate brown color and her hair was done in tight little black and white curls all over her head. She still didn’t like me but since she knew I was on Mamoo’s side in the family feud, she appreciated the way I would stand by Mamoo and protect her against her bosom enemies.
At the same time, P.J. was trying extra hard to get in everybody’s hair. Mamoo would ask him to do something and he would sit there as if he couldn’t hear. Auntie Buffy went out into the kitchen after Mamoo had asked for something the third time and found him sprawled at the table eating cookies.
“P.J.” she said, “Why don’t you do what your mother asks?” “Oh, she hasn’t gotten warmed up, yet. I like to wait until the steam starts coming out of her ears.” See what I mean, jellybean?
Ella Mae kept saying “Oh Lawd” and Mamoo mumbled under her breath about the things she was going to do to when her “ship came in”.
The deliveryman came daily with armloads of prettily wrapped boxes. Patsy would come over to unwrap each one, discuss the cheapness or the generosity of the senders, and argue with Mamoo about everything concerning the wedding, as if Mamoo had never given a party and Patsy was Martha Stewart.
It seemed to me that Patsy was really good at spending Mamoo’s money but wouldn’t let loose of a dime of her own. “But it’s MY wedding!” and “You promised” echoed through the house unendingly.
Ashley was all caught up in it too.
“You ought to see the dress, all lace and silk; we are going to live in a big house in a big city. I’m going to have my own backyard” and “there is so much going on I never seem to get enough sleep,” she chattered constantly, blown away with her self-importance.
Up and down the stairs, under the beds and darting crazily around the living room floors, she couldn’t keep still. My ears hurt, my eyes stung and my paws itched to slap her one, to quiet her down.
The big day finally came-and went. All I heard about the whole mess was Patsy and her husband taking Mamoo's car when they left the party and leaving Mamoo stranded.
“And there I was, Sam, with armloads of dirty linens and boxes of dirty dishes. I had to get a ride home with the caterers.”
I was, therefore, after all the past misery, surprised to hear Mamoo tell Uncle Michael she wanted a wedding.
“A small, simple ceremony, Michael, for only the immediate family.” Have you seen Mamoo’s family? There isn’t a Days Inn big enough to hold them all. “Nothing elaborate, you understand,” she murmured, “only the barest of necessities.”
I tried to tell Uncle Michael to go somewhere and hide until it was over but he didn't listen. He still had that stupid grin on his face. Mamoo has three closets full of clothes she never wears, boxes of used Christmas lights with one bulb out, and twenty-seven different kinds of vitamins she forgets to take. Elaborate, HA! she wrote the book! Uncle Michael has only been shopping three times with Mamoo I have been many, many times and I know.
“Now that I have my schoolgirl figure back I can get something terrific to wear,” she exclaimed as she stirred wheat germ into a dish of cottage cheese, “I think blue with maybe a perky little hat. What do you say, Sam?”
I don’t know what school Mamoo went to but she isn’t going to blow away with the first wind coming over the ocean. There is still plenty of her to go around.
She gets lots of catalogues in the mail with pictures of dresses and, of course, new underwear. She calls out numbers over the phone and, would you believe, a few days later boxes come with dresses and underwear in them. This underwear, though, has lace trim. Some of it is black and some pink. It certainly wasn’t the plain, old, white, cotton numbers she has been wearing. She is constantly trying it on and looking over her shoulder in the mirrors on the doors in the bedroom. She even has a pair of high-heeled shoes like ex-Boss Lady had. Mamoo can’t walk in them very well, and staggers around holding on to the chair backs. I hope she doesn’t break her leg before the ceremony. Thank God the churches have benches all the way up the aisles. If she works it right she will have the pew backs to break her fall as she totters up to the altar.
“We have to go up to Miami for the family inspection. After all, Michael, no one has met you. They probably figure you are a figment of my imagination.”
Wait until he sees that group. Unkie will have him in a game of Scrabble before you know it (I hope Uncle Michael is cool enough to lose) and Gaga will want to know if he hates someone named Clinton. If he doesn’t, she will make sure he does before he leaves. Mamoo and Gaga get in fierce fights over poor Mr. Clinton. He is the president of the U S of A and Gaga wants him to be the dog-catcher. I really would like to have a say in it. After all, it’s my life.
“It's OK, Peggy, I’m Canadian,” Uncle Michael explains, “I can plead ignorance.”
“That’s what you think, Michael, Americans know nothing about Canadian politics but expect you to know all about ours. Be prepared.”
We loaded ourselves up into the new car (Beula having had a nervous breakdown) and off we went to Miami to meet the folks. I was allowed to go because Uncle Michael was to stay at Unkie's house and I am staying with Unkie too. As predicted, Uncle Michael was immediately glommed into a Scrabble game that went on for the entire weekend. I watched them playing out of the corner of my eye, through the big patio doors, as I dug into a soft pile of peat moss, and wondered if Unkie would be cross if he lost like he usually did. Uncle Michael goes to church all the time as does UnkieÖ lots to talk about there.
The first night we were there, Unkie’s wife Bitsy cooked a big dinner for everyone; all the big cousins and little cousins even baby cousins. I can't count but it was a house full. Many were sitting on the stairs and out in the yard. Mean Marvin was there. He stood around glaring at me as if I had rolled in a dead rat. He is the least favorite cousin. He stands around listening in on everyone’s conversations jotting down notes for future reference. Auntie Buffy says he is a Russian spy.
“How do you like our president,” Gaga asked pointedly, “Do the Canadians think he is a good example for the world? How do you all like having a country to the South of you run by such a big crook?”
The room got very quiet as every head swiveled in Uncle Michael’s direction. I sat at his feet by the Scrabble table in case he needed protection. Mamoo usually runs interference on items such as this, but she had dashed off to the powder room to fix her face. Too bad, she will miss the action. She has told me many times she is the only liberal in a family of John Birchers.
“I can never win an argument, Sam, as they outnumber me and together they can scream louder.”
I can see her point. Poor Uncle Michael, he is in a “no win” situation. If he says he likes Mr. Clinton, they will all think he's stupid and if he says he hasn’t thought about it they will also think he's stupid. If he agrees with them, Mamoo will send him packing. The doorbell rang, admitting more relatives, and letting Uncle Michael off the hook for the time being.
“That was a close call, Sam,” he whispered, “I really did not know what I was going to say.”
How could I tell him that I was prepared to poop on the rug, if necessary, to deflect attention away from the political scene?
Bitsy announced dinner and everyone crowded around the table stabbing hunks of barbecue chicken off a big platter.
“Watch that fork, Marvin, you almost got me!” snapped Mamoo. No love lost there.
I wandered into a spicy garbage can in the kitchen when the noise level got too much for me. A quick nibble and a fast dash out the back door provided me with a delightful al fresco snack. As I lay out under the stars I could hear Unkie crowing, “Don’t leave now, I got ADZ triple word play.”
The whole weekend was more of the same. On the way home, Mamoo asked, “Do you still want to marry me after meeting the family? I am sure Little Nell didn’t mean to drop her ice cream on your lap.”
No, she meant to drop it over by me, so I could get a mouthful. Clumsy little kid.
“All my friends would rather come to the Keys for the wedding than freeze to death in Montreal. I hope there are enough rooms in the local motels,” Uncle Michael announce one morning as he dug into a juicy ruby grapefruit.
“It would certainly be easier on my group, too,” replied Mamoo as she wiped grapefruit juice out of her eyes. “We can go talk to Father Bob about it today after Mass. I would like it if your friend, the Monsignor, would officiate. Father Bob isn't my favorite priest, he’s too young to know any Latin. Do we have to get permission from somebody or a state license or something?”
“To get married?”
“No; permission for Monsignor to marry us in the state of Florida.”
Each one had a pile of note cards and a list of names. They wrote them one by one while sitting at the dining room table. It was done in a few days with no cross words and lots of laughter.
“I can’t wait ëtil you meet my sister, Buffy. She will be my attendant of course; let's see, shall we carry orchids or hibiscus?”
“My nephew, Herman, will inventory, evaluate and assess everything you have in the house within ten minutes. I think he has a direct line to Christies,” moaned Uncle Michael, “and my lifelong friend Paul will check out the bottoms of your plates and glasses.”
“No gifts, Michael, we each have enough stuff to last the rest of our lives.”
“Why don’t you get married on the boat?” Susie said dropping in one day after doing 7 miles on roller blades. “I think Bob would love to take all of you out for the ceremony.”
“Terrific idea,” replied Mamoo, “then we don't have to worry about licenses and such, past the three mile limit.”
Boat, what boat. I didn't know Susie had a boat. I bounced down to Fred’s house and howled until he came out.
“Let’s go see Brooke,” he said intelligently, “he will certainly know what the deal is.”
We had to talk to Brooke behind the fence, as he is never allowed out unless he is escorted. Brooke has a tendency to get crazy-wild and attack anyone who moves. The pound truck has picked him up so often that he gets a monthly bill.
“Oh yeah, the boat,” said Brooke, “it’s big and can hold lots of people. Bob, Susie’s husband, takes men out for a ride and helps them catch huge fish on a thin string made out of plastic. Sometimes he is gone for months. He takes them to a place called Mexico where the people speak Spanish and the fish are not as smart as they are here. I have been on the boat. We travel to an island in the Caribbean every summer for vacation. It is not comfortable.”
“Can you put your car on it? I have been on a boat that can take many, many cars in its belly,” I interjected. “No, Bob’s boat isn’t a ferry, it’s a fishing boat. It has a kitchen called a galley and a people potty called a head.”
“How do you--?”
“Off the side. Be careful of the wind,” he laughed, “the boat really isn’t all that long, it goes up three decks.”
“What do they do with the fish after they catch them?” I asked. “Throw them back in the ocean, Nitwit. They only do it for the sport of catching. By the way, while you’re standing there, lift the latch and let me out.”
Brooke was pawing the fence like crazy. I tried but the latch wouldn’t budge. Fred didn’t even try. He was padlocked in. Somebody is smart in that house!
Meanwhile, as far as my loving couple were concerned, the plans were laid. The boat was in, the church was out. On the big day, we all loaded up again in Eloise (the new white car) and paid a visit to the Jeni-lyn. (you see, other people name things). I hit the bushes thoroughly before I ventured out on the dock. Pissing in the wind is dangerous for the neophyte.
I had to be CARRIED onto the boat. Slick floors caused me to splay my legs and the rocking made me have that spinning in my stomach thing. I crawled to the rug in the salon and stayed there. The engine roared to life. The mate untied the rope, which joined us to the pier, and away we went over the bounding main.
Up, down, up, down ..wham, wham, wham as the boat hit the top of the waves and slammed down hard. My eyes rolled around in my head. The room spun. At last the boat seemed to find a quiet spot and settled down. I had a part in the ceremony and had to be there. Mamoo said that I was the ring bearer, rather like Bilbo Baggins. I struggled up and wobbled out to grab some fresh air to soothe my queasy insides.
Auntie Buffy was there looking beautiful in pink with flowers in her blond hair. Gaga, along with the gang from Unkie’s house, wandered around with drinks in their hands while the little cousins played hide and seek in the bunk rooms. The Monsignor was resplendent in his purple costume and talked like an Irishman. Even Patsy and Sheila were there in look-a-like dresses.
Mamoo wore a new blue dress and blue high-heeled shoes that made little marks on the wood floor. Someone turned on the radio until it produced some sweet music and the ceremony began. All I heard was that Mamoo had become Lady O'Brien. The three of us were pronounced husband and wife and dog. I had the ring tied into the pink satin bow I wore around my neck. I stood quietly by their sides as Uncle Michael put it on Mamoo’s finger. Paul was the best man but he felt I was more responsible. Smart thinking there.
They were married. I had acquired another human to worry about. I made myself as agreeable as possible to Uncle Michael’s Canadian friends who were thoroughly enjoying the boat ride and the sun. After all, I was an expert in PR. Wasn't I?. A seagull swooped in low and left Paul a souvenir on his jacket lapel.
I don’t know how it happened. Everybody was having a great time drinking bubbly water and dancing. Well, everybody except Mean Marvin. He was grouching in a corner waiting for the festivities to end and to go home and have a temper tantrum.
Through the salon door came a lady with the most beautiful cake I had ever seen. It was covered with pink flowers and white icing. I think now that the combination of smells got to me. I whoopsed. I tried not to but it happened right in front of Mean Marvin. He jumped back, grabbed wildly for anything he could hold onto and fell, not gracefully, over the side of the boat into the waves, making a big splash and a big yell. The cake lady was cool. She turned around and staggered back into the salon without spilling a crumb.
The mate yelled, “man overboard,” threw out a gigantic lifesaver for Marvin to hold onto and turned the boat around. The boat listed sharply as the whole crowd had to see Marvin in the water. I prayed for a shark.
The whoops had rejuvenated me. I was ready for cake. During the time it took to get ole Marvin back up in the boat and semi-dried out, I ventured into the salon hoping something good had slipped off the table when the boat listed. Everything must have been nailed down. Everything was in perfect order. I took a look anyway, for future reference. Fish eggs! Can you believe it? Lots of little crackers with fish eggs on them. BLEAH!!!!!
The cake lady eyed me warily. “Because you are such a good doggie,” she said, “I will give you an extra special treat.”
A handful of dry dog biscuits. (People who call a 90-pound Rottweiler “Doggie” should be boiled in oil.) I still watched the cake and she watched me. I licked my chops instinctively and it really made her nervous.
Finally, Mamoo and Uncle Michael came in to cut it. Sweet! Everybody was handed a plate with a big slab on it. I waited. Sure enough, Mamoo bent down with a plate with the biggest piece on it for me. Almond flavored with sweet, sweet icing and a big pink rose. I will whoops again tonight, but not right now.
There was lots of hugging and kissing. Mamoo kissed everyone, even Mean Marvin. “I always told you, you were all wet,” she laughed.
“That dog should be put away, he is a menace,” he snarled, “Peggy, I outta sue you.” He must be a lawyer.
“That’s Lady Peggy to you, you jerk.” Mamoo snarled right back. Some things never change.
The boat rode the waves back to port without incident and all on board climbed out to walk unsteadily to their cars. I heard Mamoo say to Gaga as we departed, “You see, Mama, I finally became a lady.”
As for me, I learned that, like cops, there is never a man-eating shark around when you want one.

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