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Excerpt from the Book

Posted on by Paul Roth

It was a snowy day in Maryland. The rarity of snowy days wasn’t from lack of cold or lack of precipitation so much as from lack of kindness by The Weather. There were plenty enough rainy days, foggy days, drizzling days, hailing days, sleeting days, icy days, and far more gray days than one would think from the local meteorologists’ sunny dispositions. But it seemed to Alan as though there were hardly ever any days when he would just wake up and look outside at serenely blanketed ivory landscapes. Today was one of those rare days and he could not wait to lose his milky dog in the drifts.

Alan climbed, ran, fell out of bed and dressed as quickly as he could. Chalk lifted her head at the noise and then uncurled herself from the corner of her crate to emit a slow yawn as she stepped delicately out onto the wood floor as if fearing its cold support.

Alan jogged into the kitchen to grab a quick glass of orange juice before his chilly adventure. Chalk plodded slowly behind her owner down the hallway and stopped once she could see his reddening face gulping at a glass. She sat down, yawned again, and tilted her head at this unusually active creature before her.

Alan rinsed out the glass, stuck it into his dishwasher, and attempted to slam the device closed. Perversely, it bounced open again. He tried harder and faster for a couple of repetitions as the dishwasher’s door just kept bouncing back open more and more forcefully. Chalk stood up and slowly wagged her tail, indicating a willingness to help offset by a lack of understanding about what the big deal was.

Alan took a deep breath and closed the dishwasher slowly and carefully, this time with success. Chalk sat back down. Alan moved quickly to the coat closet and took out his big orange winter coat that Maggie called “The Traffic Cone”. Maybe she was calling him The Traffic Cone when he wore it? As Alan put it on, Chalk stood up and began to wag her tail in earnest. She recognized that coat! That was the coat that meant she was going to play in the cold, wet, fluffy blankets! Should she stay here? Should she run to the door?

Alan managed to coordinate putting on his coat and walking to his door simultaneously, though not without minor injury along the way from the coffee table. He was going to ice it in just a minute. Well, snow it. With his shoes on and his coat zipped and one glove on and the other glove in a pocket and a leash in his hands, Alan called, “Here, Chalkie!” and instantly realized he’d made a mistake. Chalk’s ears stood up as straight as they could as she heard her name and then, responding to the agitated high pitch of his call, proceeded to react appropriately. A hurried dash, a great lunge, and a successful pounce completed with a tangle on the floor. This was almost as much fun as the wet blankets.

Reminding himself that this was his own fault, Alan struggled to keep his voice calm as he said, “Good girl, Chalk, that’s just what I meant. Now, let me get up so we can try again.”

Having a dog as large as Chalk was convenient for many reasons. This time, she made a decent support structure as Alan steadied a hand on her back to help him get up off the ground and stand once more. He patted his dog on her head and said, “Thanks.” He tried again, this time calmly starting off by directing his dog to sit (which she did) and then connecting her leash to her collar and directing her to wait for him to open the door (which she did). Alan walked out onto the small cement landing outside his door and, holding the door open, called for Chalk to join him (which she did). A moment to make sure he had his keys and lock up and then they were off on their adventure.

There was a grassy hill beside his house that ran up to an open space behind a neighboring apartment complex. The open space bordered some woods where one could often spot deer along the edge or foxes running across. That seemed an ideal place to enjoy this winter wonderland. First, a quick walk around his neighborhood to take care of business in their usual, regulated fashion. Then as they completed the circuit, instead of going back inside, Alan started sprinting up the hillside he had targeted with a shouted, “Chalkie, release!” Chalk ran with abandon.

Happy, wet, cold, warm, silly, messy chaos erupted as man and dog derived enormous pleasure from painting an abstract expressionist tribute to Jackson Pollock behind several quiet buildings. The medium may have been the message or the message just may have been “Hooray!” The art went on for almost an hour.

At last, Chalk seemed to have tired of picking up snowballs with her teeth and Alan had grown tired of picking out clumps of snow from his pants, and they began their heroes’ journey home. Upon reaching the top of the hillside together, they both paused and looked down the now very steep slope to their goal and their house.

“I may not have thought this through all the way,” admitted Alan aloud.

“Huff, huff,” was Chalk’s considered response.

“That’s easy for you to say,” continued Alan. “You have four legs and could probably get down this much more easily than I can.” He paused. “Come to think of it….”

Alan made sure the leash was fastened to the immobile ring on Chalk’s collar rather than the slip-tight ring and then told his dog to Stay. Her continued huffing appeared to be in agreement. Then her master, pleased with his own cleverness, began to edge down the hill while releasing small increments of the leash. At ninety-seven pounds of mostly muscle, Chalk’s only visible response to the additional weight on her leash was to lean back from the crest of the hill. Here was a newly discovered convenience.

Quite tickled, Alan said, mostly to himself, “Good anchor, good anchor!”

As he reached the end of the four foot long leash and grasped the handle carefully, Alan could see that there was still probably another fifteen feet or so before the slope of the hill curved sharply to an end. He quietly and carefully called up to his dog.

“Okay, Chalk, now slowly… Slowly… Come… Slowly…”

Chalk edged forward a bit and looked down at her master. And then stopped.

“No, it’s okay, just do it slowly… Come on, Chalkie—oh, crap!”

As soon as she heard her master tell her to come, Chalk followed orders and began to walk down the hill. As soon as she started moving, though, she slipped just a little and responded by picking up speed. This cycle of slipping and speeding rapidly continued to increase in magnitude as Chalk actually slipped and ran and slipped and ran down the hill, passing Alan in the blink of an eye.

“Bad anchor! Bad anchor!” called out Alan as his precarious perch was entirely lost. He was quickly pulled forward past his center of gravity and then onto his chest and face which served as the runners for his impromptu body-sledding down the hill behind his great big sled dog.

For her part, Chalk had continued her run down to where the ground was level beneath her before slowing to a stop and seemed quite pleased with herself for not falling. Ever the compassionate companion, when Alan finally did slide to a halt behind her, she trotted back to her master and affectionately licked the back of his head.

Alan lifted his head up to spit out some combination of what he hoped was just snow, mud, and grass. “Bad anchor,” he repeated quietly once more before collapsing back into his face-down resting place.

Chalk sat down to wait.

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Writing a book by close of November

Posted on by Paul Roth

I think there are two exceptionally memorable episodes of the Cosby show.  Not that I actually remember the plots, there were just segments of the two episodes that left a … Continue reading

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