Every year, I try to do one creative project related to Valentine's Day. I've missed a few years here and there, and I've been late a few times. If you're seeing this sentence, it means I still haven't finished VD2009. But here VD2010 is! Hope you enjoy it. If not, well, at least it was free and it didn't poop on the carpet.
If you’re interested in listening to an audio version of this, Pendragon Variety Episode 5 features Paranormal Romance amongst commentary and delicious miscellaneous.
A few years ago during a bitterly cold February, I got over my bitterness about being alone on another Valentine’s Day.
It was a temporary truce with love.
As I walked home from work, I passed a pet store. They say that dogs are a great way to meet girls. I wasn’t that pathetically desperate, but fate inspired me to look in the window.
There was a black puppy there with thick matted fur. It wasn’t a show dog. I can’t imagine what the store was thinking when it put that dog in the window, but I was intrigued.
I shifted weight a few times before I decided to walk in. When I found a cashier, I asked how big the puppy was expected to get.
The lady didn’t know what I was talking about.
I showed her the puppy. She looked over the top of her glasses. “Did you put the puppy there?”
“No, why would I do that? Listen. All I want is to know what breed it is and how big it’ll get.”
She walked over to the puppy and put a hand down. It growled and she pulled her hand back. “It’s a black lab.”
She was wrong, I just didn’t know just how wrong.
I played with the dog for a few minutes. It seemed sad or subdued or something. I asked if it was a girl or a boy. She didn’t examine it at all. She just said it was a girl.
Then it lifted a leg to take a whiz and it was pretty obvious it wasn’t a girl even through the thick fur.
I bought the dog for fifteen dollars. I’m pretty sure my money never went in the register.
The vet declared the puppy healthy and a mutt, though what breeds exactly he wouldn’t hazard a guess. “You should probably treat it like a St. Bernard. Teach him to get along with children or you might have problems.”
“So, he’s going to be huge?”
“Probably. Maybe not, but I’d count on huge.”
He seemed vaguely interested in the fact that I got him at a pet store, but quickly lost interest.
When I got the puppy home, I realized I hadn’t given him a name yet.
I tried a few on for size. “Raydan?”
The dog didn’t respond.
He gave me a look of disdain I never would have imagined coming from a puppy.
I decided to try more classical names. “Robert? Justin? Julius?”
He growled suspiciously at the last. “You don’t like Julius do you? Et tu, Brute.”
He barked and barked and ran around in a circle.
He sat, wagged his tail, and looked at me attentively.
As I turned out the light, I could have sworn I saw two red eyes glowing back at me in the dark. They reminded me of cartoon hearts. I shivered and turned over to sleep.
It was March before the temperature got sensible again. Aside from the walk to and from work and my twice-daily jaunts with Brutus, I stayed inside most of the time.
Brutus was good company. Whenever I was feeling down, he seemed to sense it. He’d walk over, stand on all fours, tail erect, and bark short repeated barks until I’d stop whatever I was doing and go play with him.
The first warm Saturday, I was feeling fine, but Brutus barked and barked and hopped around. I finally decided that was enough of that and he was going to start getting acclimated to kids that very day.
“Oh, do I have a surprise for you, Brutus!”
I put him on his leash and we walked to the park. I’d had him only about a month at that point, but he was already well on his way to being huge. That didn’t stop the kids from coming up and petting him.
He tolerated it fairly well, but if I’d been paranoid, I would have thought he was eying me chatting with the moms.
This batch of kids had a mom who was a bit bonkers. They were dressed in heavy coats, mittens, and hats. They looked more like colorful marshmallows than kids.
“You’re a good dog, Brutus,” I petted him as I kept eye contact on their mom. If Brutus was a match maker, he was a pretty lousy one.
But it would be silly to think that a dog dragged me out to try to get a girl.
It was June before I managed to get a date. Things went pretty smoothly. I took her to a little hole in the wall that no one who didn’t live in what passed for ‘down town’ around here would have known about. Good food considering it’s mostly a bar.
We both lingered a long time. “Well, would you like to get coffee at my place? You can see my huge—”
She started giggling.
“No, seriously, I have this dog, and he’s just a puppy but he’s already gigantic.”
She couldn’t stop laughing, but managed to choke out that she’d love to see my dog.
The lights were off when I unlocked the door and stepped in. Brutus’s creepy eyes were staring in the dark and some part of me left over from thousands of years of primordial instinct nearly panicked.
I switched the light on and Brutus came bounding in to lick my face and submit to Lindsay’s petting.
Things get a little fuzzy after that. I woke up the next day and found a note saying I was a wonderful lay and I should call Lindsay soon. Also found a used condom on the trash, thank the fates.
But I don’t remember any of it, and I never could find where I’d left her number. I can’t remove just one number from my phone’s history, but her number wasn’t there.
I didn’t see her around town either.
The clue that something really odd was going on was that I wasn’t upset. I didn’t even realize that I was really not upset. I liked Lindsay. I liked her a lot. Why wouldn’t I be upset that she up and moved after spending the night with me?
In October, the office announced that we could dress up on Halloween. I had the greatest idea and asked my boss if I could bring Brutus in that day.
She said it would be fine, so I started on my plan.
On Halloween, I put a huge collar on Brutus. It had an over-sized name tag that made him look like he was a wee puppy again. Then I put on a blue dress and white shirt with poofy sleeves. Yes, along with sequined red shoes, a brown wig done up in pigtails and bright red lipstick.
Our costume was easily the best costume in the office, and Brutus was a hit with my co-workers.
The highlight of the day was walking home though. I passed a group of trick-or-treaters and of course the kids all had to stop and pet Brutus.
He was a really good sport about it considering some of their costumes were a little frightening for a dog who hasn’t seen that sort of thing.
He even licked some poor girl who was dressed up as a devil. She laughed, giggled, and screeched while he was doing it. No harm no foul.
While that was all going down, her mother slipped a card into my wicker basket.
Her name was Sylvie and I called her the next day during my lunch break. She said she could get a friend to take the kids Friday night so that would be the best night to schedule something. I decided against the place I’d taken Lindsay to before she disappeared.
I took Sylvie to see a movie. It was supposed to be a romantic comedy, but it wasn’t so bad.
And this time I didn’t remember anything after she drove her car up my street. I woke up in my own bed at about 1 AM when Brutus licked me.
No note this time. I didn’t bother checking my phone to see if her number was still around or if I could find her business card. I sighed, stumbled out of bed and put on enough clothes to take Brutus out.
1:30 AM is a really bad time to be out walking in a city. Even a city as small as mine. Getting Brutus is the best thing that ever happened to me, but don’t think caring for a dog is easy work.
Brutus wasn’t satisfied with a short walk. He wanted a nice long one, and I felt like he had a point. I’d spent all night out having fun while he was cooped up in the house. I let him lead me, and we ended up at a graveyard.
He stopped a few feet from a grave and sat. Like he was waiting for something. For some reason, I didn’t think anything of it at the time. A few minutes later, a woman walked up. I didn’t turn to see her, but I could hear her heals thocking against the pavement of the sidewalk.
She walked beside me and reached down to scratch Brutus’s ears. “You’re a good boy, Voltain.”
“His name is Brutus,” I said. I tried not to sound like a dick.
“Of course it is. Isn’t that what I said?”
She petted Brutus and I could see the glow of his eyes reflected on nearby granite.
Every inch of me wanted to look at her, but I felt compelled to keep looking straight ahead.
“Brutus tells me you’re not entirely boring.”
I laughed. “I’m not sure I agree, but I’m glad he thinks so.”
Brutus stood up and walked away. The leash slipped from my hand and I tried to look her in the eye. She had turned to face me and I could see her eyes. They were a yellow color that really intrigued me. Her skin didn’t quite look like a natural color, but I couldn’t place it at all.
“C’mon, let me buy you a drink. Stay, Brutus,” she said. Somehow, I knew there was no danger of Brutus going wandering.
“I heard about your Halloween costume,” she laughed. “Very original. I had to explain it to Brutus. He thought it was great.”
“Good. Wasn’t sure how he liked the collar.”
“He’s had worse.” She held my hand and set her head on my arm as we walked to the bar. She smelled faintly of ashes.
I never told you this would be a happy story where the guy gets the girl. Didn’t say anything about bitterness either.
I don’t know how it ends.
And if I did know, I wouldn’t tell.
She told me it’s hard for a three thousand year old demon who is trying to turn her life around to find interested men. As crazy as it sounds, I’m not sure she was kidding.