Tag Archives: Dogs Never Bite Me

Chapter 1

   Thelma was working at the hair salon halfway through an overlay when her husband called. She couldn’t pick up, her hands full. When she listened to the voice mail later, Steve said he was sorry.

   “Honey, I’m really sorry,” he said. She could hear talking in the background, and somebody laughing.

   “What did you do?” she thought, sitting in the lunchroom, making a sandwich, waiting for it to heat up in the toaster oven. He went on for more than a minute. She took a bite of the ham on rye sandwich. It was raining cats and dogs outside.

   “Oh, my God, what did he do?” she thought to herself louder than before.

   “She was walking in the street,” he said. “She looked like she was trying to get hit by a car.”

   “Oh, he rescued another dog,” Thelma realized.

   He said the dog looked so bad that he pulled over, turned around, went back, and picked her up. “She was just looking for someone to hit her,” he told Thelma over dinner. “She just wanted to die.” But there she was alive at their feet.

   Steve found her on the east side, on Superior Avenue on the far side of downtown. No collar and no tags. She was a purebred German Shepherd, between six and eight years old. He called his brother about the dog and he wanted her right away. But, because Steve’s brother has such a nasty, hateful girlfriend, she said no, and that was that.

   He brought her back to their house.

   Thelma fell in love with her. “She’s so sweet I can’t stand it. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to give her to anybody.”

   She curled up on the sofa between them when they watched TV. If they got up at the same time, she didn’t know which one of them to follow. Wherever they went she was right behind them. She lay next to their claw tooth tub when Thelma bathed. She had to step over the dog, which was hard to do with Telly’s short legs.

   She was wondering what the dog’s tale was.

   Thelma was going up the stairs to take a bath, stripping as she went, when she found out. She was taking her belt off when the dog almost pooped herself. She could not get away from Thelma fast enough. She stumbled down a few steps before recovering her balance, and disappeared fast

   Telly muttered “son-of-a bitch” under her breath. All because I took my belt off. How about that?

   When they first got her, she was depressed and miserable. She wouldn’t eat for a week. At first, Thelma and the dog shared rice chips. She wouldn’t eat anything else, and she wouldn’t touch dog food, but then she got back in the swing of eating chow.

   She had a bad ear infection, but, luckily, Thelma had ear medication left over from other dogs they had rescued.

   Their vet came over to check her out because she had lumps on her chest. Tracy said they were probably fatty lumps and nothing to worry about. She ran the dog’s blood, just in case.

   Steve put a call in to the pound and left a description of the dog and his phone number with them, but no one ever called back. Thelma didn’t know if she was going to be able to give her to anybody, but thought she had to find her a home, even if it was only with another dog rescuer. Better than the one she ran away from.

   They put up found dog fliers with other rescuers, passing them to each other, by word of mouth and on Facebook. They found a fine home for her. The day after Steve found the German Shepherd, Thelma tagged her sister on to a Yorkie.  She had had to put her own Yorkie down.

   “I want the dog,” she said when she got hold of Telly.

   She called about the Yorkie.

   “When can I grab the dog?”

   She drove to Elyria that night and picked up the eleven-month dog. He was going to be Thelma’s sister and nephew’s Christmas present, but they had to fix him up first, in more ways than one.

   An elderly woman had bought the dog from a breeder, but she got sick and ended up in a nursing home. Her idiot kids locked the baby Yorkie in the garage for four weeks. They fed him, sure, throwing some food into the garage now and then, but they neglected it. He went from being spoiled rotten to having no one, no matter how rotten they were.

   Finally, a neighbor of the kids took the Yorkie, but decided the dog was vicious.

   “Oh, it’s vicious, vicious, it snarls at me, and lunges at me,” the lady said.

   “All seven pounds of it” Telly said.

   “Yes, he won’t let me pass out of the kitchen.”

   “Just give me the dog,” she said.

   People are so stupid, she thought. Sometimes I hate them. Dogs never bite me, only people. Honestly, I’d rather hang out with dogs.

   Most of the dog’s problem was that he had never been neutered. That was going to take a lot of his attitude out of him right there. The rest of it was they let him act like that. You don’t let a dog act like he wants to. You are the alpha dog. He learned quick who the alpha dog was in their house.

   When they’re aggressive you have to show them that you’re more dominant than they are.

   Thelma said no, and he growled, and went to bite, and she picked him right up and put him on his back. If it’s a little dog, you put them on their backs. If it’s a big dog, you press on their backs until you hear the sigh of release.

   “We don’t do that in this house,” she explained.

   She put him in a cage.

   “Ugh,” he said.

   But cage training is better than force. After that he was a delight, running around on the couch, playing with his rope and toy. When she gave him to her sister, she explained how to be with him, how to restrain him when he acts out, and to make sure she had a cage for him, just in case.

   The next day Steve came home with another Yorkie.

   “It’s for my cousin,” he said.

   Steve’s cousin Clint had been a heroin addict who had to have his legs amputated.

   “He isn’t still using, is he?” Thelma asked.

   “He needs a dog,” Steve said, and that was all he said.

Chapter 2

   Steve’s cousin Clint had been a heroin addict, gone through rehab, and everything seemed to be all right, until the night he decided to stick a needle into his arm again. The problem with smack is that you think, even though you’ve been clean, you can go back to using the same amount of it you had been using before.

   He wasn’t thinking right. He went into his room one night and stuck a needle in his arm like before. He stopped thinking a few minutes later. The heroin smacked him down and out.

   The next morning his roommate got up and found Clint curled up on the bathroom floor. He had been lying there most of the night, it turns out, on goose bump tile, in the dark. It had been a cold winter night.

   “Clint, get up, we have to go to work,” the roommate said.

   When Clint didn’t move, the roommate, being the bright boy that he is, went back to bed for an hour. When he woke up again Clint was still in the bathroom, out stone cold. Did he call an ambulance? No. Did he call the police? No. He called his girlfriend. “What is it?” she asked, annoyed.

   “Hey, Clint’s on the floor of the bathroom and I need to get in there to shave. I need to get to work.”

   “Who is this genius?” Thelma asked Steve.

   “Boy wonder, disaster,” he said.

   The girlfriend rushed over to their apartment. While she was on the way she called an ambulance and Clint’s mom. She had started thinking, at least. She knew Clint’s bad habits.

   They rushed him to the emergency room at the hospital in Fairview Park, where the roommate and Clint’s mom were told the bad news.

   “Here’s the deal. This kid is not in good shape. He’s overdosed on heroin, his kidneys have shut down, and he’s got Compartment Syndrome. His whole body is shutting down. Before we can work on the kidneys, before we can work on the Compartment Syndrome, before we can work on anything, he’s got to pull through the heroin overdose. He’s got to come through that first.”

   After forty-eight hours he was still alive. Nobody could believe it. It was like a miracle.

   Compartment Syndrome is what happens when oxygen gets cut off to the muscles in your body. That’s what happened to Clint. It’s the same thing that happens when you fall asleep on your arm in the middle of the night and wake up with it numb and tingling. You shake it off. It’s no big deal.

   But Clint had been lying on his face, his arms and legs underneath him, when he crumpled to the bathroom floor the night before. He’d been unconscious for ten hours, circulation, and oxygen, everything, cut off. Everything fell dead asleep. Then muscles started dying, dying all night.

   In the hospital they slit his hands open at the palms and slit his hands open at the back of them. The doctors slit his arms all the way up on both sides and slit his legs down the middle. They manipulated his muscles to get them to start coming back alive again.

   He was wide open, machines circulating his blood. They did nineteen surgeries over three months. They saved his arms, but both of his legs are gone. His leg on the left side is gone above the knee and his leg on the right side is gone below the knee. They couldn’t bring the muscles back for anything. So, he lost his legs.

   They didn’t tell him they cut his legs off until he was almost done with all the surgeries and out of the recovery room because they needed him to fight and keep going. He was almost ready to leave the hospital for rehab when they talked to him.

   “We have to tell you something,” they said.

   “Is it bad news?” he asked.

   After he got home, he got a small, motorized wheelchair he runs around in. He can’t even use prosthetics because all the muscles in his upper thighs are ruined. They had to take some of them out because they were dying. If they had left them in that could have made the other muscles die, too.

   The doctors had to take all the muscles that had compartments in them out of his legs. He has no strength in his upper leg muscles to support prosthetics, so he’s going to be in a wheelchair forever. He’s thirty-two years old and his fingers are locked up. They’re almost like claws. When he talks and tries to gesture, he can’t unclench them.

   Clint asked Thelma and Steve for a dog.

   The dog they found for him was a puppy mill dog, a little Parti Yorkie. They got him from another dog rescuer who put him up on Facebook. They didn’t even know what he was. They thought he was a Maltipoo, but it was really a Parti, a new designer dog, although it’s hard to tell the difference.

   They jumped the rescue by telling them they very possibly had a desirable home for it. It was only partly a white lie.

   They took the dog, not knowing exactly if Clint would go for it. They cleaned him up and had him for a few days at their house before giving him to Clint. Steve carried the Parti Yorkie around with him like a clutch. He was show dog size, under seven pounds, not a family-sized Yorkie. That was a mistake, carrying him around, because Steve then started wanting the dog.

   When they delivered the little Yorkie to Clint’s apartment Steve told him if it didn’t work out it would be OK, and he would take the dog back.

   But Clint does nothing now except sit in his wheelchair and dote on the dog. And the dog is the kind that needs nothing but being doted on. They are peas in a pod.

   “I love this dog, man, and he loves me,” said Clint. “I’m keeping him.”

Chapter 3

   When Thelma’s little brother Brad and she were kids they only ever all together went on one family vacation. Before that vacation her sisters went all the time, to Florida to see their grandparents, where they’d ride on boats and go fishing, and all their other fun stuff.

   But then Brad and she joined the family.

   “Too many kids,” said her mom after they were born. Their family vacations were over and done after that. Her mom never wanted any of them, anyway, so she was mad that they were there to begin with.

   “I never wanted you kids. You are all your father’s idea,” she told them all of Telly’s entire life. She meant the children were a bad idea, since they were her husband’s idea.

   “Why are you even here? You’ve ruined my life!”

   Anytime anyone of them would walk into a room she got pissed that they were living and breathing.

   Later on, Patty was ostracized from the family and Betty cut herself off. Patty locked herself in her room and never came out. Betty was always fuming. Whenever Brad made his parents mad, Thelma would jump in and take his punishment. She couldn’t stand to see him get it. But the sisters were always throwing each other under the bus. None of them wanted to get hit. The bad part is your sisters then grow up hating you. That’s how they had the mess between her sisters and Thelma now.

  She wasn’t saying there weren’t good times, but it was definitely tough.

   The one family vacation they went on in her whole life was to Disneyland. Her mom complained it was like corralling cats. One morning Telly was with her. They were out searching for breakfast. No one knew where Patty was. She had just walked off. Betsy took Brad with her and their dad went to find tickets to see the Country Bears Jamboree.

  That’s the only reason he went to Disneyland to begin with. He loved the Country Bears and couldn’t get enough of them. He laughed up a storm at the mention of them.

   When her mom and she finally got trays of breakfast for everyone they couldn’t find anyone, so they sat down on a curb. A minute later, sitting on the curb, looking up, they saw Betsy and Brad slowly go past leaning back in a horse-drawn carriage, waving their hands.

   Alma and Telly looked at each other. What? Really?

   They all saw the Bear Jamboree later, and the next day Thelma spotted Donny Osmond riding the same monorail with them out of our hotel. Her sisters loved Donny Osmond when they were growing up, but they wouldn’t go up to him.

   Telly was young and gun-shy, but her dad pushed her in Donny’s direction, anyway.

   “Go get his autograph,” Fred said.

   “No, no, no,” she said.

   Fred pushed her forward, she got a pushed in the small of the back running start, and the next thing she knew she was standing in front of Donny Osmond. Thelma was just flabbergasted! She had seen him on TV and now she was standing in front of him. Telly got his autograph, although she didn’t know how. Maybe he felt bad because he thought she was special needs. She just didn’t even know.

   “Poor little retard kid,” he probably thought and gave her his autograph.

   She ran off the monorail car when it stopped. “Why would you do that to me?” she asked her dad. “Why me?”

   Thelma went to Bay Village Middle School and Bay Village High School. She was a lifeguard at the Bay Pool and a Bay Rockette on the kick line for two years. Telly had a lot of friends growing up, but she hardly ever had them over to their house. She usually went to their houses. She was always leery of having them over because she never knew if her dad would be mad out of the blue or if her mom would start something out of the blue.

   If they liked something Alma was always going to find a way to not like it. After Thelma moved away, her sister Patty wanted a family heirloom their mom had, a bench that had been in their great grandparent’s house, but Alma wouldn’t let her take it.

   Her parents used to have the bench in their split-level family house in Bay Village, at the end of their bed, but when Fred passed away and Alma immediately re-married, marrying her old high school sweetheart from Jersey Shore, and moving to North Ridgeville, she put it away in her garage.

   Patty wanted the bench bad. Thelma told her mom over and over that Patty wanted it, but Alma said, “No, she can’t have it, and that’s final.” It was like talking to wood.

   “What are you doing with it?” Telly asked her.

   “No, no, no,” she said. It was because she knew Patty wanted it that she wouldn’t give it to her.

   That’s the way Alma is. If someone loves something, then she hates it. She always finds a way. She’s always been like that. Their dad could be cool sometimes. Thelma knew, even though he beat the tar out of them, that he cared about them. But, their mom, not so much.

   Thelma had a Rockette party at their house once, at the tail end of August, coming out of left field. They were at practice and their coach said the first football game was coming up soon, on September such-and-such, and they didn’t have a place scheduled for their potluck, yet.

   “We can have it at our house,” she blurted out.

   Just like that thirty high school girls were going to be coming over to their house. She called her dad at work. He sounded happy to hear from her.

   “Hey, dad,” she said. “I just invited all my friends over for a potluck.”

   “Sweet,” he said. “We’ll make it work.”

   He came home early from work, bought all the hot dogs and hamburgers, and thoroughly enjoyed having all Telly’s friends in the backyard. He was all over the place with his camera and took a ton of pictures. It was a good time. Her mom stayed in the house and never came out into the yard. Fred loved it, but Alma was pissed that her daughter had thirty girls over.

   Thelma loved being a Rockette. She was one of the in crowd during her sophomore and junior years at Bay High School until the night not long after the party when she tore her hamstring in three places. She had to give up being a Rockette because of her leg.

   It was terrible, like she had lost something special, something she could never get back.

Chapter 4

   Every time Telly found an animal, cat dog bird squirrel, anything, it didn’t matter, she would take care of it and nurture it. If they were hurt her dad, Fred, and she would help them out together. If it was an emergency, they took them to the Lake Erie Nature Center down Wolf Road.

   It drove Alma batty. She barely liked animals, at all. Besides, she had asthma. Their dander, saliva, and skin flakes aggravated it.

   “Someone’s going to have to take me to the people doctor,” she said whenever Telly brought another lost or hurt creature home.

  If you’re born to love animals, then you love animals. Telly didn’t think it was anything you can make happen. Her dad had it. She had it. Her mom wasn’t good with it. Whenever she wanted a pet, she always asked her dad. She never asked her mom. They had cats, dogs, guinea pigs, and a poodle, thanks to dad.

   Their poodle Coco hated Telly’s brother Brad. She never knew why, exactly, except she thought he might have been too rough with her when he was a crawler.

   “Coco, get him,” was all she had to say if they were sitting on the sofa together. Coco would assault the hell out of him, growling and snapping and pulling off his diaper. She had fun making the poodle attack her little brother since she knew the dog wanted to, and because she could.

  Before Patty moved out Brad and Telly slept in the same room. They both had big beds with posts and a bar across the back of them. They each had cherry wood dressers, a closet, and shelves for their toys. 

   Telly slept in the bed by the window and Brad slept closer to the attic. Her brother passed wind gusts of gas when he was a kid. They kept a window cracked even in winter. Sometimes it was so loud he woke Telly up.

   “Are your butt cheeks still flapping from that one?” 

  She did love him, though. He was a good kid most of the time. When she was in high school, she took him with her wherever they went. They were Tom and Jerry.

   Telly played TRIP! with him all the time when he was small. Wherever he was in the house, which was a split level, six steps up from the basement, or the five steps up to the kitchen, or the twelve steps up to the bedrooms, it didn’t matter, he never knew when his sister was going to suddenly pull a cord tight and make him trip.

   Her sisters made her play LET ME HAVE IT! with them. They would be in Patty or Betsy’s bedroom and she would have to say, “Let me have it.” They would pummel her with pillows. Just pummel her, letting her have it.

  A car hit Coco when she was a junior in high school. Coco had gotten older and slower, but none of them saw it coming. She ran up and down the street and into and out of the woods at the end of their cul-de-sac all her living days.  The man who hit her stopped, picked her up, and went looking for the owners. When he found Betty, she came to the Bay Village pool where Telly was lifeguarding and got her. They had to put her down. It was awful.

   When they got their Rottweiler, Alma claimed she loved the dog, but they had to get rid of him because she said the dog inflamed her asthma. Her sister Patty adopted him, since she had moved away from home, so she was still able to see the dog whenever she wanted.

   Growing up in their house in Bay Village was not like growing up in your average house. You were either going to move out while you were still young, or you were going to be thrown out. Looking back, she thought they were all thrown out.

   Everybody in their family got married when they were 19, except Telly. Her mom and dad got married at 19, her brother got married when he was 19, and both of her sisters got married when they were 19. She didn’t get married until I was 34, right after her dad died. 

   Before she got married, after she left her family’s house because of one thing and another, she babysat Patty’s Rottweiler whenever her sister went on vacation. His name was Wellington. He was a sweet dog, but a stupid dog, too. He wasn’t the kind of vicious Rottweiler everybody always thinks they are. He had a blanket he carried around. They called the blankie Betty. They would tell him to go get Betty and when he came back, he would be dragging his blankie behind him.

  He loved people, just loved them. Patty lived in West Park, near St. Patrick’s, and when school let out, Wellington would sit at the front door whimpering to be let out.

   “You can’t go out,” Patty would say. “You’re going to scare the kids.”

   He was a silly beast and would cry no matter what she said. He learned how to lean on the door and swivel the knob and get out. Telly started thinking he wasn’t so stupid, after all. “No, you’re not going out there,” she told him every time she was at Patty’s house, but if she was upstairs dressing for work, he would burgle the door and the next thing she knew he was at the end of the driveway. As the kids walked by there were three big slurps for each of them.

   They walked away wiping their faces and rubbing their hands dry on their pants.

   He got out one day when two guys were playing Frisbee in the street. He had seen them through the screen. He couldn’t contain himself.

   “You’re not going out there,” Telly told him firmly, wagging her finger. “I don’t know those guys.” 

   He banged up against the door and when it flew open, he took off. The guys were 18, maybe 19, and when they saw him running at them, they froze. Telly ran out. 

   “Throw the Frisbee!” she yelled. They stayed stuck in place stiff as sticks. “The dog will love you if you throw the damn Frisbee!” One of them threw the bright red plastic disk. The big Rottweiler hauled ass after it.

   “Sweet,” one of them said.

   They hit the jackpot, running the dog until the end of the afternoon. His feet were bloody when he got home. He was an idiot, after all.

   Even though she loved animals and her mom didn’t, which was a disagreement between them that wasn’t getting resolved anytime soon, Telly was the only one of her mom’s four kids who forced her to show some love. The others gave up trying.

   She would come home from parties or from dances when I was in 7th grade and plop down on her bed, sprawled out and telling Alma about the whole fantastic night, everything that happened. Her mom would stay on the bed with her, holding her hand, listening.   

   A dog will love you if you throw a Frisbee. In that family they had to plan scheme compel their mom to love them. It was the way Alma was. Telly used to wonder what it was like for her growing up in a small worn-out Pennsylvania town, her family poor broken ignored. She needed some love. Telly could tell. Maybe animals couldn’t give it to her, but she could try.

Chapter 5

   Steve and Thelma had a friend whose name was Dell. He’s an 80-year-old small-sized man who is a widower. They met him the day Steve told Telly he was bringing one of the guys from the shelter to their house for dinner.

   “Oh, now we’re going to be feeding the homeless in our own home,” she complained.

   She cried when she met Dell because she thought he was destitute. He wasn’t, although he helped out at the homeless shelter. He was like Steve, feeding the hungry.

   Dell lives in a sprawling house on Erie Road in Rocky River near the Elmwood Playground. He lives alone. They to his house every Sunday, hanging out, going out to dinner or maybe eating there. That’s how they knew Doug and Christine. They live across the street from Dell, their backyard facing the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

   They had a three-year-old Jack Russell Terrier. His name was Mr. Jibbs. They brought Baby, their 140-pound Leonberger, with them to Dell’s one evening. Leonbergers come from Leonberger, Germany. Jack Russell’s are fox and rat hunters and come from England.

   “It’s too bad Doug isn’t out with Jibbs,” Telly said. “I would love Baby and Mr. Jibbs to meet each other.”

   “Oh, we can go over,” Steve said.

   “I don’t know. It’s Sunday night.”

   “They’re not going to mind if we stop by and say hello,” said Steve, knocking on their door. They brought Mr. Jibbs out and he and Baby played and wrestled. There was some barking and wrangling, but not like a world war. Doug and Telly took the dogs across the tracks to Elmwood Playground on the other side of the street.

   There weren’t any teams playing baseball, so they let the dogs run around on the field, although Baby is too much of a lazy lummox to run very long. He’s a big, muscular, working dog, but loafer. Mr. Jibbs did most of the running and Baby did most of the laying around. After they walked back, across the tracks and through the backyard, and were sitting down again, Doug said he was going to bring out champagne.

   “Don’t,” Thelma said. “We just came to say hello goodbye. We’re going out to dinner, anyway, don’t do anything special.”

   “No, no, no, stay,” he said. “Christine doesn’t like champagne. I’m going to open the bottle and we can finish it.” They were sitting and talking and drinking when Doug got up. “Have you ever seen a train coming down the tracks from this way?” he asked Telly.

   “No, I haven’t.”

   All of a sudden Christine jumped up, worried, nervous.

   “Doug, go grab Jibbs,” she said.

   “He’s fine,” Doug said. “He’s been in the backyard hundreds of times with the train going by. Everything’s fine.”

   Telly grabbed Baby.

   “Baby’s never seen a train,” she said.

   She held on to him because they were ten-some feet from the embankment along which the tracks were on. Mr. Jibbs was running back and forth with his Frisbee. Telly thought he was guarding it, keeping it from Baby, so he couldn’t get it, not that Baby had any interest in it. They were trying to catch Mr. Jibbs as the train came closer. He didn’t realize they just wanted to keep him out of harm’s way, and no one cared about his Frisbee, at all.

   “Someone grab that dog.” Telly tried to jump and grab him, but he took off. He bolted away from them. Suddenly, the Jack Russell swerved and ran out onto the tracks.

   Christine was running an arm’s length behind him. She was wearing flip-flops and a long, flowing summer dress. Telly never knew how she didn’t get hit by the train. Obviously, it wasn’t her time, but the train hit Mr. Jibbs. Christine somehow got on the other side of the tracks and Telly thought she was screaming.

   “No, it was you screaming,” Steve said.

   The worst part was waiting for the train to pass by before they could get to Christine and before she could pick up her dog. It was horrible. Thelma drank herself into oblivion at home that night to dull the pain.

   “We shouldn’t have gone over, we shouldn’t have interrupted them, we should have left things well enough alone,” she said to Steve when they were home.

   “I told Doug,” Steve said. “Your wife gave you the look. Go get your dog. Now he’s fucked.”

   “He was just guarding his Frisbee,” Telly said. “Should I have walked the other way with Baby? Would Jibbs have followed us? I just can’t believe Doug didn’t keep the dog back or do anything.”

   “Telly,” said Steve. “When you tell me to do something I will listen from now on.”

   “God, I hope so,” she said. “I hope it doesn’t take another dog dying.”

   There’s a place at the Promenade in Westlake that sells silver bracelets with little paws dangling from them. She decided to get one for Christine, and she was going to Cahoon’s Nursery and get a plant or a bush for their backyard, in memory of Mr. Jibbs.

   For more than a week Telly sent a text to Christine every day. She found out she was sitting by the spot where Mr. Jibbs died, every day. She was trying to save her dog and the train missed her by inches. She might have been killed herself.

   “I wake up at night seeing Christine just barely being missed and Jibbs being hit by the locomotive. I hear the train whistle screaming, which is why I didn’t hear myself screaming. All I could hear was the whistle screaming. I wake up all night long, jumping, reliving it in my head.”

   A week later Steve asked if she could move her Honda because he had to take his van to be e-checked. She was backing her car out of the driveway when a box truck came barreling down the street. She started to panic and jumped out of the car at the edge of the drive.

   “I’m not that kind of a person,” she blurted out to Steve when he came running.

   Nothing much freaks her out, but Mr. Jibbs being killed by the freight train has freaked her out.

Chapter 7

   Steve and Telly’s neighbors who have passed on and are no longer with us, Mary and Josephine, lived in the house on the driveway side of them. The woman who used to be absolutely horrible to Thelma, but is a little less horrible now, lives on the other side of them. The Italian man and wife who love their dogs live behind them.

   Josephine and Mary, who were sisters, lived together in the two-story brick bungalow for 62 years. Neither of them ever married. Josephine cooked hot dogs, brought them to the fence, and fed the pigs in a blanket to their dogs every day. They hardly ever saw Mary. She never came out of the house.

   They both died this year. Steve fixed up a security light in their living room afterwards and he mows their lawn. He parked Telly’s Honda Element in their driveway to make it seem like it isn’t vacant, at least until the house is cleaned out and sold.

   Chuck and Dawn live on the other side of them. Chuck has been in his house the whole time Steve and Thelma have been in theirs. He’s a nice polite guy. Dawn moved in sometime later, after Chuck was already their neighbor. She’s not so nice, although she’s not as horrible as she used to be.

   “She’s from New York City. She started in on us right at the start. Whenever we used to wave to her, she would never wave back. If she caught Chuck talking to either of us, he had hell to pay. He would have to sneak over to say hi and chat. The things she says to him about us I don’t even want to imagine.”

   She would call the dog warden on them every other week. It was always about their dogs barking, even though they’re not big barkers. What she didn’t know was that Steve and Telly’s dogs were licensed, all of them, all the time.

   “Here’s the thing,” the dog warden finally told her. “Their dogs are licensed, and everyone’s dogs bark sometimes.”

   They don’t bark much, at all. Their little Lab doesn’t even bark. Dawn finally got tired of that game.

   “Most of the rest of our neighborhood loves it when our dogs are out. It was Dawn who gave us the most trouble. I don’t care if you’re from New York City, or not. It doesn’t give you the right to be a bitch. That’s all changed now that she needs me. When she couldn’t afford to have her hair done at the Charles Scott Salon in Rocky River anymore, I became good enough for her.”

   “Chuck doesn’t pay for anything for the children,” Dawn said. “Everything falls on me. I have to pay for their school.” She has two kids of her own and doesn’t have any money anymore.

   Then, when Telly started doing her hair, knowing that she didn’t have kids herself, it was the kids in her talk all the time. “Do you think you could come over and watch them for a few minutes?”

   “No,” Thelma said. That’s why I don’t have kids of my own, she thought. “I don’t want to sit your kids,” she said. She might have done it to be a good neighbor, but Dawn would have started taking advantage of her, so she put an end to it.

   The old Italian couple behind them bought their house the year Thelma was born. That’s almost fifty years ago. They’re straight out of Italy and they can hardly understand a word they say, her more than him. His name is Anthony, but they have never been able to understand what her name is. They always just call her Mrs. Anthony.

   Everything in their back yard is a farm. They grow everything they eat the full year long back there during the summertime. When they first moved in, they had little grandkids that fed their dogs doggie cookies.

   They would hear them from their patio. “Can we go see Telly and Steve’s dogs?”

   The kids are teenagers now, but they still come over to see their grandparents. The dogs run to the back fence and line up, waiting there. “You can’t stop doing that, you have to keep giving them cookies,” Telly tells the teens.

    Steve used to walk the dogs every day. He always stopped and talked to their neighbors. They asked him about the dogs, so a lot of them found out they rescued them.

   “That is so cool,” some of them said.

   That’s how they came to be called the dog people. That’s what they’re known as. One day a lady was walking up and down the street looking for her lost dog. “Did you try the dog people,” somebody everybody told her.

   “Have you seen my dog?” she asked Thelma.

   “No, but I’ll keep an eye out for it,” Telly said.

   Sometimes neighbors donated dog food to them. They found it left on their front porch. It’s nice to have a little community support.

   They started taking the dogs to the dog park in the Metroparks lately instead of walking them because Nookie, their Husky, is an absolute screamer. The second you put a leash on him the screaming starts. It’s sounds like somebody is ripping out his toenails. He screams the whole way on the walk. People come out their doors to make sure they are not beating their dogs.

   It’s so embarrassing, Steve stopped walking them. He drove them to the dog park, instead.

   But Nookie hates the dog park, too. He doesn’t like other people or other dogs coming up to him, or even up to them. One day they thought they would hide from him so he would learn to leave their side and run around with the other dogs. They hid behind a tree. But it was sad what happened. He just ran around looking for them.

   “Steve, we can’t hide from him,” Telly said. “He’s never going to relax.”

   When they came out from hiding and he saw them he ran over right away. “He’s back to guarding us again,” Telly told Steve. He gave us a warm glow of a bark.

   One of their neighbors fell in love with Grayson, who is their little silver Lab. He’s got a great personality, mostly because he hangs out with Baby. He’s a cutie patootie, too

   Their neighbor did everything she could to get them to sell Grayson to her.

   “He’s not for sale,” Telly said. “He’s my dog.”

   “But I love him,” she said.

   “We love him, too,” Telly said.

   One morning they took Baby and Grayson, who are best friends, even though Baby is five times bigger than Grayson, to Project Runway on Whiskey Island for a fundraiser for dog shelters. From there, later in the afternoon, they did Doggies on the Patio, another fundraiser. It was a long day. Afterwards they took the dogs out for gelato.

   They loved it, the whole day, and the gelato, too, especially the cutie patootie. Telly could never sell him. She couldn’t see that happening.

Chapter 8

   The good times Brad Telly and her sisters had when they were kids were always the day after their family fights, which were usually on the days before a holiday. Christmas Day was always fun happy because it was after the big Christmas Eve scrape. All the presents didn’t hurt, either.

   The fights usually happened before or on the holiday, not afterwards. On Easter, the 4th of July, and Thanksgiving there was always a knockdown. Alma or Fred, or both of them at the same time, would start the fight. Afterwards the family pulled it together for the holiday, to look good for the big day. They had to look better for the neighbors and in-laws and pets.

  One Christmas all their cousins from Pennsylvania, Telly’s mom and dad’s sisters and all their kids, were at their house. The house was warm and cozy and there weren’t any fights. They were all looking good.

   It was Christmas Eve morning and Eric from Philadelphia passed gas.

   “Oh, that’s a wet one,” somebody said, and that started the whole thing, which turned out to be the flu. It went from Eric to Curtis on down to Kim and Skip and the rest of them. Everybody barfed and barfed for days.

   Alma was beyond pissed. She was beside herself. She wanted to go to a hotel, even though she was a nurse. She would have jumped ship if she could have, but Fred made her stay.

   Every 4th of July there was a street party. They lived on one of the only two cul-de-sacs in Bay Village. In the morning all the kids would decorate their bikes and they would have a bike parade. Their parents judged the bikes and gave out prizes.

   They played games all day and later in the afternoon everybody carried their grills and picnic tables to the end of the cul-de-sac for a party. They had food and their parents had coolers of beer. Everyone would party and they were great times.

   Alma wore a t-shirt that said JOE BALLS on the front and FROM NEWTON FALLS on the back. It was a family joke. They had an uncle named Harold who lived in Newton Falls, but they called him Joe Balls. Nobody knew why.

   One summer a waterspout from off the lake touched down in Bay Village during their street party. They were out in the street playing. All of their parents were trashed. When Telly ran into the house to tell her mother she said, “Go back out there and play.” But they ended up having the rest of the party in our garage once Fred saw what was going on.

   When Alma became a nurse, she wore a t-shirt that said BUSHER THE PUSHER because she was an IV Therapist. She was the one who loaded the IV’s with drugs. She became a nurse when Telly was in 5th grade. She had all of them still in the house and before they knew it decided she wanted a career. Telly’s grandparents put her through nursing school, paying for it all. She studied at Tri-C and later worked at Lakewood Hospital.

  It was the same year, when she was at Normandy Elementary School, during the Miracle of Richfield, that Telly got a pair of tennis shoe roller skates and lived in them for years.

   They had a teacher named Mr. Barton and he loved to hoe down dance and dribble basketballs at the same time. He taught them to do it and they got so good at it that they were invited to perform at a Cleveland Cavs game.

   It was the year the Cavs were scrappy and good and played the Washington Bullets in the conference finals. They watched it on TV. The crowds were so noisy people in the stands wore earplugs and the players on the benches stuck their fingers in their ears.

   “If you don’t drop your ball, or double dribble, or anything else helter-skelter during the performance, I’ll buy you whatever you want,” her dad said. Telly told him she wanted tennis shoe roller skates.

   “Whatever you want,” he said.

   They were colossal that night doing their hoe down dribble dance at halftime at the Richfield Coliseum, which isn’t there anymore. It’s just a big empty field full of weeds now that it’s been torn down. They danced to the song “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers.

   S_A_T_U_R_D_A_Y!

   Telly lived in her skates from that day on. She put them on first thing in the morning and skated all over the house. She did axles in the streets and figure skated every day in her tennis shoe roller skates But, she wasn’t allowed to wear them to school. Even so, she wore them all the time until she got her first pair of high heels.

   “The roller skates came off right after that and I’ve never been out of high heels since. The reason is that I stopped growing when I was in 6th grade. After that I found out I was going to be short, a pygmy. My mom was a pygmy, too. I don’t know that she was ever taller than five-foot-one. Everybody else in our family was taller than me. My dad was six-foot-something. I was the shortest of all the kids, shorter even than Bamm-Bamm.”

   Alma got Thelma a pair of Candies. They were plastic made to look like wood and had a strap across the top of the foot that stopped about mid-way up. A girl could wear them with anything, shorts, skirts, disco pants. They were the hot shoe. Every kid had to have a pair.

   “You’re going to be in these for the rest of your life,” Telly’s mom told her. “You will never get out of them.”

   She made Telly practice walking in them, up and down the driveway, then up and down the street, and finally up and down the stairs.

   “You don’t want to walk like a clod,” she said. “A lot of girls stomp in their high heels, but you’re going to walk like a lady.”

   She got to the point where she could run in them fast. She could chase dogs. She was still fast, not as much as she was then, but still fast if she had to be. She didn’t know who invented high heels, but thought women owed them a lot. You put high heels on, and you change. Everything is different in them. Your body moves to a different kind of tempo. Her favorite things were dogs and shoes. She loved dogs the most, but shoes were a close second.

Chapter 9

   “We’re going to have to get out of here or I’m going to kill him,” Thelma said. She meant it. She was looking for a knife.

   Steve her newlywed husband didn’t say anything. What could he say? Bobby was his older brother, and they were living in Bobby’s house in Little Italy.

   But Bobby wasn’t just their landlord. He was an annoying obnoxious older brother-in-law. He stuck his dirty disgusting food wrappers into Telly’s make-up bag when she wasn’t looking because he thought it would be funny when she found them. It wasn’t funny. She told Steve there was going to be trouble. They started looking for a house of their own.

   Steve and she prayed together about the kind of house they wanted. They wanted central air, three bedrooms, and a fenced-in backyard. They searched for a long time and finally their prayers were answered when they found a two-story house in West Park. They were one of the first people to see it, put a bid on it, and got it.

   They got everything they wanted, basically. The basement was waterproofed, and the back porch covered, although the backyard wasn’t dog friendly the way they wanted it, not in the least, not at all.

   For the first four years of living in that house they had a backyard of mud. It was because they had up to thirteen dogs at any one time, some theirs, some rescues. When they came into the house a lot of mud would track in with them. Since Telly is a clean freak it freaked her out.

   “It’s a shame we can’t cement in the whole backyard,” she said to Steve.

   “I’ve got a guy for that,” he said.

   Steve’s got a guy for everything. His guy laid down stone stamps in the patio and put in river rocks, large ones around the small patio, and small ones in a big bed next to the garage for the dogs to potty. That made it easy to clean up. They hose down the patio, hose down the river rock bed in the back, and Steve picks up every day. He puts it all in a garbage bag and they throw it in the garbage cans.

   What else are you going to do with it?

   Even though they liked their new home right away, which made their realtor totally happy, it was awful. It was decorated like an old person’s house. The outside of it was painted yellow and brown. Inside the woodwork and walls were painted white. Telly isn’t a white color person, even though she is a white person.

   They painted everything, the outside of the house, and all the inside, too. She had lots of design ideas and lots of ideas about new colors. Steve ripped out the carpets right away. Then they re-did the hardwood floors. Telly swore to herself she would never have the house carpeted again.

   Except after the last two winters in Cleveland happened. It got super cold. The Cuyahoga River froze solid. Lake Erie froze over. It was winter for a long time twice for two straight years. Getting up every morning, touching the cold hardwood floors, finally one morning Telly declared, “We’re not doing this anymore. We’re getting carpeting for the upstairs bedrooms.”

   Steve was against putting in new carpeting. He’s usually against everything, but he never says no. At least, not after they discuss it.

   “All right, all right, do what you want,” he said.

   So, Telly did what she wanted. Of course, now Steve loves the carpet. He drags his big, bare, gross feet through it.

   “Stop rubbing your gross feet in my new carpet,” she tells him to no avail.

   Thelma never thought she would love carpeting over hardwood floors, but in the bedrooms, she loves it.

   The dogs are not allowed upstairs, or even beyond the kitchen. The rules are that they can be in the kitchen or in the basement. A baby gate is set up at the kitchen and dining room doorway. Even so, just after they had the carpets laid down their little silver Lab, Grayson, got through the gate, went right upstairs, and peed on their new carpet.

   “No dogs upstairs. No Grayson. No matter how much we love him,” Thelma said putting her foot down.

   Every once in a while, they let them into the living room. That’s why there are always blankets on their sectional. They let the dogs jump on it so they can sit and snuggle with them. Only Nookie, their barking Husky, is not a snuggle bunny. He’ll cuddle for five minutes and then he’s done with you.

   There is another living room in the basement. There’s a television, bistro table, and another sectional. All the dog food and water bowls are in the basement, too. Baby sleeps on his dog bed, but the others just lay out on the couch like bums. The couch is completely chewed up, completely. They paw it and dig in it when they are settling in. Telly didn’t know what the digging thing was all about, but it’s their couch. They can do what they want, destroy it if they want. Only, when it’s completely gone, it’s gone. They’re not getting another one. She has told them that. It’s up to them to understand.

  The biggest troublemaker is Pebbles. Fat Pebbles is what she is. She’s the one who truly wrecked the sofa. She is Telly’s evil digger. She’s the reason they used to have a whole living room in the basement until it all got chewed up.

   Even though they decided they aren’t getting any more sectionals, no more couches, or anything in the basement, Christmas is ridiculous at their house. Steve and she buy the dogs tons of gifts. Thelma starts buying presents for them for the next year right after Christmas when everything’s discounted. Around the end of August, she starts buying dog treats whenever she sees them on sale. They are not any good if she buys them any earlier than August. Steve finds them and gives them to the dogs early. So, she always starts looking for them later in the year.

   The dogs get stockings full of toys on Christmas Day.  Then the mess starts. The toys are in stockings jacked with stuffing, just like pillow stuffing. The pack takes its stockings outside and tear them apart to get at the squeakers inside. By the end of Christmas week, they had a backyard full of puffs of frozen white stuffing stuck in the ice.

   It looks like a hillbilly highway until they can finally get out there when winter is changing to spring and chip it out of the melting ice. Telly didn’t like that it looked like a pigpen all winter long, but what can you do?

   Thank God we have a privacy fence on all three sides of the backyard, she thought.

Chapter 10

   Thelma’s father was a stockbroker, an investment advisor, and a vice president at Prudential Bache. He worked downtown with other moneymakers. But he never let it go to his head. He wasn’t always prudent, though.

   They called him the Margin King. His wife called him the King of Fools. When Fred and Alma got married, he was a gambling man, but Alma didn’t want him doing that after the wedding. She said it was time he became a family man.

   “The gambling stops now.”

   He became a stockbroker. That way he could still gamble, except now it would be with other people’s money. He made a boatload of money. He didn’t just rake in a ton of loot, though. He told jokes all the time. He was a jokester. Getting a laugh was like hitting a jackpot.

   He was a prankster as well as a jokester. He used to appear on the “Hoolihan and Big Chuck” TV show now and then, doing skits with them.

   Hoolihan was really Bob Wells, but he was Hoolihan the Weatherman on the TV. After Ghoulardi left Cleveland for Hollywood, Hoolihan still did the weather, but became the other half of the “Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show”. It was what replaced Ghoulardi. They showed cheesy science fiction and horror movies late at night on weekends and did comedy skits in between the commercials.

   That’s where Telly’s dad came in.

   The show always started with the Ray Charles song “Here We Go Again” and ended with the Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is.” Fred couldn’t carry a tune, so was never invited to raise his voice.

   Big Stash and Lil’ John were on the show, too, more than Fred was. That’s how he met them. They were all friends in no time. Fred and Alma went to Hoolihan and Big Chuck’s house parties and they used to have Lil ‘John over for spaghetti dinners. Lil’ John was a very small man who could eat a lot of spaghetti.

   They did skits on the show like Ben Crazy, from the “Ben Casey” TV series, Parma Place, which was like “Peyton Place,” and the Kielbasa Kid, which was like a Polish cowboy misadventure. The skit Fred was most famous for was the “When You’re Hot You’re Hot” skit, which was from a Jerry Reed song.

   “Well now me and Homer Jones and Big John Taley, had a big crap game goin’ back in the alley, and I kept rollin’ them sevens, winnin’ all them pots,” was how the song went.

   “My luck was so good, I could do no wrong, I just kept on rollin’ and controllin’ them bones, and finally they just threw up their hands and said, when you hot, you hot, and I said, yeah. When you’re hot, you’re hot, and when you’re not you’re not, put all that money in an’ let’s roll ‘em again, when you’re hot you’re hot, La, la, la, La, la, la, when you’re hot, you’re hot.”

   They acted out the words to the song. Big Chuck rolled the dice. Fred was the sheriff. The Hoolihan gang would be shooting craps on the street and Fred busts them. Later when they are all in court the judge tells them he is going to throw the book at them, except when he throws the book, he actually hits Fred, who is the sheriff, in the head by mistake.

   “That hurt!” he shouted.

   “You’re out of order!” the judge said, pounding his gavel.

   Alma was in a skit with Big Chuck. They are sitting on a park bench on a first date under a full moon and he turns into a werewolf. He reaches for her. She starts screaming and runs away. He turns back into sheepish Chuck.

   Fred did most of his skits wearing a gorilla suit. But not all of them were on the “Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show.” Some of the time it was unscripted.

   He would wiggle into his gorilla suit and he and Big Chuck drove around the west side of Cleveland and Lakewood in a dark blue Buick looking for hitchhikers. Big Chuck drove while Fred hid in the back seat. They would pick somebody up and after a few minutes Fred would suddenly pop up with a loud grunt out of the back seat in his gorilla suit.

   That would scare the hell out of the hitchhiker. One of them jumped out of the car while it was still moving. That’s what they did for fun. Telly remembered being a little girl and listening to their adventure stories and thinking, you guys are really weird.

   Sometimes they would go out and roof jump. The houses in Lakewood are close together, often separated only by a driveway. They would run across the roofs, jumping from one to the other. They whooped it up as the folks in their houses wondered what the thumping was all about.

   When they got older Big Chuck, Hoolihan, Stash and John and Fred got a little more sophisticated. They had mystery parties, which were parties on a bus on which they would have dinner and drinks with their friends, not knowing where you were going, and at the end of the night everyone would have to guess where they were. The winner got to be on the show.

   It was the swinging 60s at that point in time.

   Telly’s dad was a prankster even at home, which was quiet conservative Bay Village. He played jokes on the neighbors on their street all the time. Once he hired the Bay Village High School Marching Band to wake up one of their neighbors at five in the morning. They did it by marching up and down their backyard and playing a fight song. All the other neighbors woke up, too. Some of them thought it was funny. Most of them didn’t.

   Another of their neighbors had dogs like them and Thelma babysat them when they were out for dinner or at a show.

   “Telly, can you watch our dogs?” Mrs. Butler would ask her.

   One day Fred took advantage of Telly having the Butler family house keys. He snuck into their house and filled up every glass, cup, vase, china, and toilet, whatever, with water and a single goldfish. When they got back there were hungry goldfish waiting for them.

    From then on it was Butler time every few months. While they were walking on Huntington Beach after dinner he and his TV friends got into their garage, picked up their car, and turned it sideways. They left it so cramped tight sideways in the garage you had to squeeze around it to get anywhere. Mr. Butler couldn’t get to work the next day. There wasn’t anything he could do. Everybody on the street thought he might have to tear the garage down.

   He crept into their house late on a hot summer night wearing his gorilla suit and scared their kids so much they peed on the floor. He thought it was great glee, giving them nightmares. That was fun to him.

   It didn’t matter what anybody thought. Whatever he thought of doing he did. He was constantly pranking the poor Butlers. When they complained to the Bay Village police, they just laughed it off.

   Telly and her sisters and Brad weren’t out of his prank zone, either. He would crawl underneath their beds at night and wait quietly until they dozed off and then reach around and suddenly grab their arms or legs. 

   “Oh, yeah, while we were sleeping! I still can’t hang my foot out over the edge of my bed at night. He was a bad dad and great dad when he wanted to be, but he was a prankster all the time, that’s for sure.”

Chapter 11

   Before Steve-o stopped blazing, he turned the younger of their two cats, whose name was Stones, into a deadhead. They started calling Stones the Stony because when he and Steve were in the bedroom together and the man was smoking weed, whenever Steve exhaled, Stony inhaled.

   He would lean up on his haunches and sniff for the smoke. The look Stony always gave Telly, whenever she caught them together, was the WTF look. He thought he was the hepcat of cats.

   Afterwards, after Steve gave up drugs, they changed his name back from Stony to Stones and he went back to using catnip. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about catnip being an introducing drug? He was a multi-colored longhair boy, in more ways than one.

  They called Sebastian, their older cat, Big Orange. He had a different take on life. He ran out into the backyard whenever he could and hunted when he was young, but later on in middle age spent most of his time eating in the basement.

   That didn’t work out too well for him. As he got older, they started calling him Fatbastian. He didn’t seem to mind. He kept eating and getting bigger.

   Steve’s uncles and dad weren’t gangsters, but his dad’s friends and his uncle’s friends were all gangsters. His dad was an attorney for the Mob. He was the lawyer for the guy who killed Danny Greene with a car bomb in Lyndhurst. But, at the same time, he was a good friend to Danny Greene for many years. His house in Little Italy was a gift from Danny Greene and the Celtic Club.

   His family always had wads of money when he was growing up. Whenever Steve smashed up a car his dad would have a new one for him the next day. Speeding tickets got taken care of. There was no need to slow down.

   Steve was using at eleven and selling at thirteen. His uncles were addicts and used to run in and hide their stashes from the police under his bed. When Steve was older, he ran errands for his dad. Once, when his dad was on the verge of going to jail, because he wouldn’t give something up, or because of a client, he told Steve he absolutely needed him to go to Columbus that day.

   “These papers have to be in the court system by 5 o’clock. Make sure you get there.”

   Steve hauled ass down to Columbus, delivered the papers, and proceeded to get trashed, tequila trashed, to the point he was swinging at and spitting at policemen who had been called to get him out of the bar that he was a making a mess of it. He was a Steve-o mess wobbling on two feet.

   They hauled him out and arrested him. They gave him one phone call. He called his dad.

   “I’m in jail,” he said.

   “I have one question for you.”

   “What?”

   “Did you deliver the papers?”

   “Yeah.”

   “OK, sit tight, you’ll be out in one hour.”

   He was out in fifty minutes.

   Steve’s brother, Bobby, had a car lot on Carnegie on the east side of Cleveland, which he has had for going on more than thirty years. That’s where their dad Robert Sr., Bobby, and Brian got started rescuing dogs. People just dumped animals there. They rescued tons of dogs at the car lot. They would take care of them and try to find them homes.

   When Steve worked with Bobby at the car lot, they found dogs on the street, picked them up, and brought them back to the lot. Once Bobby and he were picking up a used car and saw a mistreated dog tied to a tree in the yard. He was in bad shape, barely a leg to stand on.

   “What’s with the dog?” asked Brian, keeping his eyes on the man whose dog it was.

   “Oh, he’s a bad dog, got to keep him tied,” said the man.

   Steve looked at the dog and then looked at the man and then the dog again.

   “I’ll tell you what,” he said. “You keep the car, and we’ll take the dog. To make it an even trade we won’t say anything about you abusing animals.”

   “No sir, you can’t have that dog.”

   Bobby put his right hand in his pocket and kept it there. The man looked at the pocket. “Oh, hell, just take it,” he spit out.

   They untied the dog and took it with them.

   There was a pack of wild dogs living in a wooded field behind the car lot. Bobby and Steve put bowls of food out on the edge of the tree line for the dogs. One day Steve heard screaming and howling, so like an idiot he went into the woods. He found a blind dog whose litter of puppies had been mauled and some eaten by other dogs.

   “Dogs will eat other dogs if they’re that hungry. They will. They’ll eat anything.”

   He grabbed the puppies that were still left and ran. The blind dog howled for three days in the woods. There was nothing anybody could do.

   Steve’s dad died the same year Telly’s dad died. Afterwards, Steve was living with Bobby when he and his intended met. After they got married, they shared the house with Bobby for almost a year, until Telly couldn’t take it anymore.

   “He loved us living there because I grocery shopped, cooked, and cleaned. I am a clean freak. My vacuum never gets put away. That’s how much I love to vacuum.”

   Bobby and Steve have the same eyes, although Bobby is a little shorter and thicker than Steve, has curlier hair, and is a deviler. Telly has OCD, putting her at odds with the deviler. “Everyone knows you don’t fuck with someone who has OCD,” she said. “You just don’t do that! Except for Bobby, who thought it was funny to mess with me, even though I always got mad. He didn’t seem to care.”

   There was no good place to do her make-up in the Little Italy house. The rooms were weirdly cut and sectioned and there wasn’t any good lighting, so she had to do it downstairs. “I kept my make-up bag there. Freddie stuffed banana peels and old food wrappers into my bag when I was sleeping. Do you know how disgusting and dirty and filthy that is?”

   Bobby would just laugh. He thought he was funny, but he wasn’t. But Telly did not cry. It took everything she had to not punch him in the face. Her dad was somebody who always said, “Someone’s pissed you off? Go beat the shit out of them.”

   “You think you want to hit me?” Bobby would say. “Go ahead, try.”

   She used to get so upset that her fists balled up. More than anything else in the world she wanted to hit him.

   “I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to lower myself to who you are. I’m still a good person.”

   Bobby wasn’t all bad, though.

   In the morning he’d say to Telly, “Pack some extra lunch meat in case I find a dog on the streets today.” She would pack both their lunches and Bobby and Steve would go to work at the car lot. Just in case a dog was in bad shape and needed rescuing that day, and in case the dog was hungry, they always had cold cuts handy for it.