by Nancy Machlis Rechtman
James stared down at the floor in disbelief. “What the hell did you talk me into, Kelly?” he said accusingly.
“You’re blaming me for this?” Kelly asked.
“We agreed we were only going to look,” James shot back.
“You walked in with me. You even held her. You agreed we couldn’t leave her there,” Kelly reminded him.
“No, I didn’t! You said we couldn’t leave her there. Just look at what she did!” James demanded, his words amplified by the bare floor of the apartment.
Kelly knew. But she looked anyway. And there, in the middle of their very expensive reclaimed oak floor, was a steaming pile of crap. And next to it was a puddle that was slowly seeping through the planks as it spread across the floor. And under the glass coffee table was a tiny, alien-looking, almost hairless being quivering like an earthquake was taking place.
“Poor baby,” Kelly cooed.
“Really? Poor baby?” James practically yelled. “Is she going to clean this mess up?”
“For goodness’ sake, James, calm down. It’s just dog poop, not the Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Kelly stood and went into the hall where she grabbed some towels from the back of the closet and headed over to the offending mound in the middle of the living room.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” James growled. “You’re going to clean it up with the towels my mother gave us for Christmas? Don’t we have any paper towels?”
Kelly rolled her eyes. The towels were as hideous as the obnoxious Christmas sweater his mother had bought him last year, and Kelly had tossed them into the bowels of the closet hoping James had forgotten about them. This seemed like as good a time as any to conveniently dispose of them. “It will take a whole roll of paper towels to clean this up. I can get it all wiped up in a minute with these towels.” And before he could object further, Kelly released them with unwavering accuracy directly on top of the pile of excrement and the pee puddle, gave a few swipes, gathered it all up at arm’s length, then dropped everything into the trash bag she had grabbed on the way. She walked out the door, plunked the bag containing the towels –blessedly never to be seen again – and the rest of the mess down the trash chute, came inside and went directly to the bathroom to get the wipes and the Lysol spray. With impressive efficiency, she used her foot to swipe the floor with the wipes, gave it a few spritzes of Lysol, brought it all back into the bathroom, washed her hands, and plopped back onto the couch. James stared at her, open-mouthed. The tiny creature hadn’t moved from under the coffee table and was still shaking like she was mixing a martini.
“Lexi,” Kelly cooed in the sweetest voice she could muster. “Lexi, come to Mama. No one’s mad. Just come out now, it’s OK.”
“Mama?” James sputtered. “She doesn’t know you from Adam. She can barely see you. She’s half deaf, too. She probably can’t even hear you. I don’t know how the hell you convinced me to adopt the oldest, most pitiful dog in the shelter. I thought we agreed we were going to get a young, active dog to go with us on hikes and out on the boat. This thing looks like E.T. and a hairless mole rat mated. And she’s about a hundred years old.”
“But she’s so tiny,” Kelly said. “So portable. We can take her anywhere. I’ll get a doggie backpack for her and carry her wherever we go. You’ll see, she’ll be the perfect companion.”
“I never said yes!” James yelled.
“You never said no either,” Kelly admonished him.
“Yes, I did!” James was turning as red as an overripe tomato and Kelly wondered if she should be concerned. “As usual, you weren’t listening!”
“Well, the poor baby needed a home. No one was going to adopt her. She’s so grateful, look, James. Look how grateful she is.”
Lexi was watching both of them warily from under the coffee table. She started whimpering softly. Kelly crouched down and picked her up, then sat with Lexi on the Queen Anne chair on the other side of the room. She opened the oversized bag of essentials she had purchased at the shelter. “Look, Lexi, look what Mommy bought you.” Kelly proceeded to pull out a fancy dog bowl set, a small plush dog bed, a pink rhinestone color with matching leash, a pink fluffy sweater with white furry pompoms around the neck, a flowery raincoat, a tiny glittering tiara, a few squeaky toys, plus special canned dog food for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Lexi finally stopped trembling and curled up in Kelly’s lap. “See, James, look how good she is. You’ll see. You’ll love her, too.”
“Look, Kelly, I have a heart. I like dogs as much as the next guy. But this isn’t a dog. I wanted a bigger dog if we got one. Like a Lab. Or even a beagle. Not a microscopic, addled alien.”
“We’re not allowed to have big dogs in this apartment,” Kelly reminded him. “Lexi is so tiny she barely takes up any space. You might be able to get a medium-size dog though if you can find one that’s manly enough for you.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” James demanded.
“It’s just starting to sound like someone has a very fragile male ego,” Kelly admonished.
“My ego is perfectly not fragile,” James retorted.
“OK, if you say so,” Kelly said. “Then give her a kiss.”
“You heard me. Give your little girl a kiss to show her that she’s welcome here and her daddy loves her. She’s very stressed right now and she needs some reassurance from you.”
James stared first at Kelly, then at Lexi, then back at Kelly again. “I’m going to bed,” he said. “My head feels like it’s going to explode.” He looked at Lexi again. “And you, no peeing or pooping anywhere in this apartment. Your ‘mommy’ got you pee pads for that.” He made air quotes when he said the word “mommy.” He glared at Kelly and Lexy. Then he strode into the bedroom, not even bothering to put on his slippers, and slammed the door shut.
Kelly watched him leave, then cuddled with Lexi. “It’s OK, Lexi. His bark is worse than his bite. Haha. He just takes some time to warm up. One day, he’ll love you as much as I do.” Lexi looked up at Kelly, her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth, as most of her teeth were missing. “Here, let’s try on the sweater I bought you. Who’s a pretty girl? Come, sweetheart.”
Kelly pulled the sweater over Lexi’s head and picked her up so she could see herself in the mirror. It was hard to tell if Lexi could see herself or not, but she seemed to be happy to have something on her body that kept her warm. Kelly gave her some food and water and Lexi took a few bites, but then walked away. She promptly peed on the floor.
“Oh, Lexi, no!” Kelly cried. She ran and got some paper towels and cleaned up the puddle as quickly as she could. “Come on, let’s go outside for a little walk.” She put Lexi’s bejeweled pink collar on her and attached the matching leash, then swooped her up so they could go outside.
When they returned to the apartment, Kelly realized she was tired, too and told Lexi it was time for bed. She decided it might be better to sleep in the guestroom that night and brought Lexi’s bed and toys into the room with her. “So, Lexi, here is your bed. You can sleep in your bed right next to mine, OK?” Kelly placed the bed on the floor and Lexi stared at her. Kelly picked up one of the toys and squeaked it and put it in Lexi’s bed. Lexi waited. “Oh, sweetie, you want to sleep with Mama?” Kelly asked. She picked Lexi up and put her on the bed. Lexi curled up on the blanket and promptly fell asleep. “OK, Lexi, just for this one night, you can sleep with me. After this, we’ll put your pretty little doggie bed next to our bed. You know your daddy isn’t going to want to share our bed. He’s funny that way. He barely wants to share the bed with me these days,” Kelly added. She paused. “I’m going to get ready for bed now, so you relax and I’ll be right back.”
A few minutes later when Kelly opened the door to the bathroom, she saw that Lexi had jumped off the bed and was sitting next to her dog bed on the floor. “Oh, good girl!” Kelly exclaimed. “Did you decide you wanted to sleep in your own bed tonight?”
But Lexi wouldn’t get into her doggie bed. She waited for Kelly to get into bed and then she started whining. Kelly wagged her finger at Lexi. “Now Lexi, you have to decide where you want to sleep tonight. If you want to sleep in bed with me, you have to stay up here and not keep jumping off, OK?” Lexi stared at her. Kelly leaned over and picked the tiny dog up and Lexi snuggled right next to her on top of the blanket.
The next morning when Kelly woke up, Lexi was still cuddled up against her in the same spot she had been in when she went to bed. “Good girl,” Kelly said.
And then there was a mighty roar. At first, Kelly had no idea what was happening. Then she realized it was James. “Get up, Kelly, get up now! We’re returning that little monster today - this is the last straw!”
“What in the world?” Kelly said, jumping out of bed and holding Lexi protectively in her arms. “You’ll wake up the whole building, James, really, calm down.”
“Calm down? Calm down? Look at what your little she-devil did!” He was hopping up and down on his left foot and waving his right slipper in her face. “Your little angel took a dump in my slipper last night which I discovered when I went to put it on a minute ago and now I have dog crap smeared all over the bottom of my foot! Aside from the fact that my favorite slippers are ruined – and my mother gave them to me for my birthday, if you remember!”
Instead of being upset for him, Kelly felt laughter bubbling up inside of her as if she had just gulped down a glass of effervescent champagne. She struggled to keep herself under control. But James’s mother was a controlling bitch and Kelly felt no sorrow for having to toss yet another reminder of that odious woman from the apartment.
“I’m sorry,” she said contritely. “I’m sure Lexi is sorry, too. You have to realize, James, she hasn’t had a home for quite some time. She’s got to learn how to be a pet again. Give her time.”
“Give her time? Give her time!” James bellowed. “I’ve given her enough time, Kelly. I’m telling you right now, it’s her or me, do you hear me? Her or me!”
Kelly stared at him, then down at the little dog she was holding, who was snuggling even deeper into her arms.
The movers arrived the next afternoon.
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