Happy Ending

She wrapped the shawl around her cold shoulders and went out into the fog. The yellow street lights made piss poor progress in that wet darkness, but it didn’t matter. She knew her way. “Either he’s there or he isn’t. If he isn’t, I’ll go home. If he is, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

It occurred to her that this was no choice at all.

“Wow,” she thought. “I’ve been pacing the floor this whole evening and THAT’S the best I can come up with?”

She knew herself. She wouldn’t raise her voice. She wouldn’t complain. She wouldn’t drag him home. She wouldn’t lock him out. She wouldn’t do anything, so what was the point of this?

“I saw him at the Purple Breasted Pigeon with Carla,” said her co-worker, Lucy, just two days before. “They were clearly not ‘just friends’ if you get my drift.”

“Why are you telling me?”

“We women have to stick together. It’s us against them.”

“If it’s ‘us against them’ why are we with ‘them’ in the first place?” The thought crossed her mind. She didn’t think of her marriage as an adversarial relationship, just sometimes a crappy one.

“I guess,” she’d said to Lucy. “I don’t know why it’s like that, though.”

“The nature of the beast,” Lucy said, nodding wisely, “the nature of the beast.”

Beast,”  she thought as she made her way through the fog. “Beast,” she said aloud to the empty street. Ahead she could see purple neon reflected on fog. It was a neighborhood bar, after all, and she was almost there. She heard music. She thought of their dating days, hers and Lamont’s, and how often they would go out dancing and how they never did anymore. “What happens to love?” she asked the vague and heavy air. “Maybe it’s the nature of the beast.”

She turned around. There was no reason to go inside looking for her husband and her friend. She would only look foolish, a step down from merely feeling foolish. Soon she was home, a three-story 1950s apartment building near the park. She and Lamont loved it when they first saw it, couldn’t believe their luck. She opened the front door, went upstairs to their apartment and unlocked the door. Lamont stood in the kitchen chopping onions.

“Where have you been, honey? I’ve been worried. Visibility is crap tonight. It took me over an hour to get home from work. There were crashes everywhere. Hey, did Carla tell you the news? I ran into her a couple nights ago when I was passing the Purple. Remember when I couldn’t get any close parking? She and her dude are moving to Oregon! He got that job he wanted. I bought her a drink. Anyway, I thought I’d make us some chili. Sound good?”



Dusty T. Dog’s Recitation of the Legend of the CATapult

There are very few objects in history or daily life that bear the imprint of canine thinking. Canines are creatures of action and response. They are pack animals, who cooperate with each other, sharing the responsibility for the welfare of all. This does not make them creative or innovative animals and for this reason about the only objects or ideas in our world that have come from dogs are “doggerel” and “doggone it.”

Cats, on the other hand, being independent thinkers, spend their time on their own rather than caring for their pack-mates or their humans. They have come up with many interesting ideas and objects.

Two that are most striking are the “catapult” and the “catamaran.” I want to talk specifically about the catapult and how and why felines invented it. The catamaran is obvious. Felines dislike water and they needed a way to get across a river. But the catapult has a more interesting — and less obvious — story and it involves a canine/feline relationship.

As everyone familiar with felines knows, they like to climb. Many felines are willing to climb very high and leap off, almost taking flight, before they land perfectly on four paws. This is something canines also enjoy, but differently from felines. We like to jump so that we can see over walls and fences.

Long ago, many thousands of human years ago, a canine and feline were walking past a city wall. Their noses were sniffing eagerly because they smelled fish on the other side of the wall. The wall was too high even for the cat to climb and the dog, of course, could only jump a couple of meters straight up into the air.

The cat decided to take a nap and think about it while the dog ran back and forth along the wall barking, digging and sniffing. You might think the dog barking would keep the cat awake, but it didn’t.

When the cat woke up, she had figured it out. They would build a machine that would send her over the wall. Once on the other side, she would throw fish over the wall to the dog. The cat sent telepathic blueprints to the dog who immediately set about gathering sticks, old tires, worn socks and gunny sacks to build the machine. In just a couple of days — even without opposable thumbs — they had built the machine. In truth, the dog built it, but the feline gave directions.

“We only have one shot,” said the dog. “It had better work!”

“How can you doubt my powers?” responded the feline, in a snit, feeling insulted.

“I’m sorry. I just meant…”

“It doesn’t matter what you meant, dog. Did you think of this? No. I thought not.”

The feline often took an imperious tone with the dog which was not fair. While the cat was a decent hunter, the dog was better at it and was able to catch bigger things than the cat and he always shared. She never shared. “Share does not exist in any feline vocabulary,” she would say refusing to part out the miniscule mouse she’d killed one afternoon after playing with it for several hours.

“Keep your mouse,” the canine replied. “I’m going after a rabbit.”

“Ooooh! Rabbit! Will you share it with me?”

“Of course. Sharing is a canine’s purpose.”

Anyhooo… The feline jumped up in the bucket from which she would be sent over the wall. “Pull down on this with all your strength, dog,” she said.

“What if you’re hurt?”

“I won’t be hurt. I’m a feline, remember? I will land in the city and find the fish.”

“All right.” The canine pushed down on the bucket with all his strength and when he couldn’t push it any lower, he let go. The feline went flying over the wall.

The canine never knew how his friend fared. No fish ever came back over the wall and he never heard from her again.


Mythical Beast

“Do you want a story before you go to sleep?”

“Yes! Tell me the story of Osita!”

“OK. A Long, long time ago on a remote hillside near the small town of Antonito, Colorado, lived a family that raised sheep. One day, a marvelous creature came to live with them and her name was Osita. Osita was as big as a fifth grader, with long, white fluffy fur that shed dirt and water. She had big feet like snow shoes that held her up when she walked on the snow. She…”

“Dad, there was never a dog like that.”

“There was, honey, and she belonged to me. Or, maybe I belonged to her. I am sure she saw it that way.”

“How could you belong to a dog? I don’t get it.”

“You know that when I was a kid we lived…”

“I know, I know, out in the middle of nowhere and you walked 25 miles uphill in the freezing wind and snow to school every day.”

“It was only 2 miles. After a while there was a schoolbus.”


“Osita was never any good at guarding the animals, but she was a wonderful babysitter. My mom would leave us with Osita while she went out to get the eggs or feed the animals or help dad with something. Osita made sure we never went anywhere or got into any trouble.”

“How would a dog do that?”

“It was the instinct of her breed to guard young, helpless things. She was born with it. She just didn’t happen to see goats and sheep as her job. She thought my baby sister and I were her job. What a break for your grandmother it must have been to be able to leave us for a few minutes, even a half an hour. We had a big wood stove in the kitchen and, once my sister and I were walking, your grandmother was afraid to leave us alone for fear we’d burn ourselves. But in the dead of winter, it was the warmest place in the house. When Osita saw your grandmother putting on her headscarf, she would gently nudge us to a corner of the kitchen and make us stay there until your grandmother came back.”

“A dog did that?”

“Osita was a special dog, honey. She pulled me out of the pond one summer afternoon when I was three. I’d have drowned if she hadn’t been watching. She kept my sister and I out of all kinds of trouble. The thing is, we wouldn’t have had Osita if it hadn’t been for her blue eyes.”

“How? What difference did that make?”

“Oh, our neighbor — a rancher, lived five miles away — bred these dogs and sold the puppies to sheepherders. This puppy showed up with blue eyes. It’s rare, but it happens. That rancher was going to shoot her.”


“He thought blue-eyed dogs were all deaf and blind. Your grandfather picked out two pups and left them with the rancher until they could be weaned. He brought Osita home with him, tucked in his coat. Your grandma fed her by hand.”

“So she WAS real?”

“Absolutely, honey. As real as you or I. But some creatures are so special that stories become legends and, if enough time passes, they become myths.”

“What about the other two puppies? Were they mythical, too?”

“Absolutely, in their way. Osita’s two brothers stayed with the sheep all the time. The sheep were their family. They were fine dogs, too, doing what they’d been bred and trained to do. Your grandfather says that more than once they chased bears away from the herd.”

“These dogs sound like heroes.”

“To a farmer or rancher they are heroes.

“Do you think someday there will be ‘The Myth of Osita’?”

“Maybe, but I think, for most people, her heroism is as remote as the hillside on which I grew up. Maybe someday you can write her story.”


Here’s a video of an Akbash defending her sheep from a bear.


Icelandic Sagas

A long time ago when I was first researching and writing Martin of Gfenn, I was wandering around Hillcrest in San Diego with my friend, Denis Joseph Francis Callahan (RIP). He bought me a book and made a wisecrack, “If you’re so interested in medieval shit you’d better read this.”

It was Njal’s Saga.

I did. I loved it. It’s Beowulf on steroids. I didn’t know much about Icelandic sagas then but then last year I took an online class which was pretty tedious and academic about “Space in the Icelandic Saga.” But I learned about more sagas and something about Norse mythology and I finished the class “with distinction” and that was cool.

In two weeks, I will be in Iceland. What drew me to Iceland in the first place wasn’t the sagas but the horses. I saw them in a movie Beowulf and Grendl which was filmed in Iceland. I was amazed at the little horses that hung around like buses or cars waiting for Vikings to ride them. I began researching the little horses and learned where they were.


Then I began to put the country together with Njal’s Saga and that added a whole dimension of interest. Now I’m reading Egil’s Saga which is about Egil (duh) but also about Norwegian history, telling of the tyrannical king, Harald, who drove many good people out of Norway including Egil’s father, Skallagrim. And, as it happens (quite accidentally!) I’ll be staying not far from Skallagrim’s original homestead.

I did a little research into saga sites, too, and found one I would love to go visit but it doesn’t seem practicable for this trip. One of the responses I got, though, asked me if I were a teacher or something that I was interested in the sagas.

I thought about that and felt sad. The sagas are popular literature — folklore that was written down in the 13th century by a guy with the most awesome name: Snorri Sturllsson. But now, because of their age and obscurity have been relegated to the grey/brown realm of “literature” much like Beowulf and the Odyssey. Really and truly, though, these are adventure stories that are nine million times more accessible and fun to read than anything by Richard Brautigan, Dan Brown, Danielle Steel and I dunno, the Game of Thrones guy. They are wonderful.

Egil is a big, violent, dark, bald guy; he’s a superlative viking. He fought for the English King, Athelstan against the Scottish King Olaf (Olaf?). Through this I see a lot more clearly how the British and Viking cultures became inextricably connected during the years of viking raids. I’ve also learned that viking raids were the normal activity of the “hot bloods”  — restless young men trying to make a fortune. Most of them settled down on a farm when their viking years were over. I’ve learned about going “berserk” as a viking quality.

Egil was a poet and the saga is filled with his spontaneous verses. The book is fun to read and an object lesson on basic human nature (jealous, vengeful, passionate, hard-working, longing for home).

Let’s follow a friendlier
Feeder of wolves:
Let’s beat the oar-blades
Of our shield-adorned boat
That sword-bender won’t shun
Me, seeking his company:
Let’s sling our shields
Aboard, let’s make sail.


The Date

So then he said, “Do you have a photo of yourself when you were young, 16? 17?

I said, ‘Yes, but it’s nothing special.”

“Of course it’s special. There is a lot in a photo.”

I don’t know why he asks; I jump to a conclusion and get pissed off.

Alfred Lord Tennisball echoes, “That which we are we are,” and I know how much more THIS somewhat worn carapace is than that juvenescent carapace was. For one thing, THIS carapace, and the heart and mind it carries around, was quite expensive; the price was my whole life so far.

It is gold; it is worth so much more than all that shining possibility; it is the fruition of that shining possibility with possibility not yet dead inside it. Given a choice, I’d choose this carapace over that terrified wavering phantom.

I think of offering a choice, a picture or a future, but I already know the mindlessness of most conversation and that the meaning I ascribe is not always (not even often) right. I continue to sit, to listen, to smile, but the retreat is accomplished. I am not there any longer. I’ve lost interest.

“I don’t know what this relationship is going to be, still not yet,” he goes on, “but the moment of our meeting was something that never happened to me before.”

That, I think was possibly the pinnacle. I’m bored. I think, maybe it’s true that men don’t fall in love with a woman; they fall in love with themselves reflected in the love a woman feels for THEM, or, as trophies, the value the beauty of a woman lends to their value.

My mother’s echo, “let him feel you need him. Don’t be so smart all the time. Get a sexy nightie.” I am sitting with this man here and castrating him; I don’t like that I do this, but I hate  what he represents, what he IS. I won’t repeat this.

He talks to me about Kathryn Tate, how six years ago she was his instructor, and now she’s all cold and professional and old and “getting fat” he says. Who doesn’t? You will, too, I think.

“She’s lost her fire,” he adds.

Perhaps you drowned it, I think. Or you insist that she burn with yours; maybe she has her own. I look up to see myself floating beside this building, up about two stories, watching.

My dog lies here on the sidewalk beside me, my hope, my love, my gift from God; my never boring companion and friend, a challenge to my mind, the preserver of my soul. Ahhh, yes! There is no need for this bitterness.

Angry? Yes. Will I overcome it, get over it? I probably won’t. I know that, too. Too many kicks, too many fists, too much time alone, ignored and cheated on, too many remarks about my ugliness, my fatness, my lack of desirability.

You can believe it after a while, or, not believing it, still become tired of it and unwilling to risk it all again, and again, and again, especially at 50 which is where I sit here tonight. Or nearly — 49 years 4 1/2 months — 50!

I never imagined it would be like this absurdity; blue-jeaned, Doctor Martened, tattooed, socks with goats and a hairy gray dog, wild gray hair and bifocals — graduated lenses, if you please!

Downtown, with such a strange past, walking between fancy people, (like I was once, like I was raised to be) going to plays and restaurants, looking for a Chinese restaurant and fried rice.

My dog takes a shit on Market and Fifth and I’m proud of her candor. I watch skinny-hipped big boobed blonds and their rich fortyish balding boyfriends; a man drives past in a newer Rolls than my ex-friend Martin drove.

He blocks the intersection so my dog and I have to walk around him. I wonder about the homeless people but not much and not long; my stomach churns at the thought of what my brother might be doing.

I ask a Maitre’d of a fancy Italian restaurant where I might find a Chinese restaurant; my date —a fine artist—earns his bread in a parking garage. His life is chaos. I’m looking for dinner for him somewhere on the streets; wonder why he didn’t think of Ralph’s.

I like the walk, my dog likes the walk; horses go by and their drivers comment on my dog. “She’s beautiful,” they say, “I have an Aussie, too.”

“She’s only half,” I answer. I am proud of the Malamute in her as I’m proud of the Swede in me; indomitable snow people, my dog and I, drive on.

“Really! Well, that’s a beautiful mix!”

“Yes,” I say, “it is.” At Ralph’s I tie up my dog and go in; buy three apples, a banana, crackers — having returned to the parking lot kiosk to offer my suggestion that Jorge give up on fried rice and ask, “What can I get you at the store?”

“Why didn’t I think of that?” he says.

Because, I think, maybe you haven’t traveled alone with very little money in your pocket, a middle-aged woman in Italy, invisible in restaurants but hungry, all the same. My god, I like myself, I like my life, this whimsical peripatetic existence. I’ll cling to it as long as possible.

Jorge wants to mean something to me, but he doesn’t. I don’t know why; part of it is the gold ring on the third finger of his left hand. He has never mentioned a wife; I have never asked him.

He talks about all the things he and I are going to do; but I don’t believe any of it. I don’t believe we will ride mountain bikes, or go to the beach to drink wine, or go to Italy together to run after trains and look at frescoes.

I realize that where once I believed a man, a lover, was the vehicle through which I would experience life, I now see a man, a lover, as an obstruction. None of them were vehicles; they were all obstructions.

Who am I? What am I that it took so long to see these things? Walking down 2nd with my small bag of groceries and my gray animal, I run into a young woman with her own dog.
Dogs make people friendly, make them warm and unafraid. We pet each others dogs and chat for a minute or two.

“I am still an indistinct shape on the horizon of your life,” Jorge said once. “I have not taken you over yet; I have not become the sky.”

I thought, “Thanks for the warning,” even as I appreciated the poetry. I reach the parking garage and hand him the bag. Jorge talks about this and that and asks, “Why won’t you participate in the reading next week?”

I want to say, “I don’t have anything to say in front of everyone and I don’t want to.”

He says, “I won’t ask you why.”

I say, “You just did.” I use my brain to keep him away. I feel it zap him like a bug zapper whenever he gets too close.

Two horse drawn carriages cross the intersection and I try to muffle with my mind the sounds of the cars and Jorge’s voice to imagine being Goethe with this sound outside the window with no cars, no Jorge. I want the momentary time-transport of the clopping hooves.

“What? I’m sorry.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Maybe it does. I got caught up in a daydream.”

Things get busier in the garage and I sit in the cold night and worry about my dog’s arthritis. I haven’t connected with Jorge at all. I don’t mind. I just want to go home.

Tongues of desire have licked at me fleetingly around Jorge, but nothing sustained, nothing driven. I have no means of sexual expression, I think. The children around Chernobyl are not allowed to go to the forests, nor will their children, or their grandchildren; the radioactivity lingers long and dangerous.

Their fathers talk to them of hunting mushrooms, but it will only be a fable by the time people can go mushroom hunting again.



Hot Potato

“What happened? I thought he was the man of your dreams!”


“Last week he was ‘the one’. You were imagining lots of green-haired little kids with him.”



“You know what? It’s just, I don’t know. I’m just not seeing Lamont any more. ‘Why’ really doesn’t matter. What matters is I got out of it before it got icky. Let’s drop the subject.”

“But you’re still sad.”

“Well, yeah. One hopes, right?” She stirred her Italian soda with her straw, mixing the raspberry syrup with the soda water before taking a long drink.

Trey nodded.

Rain hit the window, incandescent drops of reflected streetlights. The door opened, the Pakistani camel bells hanging from the door handle confirming what the blast of cold, damp air had already conveyed. Trey looked up, happy Mattie’s back was to the door.

Lamont swept in with a tall brunette, her absurdly toned midriff bared, her flowing Indian sari-silk skirt hanging on her hips. “I get it, now,” thought Trey, looking thoughtfully at Mattie who was pretty, but never the pretty that could make an entrance like that. The woman with Lamont was traffic-stopping-stunning. No wonder Lamont had dropped Mattie. “Mattie is saving face saying she dropped the guy. I see the whole story.”

Lamont and the woman stepped up to the counter and ordered. Trey saw the strong line of the woman’s back. His heart skipped a beat as she tossed her head and the swath of long brown hair wafted across the top of her skirt. “Jesus,” he said out-loud. Mattie looked up, followed his gaze, and saw Lamont and the woman.

“Poor guy,” she said. “Now that I’ve dropped him, he has to go for coffee with his bitch of a sister.”


“Isolation and Courage in Martin of Gfenn”

Stephanie Hopkins of Layered Pages asked to write an article about one of the characters in one of my novels, and presented me certain topics I could use. I was struck by the topic of courage and isolation as demonstrated in the life and choices of the protagonist in Martin of Gfenn. This article was published today.

Layered Pages and IndieB.R.A.G. work together to promote high quality, self-published books. It’s a wonderful service and needed not only by serious writers who self-publish but by readers! If you’re a person who likes to read, I recommend checking out Stephanie’s blog, Layered Pages, to learn about good books that are not published by the mainstream press.

Here’s the article, “Isolation and Courage in Martin of Gfenn


Lamont has a Bad Dream

“You dreamed what?

“That some ex-husband of mine came back, took me on an expensive vacation to some resort in Northern California, you know, Big Sur or Carmel, the kind of place that Edward Abbey described as particularly noxious. The kind with the ‘Esalen Hot Tubs’.”

“Whoa, was this an old school encounter weekend, Lamont?”

“Dude, I guess. It definitely rang of the 1970s, but in the 1970s, I was, you know, I was ME.”



“Do you remember being married to this guy?”

“That’s the thing. I do. And I remember it being awful. In my dream, there was a moment, he was asleep, and I was in one of those rooms — you know back then unfinished concrete wasn’t JUST for parking garages, right?”

“No idea, Lamont. In the 70s I was someone’s decrepit grandma or a sparrow or both. I think both. Maybe I was a budgie belonging to a decrepit grandma. Hard to say. It’s kind of a blur.”

“I keep forgetting. But anyway, I was afraid. I was afraid he would wake up. What was the backstory?”

“But in the 70s you were you, I mean the guy you are today.”

“Yeah. That’s the weird thing. I could NOT have been this guy’s wife in the 70s. I was just getting out of law school. I a job as a clerk for the DA. I had wide lapels. Ties with flowers. A big mustache. I danced the Latin Hustle.”

“You know what I think? One life-time got conflated with another in your subconscious. It happens to me all the time. Do you remember being married AT ALL?”

“Of course I remember lots of marriages, but I don’t remember that guy. Moody bastard. I was very uncomfortable around him. He kept wanting to ‘talk’ and you know I hate that, Dude.”

“Yeah, except when you’re talking.”

“Wise ass.”

“I think we’ve probably been many humans over the millennia, Lamont. It’s inevitable we’d forget some of the incarnations, don’t you think?”

“Sure. Absolutely. I mean how many lives have we had and lost?”

“I didn’t lose any, Lamont. I lived all of them.”

“Sometimes I love you, Dude.”





If It Ain’t Broke…

Daily Prompt Everything Changes Walking down the street, you encounter a folded piece of paper on the sidewalk. You pick it up and read it and immediately, your life has changed. Describe this experience.

The trees were mostly bare by late November and Lamont — well into his 80s but still a kid at heart — loved the crunch of dried autumn and kicking up the leaves, watching them caught by the wind. “Isn’t it pretty?” he said to Toots who was walking along beside him. Toots was his wife of fifty-seven years.

They’d never had much. They lived in a double-wide on the outskirts of town, down about a quarter mile from the pawnshop, but as they say, money don’t by happiness. They were very happy. Toots kept the double-wide spotless, the garden grew better than other gardens around because it was tended by both of them with love — and passion. They needed the food they grew. They’d raised their sons and seen them off, one to war, one to college, but the boys had found their lives far away and seldom came home any more. “There’s nothing for the kids to do,” they said.

Toots responded, once, with “You both found plenty to do here.”

But her sons said, “Times’ve changed.” Toots couldn’t dispute that.

Lamont’s brain wasn’t quite right. He’d been in the war, you see, a mechanic with the Air Corps, and one morning, while he was stationed in Saipan, he was hit in the head by a propeller . He explained it to everyone this way;  “Damned thing wouldn’t start, so I reached up to give it a spin and the damned thing knocked me silly and took off.” After that, he was only able to do the simplest mechanical jobs so he worked at a local garage, changing oil and fixing flat tires.

Toots? Well, she fell in love with Lamont when they were in high school and he was a bright and shining young man, full of promise and dreams. When he came back, damaged as he was, she loved him still.

On summer evenings they sat on the deck Lamont had made in front of the trailer and held hands. In winter they sat looking out the picture window of their living room and held hands.

“You’ve thrown your life away on that man,” said Toots’ mother. “You could have had someone with at least a whole brain.”

Toots just looked at her mother and shook her head. “Love’s not like that, mom.”

So there they were that late November day, the sun bright in the cloudless sky, a breeze blew behind them, gusting once in a while, lifting the leaves above their heads. Lamont put his around his wife. She snuggled close to him and laid her head on his shoulder.

They kicked up the dry leaves like two little kids. A gust came up behind them and Lamont laughed, “The wind is playing with us, Toots!”

“What’s that?”

In front of them, mixed with the golden leaves of the cottonwood trees lining the sidewalk in front of the elementary school, was something green, regular shaped, paper.

“I’ll catch it!” said Lamont and, old as he was, he took off after the piece of paper. “Might be some kid’s homework.” He caught up to it just as it was pushed by the wind against the rough bark of the tree. “Got it! O my lord!”

“What, sweetie? Did the kid get a good grade?”

“No. It’s $10,000. I never heard of a $10,000 bill.”

“It can’t be real.”

“Looks real.”

“Let’s take it to the bank.”

“Good idea.”

The bank was around the corner. They walked up to the teller and handed her the bill. “We want to know if this is real.”

“I doubt it. I never saw one before.”

“Is there any way you can check?”

“I’ll ask the manager.” She took the bill and went to the back of the bank to the small glass-walled office where her manager worked. The manager waved at them through the window. Everyone in town knew Lamont and Toots.

“It’s real,” said the manager. “They didn’t make many of these. No one used them. Hardly surprising. Who can go around spending $10,000? Who’d carry it in their wallet?”

“What do we do? They said they found it.”

“I don’t know.” The manager shook her head. It wasn’t like a check that could be traced to the person. It was just money, like a lost dollar bill. Nothing more. Godnose if anyone needed $10,000 it was Lamont and Toots. “I think we invoke the law of finders-keepers.”

The bank teller smiled. “I’ll see if they want to open an account with it.”

“It’s yours,” she told the old couple. “Do you want to open an account?”

“You mean we have $10,000, just like that?” Toots looked at the teller wide-eyed and bewildered.

“Yes. Just like that.” The teller smiled.

“What should we do with it?” Lamont turned to his wife. “That’s more money than I ever saw at once.” There was no joy in Lamont’s voice; just confusion.

“We should give it to someone who needs it,” answered Toots.

“I think so too,” agreed Lamont.

Vela Constellation: Scientists Discover Closest Earth-Sized Planet Outside Solar System

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ripped from the Headlines!.” Head to your favorite online news source. Pick an article with a headline that grabs you. Now, write a short story based on the article. 

“Listen to this, Trish. ‘Vela Constellation: Scientists Discover Closest Earth-Sized Planet Outside Solar System’ That’s it, Babe. I’m outta’ here.”
“Vela, in the constellation Vela, there’s a planet, it’s hotter than Earth but so the fuck what? GJ 1132b. What kind of name is that?”
“A NASA name. I wish you wouldn’t use that kind of language in front of the dog. Is it inhabited?”
“It will be. I’ve shoveled my last driveway. Pulled snow off my last roof. No more pet-safe ice-melter for me, or Joker here, right boy?” He ruffled the ears of the aged golden retriever who was always by his side. “Space, baby. I’m going into space. I was just waiting…”
“For WHAT?”
“A planet in a different solar system — hell, that won’t even BE a “sol”ar system. Who knows what they name their salient star! Wa-HOOO! C’mon boy, let’s get that rocket rolling”
“Rockets that roll don’t make it to other constellations, sweetheart. Could you reach up there and get the big platter down?”
“What do you need the platter for?”
“Thanksgiving? Two weeks?”
“Oh man, I KNEW there was a reason I wanted out of here. Who all is coming?”
“Your sister, her husband, their grown kids, their little kids, same-ol’ same-‘ol.”
“But WHY? I’d be a helluva lot more thankful if they DIDN’T come.”
“It’s YOUR family.”
“Not my fault, babe.”
“What would you rather do, besides go into space and live on a hot planet? We have hot planets in our solar system. You could go to Venus or, uh, Mercury.”
“Too crowded.”
“How? The only planet in our system with people on it is this one.”
“Right? Crowded. I’m going out to the garage and get to work on the ship. C’mon Joker.” The old dog slowly rose, his lopsided motion revealing the painful arthritis in his left hip.
“Joker should stay in here where it’s warm. Poor old guy.”
“I don’t think he wants to, do you boy?” Curtis reached down to scratch his dog under the chin. In that very moment, Joker collapsed on the kitchen floor. “Trish? Trish?”
“I’m right here, what happened.”
“I don’t know.” Tears streamed down Curtis’ cheeks as he felt the old dog’s neck to find a pulse. “He’s dead. Just like that. Right here.”
Trish went to the pantry and got a large trash bag. “What is that for? Are you putting Joker in the TRASH?”
“No Curtis, no, but any minute now his bowels and bladder are going to realize he’s gone. It’s pretty messy when that happens.” She gently placed Joker’s lower quarters inside the trash bag. “I think you should call the vet.”
“Why? Joker’s dead. What is the vet going to do with a dead dog?” Tears and snot mingled at the end of Curtis’ nose.
“Here babe,” Trish handed him a dish towel.
“Now I REALLY don’t want those idiots in my house for Thanksgiving.” Curtis wiped his face. “I’d better go dig a hole.”
“I’ll help.”

In the end, the dog was wrapped in the trashbag and carefully carried out to the wildflower garden in back where Curtis and Trish had dug the hole. It was Joker’s favorite garden because it attracted the most butterflies. Joker had always loved chasing butterflies, and it was a lovely sight to watch him.

“I’m sorry, honey. I know that dog was your best friend.” Trish wrapped her arm around her husband’s waist. He wrapped his around her shoulder.
“There’s only one thing to do now,” he said.
“What’s that? Get to work on the rocket?”
“Hell no. What would that trip be without Joker by my side? We need to go to the shelter. I think there is another dog waiting for us. Remember how we got Joker?”
Trish thought back. Well, of course. That had to be. “Captain was hit by the car and that night, Joker showed up at our front door. We weren’t even ever going to have another dog.”
“Nope. We weren’t.”

Curtis left the space ship behind and he and Trish headed down to the shelter where a goofy, wiggly brown and white bull terrier girl with a huge grin showed an obvious preference for Curtis over every human in the world. “I’m naming her Star,” said Curtis.