Linda A. Lavid
At the wedding reception Marcy & Dale Forever had been
written across the cocktail napkins, but forever fell a tad short, and
they split before their tenth anniversary. It was a civilized break- up,
no recriminations of who left the toilet seat up or down, no blaming of
who forgot whose birthday. They simply lounged on Adirondack chairs one
summer evening on their deck, not a season old, and discussed the situation.
Dale began with what most errant husbands tell their soon-to-be ex-wives.
"I love you, but I'm not in love with you."
Marcy took the news better than most. She sipped her vodka tonic,
popped a few olives in her mouth and said, "Will you be taking Moose?"
He answered probably not since he was downsizing to an apartment, hers,
the woman he was in love with. And it was at this defining moment
that Marcy stood up and sternly said, with no room for debate, "You wanted
him, he's yours," leaving Dale to ponder, in the elongated shadows of a
setting sun, a serious dilemma - Laurene, the woman he was in love
with, was a cat person. Moose wasn't.
Moose, a 150 lb., four-year-old Newfoundland had soulful eyes, deeply
rich and chocolate brown, that belied the animal's true nature. While the
dog appeared oafish and good humored (he rarely barked, or jumped, or bared
his teeth), unlike most dogs his breed, he had a singularly narcissistic
nature, complemented by a slew of bad habits. And so, before Dale called
Laurene to tell her the good news, he telephoned Kareem's Dog Obedience School
and enrolled Moose in an intensive three-week behavior modification program
that cost six hundred dollars, which according to the proprietor, was one-hundred
The class at Kareem's was small, only two other dogs with their owners.
A Doberman with a sleek coat, the color of wet pavement at night, was muzzled
and restless, as he pulled and twisted his lead, tangling up his master's
legs. A Chihuahua yapped incessantly in the crook of an older woman's
arm. Moose dropped to the floor and yawned. Disclosure followed.
The Chihuahua, Buffy, terribly bloated, with buggy, protruding eyes,
teetered on legs as scrawny as popsicle sticks. Not only was the animal
hugely disproportionate, but as Dale learned, it had a nasty habit of
snapping at small children, specifically bolting upright and lunging for
Ruben, the 9-month-old, skittish Doberman, came from a pedigree line
of insomniacs prone to suspected hallucinations (he stalked and
growled for reasons unknown). Dale deduced generations of inbreeding probably
caused a proliferation of recessive genes that left the animal incapable
of dealing with stimuli. It was as if his nervous system were tightly strung
with an inordinate amount of neurons, like an overloaded plug in a rented
room, which flooded his brain with near lethal doses of electrical current.
What else could explain the flash in his eyes, his constant vigilance?
Dale was encouraged. Even though Moose was gangly, he was otherwise
proportional, calm and, from all appearances, a concrete thinker. Clearly
a prince whose problems paled to these two. Dale, like a proud father in
a child's waiting room, reached down and patted Moose's head. "Good boy."
Moose acknowledged his master's gesture by passing gas, a silent bomb
that filled the room.
When Dale was asked what brought him and Moose to class, the other
owners looked at him expectantly, solemnly, as if they all were on a
sinking ship. Dale's mind locked. He wanted to be discrete, tasteful.
"Moose is really quite good. A tad lazy perhaps but . . . well, he can
be a bit stubborn when it comes to . . . ah . . . personal hygiene."
The trainer, a woman in overalls and a ponytail, asked, "Could you
be more specific?"
"He has accidents."
Commiserative nods followed.
"And how old is Moose?"
Dale lied. "Around a year."
"That old? How have you been managing?"
Dale wondered that himself. But of course he wasn't the one doing
the managing. He thought about the steps Marcy had taken.
"He's in a restricted area during the day. You know, where there
are hard surfaces like the basement, garage."
"And at night?"
"Stays mostly in the kitchen."
"I see," said the trainer. "Are there any other concerns?"
Concerns? What was this, group therapy? Dogs Anonymous? Dale refused
to go into further detail. "That's about it."
"Has Moose ever been crated?"
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"Kept in a cage, "said Buffy's mother.
"No, of course not," Dale answered.
"Well then, that's where we'll start," said the trainer.
An hour and one hundred and ten dollars later, Dale and Moose headed
home with very specific directions and a very large crate. Moose's lifestyle
was about to change. At a stop light, Dale reached over and scratched
Moose behind his ears. "Times are a'changin buddy." He then thought about
Laurene and her silky thighs.
The weeks following Dale and Moose's trek to Kareem's were emotionally
trying but productive. Since Dale had to postpone his move into
Laurene's until Moose's behavior was more under control, he relocated into
the spare room. Marcy, when home, slammed around in the kitchen and left
sticky notes on those things she intended to keep, which pretty much included
everything but the rowing machine, vaporizer, and of course Moose. Dale
wasn't about to argue.
On the upside, Moose progressed beautifully. That very night after
class, he slept in the crate and woke up clean and dry. Dale wanted to
tell Marcy, it was just a matter of scheduling, consistency and showing
who's boss. Moose ate one meal per day and was taken out once in the morning
and twice in the evening. The rest of the time, he was confined. Within
weeks, Moose morphed into a model pet, and all systems were go.
Laurene lived in a second floor apartment with vaulted ceilings and
sky lights. Throughout the day and depending on the angle of the sun, diffused
light would cast soft shadows onto the walls and upholstered furniture,
all buff-colored. Often following an afternoon romp, Dale, reluctant to
leave, had lingered while Laurene prepared dinner amid the classical
strains of Bach and the sweet scent of vanilla candles. As Dale now climbed
the carpeted stairs with the new and improved Moose (recently bathed in aromatics
at Kareem's), he was ebullient. The months of wrangling two women were now
over and he could finally be immersed in the sex and serenity of Laurene.
At the door to her apartment, Dale knocked then squared his shoulders.
"Be there in a sec," Laurene called out.
Dale pulled Moose's leash to have him sit. Once on his haunches,
Moose looked at Dale expectantly, waiting for a treat. Dale put his fingers
to his lips and shh-ed.
A moment later, Laurene, in a tight, white T-shirt and faded jeans,
opened the door. As her glance fell to the dog, her wide, bright smile
froze. "So this is Moose."
At hearing his voice, Moose stood on all fours and pitched forward,
aiming his nose inches from her crotch. She reared back. "My, he's big."
Dale shortened the leash by looping it around his wrist. He then
tugged discretely. "Yeah, this is my baby."
Laurene opened the door wide, allowing enough room for a three-man
moving crew and refrigerator.
Dale and Moose crossed the threshold and entered. Halfway into the
living room, Moose stopped dead. Asleep on the couch in the folds of
a tapestry throw were Curly and Moe, Laurene's two Persian cats.
Dale tightened his grip. "Be good, Moose."
Moe, a fat ball of tan fur, lazily lifted her lids. Upon seeing Moose,
her eyes popped open. Immediately, she catapulted from her spot and dove
beneath the couch. Curly, having been jostled by Moe's movement, raised
her head, pulled her ears back and screeched. Laurene rushed to the couch.
Dale pushed hard on Moose's back. "Down, boy," he said sternly. In
response, Moose collapsed to a prone position and panted. Saliva dripped
from his mouth.
Laurene gathered Curly in her arms. "Pretty kitty, don't be
afraid," she cooed. The cat flailed at her chest, trying to escape.
Dale reached over to pat Curly's head. The little czarina hissed.
He backed off and said, "I know Moose is big and a bit intimidating but
he wouldn't hurt a fly. Pet him. You'll see."
"I have my hands full," she said with a hint of irritation.
"Darn kids," Dale said sheepishly.
Laurene didn't seem amused and began pacing, holding the cat as if
it were a crying baby.
"Honey, with time they'll get along. Besides, once the house is sold,
we can start looking for a bigger place."
Laurene's shoulder's loosened. She walked around the room keeping
a watchful eye on Moose then settled into the couch. "But what are we going
to do till then?"
Dale had it figured out. "I'll set the crate up in the spare bedroom.
It'll be out of the way and the cats can still have the run of the house,
and maybe (he wanted to sound tentative, but it was hardly negotiable)
after I get home from work, we can let him out and have them get acclimated
to one another."
As Dale spoke, Laurene stroked the underside of Curly's chin. "When
will we be able to move into a house?"
"I don't know, maybe six months."
"Well, it's hard to say. But, heck, if you like, we could start looking
now and buy on contingency."
Her face seemed to soften, the downward corners of her lips relaxed
and she made eye contact.
He continued, "In fact there's no reason why we can't start looking
this weekend. Maybe take a drive and see what's available."
Stroking Curly's fur, she asked, "Really? We could do that?"
"Sure. Why not? Where would you like to live?"
"The suburbs, of course. But which one? And I suppose we should consider
"Just in case," she said in a teasing tone.
Dale smiled. They hadn't discussed children, but then they never
did too much talking.
Curly's eyes were half-closed. In less than ten minutes, familial
bliss seemed well within reach. Dale relaxed his grip on the lease and
Moose's head dropped to the floor.
"There's a beautiful development off Route 75. How much do you think
we'll be able to afford?" she asked.
"I'd have to figure that out."
"They're around two fifty."
Two hundred and fifty thousand! Had houses gone up that much?
Laurene continued. "Of course, a house is an investment. When you
think of what you get, three baths, a two-car garage with everything brand-new,
it's really quite reasonable. And guess what else? Instead of electric
street lights, there are gas lanterns and the roads have French names. Dale,
it's so quaint."
"Yeah, like Arc de Triumph and Champs de something-or-other."
Laurene's eyes were shining now, full of life.
"Sounds elegant," Dale commented, even though he thought the la-de-dah
names were a marketing ploy for frustrated Francophiles, who, like most
Americans, preferred the knock-off to the original.
"No harm in looking. Right?"
She beamed. "Right."
"So when would you like to go?"
"Tomorrow after breakfast?"
"Works for me."
She glanced down at Moose, whose head rested on his paws. "He really
is quite tame, isn't he? Not like a bear at all."
"Yeah, he's terrific, You'll see. So, do you think Moe will be all
right?" he asked, more out of reciprocal kindness than true concern.
"Don't worry. She's timid with everyone. And look at Curly,
why she's already fallen asleep. Can't be that upset."
"It's official then, we're a blended family," Dale said, feeling
"Yes, I suppose you're right. But then you always are," she said
in a velvety, throaty voice. "Oh, I almost forgot. I have a cheesecake
in the oven. I'll put Curly in my bedroom for now. Would you like something
Laurene got up from the couch with Curly in her arms. On the way
out, she bent down and pecked Dale on the cheek. The scent of her body
wash reminded him of the foamy showers they had taken and how the suds
had clung and ran down her slick body.
Alone with Moose, Dale nudged his foot into the animal's fleshy side.
Moose raised his head.
"What up, dawg?" Dale said.
Moose's tail thumped on the rug.
"Nice crib, huh?"
Moose stared expectantly into Dale's eyes.
"I take that as a yes," Dale responded.
In the background, Laurene could be heard in the kitchen. The oven
door closed and water ran from the tap.
"Need any help?" he yelled.
"No everything's under control."
Looking around, Dale noticed that the dinette table was set with
linens, fresh flowers and tapered candles.
"Pretty fancy table. Are you expecting company?" he called out.
"I'm making a special dinner for us. All your favorites," she said
as she entered the room with a glass of red wine.
Sitting on the arm of the chair, she handed him the drink.
After he took a sip, she reached out. "Can I have a taste?"
He handed her the glass, but she set it on the coffee table. Bending
toward him, she said, "This kind of taste." She then nibbled his
lip and explored his mouth with her tongue. "Mmm," she said, then whispered
in his ear. "I'm feeling naughty."
"Naughty is good," Dale murmured.
Laurene ran her hand over his chest, then unbuckled his belt and
slipped her hand beneath. With each stroke, he swelled harder. Distracted,
Dale let go of the leash.
For so many months, sandwiched between stolen moments, Dale's sexuality
had been programmed to respond quickly. Not yet accustomed to the limitless
span of hours, days, he wanted to take her fast. Grabbing her wrist, he
pulled her hand away. "Straddle me," he said.
Fully dressed, she complied and faced him on the chair. He yanked
her T-shirt off and fumbled with her bra. Topless, she arched her back
and he took a nipple into his mouth. She moaned. Fiddling with her jeans,
she suddenly lurched forward, ramming into his face. "Oh my god! Something's
crawling on me."
Dale half-stunned, craned his neck to see. "What the-" he said and
began to laugh. Moose had gotten up and was standing directly behind
Laurene. Had he poked his nose into her back? "He must like you."
"That's not funny, Dale."
Putting his arms around her, she collapsed into him.
"You're right. Sorry. Maybe he thinks you're attacking me."
She shivered. "Why is he staring? Get him away."
"Down, Moose," Dale said firmly.
Immediately, the dog fell to the floor.
"See, there's nothing to worry about," he said as he nuzzled into
her, wanting to pick up where he left off.
Laurene hoisted herself off him. "I can't do this. You've got to
put him in his crate."
"It's in the trunk," he said lamely, hoping for few moments to thrust
and finish up. But she already was slipping into her T-shirt.
"All right. It shouldn't take long. Bookmark our spot." He stood
and zipped his pants. "Where can I leave Moose?"
She looked askance at the animal. "Will he be okay where he is?"
"Yeah, this is probably the best spot. If I put him in the bedroom,
he may scratch the door. You can keep an eye on him and he won't get lonely.
Can you manage?"
"I suppose. You won't be long, will you?"
"Heck, no. A couple of minutes. Tops."
"Will he stay lying down?"
Dale scanned the room, then considered his chair. "Here, I'll secure
the leash to the bottom of the chair leg. As long as he's tied up, he
"Scouts honor thanks to Kareem's Obedience School. Moose is a graduate,
A small smile creased her lips. "Bachelor's?"
"That's reassuring. While you're doing that, I'll get the room ready."
On his way out, Dale stopped, wrapped his arms around Laurene's waist
and kissed her neck. She swayed into him and whispered, "Hurry."
Taking two steps at a time, Dale jettisoned down the flight of stairs,
flew out the front door and ran to the car. The metal mesh crate, partially
disassembled and folded, needed wrangling before freeing it from
the trunk. He then grabbed the metal floor insert and jostled each item
under his arms. Climbing the porch stairs, he had to stop, not once but
twice, the cumbersome load kept slipping. At the front entry, with his
arms full, he kicked the door open. Banging through the doorway, knocking
and scraping the door jamb, he froze. Moe, Laurene's cat, cowered in a
dark corner of the vestibule, suddenly bolted between his legs and bounded
off the porch. "Damn," Dale said under his breath. Had he left the upstairs
door opened? The crate clattered to the floor as he dropped everything
and sprung after the cat.
For a lazy ball of fur, the darn thing was on fire. After barreling
down the steps, she hair-pinned deep into a cavernous overhang of bushes.
Dale hit the ground and peered through brambles and spider webs. Hunched
along the concrete foundation, Moe looked at him with dark saucers-like
eyes and hissed. Dale inched toward the cat, digging his elbows into the
gritty dirt. Branches poked and scraped his face as he crawled. Within
reach, he said, "Nice kitty." The cat's glance parried left and right as
Dale dove forward with a grasping hand. A fleeting tail slipped through
his fingers. From his perspective on the ground, he saw the cat bound into
the open and spring across the side lawn. Dale retreated from the tangle
of brush. Slapping off the dirt from his knees and elbows, Dale vowed to
catch the pisser and wring its neck. But as he turned the corner of the house,
the search and destroy mission was over. Twenty feet above in a sugar maple,
Moe was continuing her ascent.
Climbing the stairs, wrangling the crate, Dale considered his apology.
Yes, he probably left the door ajar, and yes, he was sorry. The next
step was to call 911, which he would do. As far as continuing their romantic
interlude. Well, that would take some diplomacy and a few drinks.
At the landing to her apartment, the door was wide open. Had he been
that absent-minded? Entering the hall and passing into the living
room, an uneasy feeling overcame him - the chair that pinned down Moose's
leash was toppled over. Quickly scanning the area, his stomach sank.
Puddled on the floor was the tablecloth amid a tangled mess of broken
dishes and scattered flowers. Moose! He must have been chasing Moe.
"Laurene?" Dale called out.
A whimpering came from the kitchen. He rushed to the doorway and
Moose was humping wildly to something prone on the floor. Beneath
his tail, were Laurene's slippered feet. "My God," he exhaled. "Moose,
heel," he screamed. But the dog was on automatic pilot.
Reeling across the floor, he lunged for the animal's neck. The dog's
strength was yeoman. Dale head-locked Moose and twisted his head to the
side forcing the animal down. With the dog hauled off, Dale got a glimpse
of Laurene. Her face was dazed and contorted.
"You all right?" he said with Moose still clutched in a bear hug.
She sat up and took a deep breath. Looking over at Moose, she rumbled,
seething with anger, "Get him out of here."
Dale scurried to his feet and retrieved Moose's lead. "I'll take
him into the bedroom."
"Like hell! Get him out of this apartment."
"Out of the apartment? But- "
"There's no way I'm living with that . . . that animal!"
"But we agreed to-"
"Listen, he not only attacked Moe and trashed my house, but he fucking
molested me, Dale."
"Molested you. Well, isn't that sort of, umm . . ."
"Of umm what?"
She was standing now, pointing to a wet spot on her jeans. "This
is no exaggeration!"
"It's just that we never got around to having him fixed. He gets
frisky sometimes. Listen, I'll call the vet and make an appointment."
"That dog is demented. It's either him or me, Dale. Your call."
"You're upset. I realize that. Now let me get him in his cr- "
"Get Out!" she bellowed.
"Okay, settle down. Now about Moe."
"What about Moe?"
"She's up a tree."
With no warning, Laurene grabbed a kitchen knife and lunged for Moose.
"You mother fu-"
Plunging to meet her advance, mild-mannered Moose, bared his teeth
and snapped at the knife. Dale gripped the lead with two hands and yanked
hard. "Laurene, you're being unreasonable."
Her face tightened. Suddenly she was an old hag, thin-lipped and
spitting mean. "How dare you!"
"Fine, we're going," Dale said, grasping Moose's collar to haul him
As the two sprung from the kitchen, a pot careened past Dale's ear
and smashed into a wall. Fearing bodily harm if he were to make another
trip, Moose's crate was left behind.
Several hours later, Dale and Moose registered in a motel thirty
miles east of the city off the interstate. They had tried to return home,
but Marcy had the locks changed. Sleepy Tyme wasn't a bad place, a bit
musty, but there was plenty of land (an abandoned railroad track ran the
length of the property)to take walks. The owner was amenable to Moose
as long as he didn't bark. The room had three double beds, cable and a
complimentary single pack of instant coffee.
The first night they picked up a pizza and stopped for beer. In the
supermarket, Dale considered buying dog food but decided against it - cans
would require an opener, a dish, spoon, and the dry stuff would stink up
the room. It was then that Dale figured that they'd both eat take-out until
either Laurene or Marcy returned his calls.
After three weeks, neither did. Faced with unwanted, unintended bachelorhood,
Dale stopped shaving and wore wrinkled clothes to work - the beginning
of his downward spiral. Weeks of drinking too much, eating garbage, and
slamming the ham followed. But a few days before Thanksgiving, Dale had
an epiphany. It wasn't about him specifically, or Laurene, or Marcy. It
was about Moose.
The realization came on a Saturday afternoon during a Notre Dame
football game. He and Moose were lying on the double bed closest to the
television, eating potato chips (his were regular, Moose's were barbecue)
when Dale said something about needing a drink. Moose lumbered off to
the bathroom where a pack of ice was melting in the tub, and retrieved
what was left of a six pack. Crawling back onto the bed, the dog dropped
the two cans that were still connected to the plastic web. Dale forgot about
the impending field goal, grabbed Moose's face and looked deeply into the
animal's eyes. "What's up with you?" he said. "Not only are you not crapping
or humping or passing gas, but you're getting my beer?" Moose, of course,
hadn't yet learned to talk but he did wag his tail. It was then the epiphany
occurred. It had to do with being restricted and living in a crate.
The next day, Dale and Moose moved into an apartment.
© 2003 Linda A. Lavid
Linda A. Lavid wrangles a writing life amid the detritus of
making a living and keeping a home that is, on rare occasions, totally
clean. Besides being consumed, beguiled and utterly frustrated with the
craft of writing, she also marvels how a family can survive on frozen dinners
and the occasional stalk of broccoli. She is currently hawking a manuscript
titled, "Crippling Conditions", A Collection of Short Fiction. To read
more of her work search "Linda A Lavid" at www.google.com. She has also
published stories in SCR