Chico and Annie See the World
Time: sunset on a Friday afternoon.
Location: 97th Court, South Beach, Oregon.
Situation: Nobody home but the dogs, Annie and Chico.
"Well, we're all alone. Sue's been gone for a long time. Hey, Annie, look at this. Have you ever noticed this gate before?
"No, actually I haven't."
"Hey, look, I can open it. Let's go see what's on the other side."
"Oh, yes. Hey, Chico, Sue hasn't been here for a long time to take us for a walk, so let's take our own, you and me. Let's go see the world."
They slip through the gate and into the dense forest filled with Douglas firs, red alders, and wild berries.
"Hey, the world is kind of crowded."
"And there's bugs." Annie stops to scratch her ear. "Um, what kind of bird is that?"
"I don't know, but it's big."
"And what kind of bird has a fluffy tail?"
"I don't know. Let's go on. Look at the way it jumps from tree to tree. It could jump on us."
"Boy, Chico, it's really muddy in here. I'm getting all dirty."
"Well, that's 'cause you're a low-rider. I'm not getting my belly all dirty."
"Oh, dear, I think my license fell off somewhere."
"Heck, I lost mine a long time ago. Let's just keep going."
Crawling, crawling. "This isn't so much fun, Cheek, I want to run."
"Don't be such a wuss, Annie. Keep going. Oh look, there's an opening."
And they come out to a clearing and emerge on the street across from the mailboxes.
"Look, Chico, there's that lady, the tiny one who's afraid of us. Want to jump on her?"
"No, she's Sue's friend."
"Okay, but what about the other lady who gives us hot dogs? Let's see if she's home."
They race across the street, rustling through the ivy, scaring the gray cat. "Shoot, no hot dogs, but Pat's workshop is open. He's got lots of fun things to play with."
On their way across the yard, Chico pauses, a worried look on his face. "Hey, Annie, are hot dogs made out of dogs?"
"I hope not. They don't taste like it."
"Annie, you think you're so smart. How would you know what dogs taste like? Uh-oh. Pat looks angry. He's chasing us away. We'd better go somewhere else."
"You know, it's getting kind of cold. It's almost dark, too."
They pause, looking around, sniffing the air, smelling woodsmoke, trees and the ocean.
"Annie, do you hear Sue calling us from way far away?"
"I think so. How do we get there?"
"I don't know. All I see is trees."
"Let's just go home, Cheek."
"Hey, I hear Sue getting closer."
"Yeah, she's in the driveway. Come on, fast as you can, before she closes the door."
"Why is she crying?"
"I don't know, but her pocket's full of cookies. I can smell 'em."
"Me too. Let's go in."
"Yeah. It's puppy chow time."
They dash into the living room and stare at each other in the light.
"Gosh, you're dirty, Annie. Mud all the way up to your shoulders. Me, I'm black, it doesn't show."
After much dog-licking of her face, Sue stops crying and fills their bowls. The dogs retreat to the warm spot in front of the pellet stove.
"Ah, the heat's on, our bellies are full, and I'm getting sleepy."
"Me, too. Good night, Chico."
"Good night, Annie."
"Good night, Sue."
Chico relaxes by the stove while Annie,
above, spreads out on her chair.
Postscript: Having had a taste of freedom, the dogs started jumping the fence. They don't know it yet, but Sue has ordered a taller fence which the fence man says even Chico can't jump over.
Post postscript: We have a new skylight in which Chico can see his reflection. He is certain we're being invaded from the roof.
Chew tally for the month:
* One expensive black leather glove
* One mystery black rubber thing that turns out to be a pad from the hot tub, which has been covered with heavy wood since the dogs destroyed the vinyl cover. How did they get it?
* Part of the water heater that reappeared on the lawn a few days later
* A round night light discovered in pieces in Annie's mouth
* One hard-shell eyeglass case
Lost: two licenses, one rabies tag and a microchip tag.
Update from the Home Front
Fred is now staying at Graceland Care Home in the hills above Newport. It's a beautiful place with an ocean view. The care is good, and the food is tasty, but it isn't home. We are both struggling to adjust to living apart after 25 years. Although Fred's back seems to be completely healed, his mind has suffered a blow, and he needs help with just about everything. Unfortunately he is all too aware of what he is missing. If anyone has time to visit, please do. He may not know your name, but he'll know you're a friend. Thank you to everyone who has sent prayers and sympathy during this tough time for us.
I was about to report that I had an essay coming out in the new Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers II,but it got bumped in the production process. Apparently there will be fewer pages than expected. Publishing is not exempt from the troubles that plague our economy.
Did I mention last month that I've done a new printing of Stories Grandma Never Told, so I have plenty of copies available? It's true. Just click Books+ for information.
On my Freelancing for Newspapers blog, I have thrown out a challenge to any writer who wants to join me in pledging to submit a query or finished piece of writing at least once every two weeks. It does not have to be newspaper articles; it can be any type of writing. If you want to do it, say so in the blog comments, then let us know what you send out and what happens to it. I hope that this accountability to each other will make us all more faithful about marketing our work. Nothing gets published sitting in a pile on one's desk.
Oregon Coast Writing Events
Willamette Writers Coast Chapter had a hugely successful workshop on personal essays last month with Samantha Ducloux Waltz, my Cup of Comfort buddy whose dog story did not get bumped. Go, Samantha. For March, we're talking about fiction with Joanna Rose. We open the doors at 6:30 p.m. for coffee and socializing, and the program starts at 7, all at the Newport Public Library. Admission is free, no reservations required. E-mail me or Dorothy Mack for more info. The Nye Beach Writers Series also had a rip-roaring program on Feb. 14 celebrating the 150th anniversary of Oregon becoming a state, along with the publication of Matt Love's Oregon anthology Citadel of the Spirit. Great writing and reading, plus a cake shaped like the state of Oregon.
This month on March 21, they've got Michele Longo Eder talking about her memoir Salt in Our Blood: Memoir of a Fisherman's Wife, and novelist Jim Lynch, author of The Highest Tide.. The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at the Visual Arts Center in Newport. Admission is $5. Students get in free. An open mic follows the program.
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, Simon & Schuster, 2008. I don't know why it took a month to get this book from the library when it only took me a day to read it--and not because it was so good. It's just short, with big print and lots of pictures. I kept reading in the hope she would eventually get to the real story. She didn't. Fisher has written some good novels, but this book is a mess. Ostensibly the story of her alcohol and drug addiction, plus mental illness, it meanders all over and barely touches the essence of her addictions. The tone is meant to be funny, but to me it's not funny; it's sad, like watching a wasted singer who can't remember the words of his hit songs. She talks a lot about growing up with famous parents and tells some anecdotes, like the time Cary Grant called her on the telephone to talk about her addiction to LSD. But it's not the heartfelt memoir of a problem that grew to a climax and forced her to change. I couldn't wait to get this book, but I don't recommend it.
Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter, Thomas Nelson, 2008. Imagine Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres blended with every farm-sited romance you've ever read, and you've got Sweetwater Gap. Josie Mitchell comes home to help with her family's apple orchard after she finds out her sister Laurel is pregnant with twins. She immediately comes up against the handsome but oddly abrasive foreman Grady MacKenzie and can't understand why he hates her from the get-go. Meanwhile she hasn't been home for years because of a secret she has been keeping. Now she has an even bigger secret which she can't tell anyone, especially Grady. The characters and the plot are pretty clichéd, but there's a twist, and it's a good yarn that caused me to drop everything to finish it. Until I got to the end, I didn't even realize that this is part of a Women of Faith series, so there's a Christian angle. It's subtle and appealing, not off-putting as such books can be sometimes. Pick it up some weekend and let yourself be swept away.
Courage to Care: A Caregiver's Guide Through Each Stage of Alzheimer's by Joanne Parrent, Alpha Books, 2001. Now this is a good book. Parrent really does go through each stage of the disease, describing in plain English what happens to the patient and also to the people who love him or her. I turned to the stage we're in now, and it's as if I found someone who knows exactly what we're doing and what we're feeling. She includes lots of resources to learn more. This book should be on the shelf next to the classic reference The 36-Hour Day. It provides both comfort and essential information gently and lovingly.
It's March. The daffodils are coming up. It's also Lent already when it seems like we just took down the Christmas decorations. Even more surprising, my March 9 birthday is almost here. Happy birthday also to Roy, Mary Lee, Teresa, Arlene, and everyone else born during this wonderful month of artists and aquamarine gems.
All contents copyright 2009, Sue Fagalde Lick, except mug shot courtesy Teresa Grady
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