We walked into a small white wood-sided building with blue slate roof, about the size of a garage. In the middle of a cement floor was a square fence like a toddler’s play pen. Within it a furry white mutant guinea pig wagged a long tail, clanging against wire sides.
“How cute!” Abigail exclaimed as she bent to pick it up. The animal’s pink tongue eagerly licked her cheek.
I furrowed my brow and turned to Dorie. “Thought we were getting a dog.”
Dorie was talking to the farm owner’s daughter, hopefully about payment plans. “That’s it,” she said, pointing at the creature Abigail was holding.
That couldn’t be a dog. She said it was six months old and this thing was puny. I scratched its neck and now a tongue went to work on my hand. “You sure? This looks like a tomcat got cold one night and huddled to a rabbit.” The only thing it was missing was a pink collar and we’d have be one of those Hollywood families that carry their dog around as arm candy.
We put the fluff ball into a banker’s box with a towel as cushion and set it between the kids for the pilgrimage home. The dog lay silent. “It doesn’t bark. Maybe that’s why she’s a closeout special. Voice box is broken.”
We stopped at McDonald’s for a quick dinner and bathroom break. Dorie asked if I’d rather run inside and order, or walk the dog so it could relieve itself. The question was just a formality. Heaven knows my memory of dinner requests rivals a politician’s recall of campaign donors at a Senate hearing. She could send me in there to get two happy meals and I’m the only person on the planet that would come out with fajitas and French fries. No one can forget the fries.
She reached into the box and lifted the cotton ball. Then, you guessed it, slipped a pink collar around its neck. I sighed. This was no ordinary pink. It was Barbie doll. Not the macho pink of tighty-whities after they’ve been washed with your son’s red jersey. This color causes retinal hemorrhaging in the male species. Then, onto it she clipped a matching leather leash. Death by being dipped in honey and posted to a fire ant mound would be too merciful for whoever sells this paraphernalia.
I walked the cat-rabbit down a yard-wide strip of grass that separated McDonald’s from a neighboring truck stop. I flinched when an eighteen wheeler blew its horn driving next to me. The driver smiled and pushed up the brim of a ten gallon hat. He parked next to a four-wheel drive pickup with tires and a lift-kit that dwarfed his rig. Over the clatter of idling diesels came Johnny Cash mingled with AC/DC. A corvette screeched from the parking lot, leaving two puffs of blue smoke.
The green belt upon which I trod was dotted with round yellow grass patches, evidence I wasn’t the first dog owner to take this path. It was all that separated the two parking lots, a line dividing worlds, minivan Mecca from testosterone tumult. And I, like many men before me, walked the barrier between them, wondering to which I belonged.
Abigail stepped out of McDonald’s and skipped across the parking lot back to our car, swinging white bags with yellow arches. The dog had finished its business and wagged its tail at the smile of our little girl. I resisted the urge to defiantly pee on the strip as well.
I know to which side I belong.
Peanut, as she was later named, continues to be a fantastic companion. She reminds us daily her voice box is not broken. Although the internet played a key role in her selection, it hasn’t destroyed the family pet, but has rather reshaped the experience. My daughter painted the picture of Peanut at the top of this post when she was nine years old. I thought it a nice companion to the painting of Ring in Part 1 of the series.