I’m late. Totally my fault.
I hate being late. I get stressed and I tend to take that stress out on those around me.
I walk quickly, keys in hand, “Hurry the fuck up. Hurry up. When I say to come, you are supposed to come. Get in the car. What the hell is wrong with you? Get in the car!” I turn to assess the lack of progress, “Seriously, what the fuck are you doing? I do not have time for this shit. Do you hear me? I said I do not have time for this shit.”
The smaller badly behaved dog begs to differ, and to make his point, he squats and shits on the driveway beside the car.
I glare at him, “Are you kidding me right now?”
Jack is not even kidding, and he wags his tail happily. I dig in my coat pockets for a plastic bag with which to pick up the shit, but come up empty. Pants pockets . . . nothing. I open the driver’s-side door of the minivan and scrabble in the pockets of the door, tossing the contents up onto the front passenger seat as I search for a bag. A few old mints, a map to somewhere I have never been but plan to go, some coupons, several pens, a single mitten, a coffee mug, and one . . . two . . . three . . . four unused sanitary pads.
The dog leaps up into the car and sits amidst the jumble, looking at me questioningly.
“Yeah, I don’t know why I have so many pads in the car. It’s not like there’s going to be a four-pad sort of emergency. Why don’t I have any doggie bags in the car?”
Jack says nothing, instead dipping his nose into the seat to sniff out and then eat the old mints, crunching them loudly as he watches me search through the glove compartment and the middle console of the car.
“Very helpful, Jack.”
He stuffs his head into the coffee mug to lick at the residue he finds within.
I stand there for a minute, half in and half out of the car, annoyed and frustrated and bagless and late. I take a step backward, considering just leaving the dog shit in the driveway until I get home, because what are the chances that someone will step in the small pile of terrier poo in the fifteen minutes it takes me to drive over to pick up Kallan and then return home? I take another step.
Turns out the chances are one-hundred percent.
I stare incredulously at my shit-stepped shoe, “Damn it damn it damn it damn it.”
Jack barks a single joyful bark of agreeing damnation and bends to the task of ripping apart the mitten, which he is suddenly certain contains treats.
I slam the door of the car, “Behave in there, stupid dog. I’ll be right back.”
I walk quickly to the house, scraping my shoe along the grass as I go. I toss my shit-shoes on the front porch, walk into the house to grab another pair of shoes, and then walk halfway back to the car before I remember I need to get a doggie bag to pick up the small amount of shit on which I did not step. And so back into the house and then back out to the car and then pick up the shit and bag the shit and toss the shit and then climb into the car, which . . . smells like cheese.
I turn to Jack, who is sitting innocently in the passenger seat amidst coupons, sanitary pads, and mitten bits, “Why does the car smell like cheese?”
He has no idea.
I grab him by the scruff of the neck and pull his face close to mine, “Listen, dog . . . when I left you, your breath was minty fresh and now your breath smells like old slices of American cheese, and so I ask you again . . . Why does the car smell like cheese?”
He is mystified.
I toss him back into the passenger seat, “Fine. Why do I even talk to you? The only reason you’re in the car at all is to distract Kallan from the lateness with your cute.” I pick up my phone and text Kallan: I’M GOING TO BE A BIT LATE. JACK’S FAULT. SEE YOU IN A FEW.
I glance at the time, “Ugh . . . Jack, you better bring the cute, because Kallan is going to be pissed.”
Jack is confident he is bringing the cute.
I start the car and back out of the driveway, and an ominous orange dashboard light flares.
“Oh for god’s sake, how long has the fuel-light been on?”
I think back — I have no memory of the dashboard’s existence during any of my recent trips in the car, and so it is entirely possible the light has been on for far too long.
I pull into traffic. The light stays brightly lit.
“OK, no big deal. There has to be enough gas in the car to get to the school, and then I’ll just get gas on the way home.”
I stare intently at the orange light as I drive, willing it to flicker, but it glows stubbornly. I turn the music up super-loud so that I cannot hear the warning, even though this makes no sense, and then I sing along with the radio as Jack barks happy accompaniment . . . we are going to pop some tags up in this motherfucker.
We sing-bark . . .
Only got twenty dollars in my pocket . . .
Wait a minute.
I have no money. I left my purse at home. I have no money and perhaps no gas and I am late and fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.
I swing the car to the side of the road, turn down the music, and think for a minute.
OK, so if I continue to the school, there is a good chance I will run out of gas before I get back home and that would be bad. If I go back home and get my purse, there is no way I have enough gas to go back to the school before I get gas, which means I will be super late to pick up Kallan, which will be bad but not as bad as being stranded and gasless on the side of the road. Also, if I am to be stranded on the side of the road, it would be good to have my insurance information and my license and my AAA card, and so I need to go back home.
I turn to the dog as I make a U-turn, “Try to weigh less so that we get better gas mileage.”
Jack refers me to the extra weight he left in the driveway.
“Good thinking, dog. I should have done that too.”
And so I drive back to the house, park the car, race into the house to grab my purse, pause on my way back to the car to check if Kallan has responded to my text. She has not, but since she knows I don’t text while I am driving, she wouldn’t necessarily respond, thinking I am on my way. I text her again as I approach the car: A BIT LATER, EVEN, THAN I THOUGHT. SORRY. STILL MOSTLY JACK’S FAULT.”
I climb back into the car, which smells . . . again . . . anew . . . of cheese.
“Dog, where are you finding cheese? The car smells disgusting.”
Jack licks his cheesy lips and denies all knowledge of cheese.
“Alright, dog. Never mind the cheese. We are going to drive to the gas station that is mostly downhill from here because . . . coasting . . . obviously.”
Coasting sounds nappish to Jack.
By the time we arrive safely at the gas station, my neck and shoulders and arms ache from pushing the car along its fume-fueled journey. Jack has gone to sleep, nestled in a little ball of terrier cuteness on the front passenger seat. I pull up next to the gas pump (here in Oregon, we are not allowed to pump our own gas), roll my window down, and wait for the attendant. I glance over at Jack, noticing that he has made himself something of a nest; he is happily ensconced in expired coupons and mitten yarn-bits and sanitary pads.
As the attendant approaches the window, I reach to roll Jack out of the seat and toss the sanitary pads over my shoulder into the back of the minivan . . . one . . . two . . . three . . .
“Can I help you, ma’am?”
“Ummm . . . hold on.” I scrabble for the last sanitary pad and toss it backwards. Jack leaps ecstatically into the back of the car to hunt down the tossed toys, and I turn back to the attendant, hand him my credit card, “Fill it up with regular, please.”
The guy stands there for a moment, because Jack is snarling viciously from the back of the car, and he asks, “Everything alright back there?”
I am all casual nonchalance, “Don’t worry about the dog. He’s just eating a rawhide bone. He gets all cave-dog when he has a rawhide bone.”
The man is confused, glances back into the rear of the minivan, “Smells like he’s eating cheese.”
It so does. It so fucking does. Where is the dog finding cheese? I nod, “I know, right? Must have accidentally bought a cheesy rawhide bone.”
Do they sell cheesy rawhide bones? I don’t even know.
As the man pumps the gas, I try to ignore Jack and the noises he is making and the weird smell of cheese. I text Kallan again: SO SORRY. HAD TO GET GAS. JACK’S FAULT. WILL BE THERE ASAP.
No response. Stupid daughter.
The gas-station attendant appears at my window again with my credit card and my receipt, and just as he appears and says the words, “Here you go,” Jack vaults from the back of the car into my lap to stick his head and upper body out of the window to say hello to the nice man.
Which would be fine, except that Jack is covered in shredded sanitary-pad fluff; he looks like a crazed molting terrier-bird. Also, he has several larger pieces of sanitary pad stuck to his head and body, the adhesive strips doing an admirable if misguided job. Also . . . wings. Also, he has one entire sanitary pad stuffed in his mouth and he is gagging and dry-mouthed and a tiny bit panicked due to the unexpected absorbency of this toy.
Which he then spits out and onto the ground at the attendant’s feet.
There is a tiny silence then, as the three of us consider the situation.
Realizing Jack is about to leap out of the car to retrieve his toy, I yank him back and stuff him into my lap, punching frantically at the button that closes the window and then waving and yelling from behind that closed window at the nice man, “Have a nice day!”
The gas station attendant is . . . nonplussed.
I drive away.
Jack curls in a ball in my lap and starts to eat the bits of sanitary pad that are stuck to his fur.
“Whatever, dog. What the fuck ever.”
A text comes in, from Kallan: MOM, STOP TEXTING ME. YOU’RE NOT LATE. I HAVE CHOIR TODAY. YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO PICK ME UP UNTIL FOUR.
“Jack, did you know today is Tuesday? I was thinking it was at least Wednesday, because how could the low-fuel light be lit on a Tuesday? That makes no sense.”
Jack considers. He is pretty sure today is Saturday, because Saturday is old cheese day.