Every dog has his day
“Look,” Jack told the block-club meeting. “Yeti’s a friendly dog. It’s not like he’s threatening anyone. I try to keep him quiet, and he’s getting better at that.”
“The noise statutes don’t say anything about friendliness,” old Mr. Verrano said. “They give limits on how much noise your dog can make and when. Your dog is breaking those limits. And they don’t say anything about getting better. They say that when your dog breaks those limits once, you have to get rid of it.”
“Now, George,” Mrs. Zelnick said, “you know that if those rules were enforced that way, you’d have called the cops, and not come to us.” Mrs. Zelnick had chaired of the block club for decades.
She was right; a police complaint from George Verrano had led to a bored patrolman visiting him, petting Yeti, and writing up a report that he didn’t hear any loud and continuous barking. The cop had considered the few yelps with which Yeti had greeted him as justifiable friendliness.
Mr. Verrano was keeping a record, though, every time he heard Yeti bark, when he started, and when he ended. Jack could see the school notebook with the record right then. Verrano complained to the block club, and, if the block club complained to the alderman, Verrano would get action.
These people, most of them, had seen him grow up. (People his age mostly didn’t come to block club meetings.) They’d been his grandparents’ friends. They didn’t want to make trouble for him. They, on the other hand, thought that Mr. Verrano was right. They thought that Yeti shouldn’t be barking.
Verrano was a widower and he complained – very often – that his wife, Grace, had been bedeviled for the last year of her life by the noise of the city. As far as Jack could tell, it had been sirens, boom boxes, trucks, and motorcycles. But Verrano could suppress a noisy dog now, and he was going to.
The thing was that Jack and Yeti were stuck two doors down from Verrano. Jack’s grandparents had owned the six-flat for longer than Jack had been alive. After the accident, they had raised him in the bottom apartment. He really owed them.
When the plumbing finally gave out and they had to dig up the drain pipe under their bedroom, Gramps had given up. They moved to Florida and retired. Jack had promised to live in the vacant upstairs apartment, supervise the work of the plumbers, and then fix up the basement apartment and sell the place.
Since the old bedroom had smelled of sewage, he could keep Yeti there while he fixed up the rest of the place. All he had to do was shovel his feces out and rinse down the urine.
When it came time to fix up the last room, he bought a doghouse and moved Yeti out into the yard. He brought in steam cleaners and then painted the room.
How was he to guess that Verrano kept his window open instead of using an air conditioner like everybody else?
How was he to guess that Yeti would greet everybody passing the house on either side of the street as a long-lost friend?
Even the mailman liked Yeti. Mr. Verrano didn’t. Maybe he would if he came by and petted him, but Mr. Verrano only bitched.
Sam was desperate. “I can give you the deposit, Mrs. Zelnick. I’ve given you two references. Sure, they weren’t landlords. I’m separated from my husband, and I’m not claiming that he was a good tenant. I have an order of protection, and I’m trying to keep my location secret. That’s one reason that I need to move out of my parents’ place. Fred, as you might imagine, knows where they live.”
“Well, Mrs. Terrel, I don’t know.” She had never been ‘Mrs. Terrel.’ She’d been ‘Miss Terrel,’ and then ‘Mrs. Davis.’ She was trying to be ‘Ms. Terrel’ now, but Belle was ‘Belle Davis,’ and always would be. “What happens when your husband finds you?”
“I do have an order of protection.”
“Which doesn’t seem to have done you much good at your parents’ place,” Mrs. Zelnick said. “We’re not all that happy about taking kids, either. It’s a one-bedroom apartment.”
“Belle is four, and she can share my bedroom easily. For that matter, a mother and daughter can share the bedroom at any age.” That they were sharing the bed was not something that she needed to say. Belle might not be quite dependable about not wetting the bed, but she was still a more pleasant bed companion than Fred had been that last year.
“Preschoolers, even good preschoolers, can be destructive. I can still show you Johnny’s crayon marks through several coats of paint on my wall. Well, she is a dear. We’ll take the risk, but you pay for any damage – that goes for any damage your ex does, too.”
“Sure. Can I give you the check now, and move in this weekend?” She signed the check Samantha Terrel Davis; getting the signature changed would be another step.
Belle pulled her hand out of Sam’s grasp when they were at the bottom of the stairs. She hurried away.
“Not in the street,” Sam called. Belle turned right instead of back the way they had come. Well, that would get them to the bus stop almost as fast, and she had to see the neighborhood some time. Belle, really, should too.
“Doggie,” Belle said when Sam had almost caught up to her. The dog saw – or heard – Belle at the same time. He barked loudly and galloped over. The fence was a little taller than Belle, and it would have been inches taller than the dog if he’d kept his feet on the ground. Instead, he perched his front paws on the fence and peered over at her.
“Quiet Yeti. Get down,” a guy yelled from another part of the yard. He was maybe her age, dressed in work clothes, and sounded tired. She could sympathize; dealing with a dog must mean nearly as much constant correction as dealing with a toddler. Not quite as much; she could tell from the yard that he hadn’t worried about toilet training.
The guy had curly brown hair that should have been cut two weeks ago and sad brown eyes. He walked over and pushed the dog’s shoulders down. At that point, the dog both stopped barking and dropped to ground level.
“I’m Jack,” he said to Belle, “and this is Yeti. Would you like to meet him properly?” Then he looked at Sam. “Yeti doesn’t bite, but he does lick.”
“I have Handwipes.” For that matter, Belle would have her hands washed before she ate, and they probably had worse things on them than dog saliva right now. “This is Belle.”
“Appropriate name. You are very pretty. Now, if you want to really meet Yeti, put your hand on the fence here.” He pointed to a piece of the mesh well below the pipe which formed the top of the fence.
When Belle put her hand there, the dog sniffed it and then licked it.
“Now, he knows who you are,” Jack said, and he likes you. His licking your hand means that he likes you.”
“I’m Sam – originally Samantha – Terrel.”
“And I’m Jack Townsend. And this is Yeti. When he was a pup, his feet were bigger. Well, not bigger, but a lot bigger in comparison with the rest of him. Well...” He trailed off. He didn’t really want to explain how ‘Big Foot’ evolved into ‘Yeti,’ especially since that explanation would involve Marilyn, and he didn’t want to explain Marilyn to this pretty, young woman. Even though she seemed to be taken.
“Nice to meet you. You know Mrs. Zelnick down that way about... ?”
“Very well. Don’t worry. All the buildings are alike, but nobody is like Mrs. Zelnick.”
“I’m going to be renting one of her apartments. Wave bye-bye, Belle.” Belle clearly was waving at the dog, but the guy, Jack, seemed to think that was funny. He waved to her, and she waved back. Then, they walked to the bus stop. When the bus came, she sat between the aisle and Belle. She got out her cell and made calls trying to organize the move.
Jack started to see Belle alone. Yeti, who seemed to love all the world, loved Belle best. Belle would stick her hand through the Cyclone Fence, and Yeti would lick as much of it as he could reach. Since Yeti didn’t bark while his tongue was out, Jack was happy; Belle and Yeti were happy. Even Mr. Verrano was presumably happy. At least, Jack didn’t hear any complaints about these times.
Belle’s mother came along once while the two were interacting. “Look she’s allowed here – on the sidewalk here – by herself, isn’t she?” he asked.
“Just not across the street. You’re not really responsible, you know.”
“Well, she seems to come along to see Yeti. I wouldn’t want to be thought to be enticing her into breaking rules.”
“Don’t know many four-year-olds, do you?” Sam asked.
“Not my main social circle.”
“They are quite capable of breaking rules on their own. Do me a favor.”
“Sure,” Jack said.
“You see her heading for the street, tell her no. Say it real loud.”
“Okay. But she usually heads down the sidewalk when she leaves here.”
Sam took a deep breath. She didn’t want to have her new neighbors dragged into her sordid past, but the guy looked like he was interested in Belle, and if Fred did come around, she needed somebody on her side. “Look, I’m separated from my ex; I have custody and an order of protection. If a guy comes looking for me or Belle, let me know, will you?”
“Yeah,” Jack said. “Mrs. Zelnick will know where you are?”
“Yes, but that’s a little round-about. I’ll give you my cell.”
When she gave him the number, he put it on his and called her to test. It worked, and she took Belle back to the apartment. On the way, she worried that Jack would think she’d come on to him. Guys asked for your number; you didn’t offer it to them. On the other hand, she was perfectly serious about her need. Anyway, she’d been called by less attractive men. She had, after all, been romanced by Fred.
Jack had the number on his cell as “Belle’s mom.” He didn’t think it would happen, but you’d feel like a proper jackass if something happened, you’d been asked to look out for, and you hadn’t taken the requested precautions.
Besides, he and Yeti needed all the friends they could get in the neighborhood. Belle and her mom were mere tenants, but they counted as among the first people on their side. For that matter, Belle was a cute kid. Some of the women with grandchildren far off might think twice about banishing her favorite playmate.
When Belle came by, she stayed on her side of the fence, and Jack made sure that Yeti stayed on his side. Really, they were enjoying the contact they had. It’s just that Jack was sure that Yeti would bowl the girl over and lick her face. Her mom had been great about licked hands; she might not be great about a licked face. Besides, Belle could enjoy having a dog in front of her without, necessarily, enjoy having a dog straddling her from above. Yeti played fairly rough with him, and he outweighed the dog two to one.
Once, a guy turned the corner while Yeti was licking Belle’s fingers. “Belle,” he yelled.
“Daddy!” she sounded scared.
Jack reached towards his pocket for his cell. The guy rushed towards them, and Belle looked panicked. Jack needed to do something fast.
He grabbed Belle under the arms, raised her high, swung around, and put her down inside the fence.
“Go to Yeti,” he said. Really, Yeti was right there.
He finally got the phone out. Why hadn’t he put ‘Belle’s mom’ on speed dial. He pushed the button for ‘call,’ and heard the dial tone.
The guy was at the gate, and Yeti responded. He faced the guy with his back to Belle. He barked angrily. This was one visitor who wasn’t going to be greeted with a tail-wag.
“He’ll tear your fucking head off,” Jack told the guy. “If you open the gate,” he added belatedly. Finally, his call was answered.
“Hello?” Sam said. It was a number that the cell didn’t recognize.
“I think your ex is here,” Jack said. That, especially ‘here,’ might not be 100% clear communication. “I’m Jack, Yeti’s owner.” She might have forgotten him; she might know two Jacks; she damned-well knew only one Yeti.
Sam asked, “You sure?” That was a stupid question, but she wasn’t waiting for him to answer it. Back in her heels – tennies took too long. Grab a copy of the protection order. Out the door and down two flights of stairs with the phone in her hand.
“He knows Belle’s name, and she seems scared of him.”
“Thanks. I’ll hang up now to call the cops.” She could hear the dog before the downstairs door opened. She stopped on the outside stairs to call 911.
“What is your emergency?”
“Police. My ex is trying to kidnap my child. I’ve got an order of protection.”
“What is your address?”
“Twenty-five seventeen Orchard. The attempt is two buildings east of here. I don’t know that address.”
“Stay there. Help is on the way.” That was the stupidest thing that was ever said to a mother, but the operator probably had to say it.
“Fred,” she yelled, “I’ve called the cops.”
With the dog so loud, Fred probably hadn’t heard her. Hell! The last 2 years, he hadn’t heard her even when they were in the same room with no other sounds. She ran as fast as her heels allowed, and he did see her when she was close.
“The order doesn’t work when you come to me,” he said. The bastard never paid attention to the law, but he quoted it whenever he thought it was on his side.
“It covers Belle, too.”
“Look, dude,” Jack said, “you’ve lost. People have already noticed; if they haven’t called the cops yet, they will if you try rough stuff.”
“I’ve already called them,” Sam said.
“That’s my daughter.”
“Well, one of you called the cops,” Jack said. “That sort of hints which side the law is on. If you think differently, let’s wait until they come.”
The humans all stood silently. Jack put his hand on Yeti’s neck, and he stopped barking if he didn’t look away from Fred.
A siren sounded in the distance, and then slowed as the patrol car turned the corner. It stopped in front of 2517, and Sam waved desperately towards them. Fred started to walk the other way. Jack could feel Yeti relax under his hand.
“I told him I’d called the cops,” Sam muttered. When the patrol car pulled up, she ran over to it. “I called in,” she said. “That’s my ex, and he tried to kidnap my child.”