About a month ago, a co-worker and I left the university around 6:00 PM, headed toward our cars which were parked in the garage attached to our building. As we walked to the vehicles, I noticed a gala pot with a four-foot-tall Norfolk pine, still decorated for Christmas standing forlornly on the sidewalk. In the Texas heat, it looked pitiful.
My co-worker said, "Leave it. It's dead."
I said, "Maybe it isn't."
She said, "I promise you, it's dead."
We got into our cars and left.
I felt badly for the little pine which closely resembled Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.
The next morning, the pine was still there and I picked it up, took it with me up the elevator and into the kitchen on my floor. I put the tree into the sink, filled the pot with water and left it in the sink to drain.
A few minutes later, my co-worker stuck her head into my office. "You took that tree, didn't you?"
"Why do you say that?" I asked.
She laughed. "I followed the trail of pine needles up the elevator, down the hall and into the kitchen. You are such a sucker."
That tree is now out on my patio at home. It's nearly dead, but there is still a tiny bit of green left so I'm leaving its fate up to God. I fertilized it and water it every morning.
A couple of weeks later, another co-worker hung a notice in the ladies room: "Free Kitten to Good Home." It got back to me that my friend had called her and said, "Leave the kitten in the garage one night. Maya will take it home with her."
I thought to myself: "Wiseacre."
Yet another co-worker of mine has been under siege this week. Her husband went from the Emergency Room to ICU and into surgery when he developed a lung infection. He's back in ICU now. On Tuesday, I called to ask her to dinner. We agreed to meet after work on the garage level where I park.
As we walked out to the car, she said, "Oh, look! There's a dog."
The dog was the sorriest sight I've seen in a while. Under all the mange and filth, he was probably a six-month-old yellow lab mix. I could see some Chow in his black tongue and some pit bull in the way his eyes were set in his head. Every rib was outlined on his starving body. He was licking at dust balls and leaves on the floor of the garage. One side of his body showed damage as though he might have been struck by a car, and his back legs wobbled. He was wearing a way-too-tight collar, which suggested he'd been on his own long enough to outgrow it.
Both of us called to him, but he wouldn't come. He was clearly conflicted, wanting to draw nearer, but fearful of us. On impulse, I walked toward my car, calling, "Come on, boy! Let's go for a ride." He ran to me and allowed me to pet his head.
I suggested to my friend that she wait with him while I went to get some water. I ran back upstairs, found a bowl and filled it. I checked the refrigerator. My stock of food included blueberries, raspberries, an apple, four plums and a large container of blackberries. The thing I thought the dog might like best was a large round of fresh mozzarella cheese I'd bought the previous day. I grabbed the cheese and returned downstairs.
When I say he inhaled $5 worth of cheese in one breath--believe me--I'm not kidding. When he was finished, I removed the collar. He wasn't happy about me messing with it, but he waited obediently until I got it off. He heaved an enormous sigh when his throat was free. My friend fed him a power bar, we wished him well and took my car to dinner.
Two hours later, on the way back to the garage, we stopped at a 7/11, where I bought an overpriced can of Alpo. When we got back to the university, I dropped my friend off and returned to the garage to see if the dog was still there. I parked in the middle of the enormous--and dimly lit--space and called out: "Hey, Toby. Are you still here?"
A head popped up from the center of a decorative grass-and-dirt accent area. When I walked toward the now-christened Toby, he came right to me. I popped open the can of dogfood, which he once more swallowed without chewing. I petted him and returned to my car. He followed, but stopped four feet from the car door. I said, "I'll be back tomorrow," and left.
It was nearly 9:30 by the time I got home after stopping at the supermarket for more cans of dogfood. I walked into the house to face an aggravated Bob the Cat, who'd been waiting for fourteen hours for my return. I dropped my nylon bag, fed him and headed to my bedroom to change.
When I returned to let him out the back door, Bob was standing next to my bag with the forgotten dog collar in his mouth. He looked for all the world like a cuckolded husband who had gone through his wife's handbag searching for proof of her infidity and found her panties.
Of course, I laughed, which made the situation worse. He dropped the collar and stalked past me to the front door.
It took me a minute to realize he didn't want to go out the back door for fear of meeting the owner of that collar. Bob knows my habit of taking in strays. I let him out and haven't seen him since.
The one thing that bothers me is the fear that the co-worker who made the crack about leaving the kitten in the garage will hear about the dog. If she finds out, she'll never let me live the story down. [Sigh]