Acts and Images

In accordance with rituals of consumption predictable of our generation, we celebrated Halloween again this year.  With the children, it is expected.  But this year, Brenda and I went to a costume party which normally we would not do.  I agreed to go since the event was scheduled the weekend before trick-or-treat night.  After all, I prefer to take Halloween and April Fool’s Day off, leaving them to amateurs.  I have an image to uphold, and a reputation to maintain.

Since the party was given for some scenic design people in television, cinema and theater, the creative displays were most remarkable.  We went as Beauty and the Beast which required only a limited amount of makeup for either of us.  Understanding which was which calls for little imagination.

Brenda is a beauty and was right for the part.  Whatever books and stories I’ve read tend to get all mixed up in my head.  Even if I’m making the yarn up as I go, I might just pour in a cup or two of something I’d read in the funny papers.  It was perhaps for this reason my dad often suggested to me when I was a boy, that I learn how to get my stories straight.

Due to some kind of literary malnourishment or memory retention flaw, I looked more like Quasimodo From the Hunchback of Notre Dame than the enchanted one in a different fairy tale.  It was my first experience playing hunchback since I was usually a defensive end back at Park Hills Elementary School.  Although I’ve visited Indiana, I never attended Notre Dame.

As with all theatrical events, a dress rehearsal in front of a small audience is a good idea.  Being chock-full of good ideas, I put on my “beastly” clothes (which is what I usually wear to work) and donned a frightful old wig that a bag lady wouldn’t wear.  I think I had it on backwards.  If I’d worn it straight on, I’d have looked more like the Church Lady character on Saturday Night Live.

I approached the dawgs.  They would be my audience, and I was confident in the sincerity that would show in their responses.  The feedback from them as the spectators was a mixed bag: some whooping and hollering and foot stomping, but no laughs, and no applause.

The makeup, the hump the limp, the fake monster teeth and the snarl on my face didn’t bother them; I think it was the wig.  Since it was on backwards, it made my head look like it was being attacked by a badger or a wolverine.  Cosmo Topper was trying to act as if he wanted to come to my defense, but thought caution should be used, so he just howled and barked maintaining a kind of out-of-harm’s-way stance.  Ashley joined in the song carrying the soprano part.  Both dawgs seemed more concerned about their image than their actions.

It is considered by some to be a cruelty to tease dumb animals.  Well, these dawgs ain’t all that dumb if you compare them to congressional voting records over the last century.  And they ain’t dumb compared to chickens.

Teasing a chicken might be a cruelty.  Rumor has it that chickens got on the Ark by accident.  It was for their stupidity that they had been struck from the guest list.  Apparently, they had been smuggled on as eggs for the potato salad.  Chickens would’ve never been able to outsmart Ark security on their own.

There were two ducks on the Ark.  One of them (probably not the drake) sat on them until they hatched.  I’m sure the appearance of these hatch-lings caused matrimonial discord between the two ducks.  The baby birds were terrible swimmers due to the design of their feet, and their quacking was horrendous.  Such a craziness may have been what lead Noah to drink.  Somehow, the chickens survived and prospered..until Colonel Sanders came along.

Well the dawgs were fooled once, but once they were sure it was me, and the wig was no real threat, they couldn’t be fooled again with the same show.  This distinguishes them somewhat from the general voting public at large considering the high degree of re-elections that occur.

The party was fun, and put me in a festive mood for the season.  I carved…no, I sculpted a marvelous jack-O-lantern and put a candle in it.  I took it around that evening to show the dawgs.  One look at my organic gargoyle with deep glowing eyes put the dawgs into high-speed reverse.  Ah!  There was the “Boo!” factor test, so I knew I’d be prepared for the little neighborhood hobgoblins seeking candy.  It was at about that very moment that I made a mad dash to the store and bought some candy.

Too much candy, excitement, hobgoblins and “Boo!” factors can bring on a nightmare.  It was the usual, ordinary run-of-the mill nightmare kinda like the ones you have on occasion: running but never fast enough; barking dawgs, naked people on motorcycles, gravity all out of whack, somebody or something insane and dangerous,and not a solid bit of footing to be found.

A dream is just a dream unless you make a living out of interpreting them.  Sometimes you vaguely remember a dream, and sometimes it is a vivid and disconcerting thing that hangs around the next day to interrupt focus.  It is a cultural hangover of some kind that we might want to interpret them, and I tried but couldn’t.  My dream made no sense at all.  If it were real, it would take on similarities to serving a term in the House of Representatives, and I wouldn’t want to have to do that.  So, unable to extract some hidden lesson, I decided to slack up a bit with teasing the dawgs.

My sons, due to genetic defects, take up where I left off in that department.  If the dawgs are off on an archeological expedition or otherwise busy, the boys will tease their mother.  David has a hamster named Johnnie Wayne.  It has a way of getting out of the hamster cage downstairs, and coming upstairs for a game of “Run Up the Drapes”.  Sometimes Johnnie will gather a double mouthful of carpet lent and build a nest in Brenda’s favorite chair.

Brenda doesn’t want the hamster in the chair especially when Brenda is in it.  To have this happen seems to entertain David.  So if the rodent cannot escape on her own, David will bring her up for fun and games.  Brenda has been quite verbal about wanting the hamster IN a cage, and not just IN THE VICINITY OF one.  You would think the cat would feel differently, but she does not: Penny Lane wants nothing to do with the hamster.

Ashley Cooper is under a kind of house arrest a good bit of the time because of her history of escaping the fenced in back yard.  While we’re away, we have her on a long chain.  She can get under shelter if it rains, and she can walk about and reach her water dish.  But she can’t quite reach the fence.

When Nathan gets home from school, he likes to play with her and get her excited until she gets herself all wound up around the post that holds the other end of the chain.  In a spot about two feet short of the water dish is where she stands while Nathan feeds her something dry and salty.

Soon enough, she is freed from bondage and has a drink.  The truth is, Nathan is really good with dawgs…better than most adults.  But he has no love of shovel duty in the yard.  He goes out there from time to time, but only acts like he’s taking care of business, and wants it to look like he is finished.

Nathan likes all kinds of animals, and keeps a Guinea pig named Rusty Michelle in his room.  Rusty doesn’t care for Penny Lane (the cat) and bit her.  My youngest son, Mason may have had something to do with the provocation.

Sometimes when I hear a commotion in the back of the house, I yell: “Quit that!” and my sons answer: “Yes-sir” which is a politeness they got from their mother.  Brenda believes good manners are useful, and they can be if you don’t have to drive in Atlanta.

Now and then, I have to take the dawgs to the vet.  They both want to hang their heads out of the window and slobber all over the side of my car.  If you’re not careful, they’ll jump out.  I love power windows: nailed ’em both right in the Adam’s apple…if dawgs have such a thing.  This delighted Nathan immensely.

It is a good idea to take along a helper when it’s time to take two big dawgs to the vet.  The dawgs don’t want to go in there.  Now and then, we have to board them when we’re out of town.  But that is by no measure their main reason to be reluctant.  That is the place they go to get shots, and have their temperature checked.  The latter is a degrading procedure even for a dawg: they won’t make eye contact with you while this is being done.

The dawgs are placed on a stainless steel examining table that offers no hope of traction: you can see and hear their toenails screech as they might on a blackboard.  The room smells like it has been “freshened up” with formaldehyde and rubbing alcohol.  There are other smells, but Brenda asked me not to list them.

While the dawgs do not look forward to going to the vet with any fondness, their disdain shrinks in comparison to how the cat feels about it.  You can expect to be punished by the cat for making her go in there.

I wish to avoid obscenity here, so let’s just say that Penny Lane will get the last word in, so to speak.  Turn on a light and inspect before sitting down, and dangle not your arms from the bed at night unless you sleep wearing welder’s gloves.  The sadistic “I’ll get you for this” attitude is reminiscent of a politician in an election year.

Elections remind me of a cat fight, with all the same dignity, and the same honor.  The game is to hiss and spit, and get your way or draw blood.  The fight is louder if sex is involved, and it usually is, though not necessarily willingly on the part of the taxpayer.  My cat acts to avoid these kinds of fights, that particular part of her transmission being locked in neutral, but our congressman is always in high gear.

Cats and congressmen can also be compared by the image of their aloofness except at feeding time, when they seem glad to see you.  Both travel at the expense of their neighbors, and get caught now and then in the trash.  But, in fairness, so do dawgs and evangelists.

I’ve heard some folks say: “My dawg ain’t got no sense.”  This is always in suburbia.  All but country dawgs must learn to behave abnormally in order to survive.  The amount of sense that they do not have is measured in “licks”, which is a sub-atomic particle more often used in reference to the kinds of sense that should be considered common.

My youngest sister recently acquired a dawg, and told me straight away: “My dawg ain’t got a lick of sense.”  Her dawg may have all kinds of other licks, but no licks of sense are on deposit.  Our congressman is also devoid of any; has no possession of even a single lick of that nature.

I close this letter for now before it talks me to death.  More, I’m sure will come later if time continues.  Our actions will be whatever they need to be in order to keep on keeping on.  Our images will show, as an example to others, how to act or not to act…that is the question.

3 responses to this post.

  1. I’m trying to hang on to my “licks” thank you!


  2. Posted by Wayne Casasanta on February 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Van, you failed to reveal how you gained insight into the real understanding of dogs. As a child, it was not uncommon for me to sit for hours on the ground in the back yard, discussing life with my two cocker spaniels. Living “among” them in their environment, gave insight to me about how weird humans really are. Dogs are entertained easily. They smile at almost any story and usually will not walk away, while you are telling them about the events of the day.

    While reading your account of taking dogs to the Vet, I had a flashback of my Mother taking our two dogs and me to Smith’s Animal Hospital, near Cleveland Park, in Spartanburg. The driveway of that facility was a very steep incline, so the dogs knew where they were, when we started the ascension. On one hot day, while sitting in the waiting room with other owners and their dogs, I realized there were no magazines for the owners or the pets to read, while waiting to be seen by Dr. Smith. There may have been newspapers on the floor, but none of the dogs were reading them, as some of them were stained.

    Once it was our turn to enter the examining room, we were told to put one of the dogs on that stainless steel examining table, which had been cleaned with Crisco cooking oil. I do remember the process of taking their temperatures. Both dogs were male, but during that part of the examination, were able to howl soprano notes, similar to Mariah Carey. When both dogs had been examinined I thought that it was time to leave; however, I heard my Mother say, “Dr. Smith, do you have time to examine Wayne, while we are here? I do not have time to take him across town to see Dr. Luttrell.” Dr. Smith, not wanting to lose a customer, agreed to examine me, so I was forceably thrown on the stainless steel examining table. Now I know why owners are told to hold the dog’s head steady, so they won’t look back to see what is coming. After this invading examination to obtain my temperture, I realized that Vets at that time in history, were not as concerned about sterilization of instruments. The same enlarged rectal thermometer was used on all three of us (my dogs and myself). Fortunately, there was a bright side to the visit to Dr. Smith. My Mother bought new flea collars for all of us.


  3. Posted by Bonnie Stewart on February 22, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    I seemed to have a habit of getting dogs that have no sense about them.


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