The Old Dog

Doreen’s 24 HR Eat Gas Now Café was surprisingly quiet. The television above the counter was still turned to CNN where it had been since the attacks in Paris, France. The sound was muted so we could still read the text as the hair-sprayed anchors continued their coverage.

Rain streaked the windows. Most of the Hunting Club members hunkered over the round corner table. We talked in low tones of old wars and new ones. None of it was entertaining.Headlights cut through the gloom and I looked up to see Wrong Willie get out of his truck and slog through the wet parking lot. He joined us, sliding into the end of the booth.

Doreen didn’t even ask. She just brought his coffee, black, and returned to the counter. When she’s worried, nervous or upset, Doreen spends most of her time behind the counter, quietly wiping it with a damp cloth. It comforts her somehow.

Trixie leaned on her elbows over the far end of the counter, watching the television with soft, wide eyes. They didn’t have much to say to each other, which was quite a rarity.

Our own conversation was fitful. If anyone made a statement, it either dangled in the wind or was followed by a half-hearted answer.

“I can’t help but remember quail hunting one time down in Carrezo Springs,” Wrong Willie offered during a particularly long lull. “Remember guys, we’d all finished for the day and were loafing around the tailgate.”

It never slowed anyone down, though.

We chuckled and Doreen waited for a long moment before grunting in frustration.

“Well I haven’t heard it.”

Surprised, Willie sat straighter. “Oh, well, the dogs were tired. They’d covered lot of ground that day. We started early that morning and hunted until late and they ran the entire time. They were doing the thing they loved, and living, for them, the perfect dog’s life. I was so tired I couldn’t feel my feet and cold, man! The only thing that kept us alive was walking.”

Like I said, the story wasn’t new, so while Wrong Willie continued, I kept one eye on the television over his shoulder. It showed the same scenes of the attack and photos of suspected terrorists.

Willie studied the table in front of him, recalling that day. “When we got back to the truck, I opened the dog box, called ‘kennel’ and all three dogs were inside in a flash. The oldest pointer, White Dog, curled up in the hay at the back of the box and tried to keep to himself.

“It didn’t work though. The other two dogs wanted to lay where he was. They kept trying to push in around him and then got to fighting each other. White Dog finally got frustrated and growled to make them leave him alone. It worked for a little while, but then they started in again to make him move so they could have his place.”

Wrong Willie sipped his coffee. “Anyway, the second time the youngsters got to rassling. White growled a little louder. It settled them down again for a few minutes until the other dogs started growing at him, the one who wanted to be left alone to sleep in his own piece of the dog box.

“I watched him sigh, stand up slowly ‘cause he was kinda arthritic and it took him a minute, and then he proceeded to whip the living snot out of the first dog, then he turned on the other. Yelps, hay, and hair flew out of that dog box for about fifteen seconds, which is a long time in a dogfight, and then when both of them were whimpering in their corners, he lay back down real quietly and went to sleep.”

We waited. “Why did you tell us that story, Willie?” Doc asked.

Willie cleared his throat, looked down at his cup and then back up to the television. “’cause the attacks by these ISIS lunatics reminded me of those dogs that woke White Dog up and wouldn’t leave him alone.”

Then we understood.