Flying Dog Double Dog Double IPA
For the entirety of the first class flight home, I’m comatose — foregoing food, flicks, and frills to commence what’s sure to be a prolonged recovery.
It certainly didn’t help, this morning, that I awoke to discover the maid had removed all the towels from my room.
Customs and baggage claim go swiftly. I’m in the back of a cab before it occurs to me to switch on my phone. It’s been a compelling analog experiment, to say the least, being off the grid for a few days. Freedom from the internet allows for prolonged critical thought, awareness of one’s surroundings, altogether fuller hours throughout the day. If there’s a downside, it’s that I spent the better part of a week fumbling around a foreign city, forever lost. Nevertheless, the experience has me toying with the idea of reverting to a flip phone.
On cue, my pseudo-smart device chirps like a perturbed bird — several voicemails await. I owe Kitty an apology. I owe her a respectful resolution. Hatred’s never existed between us. It’s only ever been love.
The cab arrives at the dog boarder’s — I’m out the door before it’s fully rolled to a stop. Promising a sizeable tip, I’ve convinced the driver to transport my doggie boy home.
The door is locked. I ring the doorbell twice before the Eastern European girl appears, keeping her distance behind a reception desk several feet away.
“May I help you?” she asks through an intercom.
“I’m here to pick up my dog,” I say. “Spud — last name Buckle.”
“Hello, Mr. Buckle. Spud was sent home already.”
My heart leaps into my throat.
“Your wife came and got him.”
“Um.” I force a dry mouth swallow. “Can you buzz me in, please?”
“Only owners are allowed inside.”
“I am an owner.”
“Spud’s not here.”
“Buzz me in right now.”
“I’m not going to do that,” she says, autocratic tone entering her voice.
A truck barrels past, loudly hitting a series of potholes.
“We tried to call you,” she adds.
“I wrote saying that my phone wasn’t working.”
“Email,” I say, resisting the urge to scream.
“Oh,” she says. “I don’t think we got that.”
“This is ridiculous,” I say, punching the Talk button yet again. “Can you let me inside?”
“Did you get our voicemails?”
“I just landed.”
“There were altercations with the other dogs.”
“There were multiple incidents, yes.”
“Let me get this straight,” I say. “My dog was attacked so you sent him home?”
“Mr. Buckle —”
“What kind of a place is this?”
“You let my dog get hurt?”
“Spud was attacking the other dogs,” she says. “We tried putting him in different groups. He’s aggressive.”
I take a breath. The ground rises to swallow me. “Are the other dogs okay?” I manage to ask, voice wavering.
“We watch everyone very closely.”
“How did my wife find out?” Before she can answer, it hits me. “Because I listed her as the emergency contact.”
Dogs bark inside, pulling the girl’s focus. “Best wishes,” she says. “I’m afraid we won’t be able to take Spud in the future.”
I drag myself back to the cab and call Kitty — two rings and it redirects to voicemail.
“Hey,” I say, as the cab pulls away. “It’s me. I heard you picked up Spud.”
A text arrives. My wife’s written: “Where are you?”
I hang up and type out a reply: “In a cab. Was traveling for work. How can I get Spud?”
She starts typing, stops, starts again, finally sends: “Are you going to the apartment?”
“Unless you want to tell me where you’re been staying.”
She doesn’t reply.
I pull up to our building and pay the driver. He’s sour on the tip but I’m beyond caring. Upstairs, the apartment is a vacuum. All I want is for Spud to rush up to me, rear up on his hind legs and lean against me for support, fur and dander exploding in a soft cloud as he smiles his infectious smile.
I unpack half my bag, abandon it to piss, check my phone.
“I had food shipped while he was there,” I text. “Are you bringing it with you or do I need to pick up more?”
I go to the corner deli and buy more generic crap. Kitty’s sure to bring along the organic artisanal stuff, but, in case not, at least Spud won’t be starving. Checking the deli’s beer selection, I spy Flying Dog Double Dog Double IPA — a highly alcoholic concoction that resembles bitter dark chocolate going down. Add to the mix that the brewery’s commissioned Ralph Steadman of Hunter S. Thompson fame to produce frothing-at-the-mouth ink splatter labels, and this is exactly the beer I need.
I return to the apartment. The intercom buzzes. I hit the button and wonder what Kitty will think of our home as it exists now, whether I’ll be able to hold my tongue as she lashes into me, if there’s anything in the world I want more than to embrace her and Spud together. To feel our family whole again.
There’s a knock, I open the door, and see a man I’ve never met.
“Nolan Buckle?” he asks. I answer yes before it occurs to me not to, and accept the manila envelope thrust into my hand. “You’ve been served.”