By Zoë Blaylock
Zoe’s an emerging writer from San Diego and her perpetually unfinished website is HereForThePresent.com
I’d hoped that by renting an apartment facing the pool, I wouldn’t feel so lonely. That the sound of people yakking and splashing would cheer me, make me feel like I was a part of something fun. As if anything could be these days.
Widowhood stinks. Makes you yearn for things you’d otherwise disdain. Like the company of people who once drove you nuts. Casa Last Stop is crawling with them.
Except for the divorcées, we’re all widows here. There’s only a of handful men to go around, and most are married to each other. What a world we live in. Who would have guessed when I hatched eighty years ago that everything would turn screwy? Men marrying men. Women divorced, and not just once, but two, three, even four times, and now lolling topless poolside, legs splayed, with plastic thingamajigs called buds planted firmly in our ears.
But I’m not complaining. It’s just that living here is not what the brochures make it out to be. No intimate champagne dinners with eligible suitors. No bridge parties with fellow silver haired vixens. Here, golden years are an endless string of leaden days.
Luckily, every once in a blue moon things get shaken up. Take, for example, two months ago when thanks to my apartment’s unobstructed view of the pool, I saw Cassie and her chihuahua fall in and almost drown.
The chihuahua’s name is Judgment. Cassie was a magistrate. The dog’s name is simply a variation of the name she gave to all her dogs: Judge.
The tradition started her first year on the bench when she was carrying her new puppy in a handbasket and running errands around town and she ran, literally ran, into a disgruntled lawyer who’d recently appeared before her bench. She apologized, he scowled, and as he walked away, he turned to his companion and, probably thinking Cassie couldn’t hear him, he said, “That judge is a real bitch.”
Cassie, being fair-minded and loath to a hold grudge needed a reason to believe the lawyer was referring to the pup and not to her. So, right then and there, she christened the dog, Judge.
Since Judge is a noble moniker, one Judge followed another until the present dog came along. Pushing ninety as Cassie was, she knew the Mexican Hairless would surely be her last, so she named it Judgement.
“Last Judge sounded wrong,” she said.
So, Judgement it was. And that is what I call the dog publicly. But truth be told, in the privacy of my own mind I call her the Fuckin’ Little Barker. And it gives me a great deal of pleasure to do so.
I despise that little dog. I hate the occasional wiry hair that pokes out of her little bald body. I hate her ugly overbite. I hate her stealth puffs of gas. But most of all, I hate the shrill barks that she barks and barks and barks.
I, an ethical vegetarian, want to kill her.
This is what makes it so hard to answer the question: why didn’t I let the Fuckin’ Little Barker die when I had the chance?
In the commotion of fishing Cassie out of the pool when after drinking one mimosa too many she fell while holding Judgement to her breast, nobody would have noticed if the real bitch had drowned. And since Judgement weighs a few pounds at most, her lifeless little body would have blessedly sunk to the bottom and been sucked into the pool’s drain and out of sight, much like Cassie’s bikini top did when fifty years too late for liberation, she set it afire and threw it—padding and all—into the deep end of the pool.
If I’d minded my own business, if I hadn’t had a fit of conscience and ran down two flights of stairs and jumped into the pool, yoga pants and all, the Fuckin’ Little Barker and her manner of death would have become nothing more than an exclamation point at the end of one of those improbable stories we crones tell and evermore embellish when we’re bored. In no time at all, the dog would have been forgotten.
But no. I had to save her. And, as if diving in and pulling her up from the bottom of the pool wasn’t enough, I pounded on her little chest and administered mouth to mouth until she spat two lungs-full of water and came to life again.
Try living that down in a place where no one has anything to do and all the time in the world in which to do it.
Oh, yes, my fellow residents called me a hero to my face. But old people whisper like actors in an amphitheater: loud and clear. Two weeks later, after Cassie died of pneumonia they were still laughing and reminding me that one is responsible forever for one whom one has saved.
Not that I agree. But, yeah, to stop tongues from wagging, I took Cassie’s dog in.
Now that I feed her, now that my foot is only a kick away from her gut, it’s gotten much easier to tell the Fuckin’ Little Barker to quit yapping. To insist on it in the dead of night when Last Judgement dreams of burglars. All I gotta do is wrap my hand tight around her neck and she instantly mellows.
Not that I’m complaining. There’s benefit to living with the little bitch. Not that I’ve grown soft or sweet on her. In fact, truth is I still think I should have let the fuckin little barker drown.
I didn’t need the hassle of someone to care for, to wake up every day for, whether I feel like it or not.
But damn it, she needs me.
Love’s a bitch, know what I mean? Always has been. Always will be. Yep, even here at Casa Last Stop. Of all places.