Hi, this is my traditional present for my blog readers. Read it and share with others!
“People welcome! Dogs welcome! Covid-19, not so much!”
That’s what the sign said. The invitation hung under the poster requiring masks and imploring everyone to stay six feet apart. Still, the café invited my human and I inside with its huge holly wreath decorated with miniature Santas and shiny colored ornaments. Blinking strings of lights around the windows swore to the sincerity of the words. My human, Mark, wasn’t reading anything. Christmas Eve brought memories of a one-year anniversary. Not a pleasant one. His fiancée had returned his engagement ring, when she had the opportunity to trade in an engineer, for a recording star. Mark plodded along the street like an extra in a zombie movie. The season reminded him of his loss and his sentiment toward Christmas made old Ebenezer look like a joyous celebrator.
Like all Golden Retrievers, I’m friendly, enjoying the companionship of both dogs and people. I’m not about to endure my human’s self-imposed isolation, so I stopped at the door, and pawed it, telling Mark, “I want to go in!”
“No, Ralph!” Mark tugged at my leash, but I braced myself for the pull I knew would follow. I barked a couple times and pawed at the door again, reemphasizing my desire. He acquiesced. “Okay, boy. We’ll see what’s inside.”
At the first cracking of the door, I could see Leonardo’s was my kind of place. Lot’s of laughter, smiles, and conversation between humans. Also……Lot’s of lovely lady canines lounging with their people.
“Welcome, to Leonardo’s, are you by yourself?” A smiling waitress greeted us at the door.
“Yep, just me and Ralph here,” Mark’s eyes dropped to me, a signal I should say, “Hi.” I barked twice. Marked added, “Ralph’s pleased to meet you.”
“What a beautiful dog! A Golden Retriever, right?”
The girl’s face turned to an apologetic mask, “I’m sorry, the covid rules mean we have to observe social distancing. That means three seats between customers at the bar, so it’s filled. I can put you in a booth or at a table.”
“Wherever I can be by myself.” Mark looked miserable and I felt guilty. But…only so guilty. There were a bevy of beauties at the end of leashes eyeing me with more than passing interest!
“I have the perfect spot for you,” the waitress said. “Follow me please.” We entered the restaurant’s main dining room which was set up like a checkerboard. Every other table was out of service, the chairs turned upside down on their tops. Human patrons in the bar had to be actors and actresses. Half were bandana desperadoes from 1940 westerns; half were masked extras from the 1960 TV series, Dr. Kildare. Covid creates a kind of universal robot countenance for people.
The waitress looked over her shoulder as she walked us to our place. “Another person made the same request you did. I’ll seat you at the next available table. You two can be together in being alone.” She smiled as she reached the table. “Enjoy your privacy.”
Mark didn’t pay any attention to our neighbors, however I did. Of course, my primary interest was the creature at the end of the leash. A red and green sweater covered her closely cut fur, with the exception of the puffs left untouched by her groomer. “French,” I mumbled to myself. She saw my stare and haughtily turned her head away, lifting her nose toward the ceiling. Poodles…they’re all arrogant…smart, yes, but very arrogant.
I tried to look as disdainful as I could and traced my vision up the leash to the human on the other end. The female sitting in the chair and on the casing of the leash, positioned her back so it quartered toward Mark and I as we were seated. The creature, a table away, had long raven black hair that cascaded down over her shoulders. Enough of her face was visible to show she had attractive upper features. She wore a wind breaker so any surmise about her top half became pure conjecture. However, the part of her that contacted the chair…remarkable, very remarkable.
Of the many common interests Mark and I share, one is our fondness for the same anatomical parts of the fairer sex. We are both hip and leg men. The gentle sway has our attention far before the blubbery bounce gets a notice.
Whether to achieve more complete privacy or initiate a marketing campaign, I’ll never know or try to guess. The woman in question, rose, repositioned the chair, and sat back down so all that could be viewed became the flat of her back. However, the standing presented items of interest. Her movement attracted, Marks gaze, and that gaze was rewarded with a view of long perfectly proportioned legs and a Mitzi Gaynor posterior.
Mark’s well-used DVD of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific produces the same comment about Mitzi’s rear every time Mark plays it. “Now that’s one million dollars-worth of ass!” he says as his imagination removes a pair of white shorts. The exclamation mark stays. I’d say the mystery woman’s, would cash-out at a million-and-a-half. Mark stirred from his death-sleep for the first time in a year. Yep, the lady had Mark’s full attention.
Mark’s happiness is my major concern, unless it significantly effects mine. For the first time in a year, my buddy exhibited renewed interest in a love life. I felt it incumbent on me to do some kindling. Creating a scene to get attention by barking or other bad behavior wouldn’t work. We’d end up being thrown out; I’d end up on dry dogfood for a week. I’ve heard the way to a mother’s heart is through her child. I reasoned a woman’s pet had to be a close second.
I moved to the poodle as much as my leash would allow, tried to be as suave as I could, and asked, “Excuse me, Miss, could you direct me to the restroom? My human has a weak bladder.”
“Monsieur, you are speaking to me?” Accent…heavy, sexy…and without the overtone of animosity I expected.
“Oui,” I answered.
“But of course. The toilette is to the right of the bar, through the arch, and the homme’s room is on the left.” She batted her eyelids and stood displaying her rear and hind quarters. Like master, like dog. I drooled a bit.
“Nice day we’re having,” I grimaced. A master of pick-up lines, I’m not.
“Snow, slush, wind, and cold? Oh, I can understand with that beautiful, thick gold coat it does not bother you. Me, Monsieur, see I need a sweater to stay warm.” She wiggled her tail. I took that as a positive sign. Straining against my leash, I hoped two kill two birds: To get he, and me, closer to possible objects of our affection.
Mark expressed his willingness to comply by saying, “Okay Ralph, I see you want to get to know Fifi better.”
“My name is Bridgette, not Fifi.” She looked at Mark with a jaundiced eye.
I spotted an opening, “Poor Mark. He is like many human males, so chauvinistic. I, of course, am not. In his defense, his intent is good, he’s just wounded by an unfortunate affair of the heart.” If Bridgette watched old movies, I’d be cooked. My theft was verbatim from a Maurice Chevalier flick.
“You are warm-hearted,” Bridgette pulled and stretched her leash from the rewind case. It left us five feet apart. She added in a sultry whine, “I adore warm-hearted men.” We were so near yet so far.
Mark stood, and approached the mystery woman, and said, “Sorry to disturb you, but it seems our two dogs want to become better acquainted. Would you mind if I let them satisfy their curiosity?”
She turned toward Mark. What he and I could see above the gaiter…flashing deep blue eyes, a widow’s peak, creamy olive skin…all were attractive. What the black mask concealed remained a mystery. The woman answered suspiciously, “Is your dog friendly? Bridgette is very unassertive and I don’t want her frightened.”
“Ralph is a cream puff. The only way he’d hurt a fly is to lick it to death.” I could visualize Mark’s smile under his blue paper face cover.
The woman looked dubious.
Mark guessed her concern. “Look, this isn’t a ploy to get an introduction. When I came in, I wanted to be seated in a location by myself. The waitress put me here because she said you wanted privacy too. Promise…I’ll stand as far away as possible while our dogs exchange doggie greetings.”
She nodded, “Okay.” The woman released the leash lock, another six feet of cord pulled out, and the poodle and I exchanged customary sniffs. Whether we were eyeball to eyeball or eyeball to otherwise, Bridgette and I found each other intriguing. Each of us sent visual signals that chemistry might be right and that we had no desire to be separated. When Mark pulled gently on my collar, I remained steady; when he jerked, I made a low growl.
“What’s wrong with your dog?” the woman said, concern creeping into her tone.
“Nothing, I pulled his leash, so I can go back to my table. He isn’t ready.”
“That’s silly and I’m being foolish. Come sit at my table. We’ll be within the social distancing rules.” She pointed to a chair diagonally across from her. “We can stay six feet apart.”
“Thank you.” Mark walked to the chair being careful to maintain his “social distance” and not tangle leashes. Within a few minutes they introduced themselves, Mark and Jeanette, they exchanged the most rudimentary personal facts, and they reinforced the Greta Garbo thing, “They wanted to be alone.” If you don’t know who Garbo is, look her up on the Net.
It was clear to me that they desperately wanted to break the ice dam they’d constructed, but human stupidity or pride, take your choice, prevented them. Canine common sense to the rescue! Under my breath I whispered to Bridgette, “Just stay still. I’m going to walk around you a few times.”
“Monsieur, it will tie our lines in knots. Our humans will have to unwrap us.”
“That’s the idea.” I leaned close and whispered using my best Harrison Ford imitation, “Trust me.” I quickly bounded around the poodle three times, pulled the line tight, and whined. Mark reacted exactly as I knew he would.
“I’m sorry! Let me get them untangled.” He dashed around the table, kneeled at Jeanette’s feet, and tried to unwrap the leashes. I moved or circled to prolong and make the process as difficult as I could.
Comments began to flow. “Ralph stop moving,” of course, I increased my activity. “It’s not your fault, let me help,” Jeanette joined Mark on the floor trying to separate Bridgette and me. My poodle buddy saw my purpose and moved and dodged to up the difficulty level a few notches. Mark held my collar with one hand, unhooked my leash and was removing the last few twists when the waitress appeared above us.
“I’m so sorry, but the manager has asked me to tell you, you’ll have to leave. You’re breaking the Covid rules and other patrons are asking why they can’t.”
Mark issued an embarrassed, “I’m very sorry. Soon as I get my dog hooked back up, I’ll go.”
“You don’t have to leave, I will,” Jeanette volunteered.
The waitress looked distressed. “Sorry, the boss said, you both have to go.”
Mark and Jeanette left together with Bridgette and me in the lead. After we left Leonardo’s they spoke. “Well, it was nice talking to you. That was a great Christmas Eve present,” Mark volunteered.
“I enjoyed our conversation, too.” Jeanette shook her head. “It was nice to have a discussion with a man without him hitting on me.” Oh no, I thought. Mark’s honesty would screw the whole thing up. He opened his mouth to speak and I barked, “Shut the hell up!” but it didn’t work.
“A…I assure you I wasn’t hitting on you…however…I think you are attractive. I wanted to say something to you but wouldn’t if Ralph hadn’t been so insistent on wanting to meet your poodle.”
Jeanette laughed, “Great minds. I wanted you to notice me. I’m not sure why, chemistry maybe. Anyway, that’s why I stood up and turned around. Don’t say anything…That’s why we girls spend lots of money on clothes that, shall we say, put our best foot forward. Anyway, I liked the way you moved when you walked to your table, or something.”
“Too bad we got thrown out, I had a good time while it lasted.” Mark looked at his parked car without claiming it. “You know it is Christmas Eve. I’m alone. You’re alone. If you’d like to go somewhere else, we could enjoy the evening. Alone. Together.”
“Where? Every place I normally hang out in is closed or have the Covid Police standing by with pitch forks to keep everyone in line. That’s not much fun. Besides, I’m curious. I’d like to see what you look like under mask.”
Mark took three steps back, removed the blue paper from nose to chin, and said, “Be sure to shield your camera. My face destroys them.”
Jeanette pulled down the gaiter, “You have a good sense of humor! I like that.” The masks returned to their Covid parking places over the two humans faces. Both would be considered good looking by human standards, though to canine standards, furless faces seem sickly and without verve.
“It is too cold to stand here,” Jeanette remarked. “As you said, being alone together on a holiday seems a good idea. We can go back to my apartment and see if Santa arrives. It’s only five blocks away. I warn you, I’m a bourbon drinker. There’s no scotch in the place.”
“Ahhhhh! We have our first thing in common. What brand?” Mark asked.
“I like Knob Creek, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, I’m not much on Four Roses. If you impress me with your ability to drink and savor the good stuff, I’ll share some of my favorite, Noah’s Mill. I bet you never heard of that before.” Jeanette…definitely confident…Mark and I like that in a lady.
“It’s from a small brewery near Louisville. It’s like sipping a little bit of heaven.”
Jeanette quoted Bogie, “Mark, this might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Bridgette and I led the two chattering birds to Jeanette’s apartment. I winked at my new poodle friend and she returned it. I muttered to her, “Isn’t it satisfying to be able to help less capable and intelligent species like humans?”
Bridgette said, “Oui, Ralph. Aren’t they lucky to be owned by us, mon ami d’or?
Aren’t French women wonderful?