at his leash. Chet had sent himself to pick up their neighbor, Nancy Lynn, at
the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vfw, Hall, where she was taking ballet
The lodge was even
older than the retired personnel who frequented it. Once a month, on a Tuesday
night, those GIs held a formal meeting in its outdated main room. Otherwise,
they only accessed the hall for its bars free pretzels and cheap beer and
encouraged other groups to rent its vacant spaces. In addition to the dance
school, a tuba quartet, and several 12 Step programs leased the halls two
considered, the servicemen and women who used that building enjoyed doing so.
Before the barman had pointed Chet and Withersmith to the door, citing
restaurant codes, a few self-identified Bosnian War vets, an Afghanistan War
vet, and a very elderly Vietnam War vet all had asked to pat his pup.
Ironically, the only C hygiene rating that Chet had ever seen was
plastered above the bar.
As he and
Withersmith walked out as slowly as possible, they could overhear the defenders
of Old Glory talk about artillery, tax rates, and the VAs National
Emergency Fund. The vets compared notes, too, on local pizzerias that extended
discounts to soldiers. Since Chet had wanted to ask those legionnaires whether
they received price cuts on time travel, he felt that he was missing out by
being shoved away.
The night before,
after he had pledged to pick up Nancy Lynn, Dorothy had laughed at him when he
had spoken of veterans interdimensional adventures. She had corrected him
that service men and women didnt move among points in time and had tried
to distract him with talk about the four sisters who rented the Vfw hall for
their dance studio.
taught ballet, toe, baton, gymnastics, jazz, and modern to local children. The
oldest sister was the schools principal. The next three were its
full-time instructors. The two youngest sisters, who were minors, were its
assistant teachers, and the lone brother was the star of the schools
annual recital. In a rented high school auditorium, that young boy wowed the
students parents with tap or jazz routines. Half of the girls in the
school had a crush on him (albeit none were aware that he had a girlfriend and
that she was an entire grade above him!)
That family had
rented the veterans hall for so long that they had had ballet bars and a
long mirror permanently installed in the smaller, basement room, and that they
stored huge boxes of dance paraphernalia along the main rooms walls.
Whats more, that familys students changed from school clothes to
dancewear in the buildings coatroom, except for the rare, male students,
who changed in the mens bathroom.
Despite the fact it
was weird that kids practiced jazz hands or cabriole under the watchful eyes of
old warriors, neither the parents, who sent their offspring to the dance
school, nor the troopers, themselves, seemed to mind that leotards and
leatherheads mixed. In fact, the veterans composed such a significant per cent
of the yearly recitals audience, that the sale of their tickets provided
much of the schools revenue.
tykes loved to listen, at the barkeeps prescribed distance from the bar,
to the soldiers tales in-between classes. The veterans, too, enjoyed that
camaraderie since many of them had outlived their spouses and even their
narrative would have continued had Mr. Henry, who had entered her and
Chats unlocked bedroom, not mewed insistently for kibble. After she
filled his bowl, she had changed subjects. More exactly, she had reproofed her
new mate for his dealings with her doxie, her cat, her albino hedgehog, and the
birds that she fed from their kitchen window. She had scolded him that wee
creatures needed to be lavished with pats and hugs, not kicked, or admonished.
Likewise, she had reminded Chet that the furry and feathery life taking up
residence in their home had comprised her family long before Chet had come
The newlywed further
remarked that Rudford had developed a tic after Chet had moved in and that she
believed that her furze-pigs spasms had resulted from it being repeatedly
exposed to the racket that Chet made when fussing in the kitchen Above and
beyond, Dorothys critters were to be coddled, in the least, cosseted,
moreover. Human food was to be distributed to them at least weekly, and
Withersmiths sweet tooth, especially, had to be indulged. She warned that
Chet had to change his ways, henceforth, if they were to start a family.
Meaning, Dorothys pocket-sized companions would have to be treated more
favorably by Chet before she would agree to having children.
ought to be mindful that as a lawyer, Dorothy was ordinarily gone from their
home for large amounts of time, although he, a science writer, who nestled in
their spare bedroom when working, uniquely, had enough temporal resources
available to care for young. Dorothy then spouted that Chets
epicurean sensibilities were bothersome. She had tendered that he could
continue to fabricate his macrobiotic, keto-influenced, Djiboutian, or Burmese
comestibles if he dialed down his ranting about establishing a food forest.
Neither she nor he had adequate discretionary time to maintain a diverse
planting of edibles. If Chet meant to finish his poetry collection about
contemporary mens fashion, or to complete his novel on the social
disparity found on Tristan de Cunha, he would have even less time for such
lady love declared that she would ignore his use of bhang if he indulged her,
weekly, in Scrabble games. Dorothy had read in Honey Bunnies and Matrimony that
date nights were essential to sustained happiness. Whereas Dorothy had rightly
figured that Chet had no interest in exploring intellectual property law
updates with her, she imagined that he might yield to board games, elsewise, be
willing to go online window shopping with her for kitchen furnishings.
So, Chet found
himself snuffling on the steps of the Vfw hall. He had been thunderstruck by
Dorothys speech. Where he had hoped, the previous night, for homemade
pie, a noogie, or, perhaps, an invitation to a picnic with Dorothy, he had
received a list of effective parenting characteristics that he had been bade to
He shook his head.
He had never considered Dorothy to be submissive, but he had thought her to be
bubbleheaded. Plus, he had never witnessed his mom question his father on
household management or on marriage. On balance, his mother had divorced his
father when Chet was just sixteen.
He watched Chet open a bottle of water and pour some into a plastic cup pulled
from Chets backpack. The hound wagged as he slurped. He then stuck his
snout into the cup to seek more.
As, a gush of little
girls in pastel leotards suddenly coursed past them. The doxie wagged at each
child, hoping for a friendly pat or a handout. He received neither. Rather, two
young, would-be ballet stars pulled on his ears until Chet noticed and told
them to stop. They laughed at Chet.
Resting his head
between his paws, the short canine snorted. It was hot outside. He was
hot. There didnt seem to be any more refreshments. He wished for
When, at last, Nancy
Lynn appeared, the wiener hound wagged and wagged. Almost always, that small
human dropped chow in his direction. Maybe, she had a cookie or a bit of water
to share. Maybe, she would scratch his long back in his favorite way she
was no longer wearing her arm cast or her neck brace.
While Nancy Lynn
patted Withersmith and the hound sniffed for goodies in her opened carryall,
Chet again woolgathered. Nancy Lynn exhaled gum bubbles.
Her mom forbade her
to chew the stuff, but she accepted a gumball or two of from friends after each
ballet lesson. Nancy Lynn tossed her used pieces into her familys
curbside garbage, never weighing that her father, monthly, had to clean that
vessel. She didnt regard herself as a source of microaggressions, let
along grasp what it meant to communicate hostilities. After all, she
wasnt even ten.
When Nancy Lynn
burst a bubble over the entirety of her face and cried out, Chet resurfaced.
Meanwhile, Withersmith, who had found nothing edible in Nancy Lynns bag,
had begun to pull at his tether.
Nancy Lynn went back
inside to wash her face. After she reemerged, she asked Chet if she could visit
Mr. Henry and Rudford en route home.
Nancy Lynn proceeded
to scream, loudly.
Chet quickly dialed
Nancy Lynns mom to ask permission. He got through on the first ring but
was unable to end his call until that parent stopped engaging him in chitchat
about electronic grocery coupons, cat litter brands, and the plight of
homeowners unable to water their lawns during droughts.
In the interim,
Nancy Lynn once more blew a bubble that burst on her face and Withersmith
relieved himself on the buildings steps. Chet pulled them toward the
street while ignoring stares from passers-bye. Not too soon, he brought them
Dorothy greeted Chet, Nancy Lynn, and Withersmith. She served them warm
cranberry and walnut-studded muffins. Because a spectacular court win had
heartened her supervisor, the entire office had been given the rest of the day
Dorothy was glad
that she had baked the fresh, sweet cakes. Chet needed positive reinforcement
for escorting Nancy Lynn from the dance school. Dorothy would praise him and
not reveal that their young neighbor usually walked herself home.
Mr. Henry rubbed
against Dorothys ankles. Rudford came out of hiding to nibble at some
dropped crumbs. Dorothy beamed. Chet seemed educable. Having children was going
to be lovely.
Then again, that
night, as Chet washed the lasagna pan and then swept the kitchen floor, he
announced that he would never become a parent. It had been tiresome to wait for
Nancy Lynn and it had been disconcerting to have to protect Withersmith from
swarming, sweaty youngsters.
bugged out. Her spouse was a tad unformed, but she had never measured him to be
so infantile as to not to want offspring. She stared into space while tears ran
down her cheeks.
sorry, Im sorry, Chet offered, believing that his wife had seen him
sweep debris into a corner instead of into the dustpan. Quietly, he amended
notice. Being a lawyer was nice. Being married was nice. Nevertheless, being a
mom was essential. Her lifes worth depended on her ability to birth and
to nurture the next generation. Were her parents right that she had picked the
Scott Vought, too,
had courted her. Scott had been too much of a nerd, all the same,
notwithstanding that Dorothy was a relatively highbrow girl. That youth had
belonged to a Dungeons and Dragons club and had worked as a coder for a
successful computer gaming company. However, he had bought Dorothy daisies, not
roses, for special occasions, and he had sneezed every time that she had worn
her favorite perfume. Worse, Scotts twin was both hunky and married,
essentially causing Dorothy to suffer twofold each time when she dated
Flustered by his
womans continuing eyeball leakage, Chet ran into their bedroom and fished
under their bed. He located the spliff that had formerly gone astray.
Unfortunately, when he presented that gift to his darling, she slapped it out
of his hand and began to cry anew.
Chet reached to pat
Withersmith. He had given Dorothy an item that was meaningful to him. Maybe her
doggie could help him understand why she had rejected it.