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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Repose

Category: Short Story

Ben had started to consider ‘fate’ as real. Watching people going in and coming out of that brightly lit Christmas gift shop, carrying gifts in hands and joy on faces, he sat in his old car with a coffee in his gloved hands. It was his second night out on the road—his second homeless night. In fact, he felt homeless lifelong; orphanage was something he couldn’t call home. Then at age seven, he was adopted by George Truman, an old teacher, who soon got fed up with the boy’s passively aggressive, obstinate nature. In a chilling January evening, Ben was handed over to Miss Kerry Whittle, a domineering businesswoman. That is where he became Ben: Kerry hated the name “Dave” because her husband Dave had left her for a younger woman. So his name was changed at once from Dave to Ben. After high school, Ben said goodbye to studies—an alienating experience for him to sit in the class and listen to stories of all kinds. He started working as an assistant at Kerry’s boutique.

Kerry was a kind supervisor. Yet, Ben never felt loving her as a kin. He felt obliged but it was hard for him to judge whether the aloof, self-absorbed lady loved him as a mother would love her son. At times, Ben suspected that she had accepted to take him in so that he may be there to serve her in her old age when she wouldn’t be able to work, or even walk anymore. Things went a different route than she had thought or planned, as occurred to Ben, when she was taken by multiple sclerosis at 54. After a few months, her funeral led out of her privately owned land in the town. Ben cried till late that night—the emptiness of her house was so blatantly gloomy. He missed his time in the orphanage where the dreariness of being without kin was countered by the noise of playing children. Suddenly, he had this fear of being all alone in a very empty house, giving him the creeps. He wanted to escape. And it was soon made easy as, after three days of the lady’s funeral, her bossy niece, called Angela, came all the way from Hawaii and dove him out of the house.   
 
Ben remembered Angela marrying that sly, narrow-eyed mechanic Travis against Kerry’s will. She had a row with Kerry over it and left her house to go to Hawaii with Travis while Kerry believed that she would return to her. So she did—to the house. That’s how he came to be in this old car Kerry had bought him and which had, so generously, not been claimed by Angela. Ben had few religious beliefs, but at this moment on the road, at least the notion of fate sounded true to him. No home, no friends, little money—he wished he could go back to that orphanage and hear the children’s noise. Closing his eyes, he started to imagine himself there. A faint cloud of noise started to fill his mind. An imperceptible smile shone on his face. He could tentatively call the orphanage his home. There was a sense of belongingness emanating with its thought. Gradually, the noise became music. He was getting sleepy, lulled by the music of his childhood. But then there was something different in this music—a cry, or a sob perhaps.  He frowned and opened his eyes, looking around him. A dirty white dog with small black patches on his furry coat stood close to the front door of his car. It looked humbly around. Ben saw its snout was dirty with some sort of filth as if it had been sniffing around in garbage for food. Twinkling its large brown eyes thoughtfully, it turned its head to see Ben. A smile appeared on Ben’s lips. The dog looked so thoughtful, but hungry too. It kept looking at him as if trying to convey through its eyes the unsaid message.

Ben opened the window to call him, “Hey fellow, come here.” Confusion appeared in the dog’s look, but then it came closer, slowly, while staring at Ben with eyes of distrust.

“Good boy,” Ben extended his hand out of the car to pat him. The dog licked his gloved hand and looked at him with eyes asking, does it work for a friendship?

“Get in the car,” Ben said, stroking its nose gently with his finger. The next moment, the furry fellow was inside the car, seated on Ben’s thigh.

“You can sit in here, easily,” Ben tried to move it to the front seat by his side. It moved onto the seat and sniffed around slowly. Ben took his money out, counted it, and then said to the dog, “You wait here. I’ll get you something.” It seemed to understand. Ben went to the nearby shop and returned with a can of hash and some fruit juice. The dog looked easy in his seat, waiting for him.

“Here we are,” Ben said, as he got in the car with a light shiver. He opened the can, took a paper from the backseat, and served the dog the hash. It ate hungrily, chewing and looking at Ben with soft, friendly eyes. Ben kept patting him lightly. After it was finished with the meal, Ben wiped his snout with a cloth, wrapped the cloth and the paper together, and disposed them in the nearest bin. Getting back in the car again, he looked at his new friend; it appeared contented and licked Ben’s hand that was touching its snout lightly. Ben felt like saying something, though he wasn’t sure what to say. He smiled at the dog and said, “Merry Christmas!”

~~~

Following was a happy day for them both. Ben had his new friend cleaned; he gave it a bath, took it to a park, fed it, and played with it. Later, he gave the dog a name—Wavy, because its hair upon washing became soft and wavy on its body. Wavy accepted its name instantly, like it was nothing unusual or strange. Ben felt that Wavy was very fond of his car, always eager to get inside and sit in the front seat; and Ben liked it. Wavy’s arrival had turned the car into something like a home, a home on wheels. Even a greater change occurred in Ben’s life: he started to think of future, think with plans: “I’m goanna find work downtown. Perhaps we may rent a room after a couple of weeks. And who knows one of us may get married soon.” He laughed while Wavy blinked, looking at him. Ben pouted, and said, “Well, not really buddy. I’m not falling for anyone, but if I do, I’d surely let you know.”Wavy pushed himself toward him, putting its head in his lap. Patting Wavy, Ben remembered his date Sherry who finally married her new boyfriend Richie, who of course was far richer than Ben. But the world wasn’t that small, Ben thought. If he could find Wavy, he could hope to find the love of his life too. The music of fate playing in his head heretofore was now changing to that of luck. 
 
~~~

Ben went downtown early, Wavy accompanying him. Asking at a few shops led him to a haberdasher who needed a salesman for a week.
“That yours?” the plump fellow asked, rolling his eyes toward Wavy.

“He won’t be here,” Ben assured him. “I’m goanna leave him at PupCare.”

“Do it, and I’ll wait for you,” the man ordered. Ben took Wavy to Jerome, his high school friend who now worked at PupCare with hopes of one day becoming the owner of a would-be AllPups. Jerome gazed at Wavy as if trying to remember something.

“This is Wavy,” Ben introduced the dog which already had started wagging its tail.

“I’ve seen him around here somewhere, a few times, if I remember correctly,” Jerome widened his brow. “Is he yours?” 
“Now, yes,”

“Your foster cousin let you have him?”

“I’ve left the house… you may have heard about it?”

“Kicked out?”

“Yes,”

“Where d’you live?”

“In my car. Listen, I’m to work at Dress House and I want you to take care of him.”


“Yeah, sure. What’s he like?” Jerome’s eyes scanned the dog another time. “Looks like a good guy, no?”
“He’s great. How much is it for a day?”

“First day care is free… attracting customers, you know,” Jerome put his hand in his pocket. “Take this,” he handed Ben a token. “We close 7 pm.”

“Ok, thanks!” Ben turned to Wavy and said, “I’m goanna get you later, right?” Wavy seemed to understand, as always, blinking softly. Patting him lightly, Ben returned to the shop. Mr. Lewton, the haberdasher had an air of superiority, considering himself as the all-knowing boss in business and finding it hard not to cavil at his workers. Ben found his work not so hard as bearing with a nagging, restless business owner. It was a lesson in patience.

Finally, the clock had mercy on him as it showed 6:30. Ben asked Mr. Lewton’s permission to leave.

“We close 7 pm sharp, not a second earlier nor later,” he told Ben, decisively. Ben sighed and returned to the counter to sort the flyers. Closing at 7 pm sharp, Ben got his 62 bucks. Hurrying to leave for picking Wavy, he was shot in the back with Mr. Lewton’s reminder to appear for work in time the next morning. When he reached PupCare, with some food in hands for Wavy and himself, it had closed with only his car parked outside with a small slip beneath the windscreen wiper. It was from Jerome: “We are closing buddy… get Wavy from Keller… he stays till 9. See ya! J.” Ben walked to Kelle’r shop next to the bakery adjacent to a fast-food restaurant. From some distance, he spotted Wavy standing with two kids—a boy and a girl—and a stout middle-aged man. Ben stopped there, in the shade of the restaurant’s wall. He could see the kids were happy to find Wavy.

“Boy! He’s cool!” The boy sounded excited about Wavy, patting its back. Wavy stood contented, wagging its tail rhythmically.

“Dandy, Dandy…” The girl was snapping her little fingers at the dog. Ben was surprised to see Wavy responding to his new name. He seemed quick in accepting names.

“We’re getting late; your mom will be waiting,” reminded the father.

“Dad please, let’s take him home,” the boy entreated.

“Yes Daddy, he is homeless,” his sister spoke in his support. The father was rather hesitant. He looked at his kids and the dog standing like a friend between them. Then he looked around in indecision, as if scanning the place for the dog’s owner. Ben didn’t move. He wasn’t sure why, but he stood in the shade, quiet and still. The man looked again at his kids.

“Please!” The boy begged again. The dog blinked as if endorsing the boy’s call. The father smiled; he had been won over by the team. He said, “All right, let’s go.”

“Yay!” The kids jumped up in joy. “Come on Dandy!” The boy said, “We are going home!” Ben saw them leaving. They got in their car with Wavy—or Dandy—sitting between the kids in the back seat.

After they had left, Ben came out, with the food in his hands. He walked to his car, feeling empty, and sat in the driver’s seat. It was getting colder now. He put the food down on the front seat, took his burger, and ate slowly, looking at the hash and milk he had got for Wavy. So it was him again, and his car of course. Finishing his meal, he moved onto the backseat, wrapping the blanket around him. Wavy had gone and had a home. Ben was happy for Wavy, though he felt lonely as before. He was tired and a little sleepy. The emptiness of his mind was filling once again with the old, familiar music—of the orphanage, of shivering, and faint voices, and apprehension; the old music of fate.