Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Dog Days"

This poem came out of the January 21, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from siliconshaman and rix_scaedu.  It also fills the "exhaustion" square in my 18-8-13 card for the Genprompt Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by technoshaman.  It belongs to the series Walking the Beat.

WARNING: The later part of this poem contains some intense scenes. Highlight for details. These include animal abuse and Dale doing a not-so-great job of managing her disability. If these are sensitive topics for you, please think carefully before deciding whether to read onward.


Dog Days


Summer arrived with sweltering force
as June melted down into July.

Kelly dressed in filmy peasant blouses
and gauze skirts that would have
made Dale's libido stand up with approval
if it had not already melted in her hand
like a bar of chocolate.

Dale wore t-shirts and trousers,
then tank-tops and clam-diggers,
and finally decided that
keeling over from heatstroke
would be worse than showing off
the unsightly scars on her leg.
Nobody said a word when she came out
in a tube-top and shorts.

People were far more interested
in asking Kelly to help pick
peaches that were out of reach
or convincing Dale to climb a tree
after somebody's frisbee ring.

Then there was the time when
Dale came back to the playground
with two ice cream cones in hand
to find Kelly and several children
searching among the swings.

I think we're looking for a snake?
Kelly said, bemused.

It turned out to be a lost ferret,
whom Dale coaxed out of the swingset pipes
by offering him pieces of her ice cream cone,
although Dale could not blame Kelly
for interpreting the children's sinuous gestures
as "snake" when nobody knew a sign for "ferret."

They spent several lazy hours
staking out a vending machine
whose owner swore that kids
must be stealing the candy somehow.

When the squirrel crawled into it
and then out again with his mouth full,
Dale laughed so hard that she
couldn't even collect evidence,
and Kelly had to use her camera phone
to document the heist.

One day a trio of skateboarders
knocked over a table of cantaloupes.
Dale read them all the riot act --
the teenagers for skating on the sidewalk
and the farmer for blocking the path,
instead of taking their activities
somewhere safer and more appropriate.

The kids complained that there was
no proper place for skateboarding.
Dale firmly directed them to the plans
for a skate park in the Southwest Corridor.
The vendor complained that the farmer's market
only ran on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Dale suggested that he find an unused corner
of someone's parking lot to borrow.

A half-grown kitten began haunting the car wash,
nicknamed Floor Mop for its long gray coat.
This would not have been a problem except that
it had a bad habit of running in front of cars.

Kelly managed to nab it under a wire basket,
and instead of cat bathing as a martial art,
simply rinsed it with the warm-water hose
through the wire mesh.

The kitten came out white in the wash;
because of its long hair and blue eyes,
Kelly suspected that it was probably deaf.
She wanted to keep it but was allergic to cats,
so she asked around the neighborhood
until Rivka agreed to give it a home,
and Floor Mop became Sheleg.

A team of artists decorated the sidewalk
with chalk drawings of historic figures. 
They worked on one square at a time
and the pictures looked lovely.
Dale and Kelly found some old signboards
to route the pedestrians around them.

On a particularly hot afternoon,
shouts and yelps echoed from an alley.
Dale broke into a limping run
and Kelly followed her.

They found three black boys
behind a dumpster abusing a dog.
Dale managed to grab one of the three
but the other two bolted at the sight of her.

Dale pushed her captive firmly against the wall.
"Kelly, call the police," said Dale.
Violent criminals often had a history
of mistreating animals; it made her suspicious.
Dale glanced at the dog, which thumped its tail
but did not get up or try to move away.
"And see if you can find a doggie ambulance."

Kelly's deft fingers tapped away,
sending emergency texts.

A small crowd was gathering.
Wonderful.

Presently Johnny Long arrived
to take charge of the boy
that Dale had caught beating the dog,
plus descriptions of the two who escaped.

That was when Dale finally noticed
the splintery pain in her knee.
She'd dropped her cane -- somewhere --
back there on the sidewalk and forgotten that
she couldn't do  this sort of thing anymore.
She sat down heavily on a garbage can,
abruptly overcome by the exhaustion.

Someone scurried to find her cane
and someone else showed up
with a bandana full of ice for her knee,
both of which helped with the pain
but neither did anything for her dignity.

The dog was whisked away to a veterinarian,
the assailant was packed into the police car,
and four different people offered Dale and Kelly
a ride home so they wouldn't have to walk.
Or hobble.  Or possibly crawl.

Dale let Kelly put her to bed
with a proper cold pack and some painkillers
and a movie with more explosions than plot.

The dog survived,
but seemed to have no owner.

"What kind of dog is he?"
Dale asked the vet.

"My guess is half brindle Boston terrier
and half sneaky neighbor's dog,"
the vet replied.  "You can see some of
the tuxedo markings from the Boston, but
the muzzle is longer and the size larger overall."

"What do you think?" Dale asked Kelly.
I'm not allergic to dogs,  Kelly replied.
"Then I guess we've got a new dog," Dale said.

They took him home and named him Chaz.
By the time that Dale's knee healed enough
for a long walk to sound like fun instead of torture,
Chaz had also recovered, and now sported
jingling tags on a smart black collar.

Sometimes, Dale mused,
you found lost things
where you least expected them,
or discovered pieces of your life
that you hadn't even known were missing.

* * *

Notes:

The "dog days" of summer span the hottest part of July and August.

Clam-diggers are one style of short-legged pants.

Flying rings go farther than solid frisbees, but are more prone to getting hung on things.

Ferrets are notorious for getting into trouble.  Some ferrets love ice cream, although it's not good for them.

This is the sign for "snake."  There doesn't seem to be an official sign for "ferret" although I did find some discussion of possibilities.

Squirrels have indeed stolen food out of vending machines.

Jamaica Plain has proposed plans for a skate park.

Browse the Jamaica Plain Farmer's Market.

Cats with two blue eyes and long white hair are most prone to congenital deafness, although some white cats can hear.  Ignoring danger, such as a car approaching, indicates that a cat may be deaf.

Sheleg is the Hebrew word for snow.

Animal abuse often -- though not always -- correlates with violence against humans.

There are plans in place to expand 9-1-1 emergency services to accept texts, an easier option for many people who have difficulty using telephones in a conventional manner.

The Boston Terrier is a popular breed of dog.  It comes in black, chocolate, and brindle colors with a characteristic "tuxedo" pattern of white markings.

Dale and Kelly name their dog after Chaz Bono.  Here is one of the reference photos I found for Dale and Kelly, with the new dog; a pretty close match except that Kelly's hair is longer and Dale doesn't wear glasses.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, romance, weblit, writing
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