ON THE BEACH


By Isabelle Carruthers
Copyright © 2001




"I loathe people who keep dogs. They are cowards who haven't got the guts to bite people themselves." -August Strindberg

In the summer, my friend and I travelled to the coast with several people we didn't know, friends of friends. However ill advised it may be to travel with strangers, we were braver then and would have travelled in a car filled with Jehovah Witnesses if it was free and fast. It was not the destination, but the act of travelling, that compelled us. Our vision of ourselves came from too many books, and we were hungry for The Road, to be lost together and to find ourselves, desiring both emptiness and meaning at the same time.

We also had nothing better to do. It was summer break and we were bored.

Our transport was an old Impala that had seen better days but seemed to run fine, good enough for The Road Trip. There were six of us in the car, all traveling light, so our gear fit easily into the trunk. We would have been comfortable except for the dog.

It was Morty's car and Morty's dog, an enormous Pit Bull named Bogart, which he affectionately nicknamed Bogey. He called it a puppy and fussed over it like an infant, which seemed ironic since the dog was huge and looked as if it could easily amputate an arm with one bite. The dog was as cramped for space as we, and travelled the length of the interior restlessly throughout the trip.

Each time I fell asleep I would wake to huge paws stampeding over me or a tail thwacking my cheek. By the time we reached Jacksonville at noon, everyone in the car, including Morty and his girl Lynette, hated the dog intensely.

Lynette got a room that we all would share, and we were lucky to have one that was right on the beach. We stowed our gear and the Hound From Hell, and headed straight for the water, anxious to wash away the smell of dog and to sleep at last in the surf and sand. One of the guys who made the trip with us, in a celebratory mood, offered us each a hit of LSD, which we consumed happily along with our lunch of Taaka and OJ. So as the day wore on, we tripped and partied there on the beach, merry pranksters among vacationing suburbia.

By nightfall, our brains and bodies were fried. We roused ourselves and headed back towards the room. It wasn't until we were steps from the door that Morty and Lynette seemed to remember Bogey the dog, who had been stranded for hours alone. Morty mumbled something about Bogey chewing things. Shoes and Things.

It was an understatement.

The dog had eaten the room. The bedcovers were in disarray, and the cotton batting inside the comforter was scattered all around. Anything made of wood looked as if it had been assaulted by a squadron of hungry beavers. And there was the smell of dog everywhere, like a giant fire hydrant.

"Oh god! There's dogshit on the bed!" Lynette said it, but everyone noticed it at about the same time, the huge and misshapen brown lump on the sheets, right in the middle of all that snowy whiteness. It was profane. Simultaneously the smell of it became unbearable, and in unison we all staggered backwards into the open air.

It was Morty's dog, and therefore it was Morty's shit. But Morty didn't see it that way. It was, he felt, Lynette's job to clean up after the dog, because Lynette was the woman, and cleaning was "woman's work" as he opined with great pomp.

Lynette was nearly hysterical at the idea of touching this mess, although I would guess she had cleaned up after that dog for months.

But not today. She paled, and tore at her hair, at the very idea.

In order to fully understand the dogshit dilemma, you must recall that at the time we were all tripping, which tends to skew your perspective. The size and stench of the pile was magnified a million times in our collective mind. Imagine having to clean up the droppings of a Tyrannosaur, and you can perhaps grasp the magnitude of the task.

We were not amused, and this was not the adventure we had sought.

After a debate that probably lasted five minutes, but seemed to last five hours, it was agreed among all of us that cleaning up the dogshit was too horrific. Asking for a volunteer was like asking a member of your platoon to go on a suicide mission, we reasoned. Democratically, we resolved to spend the night on the beach, and would launch a reconnaissance in the morning.

Holding our breath and moving quickly, we managed to retrieve our sleeping bags and other necessities from the room, and we let the dog come with us, recognizing that no matter how repulsed we were, leaving him in there could only multiply our problems.

We spent the night on the beach, hoping the cops would not find us and force us into the room.

In the morning, at last mentally (if not physically) equipped to tackle the chore that faced us, we approached the room, and the dogshit within, with the fierce determination of a biohazard containment team.

One by one, in silent awe, we lined up around the bed, regarding the pile with embarrassed chagrin. It was not at all what it seemed the day before, but just a pair of brown socks, chewed and soggy, that Bogey had left upon the sheets.

Copyright 1999 Isabelle Carruthers


Isabelle Carruthers lives in New Orleans, where she writes short fiction and poetry during lucid moments. She has previously been published in The Rose and Thorn Literary Journal, WordSalad and Moondance. She is the creative director for MindKites: Perceptions on the Fringe, a freethinker ezine - http://www.mindkites.com




Send correspondence to dharmababy@hotmail.com



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