By David Chartrand
He sounds sad. So does She. So does the man in the white lab jacket. Dr. Gray is always happy, even when he’s sticking me with a needle or flushing my ears. Ear infections, knee surgeries, arthritis. Growing old is no picnic, but Dr. Gray made it possible, and painless.
I cannot see Dr. Gray right now. I can only hear his footsteps approach this cold, stainless steel table where I am trying to nap. Then he steps way. I hear him whisper to Him and Her.
I cannot tell what anyone is saying, but I can tell they are not happy. Something is wrong. Maybe I’m dreaming. My eyelids are heavy. I want to take a long nap and dream about happy things. Naptime is the happiest time.
About the author
David Chartrand’s humor and commentary is distributed by StoryMarket. Contact him at davidchartrand.com, where pictures of Cayman, Chartrand’s yellow Labrador who passed away Oct. 28, are posted.
I consider raising my head to ask what is wrong. Even if I could raise my head I couldn’t make them understand my questions. My brain does not assign symbols to words, or words to symbols. I use body gestures — learned it watching the Discovery Channel when they thought I was asleep.
I understand some of their words, but only the ones I choose to understand. I know “walk!” and “car ride!” and special words that are shouted after I pee on the carpet. Some words make me happier than others; some confuse me.
Right now I’m confused. No one is happy, but everyone loves me. I can feel it. No one has said, “car ride!” or “walk!” but it could be worse. No one has mentioned, “stool sample.”
Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll leap from the table and shout, “Play!” and “car ride!” I’ll say, “What’s wrong with you guys? Let’s blow this joint and head to the park!”
The heart is willing, but the legs disobey. A personal credo: “Never leave a perch unless you know the distance from perch to ground.”
My hearing isn’t so hot, either. But I know approaching footsteps when I hear them. I see a white lab coat.
Dr. Gray’s left hand holds something long and sharp. The magic needle. I’ve seen it before, felt it before. Dr. Gray always uses it to fix whatever hurts me. I know its quick sting, and I know what happens next. A few minutes later, nothing hurts. The hurt is gone because I am asleep, dreaming happy dreams.
My eyes close as Dr. Gray gently slides the needles under my skin. I see nothing. I can only feel. I feel the sting.
I feel Her hand squeezing my foot; I feel His arms hugging my neck. Something warm and wet drips into the fur below my eyes. I’d swear the wetness is dripping from His face onto mine.
I close my eyes and — this is wonderful! — the sadness is gone. Everyone is happy, especially me.
I feel wonderful! My knees no longer ache and burn. I hear everything, see everything! There are no needles or stainless steel exam tables. I’m a little girl again!
Where am I?
Don’t know; don’t care. He and She are here, too. We’re wrestling on the carpet and taking walks. I am watching I-35 from the car window, my eyes squinting against the wind and my ears thrown straight back.
It’s a dream come true. We’re all together and everyone is happy, even Dr. Gray.
The dream suddenly vanishes. Through the slit of my eyelids I dimly see the sad faces again. She’s squeezing my leg much harder now. His wetness soaks the fur of my neck.
She whispers. But what is she saying?
“Sleep now, baby girl. Sleep all you want.”
The voice trails off. “… Bye, now.”
“Good-bye,” He says.
What? You’re not coming with me? No, no! Not good-bye! Come with me! Car ride! Play!
I know what to do. I must close my eyes and return to my dream. Quickly, before they leave!
It works. I am dreaming again. I can hear again. My eyes see every blade of grass. I feel like a puppy!
Everyone has returned. I knew they’d never leave. I knew they’d never stop loving me. We wrestle on the carpet. She rubs my tummy. I wet the carpet.
I could open my eyes if I wanted but I don’t dare.
I’m having the dream of my life.