"You mean how I became the crazy dog lady?" She grins, blows at the surface so the water ripples. "Don't apologize. Living with eighteen dogs qualifies me, I think. I'm even proud of it, which makes it so much more dysfunctional."
He laughs, and when she looks at him, the smoldering sunset lights her face like sun through stained glass.
"You really want to know?"
"I really do."
"It's a long story. And corny. Maudlin."
"I like maudlin." A lie, but it sounds convincing. Good lawyer, good boy. Or maybe it's not a lie. Because Luis is discovering he's fallen in love.
~ When The Sunset, The Miracle of Small Things
Pélagie Solak tells her story, of how she became "the crazy dog lady" (her words, not ours), to the book's protagonist, Luis Villalobos, off-stage—or is it off-page? Off-book? Either way, I thought the Lost & Found hop was a great excuse to share it—and to do it here, on the Dog Blog.
(It's not as long as Pélagie thinks, by the way. Funny how our own stories always seem longer and more convoluted to tell than others', eh? Plus... we can only guess at the version she tells Luis. This is, however, how it began.)
~ * ~
She sits on a concrete bench just outside the shelter office. The voices inside—someone on the phone, someone wanting to buy a dog tag, two someones arguing about whose turn it is to sweep out the kennels—carry well through the window above her head, but to her, through the tears, it all sounds not just far but alien.
The dog at her feet shivers in the ratty towel. He's nothing but bones and mangy, boiling skin. And ticks. Hundreds. Millions, maybe. But he's young. Pélagie got a look at his teeth. He could make it. All he needs is time, and someone to care.
The shelter, however, has no space. "If you leave him," the fat girl in the oversize Save The Whales t-shirt told her, "we'll have to put him down."
"But he's young. He could—"
"I'm sorry. We're full. And even if we weren't—" the girl gazes down at the dog with a little frown— "we just don't have the resources. The medical resources."
"If it's a matter of costs, I'd be happy to—"
"It's not. I'm sorry."
And so here she sits, waiting for someone to come to take the dog, shivering—from cold, or fear, or pain—between her feet. "I'm so sorry, baby. I wish..."
Wyn doesn't like dogs. He says he's allergic, but she's seen how he looks at the ones she's been unable to leave in the street. How he stands clear of them, how he vacuums the car after a trip to the vet. He is a good man; doesn't drink, doesn't cheat, has a respectable career. And she's not getting any younger. He's been talking about kids. Marriage is around the corner, she feels it. Of course it's what she wants. Who wouldn't?
~ * ~
It's dusk by the time she gets home. Wyn is waiting at the gate.
"Where were you? Dammit, I was worried. You could've called. Is—is that a dog in the car? Fucking hell, Pél, I told you—"
"He's not staying. And I'm leaving."
"Leaving? What does that mean?"
In the kitchen, she leans against the granite countertop and faces him. "I'm moving out. Into my grandmother's house."
"You're—? That place has been abandoned for years!"
"I'm going to set up a shelter for dogs there. A—a sanctuary."
"This is crazy! Pél, look, if it's about this dog in the car, he can stay tonight. A few days, if you want. You don't have to— Listen to me! Stop. Pél, stop. Come on, don't—"
She's already in the bedroom, emptying her t-shirt drawer into a duffel bag. She doesn't have the strength to do both things, pack up a life and have a conversation about ending one, at the same time. "I'll come back tomorrow. We can talk then."
Wyn doesn't hear her, maybe doesn't want to. At one point he tries to snatch a suitcase from her hands; she lets him have it, steps over the mess of spilled clothing and steps outside.
"You'll regret this. Pél!"
She knows she will. Regret is unavoidable. Life is, instead, about choosing the regrets we can live with.
~ * ~ * ~
Thank you so much for visiting, and for taking part in the Lost & Found hop. There are some amazing contributions... a real treat for fans of love lost (or found): true stories, fiction, essays, meditations... it's all there. Take a look when you get a chance :)