“I want you to listen very closely.”
“Just say it already.”
“Lighten the fuck up.”
“Well, that’s just great. Thank you very much.”
“Seriously. Lighten . . . the . . . fuck . . . up.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“I didn’t say it was simple. Do it anyway.”
Fine . . .
I wait a few minutes and then I follow Mark downstairs. I find him in the kitchen playing with Claw and the smaller badly behaved dog. “Claw” is one of those pincher-extension tools you see people using to pick up trash in the park or alongside the freeway. We use ours to torture the smaller dog.
Or rather, Mark does.
Mark happily squeezes the handle on the long extension-arm and snaps at the air above Jack the Terrier; the dog whirls and snaps and growls and leaps and barks. High . . . low . . . here . . . there . . . the dog tries to anticipate Claw’s next move. Sometimes, Claw is so evil and cunning that Jack is helplessly spun in a tiny Terrier circle of wannabe menace, never catching anything more fabulous than his own tail.
Other times, Jack manages to break Claw’s rhythm and close his jaws of TERRIER DOOM on Claw’s pincer end, and then he shakes and growls and yanks and Mark yells DROP (which is totally meaningless, as Jack has never dropped a goddamned thing in his life) and Mark yells TREAT (which rarely works to distract Jack, because there is no bigger Jack-joy than the anticipation of Claw’s arterial spray as it is mortally wounded) and then Mark wrestles with Jack and lifts him into the air (dangling from the end of Claw) and shakes him back and forth and back and forth (which only serves to heighten Jack’s fury and bloodlust), and then someone (me) has to come in and pry Jack’s jaws from Claw and return control of Claw to Mark and then Jack bounces and wags his tail and then Mark says, “Good dog!”
And then the game continues.
Rarely, Jack (who occasionally has balance issues) gets dizzy and falls over onto the floor in frozen unwilling submission, and Mark pins his neck to the floor with Claw’s pincer end and proclaims himself the CLAW CHAMPION.
Needless to say, Claw has very quickly become Jack’s obsession.
Maj and Kallan are both standing in the kitchen watching Mark and Jack.
BARK BARK BARK BARK CLAWSNAP CLAWSNAP TAKE THAT BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK CLAWSNAP CLAWSNAP WORSHIP ME STUPID DOG BARK BARK BARK BARK CLAWSNAP CLAWSNAP CLAWSNAP I AM GOD HERE BARK BARK BARK BARK CLAWSNAP CLAWSNAP CLAWSNAP DANCE FOR ME JACK DANCE FOR ME CLAWSNAP CLAWSNAP BARK BARK BARK BARK . . .
Mark realizes the girls and I are staring at him, and he looks up at us, “What? Are we having too much fun?”
He looks down at the dog, “That’s it for today, Jack. You’re too loud, and you got us into trouble.” He replaces Claw in its hiding spot on top of the refrigerator, and Jack dances at Mark’s feet, begging for the game to continue. Mark reaches to scoop the dog up and ruffle his fur, and then he looks at us, “What? Jack loves that game.”
Maj snorts, “Uh huh.”
Mark tosses the dog down onto the floor, “So are we ready to go?”
I answer as I fill the dogs’ water dish and set it down, “Yup.”
We climb into the car and set off. We’re maybe five miles down the road when Mark spots a large boat for sale on the side of the road, and he asks the girls as we drive by it, “Do you see a price?”
Neither girl sees the price, and Maj leans forward, “You realize we already have a boat, right? Mother wouldn’t let you get another boat unless it was like a $5.00 boat.”
“Yeah, but what if that boat is owned by a couple going through a bad divorce and the husband loves the boat and the wife is really really angry and she is selling the boat when he is out of town or maybe not paying attention and maybe she is selling it for $5.00! That would be awesome! I have read about things like that happening. No reason it shouldn’t happen to me.”
There is a silence in the car as Mark contemplates this happy possibility and the rest of us contemplate the man to whom we have tied our futures.
Maj speaks for all of us when she says, “Huh.”
I turn to the girls, “That’s why your father is never divorcing me, ladies. He knows I would sell all of his toys roadside for pennies on the dollar just to spite him.”
Kallan is curious, “What toys?”
“Claw, for one.”
The girls shriek with laughter as Mark protests and calls for quiet and finally swings his arm in the air to demand silence so that he can talk. However, as the laughter subsides, all Mark says is “Ow,” and he flexes his arm.
I giggle, “Seriously, babe? You hurt yourself gesturing?”
He looks at me sheepishly, “My arm hurts.”
He flexes his arm again and winces, “I may have suffered a Claw-pull.”
So much giggling.
Love that man.