by Jeff Flodin
Yesterday, half an inch of snow fell on our town. Shopkeepers spread rock salt to an equal depth. Good for pedestrian footing; bad for Randy’s tender paws.
Today, Randy submits to dog boots. His predecessor, Sherlock, flailed around like a four-legged hip hop dancer. Randy remains stock still in the doorway, head bowed and humbled. I coax him into the great wide open. He lifts his leg on a tree.
“That’s strange,” I say.
“What’s strange about a dog peeing on a tree?” asks neighbor Bob.
“He normally squats,” I say.
“There’s snow on the ground,” Bob tells me, like I’m the village idiot. “On top of that, he doesn’t want to pee in his fancy boots. Ever think of that?”
What I think is that neighbor Bob is a jackass. What I say is, “I leave analysis to you, Bob. I just feed the beast.”
Down the block, we meet Molly and her four-year-old, Courtney. “Oh, those bootsare just the cutest!” Molly gushes. “Courtney would simply love boots like that, wouldn’t you, Honey?”
“They’re beautiful,” whispers Courtney, as if beholding Joan of Arc. And now I have one more fear: covetous preschoolers stealing Randy’s boots.
We press on. No rock salt. Randy progresses, workmanlike. Sherlock would have gyrated out of his boots and buried them in a snowdrift. I take inventory:three boots and one bare foot.
I admit, here and now, to sputtering obscenities so vile as to snap Courtney from her rapture. I conclude with, “And what the hell am I supposed to do, go back and look for the missing one?” Instead, I manage a laugh. Bitter, but a laugh nonetheless. Oh, blindness, you cruel mistress.
At work, I call around for replacement boots. The fancy ones run $70 a set, enough to dotwo yuppie toddlers proud. Then I hear about the disposable ones. But are they any good? Won’t the rock salt cut into them? That’s what I ask the guy at the pet shop on the way home.
“The rubber is heavy duty,” he tells me. He lets me feel one. It’s thick all right, like a short, fat condom. “And they stay on,” he adds. I stretch the super tight elastic open end.
“I’ll take a dozen,” I say. At eighteen bucks, a bargain. I stuff Randy’s left rear size twelve into the disposable rubber boot.
Randy leads homeward. Still no rock salt. I take another inventory: two fancy boots, one disposable boot and one bare foot. ”That’s it!” I shout, yanking the fancy boots off Randy’s paws. Liberated, he prances in the snow like Bambi.
Nearing home, rock salt crunches under foot. It’s neighbor Bob sowing seed. I drop Randy’s harness handle and steer him through the soft snow on the parkway.“Old Man Winter sloughed a little dandruff,” says Bob. “Just enough to remind us who’s in charge. Hey, where’s Randy’s fancy boots? And what’s that thing on his back foot? Jeez, looks like… On second thought, don’t tell me.”
So, I don’t tell Neighbor Bob what’s on Randy’s foot. I leave analysis to him. I’m satisfied knowing those ugly rubber boots have staying power. And I’ve got eleven more in my pocket. I’ll hand the surviving pair of fancy boots to Courtney—give the kid reason to believe. Randy and I have found disposable boots. Bring on the worst that Old Man Winter and neighbor Bob throw at us!
Jeff Flodin began this story at home with half an inch of snow in Chicago and finished it with a foot and a half of snow in Vermont. His Vermont stay is courtesy of a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Access Writing Fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT. February in Vermont encourages writing—indoors, warm, dry and well-fed. Who says creativity requires suffering? (You can also learn more about Jeff on the Statement page of this blog.)