This section is great; it is one that I have worked off and on for a week or so, trying to get happy with it. I took my last draft outside hour today and rewrote it by hand, then brought it back to retype. All in all, the time I put into these pages was overwhelming, but I hope that the payoff is worth it.
Right now, it works really well with all the background you have on the characters, but it wouldn't take too much to change it to a stand alone piece. We get to see a very soft side of Sam and a wacky plan. The only real issue is this makes no sense and comes from left field. It is not quite this (see here for real examples), but it doesn't really fit. If I do a major edit, I might rework it and move it earlier to make Sam more sympathetic earlier and give Kenny more action early.
Kenny and Sam are a bit vulgar, so, language warning. Table of contents here, fiction below.
* * *
Reading the newspaper to look for jobs was the most depressing thing in the world for me. It was even more depressing than when I saw that stray puppy in the rain under the awning outside the O.G. Even though that ended well, it was still kind of depressing. Annette had threatened to fire me—maybe she should’ve done it then—because Lucy and I had been taking turns feeding it scraps the guests had left. I took the full brunt of the blame because no one thought Lucy had the balls to stand up to the boss.
Fiona even had the nerve to tell us that the fettuccini could kill it. Which was true, but only in the sense of congestive heart failure. Besides, he’d liked the ravioli well enough, and it was better than throwing it away. It was on the fourth day when Annette finally broke down and called animal control. I remember that the guy who came to the door was dressed in their silly brownish uniforms and had a name tag that read Wayne. He was wearing his haunt and had a little cage and everything.
Well, OK, I don’t remember that part. Because I was in the back at the time. The part I remember is coming to the front when Fiona told me that I was needed at the hostess platform. I tried to explain that I had the wrong parts for hostessing, and she said she would fix that if I didn’t get there right now.
Outside, sitting on the cold, wet ground, was Lucy in her O.G. uniform, with the little brownish poofy, matted puppy shivering in her lap as Wayne stood next to her, looking crossed between exasperated and — no, just exasperated. Lucy was ignoring Wayne and on her phone, when I came out to survey the scene, I heard the last snippet of what she was saying:
“Christine, I promise I’ll walk and feed him every day. Well, wait, twice a day. You feed them twice a day. I remember that. And you walk him as much as he wants to walk. Look, I know how to take care of a puppy. Can I just text you a picture of him? You’ll melt if you see him—” Then her phone signaled she’d been hung up on. “Because you’re a Wicked Witch.”
“Look, miss, the puppy will be fine at the shelter.”
Lucy refused to give the little guy up, and to be honest, I think when I saw her patting it on the head is when I really fell for her. Sure, I mean, I’d wanted to sleep with her beforehand. That’s natural when a guy sees a beautiful girl. There was something in this moment though where I saw into her soul; as she sat there indignant, wet and cuddling the puppy, which was licking the rain drops off her face, I realized she was more than just cute and neurotic.
“You can’t take him. He’s only here because we feed him; it is like a common law adoption. He’s ours now,” she said. She had a sense of right and wrong, however goofy it was.
“He’s a cute, adorable puppy,” Wayne said, as convincing as Moses to Pharaoh. Well, the times before all the first-born dropped dead. “I bet we’ll find him a home lickety-split.”
“Will it be a no-kill shelter?”
“If there’s availability.”
“No deal,” She said simply. I hadn’t seen her negotiate raises with this much stubbornness. It was at that moment that I called Kenny. I went over our plan, described the puppy and then added: “Wear glasses or something.”
I stepped in to try and negotiate with Lucy and Wayne. Wayne was a nice, even-keeled guy, but he had a job to do. That job was to get stray animals to where they belonged, hell or high water. We were well on our way to high water the way it was raining, so I figured Kenny could bring the hell. I bought Wayne some dinner from the O.G. and brought him a chair so he could sit without getting wet. Lucy turned down the chair:
“I tried to pick Rigatoni up but he didn’t like it. I don’t think he likes heights.”
“I named him after what I gave him for lunch the first time he was here.” Cute, but neurotic. It was about 15 minutes or so before I saw Kenny coming down the street. Or at least, what I knew was Kenny, but couldn’t be sure. Stopping at every spot he could, he was stopping and posting a little flyer. His hair was slicked back and he was wearing a suit.
I say a suit because I was pretty sure it was mine, not his. He was also wearing my tie; he only owned three ties. One had a naked woman on it, another was decorated like a Christmas tree and the third was a conservative navy blue. This one was red. I’m guessing this was the ‘something.’
“Pardon, eh, moi, garçon,” He said as he approached, snapping at me as he came in from out of the rain. Inwardly, I groaned. Not the Frenchman. Kenny had a range of pseudodentities for these little events, and this was my least favorite. Because Kenny didn’t speak French, had never visited France and, to the best of my knowledge, only knew of France by virtue that he had studied their kissing techniques at the beach he was a life guard at one summer with the girl who ran the peanut stand.
“Would your establishment, with its kitschy, knock-off Americanized rape of fine cuisine, allow me to hang a flyer in its window?”
“My boss has made it clear we’re not to hang any flyers,” I said taking one anyway and looking at it, pretending to be interested. One thing I had learned is that if you don’t want people to know you’re in cahoots is that you have to be moderately difficult with each other. Much like French, Kenny didn’t know the meaning of “moderately.”
I looked at the flyer and was quite pleased with it. On it, a small, brown, poofy puppy sat on a lush carpet. A small, brown, poofy puppy that, at low-resolution, looked just enough like Rigatoni—God, now I was calling it that.
“As you can see, it is not political or commercial,” Kenny said.
“Can’t you see we’re a little busy here,” Wayne said. “Beat it.”
“Is this your boss? Are Americans always so boorish? In France, we have a little thing called manners,” Kenny said.
“You’re French?” Wayne asked. I sensed that he didn’t quite believe, but it didn’t matter. Kenny interrupted that thought process by handing him a flyer.
“Oui, monsieur.” Wayne looked at Kenny, then at the puppy.
“What’s the poster for?” Lucy asked.
Lucy reached up and took the flyer Kenny offered her. After showing you aren’t in cahoots, you have to let the scene play out. Very often, you won’t even have to outwardly lie once to get what you want to happen to happen. Lucy looked from the flyer to the puppy, then the puppy to the flyer.
To Kenny’s credit, he was a great actor. When Lucy said, “Excuse me, is this your dog?” he acted surprised. Not to Kenny’s credit, he did not feign surprise, so much as he hammed it up so much that anyone who wasn’t allowed to eat pork for religious regions would need to atone if they saw his reaction.
“Sacre bleu, mademoiselle! Where did you find that dog? I have been looking for him, forever!”
“He’s been begging here for four days,” Lucy said. A convenient fact for Kenny, who I had forgotten to supply with that information.
“Four days? Une, deu, tree… quarter? Yes! That is exactly right,” He said.
Lucy was smiling, but Wayne cleared his throat. “This is your dog?” Kenny nodded, and Wayne shook his head. “I’m not a genius, Mr.—”
“Jean-Pierre, l’homme français,” Kenny said. “They call me that because I am the man from France. It is a quaint pun in the lingua franca.”
“Your count just sounded odd to me, is all,” Wayne said. “I have family from Bretagne, so I know a little French.”
“Oh, Bretagne,” Kenny said with a roll of his eyes. “The West Virginia of France.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“That they marry their cousins and are illiterate,” Kenny said. “A state of affairs familiar to Americans, yes?”
Someone told Kenny if he travelled to France to be careful because the French didn’t like Americans. No one explained they hated Americans because of people like Kenny.
Wayne frowned, screwed up his nose, then spoke calmly, in French. I knew it was French because, unlike some people, I didn’t enter into lies I could be easily called out on. “Je ne crois pas que c’est votre chien, ou que vous êtes français.”
Lucy looked to Kenny, whose face was stone. Kenny never had a Plan B. Plan A was always good enough, because, God damn it, he said, that’s why it is fucking Plan A.
He cocked his head, leaned in and then said: “How do you expect me to understand anything you say in that God-forsaken American accented butchery of my native tongue? Do I slur my words when conversing with you, sir? Do I not conjugate correctly? Do I not follow proper sentence structure? Do I split any infinitives? Do I end my questions with a preposition? Do me the same courtesy.”
“My French is flawless,” Wayne said.
“Maybe for an American,” Kenny said, with a sniff. “Or a Bretagne…ian. Now, then, about my dog.”
“Fine,” Wayne said. “Where’s the dog’s collar?”
Kenny held up a hand, like a magician. Much like he stuck to Plan A, he never came unprepared. He reached into his pocket and produced a slightly too large blue collar, which was slightly frayed near the clasp. “He is a little small, and he has little sharp teeth like a vampire.”
He said it ‘wampire.’ Later I would explain that that was not a French accent.
“He escaped after chewing himself free of his bonds when madame—that is my wife, not a woman who employs women of ill-repute—accidentally left the door open. Our little Marie-Louise has been inconsolable.” He pronounced it ‘inconsolableh,’ with an accent. I could see Wayne’s eye brow tick ever so slightly.
“That’s convenient,” He said as Kenny bent down and tied the collar around little Rigatoni’s neck; Lucy still held him in her lap. The dog happily licked Kenny’s hands and fingers, which he had no doubt rubbed down in some sort of bacon or lard. I think Kenny should have been in the CIA because he was damn smart about some things.
“I sense you do not believe my story?”
“Well, it is a bit far-fetched,” I said.
“He does not yet know how to fetch,” Kenny said. “It is one of my greatest failings as an animal handler.”
“What he means is that it is a really rare chance,” Wayne said. “Running into you like this.”
“It seems that way,” Kenny said, removing the glasses and wiping them with my red tie. My red, silk tie that had no good reason being out in the rain or used as a glasses washing rag by a man with who knows what smeared on his hands. “But, let us think logically, no? I have been out for four days now, searching. Is it not likely, eventually, my search would bring me here?”
Wayne confessed this was likely. “Is it not even more likely I would rush here on seeing your van parked out front, on the faintest of hopes that my little one was here?”
Wayne’s ears perked up. “One second, what is the dog’s name?”
Now, I was just going to watch. Kenny had him; that was the sort of obvious question I’d never known Kenny to not prepare for. He knocked it out of the park in that horribly horrible way of his: “The dog’s name? Why, he is our little Lamirieuxbelleissiez.”
“Isn’t that feminine?” Lucy asked.
“He is a, how do you say, momma’s boy,” Kenny said. “But, he does not yet respond to it.”
“He should recognize his name by now,” Wayne said.
“It is a bit long for a dog,” Lucy said. “Dogs like short, easy names.”
“It isn’t his dog! He’s not French!”
Kenny looked shocked and hurt; I looked at him, piercing with my fake accusing eyes. Here was the moment. I didn’t want to have to come to Kenny’s rescue at this juncture, and I didn’t have to. Lucy looked up Wayne: “Do people normally carry pictures of other people’s dogs around in the rain?”
Wayne conceded that no, such things are not a normal occurrence. Rigatoni had left Lucy’s lap to sniff at Kenny’s shoes. “She’s got a point,” I added. “I mean, the dog even let him put a collar around his neck. Dogs aren’t usually that complacent.”
“I have a great idea! You should name him Rigatoni,” Lucy suggested.
“No,” Kenny said. “That name? It is too long. I like mine better.”
“Lucy, you can’t name someone else’s dog,” I said. She said Rigatoni again, and the puppy looked over and climbed back into her lap.
“Well, how about Toni?” She suggested. “It is shorter, and he likes it. Say ‘hi’ Toni.”
“That is perfect!” Kenny said, and Lucy clapped when he said it. “It will be a reminder of his time here, under the care of you good people. And Wayne.”
Wayne gave up; I’m pretty sure he wasn’t convinced that Tony was really Kenny’s dog (Lucy insisted we spell it with a ‘y,’ since with an ‘i’ was too girly.) Kenny carried Tony off into the sunset, and that night at the bowling alley I met with him. The only problem with using a plan like this to get Lucy’s attention was that, well, I couldn’t tell her what we’d done. There really was no rational reason to have done it; Wayne had been right. If Lucy had been Luke, I probably wouldn’t have done anything. So, how do you tell a pretty girl: “Yeah, I helped you out because, let’s face it, I want to see you naked?”
I know you don’t say it that way, because Kenny and I were walking home drunk one night when we passed by some rental car with a flat. A couple of girls in town for some social media conference were trying to change it in their dress clothes, so we helped. Drunkenly, slowly, very slowly, we got the tire changed. When the driver asked me if I was always so helpful, I said no. Then I said: “I helped you out because, let’s face it, I want to see you naked.”
In my defense, I was drunk. I didn’t see her naked. Or the other girl; she didn’t believe me for some reason when, after being shot down, I turned to her and said: “Well, I helped you out of the goodness of my heart.”
It didn’t take long for Kenny to find Tony a home; his dad knew the people who came in well enough to know who could take care of a puppy. When we were locking up, Kenny still trying to get hamburger grease out of his palms, looked at me, with a twinkle in his eyes.
“I think someone is in love,” He said.
“I am not,” I said. “I just wanted to make sure he didn’t get sent to some kill shelter.”
“There aren’t even any kill shelters in the area that I know of,” Kenny said. “Are you sure it wasn’t love?”
“You win. It was love,” I said. “I fucking love dogs.”
“Oh, fuckez vous, you know what I mean,” Kenny said. I did, but that didn’t mean I had to let him win this exchange.
“Yeah, well, fuckez you tu,” I said. Since Kenny didn’t know French, he didn’t get the joke.