A short section today. And of course music matters…but yeah, after you listened to that one you started to think about this one too, didn’t you? No? You didn’t? Well then, you’d better try this one asap.
Oh well, enjoy the ride.
Henry carried the pup below and laid him out on the berth in his cabin, then he covered the old boy with a blanket and held him close. “Stay with him, would you?” he asked Tracy a while later. “I’ve got to get his medicine, and his pants.”
“He’s sick too, I take it?”
“Yes. Found it in July,” he said as he worked the pants around Clyde’s legs, positioning a pad and fastening the velcro while he talked, “but he probably was sick long before that. I don’t know if I told you, but he’d been abandoned and I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion someone dumped him in the park rather than deal with the expense of taking care of a sick dog.”
“That’s awful, Henry.”
He shook his head. “It’s economics 101, Tracy. A lot of families have pets even though they can barely afford to keep food on the table. It’s a reckless choice, one that usually leads to bad outcomes, but that’s why animal shelters are so overwhelmed.”
“He was lucky to find you, I guess.”
“Here, would you load the syringe for me, please? Ten units.”
“Got it. Where?”
“In the thigh. Here’s a swab,” he added, handing over an alcohol pad. “I need to get him to the vet on Monday.”
“Do you have one in Paris?”
He nodded. “I got a recommendation from the vet’s office in Kiel. They’re on stand-by for next week sometime.”
“I can take him while you get ready for chemo.”
“Okay. I’ll call their office tomorrow and set it up.”
“I’m just asking, but what if they think it’s time to put him down?”
“Nope. He stays with me.”
“Henry, is that fair to Clyde?”
“He’ll tell me when he’s ready, Tracy.”
“You really think that’s true?”
“As a matter of fact, yes, I do. Some dogs can, some can’t. Clyde can.”
“What about that whale?”
“Hmm? The orca? What about him?”
“Yeah, him. Do you and he…?”
“We…communicate, and I’m afraid I don’t really know another word to describe what it is we do.”
“I was kind of wigged-out by all that, Hank. Bad enough the whale follows you around like that, but he really seemed happy to see you.”
“Maybe because I was happy to see him, too. Clyde took off for a few days with him last week; scared the shit out of me.”
“What do you mean, took off…?”
“He jumped off the stern and swam over to the pod, then they all swam off somewhere. I like to think he went ashore to take a dump, but really, I have no idea where they went.”
“So…your dog is all wrapped up in this clusterfuck, too? Weird, Hank, this is really, really weird.”
“Yeah? Well, when I bumped into you at the restaurant in Honfleur he had been gone for two days, but then he just runs up to me and sits on my feet like nothing had happened. So go ahead, you tell me all about weird.”
“I think he’s sleeping now, Hank.”
Henry checked Clyde’s breathing, then rubbed the pup’s head for a long time. “Funny how close they let us get.”
“It’s called trust, Henry.”
“Can you imagine what the world would be like if we trusted one another like dogs trust us?”
He had to smile at that one. “Then I think about the prick that abandoned Clyde in the park – and my faith in the order of the universe is restored.”
“How about some tea?” she asked, shaking her head at his cynicism.
He kept rubbing Clyde’s head, but he shook his head. “We really need to get some sleep. Very long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
“Could I stay here tonight?”
Henry looked up and smiled. “I thought you’d never ask.”
After transiting the locks at Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, Henry tied-off near an old timbered building – that housed a very nice hotel and restaurant, according to his river pilot – and the group went off in search of a big breakfast before the final push. About an hour later they cast off their lines and began the trip again, then Henry cut up some very fresh salmon for Clyde – and they both smiled for a while.
The pup seemed a little tired, his eyes a little too glassy and red-rimmed that morning, and Henry assumed he’d had a rough night – despite the medicine. Still, after a few minutes on deck and with some sunlight and fresh air streaming through his golden ears, the pup picked up a bit and even wagged his tail a little.
As their little convoy approached CDG, the big airport northeast of the city, they began to see a few commercial aircraft taking off and lining up to land – and that was a good sign, or at least Henry thought so. With air travel restored things would start to feel a little like normal once again, and Henry was feeling desperate for normal that morning. He was, he knew, so close…yet Christmas had never felt so far away.
They passed the Eiffel Tower late that afternoon on their way to the Isle St Louis, and he called the marina and confirmed their slips were ready and got the procedure to enter the marina proper under the railway bridge. Once they had an ETA, the attendant told him, he was to call again and someone would help them into their slips. He then called the animal hospital, as requested, and the vet there said she’d meet him at the boat later that evening. He thanked her more than once.
But once Notre Dame came into view that was it. Journey over. What had started as a daydream two years before had as suddenly come to an end, yet as these things so often tend to, every little detail became lost in a jagged blur as events sped by with nauseating speed…and it felt like one minute he was out on the river and the next he was tied off a few hundred meters from the where the old Bastille had once stood. He was shaken by the way this last day had unfolded, by the sheer speed of events, if only because time had felt so unexpectedly elastic…so easily compressed and twisted to shape an uncertain outcome…
Then there was nothing else to do. Clyde saw a wide expanse of green grass and howled – twice – and Henry almost managed to hook up his leash, too. But Clyde soared off the stern and landed at a gallop, making a beeline for a huge clump of barren bushes. Henry grabbed a pile of poop-bags and took off running, but after a few steps he was reminded of his once own limitations. Yet Tracy was there to save the day…and she trotted over to Clyde and hooked him up, then bent to pick up his salmon laced turds.
“Still a little blood,” she said as Henry walked up. “But not as much as last night.”
He nodded as he bent to look, but he stood up quickly – then simply passed out.
He came to for a moment and heard more than saw he was in the back of an ambulance rushing through traffic, then a blinding light came for him – pushing aside everything left – until not even memory could hold back the night.
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.