I’m working in my little studio. It’s about mid-afternoon, which I find to be my most inspirational part of the day. I don’t know the reason behind that. Ever since I started painting years ago I found that afternoon was the optimal time to not create crap art.
It’s still cold and a light rain has started outside. I work this to my advantage, letting the raindrops create themselves on my canvas. I haven’t done much painting since the accident, mainly because I was in recovery for so long. But since my migraines have been at bay I figured I’d try and wake up my creative side. So far the acrylic fumes aren’t harassing me.
I don’t think much as I let the brush run the show. It’s how I paint now-a-days. Abstract art is a new thing for me, actually. I was always so into landscapes and trying to make art as realistic as possible I never really considered just putting paint to canvas and seeing where it goes. It’s become my new obsession. Today I’m working with an array of blues, letting the swirls and slashes work together to create my own little rainstorm. Soft music is playing from the little stereo I have set up in the corner. The overall atmosphere is exactly what I dreamed of when I decided to make this room my art studio. The daybed is where I sit and think, sketch out possible ideas and, yes, take naps.
I step back and observe my work. I’m digging it. I smile as I set the brush down and make my way towards the kitchen. I think it’s time for some hot chocolate.
I set the kettle on the stove and pull down my favorite Pluto mug. Hey, he’s playing a saxophone…what can I say?
I don’t catch it right away. I’m too enamored with my painting, my hot chocolate, my general wellbeing. But when I stop and listen I hear a scratching noice coming from the living room. I pause in my cocoa assemblage and make my way into the living room. I peek out the peephole but don’t see anyone standing there. My bay window reveals nothing in the backyard. Actually, all windows reveal nothing. But the scratching continues. What the fuck?
I release the chain from the front door, unlock it and crack it open. What’s sitting on my porch all but makes me gasp.
A small puppy gazes up at me with a face so blue you’d think I was the one to leave him out in the rain. He’s long black coat is sopping wet and his little body is shivering like a leaf. I don’t even think as I kneel down and stretch out my hand to him.
“Oh my God. Hey, little guy. Er, girl? What are you doing out here?” I try to make my voice as soft and inviting as possible. The puppy eyes my hand warily, like I might use it for good or evil. I guess the jury’s still out on that one because he/she doesn’t make a move towards me.
“You’re okay, baby. I won’t hurt you.” With a burst of inspiration I make a run towards my bathroom and grab one of my nice fluffy towels. I leave the door open, hoping it will coax the little baby inside. It does not. He/she is still sitting there on the porch when I run back.
I kneel down again and stretch out the towel like a peace-offering, “Will you let me dry you off?”
He/she eyes the towel, eyes me, eyes the towel and back again. Its little nose is twitching…I guess sniffing out if I’m actually a puppy killer. After a few minutes it seems to realize that I won’t, in fact, suffocate it and takes tentative steps towards my outstretched hands. Small Victory #1. I back up ever-so slowly, inching my way into the living room so I can get him/her inside and out of the rain. It works. I leave the towel on the floor and circle around to close the door. Its eyes never leave me. I lock and chain the door and I swear the house breathes a sigh of relief with me. The warmth from my little fireplace envelopes me and I know that my house is giving both of us a hug. We are safe.
“Will you let me dry you off?” I repeat the question as I sit Indian-style on the floor, towel in hand.
He/she agrees by sitting down right in front of me. I use the towel to gently rub him (yes, we are confirmed it’s a boy) down, starting with his head and working my way down towards his tail. As he dries, his fur becomes more and more fluffy. His coat is actually quite spectacular, all black, right down to his big fluffy paws. And he is just that…a big-ass puppy.
“Where did you come from, little guy?” Of course he won’t answer me, but I feel the need to string along a conversation, more for my benefit then his. “What do you say we dry you off, get you some water and maybe a little something to eat? I don’t have any dog food but I have some left over chicken breast?” Why I’m asking him is anyones guess.
Once he’s thoroughly dried off I stand and start walking towards the kitchen, looking back every few steps to make sure he’s following me, which he is. Small Victory #2. I open the fridge and fish out my last baked chicken breast. Looks like I’m eating cereal tonight. The puppy just sits and watches me, a sliver of pink tongue sticking out between his sizable jowls. I can’t stop looking at him as I chop the breast up into bite-sized pieces. He’s just so fracking cute!
I grab two bowls, fill one with water and the other with chicken and set them down on the floor. I step back and wait. After about ten seconds he lumbers over to the chicken bowl and sniffs it, as if making sure I didn’t poison it. He’s satisfied, however, and jumps on the chicken like a thirsty man may jump on a bottle of water. He inhales the food so fast I’ve barely blinked before the bowl is empty and he’s sipping from the water dish with gusto.
“Jesus. Does anyone feed this poor guy?” I kneel down and get a good look at him. His coat looks healthy. His teeth look clean. I go so far as to lift up one of his big floppy ears and look inside, like I’ve seen vets do in movies, and I’m pleased that he lets me. Small Victory #3. His ears look clean. I’m not about to check his anal glands. I make the decision to take him to the vet tomorrow morning to have him checked out. In the meantime…well, I guess he’s staying with me. Since he has no collar I have no idea where he came from or who he belongs to but I’m not trekking into the rain to find out.
“You wanna stay here with me, sweetie?” I bend down, my hair falling over my shoulder like a blonde waterfall, and look into his sad little eyes. His eyes aren’t really sad anymore now that I’ve fed him. It’s more just their droopiness that gives him this permanently blue face. I love it.
He answers me by crawling through my curtain of hair to come lean against my leg.
“Affirmative,” I smile down at him, “Wanna come watch me paint? I’m almost finished,” I pause, considering options. “We can watch a movie tonight. Does that sound good?”
He lets a soft “woof” escape. My heart melts.
She’s running. Running like her life depends on it. Terror streaks through every cell in her body. Get home. Get home. Get home. That’s all her mind can tell her.
Her feet pound the pavement. Just. A little. Bit. Longer.
She sees her house a block away. It’s calling to her, telling her to hurry. It will protect her.
She can feel him breathing down her neck. So. Close.
A scream rips from her throat as she feels his hand come down hard on her shoulder…
I’m sitting in the vets waiting room. The puppy is being examined right now. My head still hurts from that horrible dream I had last night. I know in my bones it was the same woman from that first dream. And she was terrified. What it means, however, is completely beyond my grasp at this point. Ever since that fucking accident I feel like my IQ has dropped about 20 points. I can’t make sense of anything. The only thing I know is that the house, for whatever reason, really is a safe haven, both for me and that woman. And I know that I want this puppy.
Last night we watched “The Secret Life of Pets,” which I thought he’d appreciate. Every time I laughed, the puppy would let off a little “woof,” like he was laughing along with me. I decided during the movie that he was now my puppy and if anyone came to take him away from me I’d beat them senseless. What kind of responsible owner leaves their dog out in a storm anyways? Bad parenting.
The vet tech emerges from a swinging door off to the side, puppy leading. When he sees me he smiles and it’s a smile that instantly lights up his blue face.
“You have a very healthy Newfoundland puppy, Ms. Lacy,” she smiles at me as she hands me the leash, “And based off his exam, I’d place him at around ten weeks old. He doesn’t have any of his permanent canine teeth yet but he does have his baby incisors and premolars.”
I nod as if I know what she’s talking about, idly noticing how pretty she is.
“Make an appointment with the front desk so we can fix him,” she gives me a wink.
I can’t help but laugh as I look down at him and say, “Sorry, sweetie, but it’s got to happen.” He growls softly.
“So…you have a name for him yet?”
“Nope. Not yet.” I love the fact my vet techs name is Kitty…how appropriate. “But I’m sure we can find something, right sweetie?” He “woofs” again. I swear he knows what I’m talking about.
When we walk though the door the headache I’ve been fighting all morning dissipates like it was never there. I take a deep breath and the house breathes with me. My mind floats to the woman in the dreams and an idea starts to formulate in my injured brain.
“I think it’s time for a little research, sweetie. What do you think?”
“Awesome. Let’s do it.” We march as one into my studio where I have a little desk with my computer and printer all hooked up. I fire up the Mac and wait impatiently. I spend that time talking to my puppy. “So what should your name be, sweetie?” I sit back in my chair and think. “What about Elvis?”
He yawns. Fair enough.
“Okay, okay,” I laugh, “No Tiny.” My screen flashes at me for my password. I log in and wait some more.
“How about Wallace?” He flops onto his side and starts licking his balls. Point taken.
I reach down and start scratching his head with one hand as I use the other to navigate the internet. I do a general search on my house, entering in the address, fingers crossed that some blaring news-line appears explaining why I’m all the sudden dreaming of a terrified woman running towards her/my house. All I get is a map with a pinpoint on my house and the old “For Sale” ad that I poured over. Bust.
Since the house was built in 1956, I enter in the year and tag on El Granada, hoping something will emerge. It does not. I tamper down the annoyance that’s trying to brew in my chest. Think, Fu.
I sit there for what feels like forever, scratching my nameless dogs head and letting the images of my dream run though my brain. The house looked exactly the same, this I know. Same color, same fence. Flowers were different though. Not that that fact helps me much. As if a gentle breeze blows through and around my head, my mind clears and I decide to take a different route in my research.
I google brain injury phenomena and wait to see what pops up. A bunch of garbage. Awesome. I scroll down the page and one link pops out at me. I click on it and up comes some website based out of Sweden. I read through and start to feel an inkling of…something. I read about how scientists have been researching peculiar instances where brain injury survivors have been known to link into “otherworldly matter,” whatever the hell that means. I read about people claiming to see dead people, talk to ghosts and see the future. I find it all riveting if not a little unbelievable.
But as ridiculous as it all sounds, I can’t help but wonder if something like that could be happening to me. After all, it wasn’t until after I was inside this house that I started dreaming of this woman. Could there be a ghost here?
But she’s not a ghost. You are dreaming of her, not seeing her.
I huff and get out of my chair. I walk over to my window and peer out over the street. I’m going to drive myself nuts if I keep thinking about this. I should be focusing on my puppy and giving him the perfect name. I make the decision to do just that when my eyes pass over something peculiar across the street.
A man is standing under a large clump of trees. At least, I think it’s a man, based on the size and build. I can’t see his features but I have the distinct feeling he’s watching me. Goosebumps erupt over my body. He doesn’t move. He just stands there like a statue, watching my house. I’m tempted to move away from the window, but I don’t want him to think he can intimidate me, so I stand and stare back at him.
We play this little game for a few minutes until I feel a furry little body press up against my leg. My puppy has his paws up on the windowsill and he’s staring out at the man as well. A low growl vibrates from his throat.
As if the man can hear him, he hikes up the collar of his jacket, turns around and starts walking away. I still can’t see what this son-of-a-bitch looks like but I’ll be damned if he’s going to screw with me. Me or my puppy.
I reach down and scratch him behind the ear, “You’re a brave boy, Bennett,” I don’t know where the name comes from. It just kind of pops out.
He smiles up at me, his silky tail swishing from side to side.
I grin like I just won the lottery, “I think we have a winner.”