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Patches of ice sat neatly on the side of the trail. Each one held a dusting of new snow received in the early morning hours. It wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet. When Jessie saw this, it didn’t register in her brindle little head that it was a puddle to be splashed in or drank from, as was the norm for her.

 

Her front paws tried to brace themselves against the sudden forward motion while her hind quarters dipped low to follow suit. Just like a reining horse sliding to a complete stop. My laugh sounded strange against the starkness of the morning. A blue jay squawked in return.

 

Four weeks ago I had promised myself to loose 20 pounds before the motocross banquet at the end of January. I hadn’t lost but 2 pounds, yet my legs were getting stronger and I could jog for four one minute sessions. Not too shabby for an ex-smoker pushing 40 who was considered “overweight” by the BMI programs on the Internet. Not too shabby for a neurotic one-woman freak show who was prone to violent fits of rage, crying jags to rival a soap opera star, and bone chilling panic attacks that used to rush me into the ER once every three months.

 

It had been one of those weeks already. My job was demanding, stressful, and full of negativity. I had gotten insecure that morning when my boyfriend of 8 years announced our relationship to be full of stress and bitterness thus making it a unproductive relationship. I instantly accused him of meeting someone else. That was one of the first signs. Expressing unhappiness in the relationship since they found someone else who made them feel better. Yeah, well, guess what? You’ve been married twice and your last LTR used you for a lawn boy and a booty call. You’re the looser!

 

I cried as I cleaned house. The dishes heard my woes of being a failure as an employee. The broom was subjected to my sobs of failing as a parent. The vacuum cleaner was on the receiving end of the wails of failing as a child to my parents. The laundry wrapped things up by bearing the brunt of the hysterics of another failed relationship.

 

The Mutt whined for her turn. See? She’ll let me have my hour of whatever I want. Eat, sleep, bitch, and surf the Internet for validation that I’m not a plague to society. After that, it’s game on. Rain or snow, heat or freezing, we walk for 2 miles. Along the way I try not to think, try not to dwell, and try to enjoy the scenery around me. The dank, gray, dull brown scenery where the only splash of color is a pink or yellow surveyors ribbon tied to a tree or stake. Even the spray painted graffiti on the trees is black.

 

She bounds ahead to the end of her 20 foot training line which is attached to her black and red anti-pull harness. The line has six knots in it at various lengths of the line. The most recent one is up near my hand. She did that one during a shouting match with a Yorkie. She stops to sniff at the leaves, then drops her bottom to pee, and it’s off again for more snuffling and romping. Her tongue is bobbing lazily from the side of her mouth. Inside, towards her throat it’s coated purple as if she had some Chow in her.

The wind is at my back making this a bit more tolerable as I set out to get warmed up. The sun is bright and beating down on the path making the snow melt and the pavement darker with the water. I don’t want to go to work.

 

“You hate every job you’ve ever had,” the boyfriend bemoaned me that morning.

 

This job is different. People really do die there. And I have to interact with the grieving survivors. How envious I am for the deceased person. When it’s my turn to lie on a gurney in a hospital room with my skin tannish/grey and my jaw slack, I’m fairly certain no one will be there to mourn me. I believe I am destined to die alone.

 

The pup pulls me hard. I bark at her to go easy. She listens since she knows the repercussions of doing it again.

 

The day before, I was medicated to the gills after being too jumpy to even sit in my own skin. Panic disorder has plagued me for years now. I think a bit longer than I’ve been done smoking. I quit smoking when the attacks began. Death scares me. I don’t want to abandon my kids. They’re too young—16 and 15. I am all they have. Their deadbeat dad is somewhere in Illinois and the state of Michigan has yet to retrieve him or make him pay. Thanks again, Governor! I am forced to pay my own health insurance and am not allowed to receive state medical assistance.

 

So, I only take half of a pill to make them last longer. My daughter, who also has anxiety, is on medication for it along with asthma medicine. It’s pretty expensive even with the insurance. And no one is able to help cover it. I feel defeated. And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

 

After a mile, my legs start to stiffen up. We pause to let her romp through the tall grass in search of an illusive field mouse. Her head is up, her ears are up, and her tail is nearly curved over to touch her back. Her eyes are bright and Shepard like. When she is sad, she is able to turn them into the mournful eyes of a Boxer. Yesterday we hadn’t been able to walk due to my work. The Boxer eyes were heavy that day.

 I try to pray. The Catholic I was raised to be started to murmur Our Father’s, Hail Mary’s, and Glory Be’s. I can say them without even realizing it. The translation feels lost to me. I feel like no one is listening. I try talking to my deceased father, but it only leads me to believe I’ll be buried alive---6 feet underground and conscious of it with no one around to hear my cries for help. It’s my fault, you see, for bearing children out of wedlock, for having my tubes tied, and for living in sin with the boyfriend who called our relationship bitter and stressful.

 I can’t afford to live on my own and support two teenagers and a dog. My job doesn’t pay enough. Whose does? Maybe Paris Hilton or Jennifer Anniston. Lucky dogs.

 Jessie is a brindle. Up until we got her, I didn’t know what that meant. As my autistic son would say, she is “Caramel drizzled with chocolate”. She has the black muzzle of a Shepard and her muzzle has begun to gray at the ripe old age of 18 months old. They say it happens earlier to the dark haired people anyway. She’s built like a Boxer, though with the barrel chest, rippling muscles on her front and back legs, and the sucked-up belly that most models pay thousands for. The graceful arch of her neck detracts from the less-than-lady-like jowels which hang from her Shepard nose. Her forehead has cute little crinkles when she’s on to something.


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Katherine
Short Story
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