Middle Aged Mutts

Middle Aged Mutts

Act casual he says, as if he knows what he’s talking about. Try the subtle approach. Don’t be in such a rush. That’s why you scare them off. But when they shake their tails oh so seductively it’s all I can do to keep from breaking the back door down and flying out to give chase. Those squirrels just know how to push my buttons—they’ll sit under the nearest tree, chewing on a fallen nut like they have all day to finish it. They know where I am, and they know they have just enough time to get away if I should come charging.

We’ve been doing it that way for years. Me, sitting at the bay window and keeping watch. Dad, doing whatever it is he does while sitting at the big wooden thing. They, hopping out from the woods tentatively, swiveling their heads to see if I’m around. When they know it’s safe they go into their burlesque, taunting me to give it another try.

I mean, how can I resist? It doesn’t take long before I’m aroused and start drooling, and then make a dash to the back door. Dad tries to help—in his way—lunging after me, the both of us on the slippery floor, running into chairs or walls or each other trying to get there. And by the time he fumbles with the knob and opens the door the squirrels are halfway to the woods, and all I can do is race up to the trees and yell at them to come back.

But they never do. They just linger in the branches and cluck about how I’ll never catch them.

And then I have to listen to the talk. Subtlety, Henry. Compliments. What a lovely fur coat you have. What big, dark eyes. I’d love to get a closer look at them. No sense in chasing—you have to get them to come to you.

Yeah, right. If only he understood the uselessness of his advice. So many nights I wait up for him, and he comes home alone, mumbling about how this one ignored him and that one was nothing but a tease. Sometimes it’s I got so close, Henry. We were talking,  she was laughing, and then… nothing. Like I’m some kind of loser. And always he says I just don’t know what they want from me. And he’s giving me advice?

He sits down and puts his head in his hands, and then he grabs one of those glass things from the gray box in the kitchen, and drinks the bubbly brown water inside.

He calms down. This is one of my favorite times. We go into the room with the box that glows, and he sits on the couch and looks at it, and I jump up and snuggle in next to him, and he gives me those rubs I just can’t get enough of. It’s a quiet time, before we go to sleep, when the squirrels and the women and the chasing don’t matter anymore, when it’s just me and him, middle-aged mutts, keeping company, boosting our spirits to get ready for the next day, and the next attempt to change our luck.

By Joseph Ponepinto