“Ritual”

So far a lot of the writing I’ve posted has been pretty serious, but anyone who knows me knows how much I love to laugh.  This short story is a walk on the lighter side and based on a real story my neighbor shared with me.  I’ve always joked that God must have a sense of humor because he made me.  And then my husband and I adopted three dogs and two cats.  If you live with animals, you have living, breathing proof that God loves to laugh, too.

“Ritual”

“Well, I think my dog got married last weekend.”  My neighbor and I often share what most people might consider odd conversation topics, but that line could be the most tantalizing opener yet.  So I had to answer: “Exactly how does a pug get married?”  The story that followed, of long distance love and pug noses snorting with passion, answered that question.

Sammy is a female pug who lives with her human owners in Alabama.  Like all good southern girls, Sammy was taught good manners appropriate to her breeding and that just the right amount of sparkle on your collar is an absolute necessity.  Sammy, with her pink, sparkle-studded collar, always went with her humans to visit their parents in Miami.  To Sammy, Miami was like a foreign country – everything was different.  The smells were completely different from home; even the grass was strange.  And Sammy could swear that the pug next door to Mama Human barked with a Hispanic accent.

These trips were the highlight of Sammy’s year; it almost made the annual veterinary examination the week before bearable, as it marked the beginning of the week-long countdown to the car ride and vacation.  Sammy reveled in all things Miami.  The sweltering heat didn’t bother her – after all, it’s hot in Alabama, too, but Mama and Pa Human had a pool.  She loved basking in the sun until her skin was too hot to touch and then running the length of the diving board to build up to her flying leap into the pool.  The instantaneous cool rush streaming through her short fur was sublime.  Miami was perfect!

Well, it was perfect, until the Cuban family moved next door a few years ago.  Sure, they were great neighbors for Mama and Pa Human: they helped each other with their yards, they swapped recipes and shared baked goods, they took trips together, and they spent almost every weekend cooking out around the pool.  But it seemed that the Cuban Humans never taught their pug proper etiquette.  Castro (his humans thought it was hysterically funny to be able to command the communist dictator, “Sit, Castro!” or “Shake, Castro!”) was the epitome of machismo.  He commanded attention; he was entitled to scratch through any patch of grass he deemed worthy; his nostrils flared with male pride, and his very stance reflected strength and virility.  Too bad his humans had him neutered, snorted Sammy.

Just the smell of Castro in the yard next door would send Sammy into a blind, barking rage.  She would charge the fence line as if she could intimidate Castro into a retreat by yapping so furiously that her already bulging pug eyes looked ready to pop out of her head.  The undaunted Castro would saunter over to the fence and lift his back leg in an act of obvious nonchalance toward the enraged Sammy.  Sammy was then forced to respond in kind – of course, a lady would never lift her leg, but she could squat defiantly.  And so this hiking, squatting ballet would continue until either the humans halted the proceedings or until the pugs had to refuel at their respective water bowls.

But something was different this year.  Perhaps it was the blooming scent of hyacinth, but the air was crisper, cleaner, sparkling with something electric.  Something new and exciting was taking place with each sniff and snort.  Sammy’s anger had been replaced with desire, and Castro could no longer be nonchalant.  These new, heady feelings took over the hike-squat ballet, this year’s performance drawing the pugs closer and closer to, dare we say, love.  Each day of her vacation, Sammy would go straight to the fence, ignoring the pool in favor of lying down close to Castro’s yard.  She’d wait there for hours until she caught Castro’s scent when the sliding door opened.  They yipped joyously at the sight of each other before performing the hike-squat ritual.  And each day when their ballet tanks were emptied, Sammy and Castro would lie down facing each other, snouts touching through the chain link fence.

This ritual continued daily, invariably the whole week until Saturday.  Apparently sensing that Sammy’s humans would be leaving the next morning, Castro decided to take his courtship to the next level of pug commitment.  This time when they had exhausted their aquarian resources, Castro hunkered down to present something more solid to his would-be bride.  Then he scratched his back legs through the grass in an invitation to Sammy to respond in kind and “consummate” their relationship.  Sammy’s eyes watered at the overwhelming odor of Castro’s offering as she, too, hunkered down to demonstrate her solidarity.  Then, truly emptied of all but their deep stirring emotion for one another, Sammy and Castro laid down for one last nose quivering nap by the fence.

“And that is how pugs get married,” my neighbor finished her story with a flair.  I’m not sure I can ever view my own marriage vows the same way again.

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3 thoughts on ““Ritual”

  1. Really enjoyed that. You do have a wonderful way of writing, Anne. Even back when you and Cathy did the 4th Grade whatever you two called it, the talent you both had was obvious.

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