Strays

1.

Half-past midnight on New Year’s Eve, after anticipation had given way to the inevitable champagne cork and mirror ball money shot, Hector was still standing outside, waiting to check IDs, warming himself against Miami’s nightwinter halfcold with coffee, donuts and an old leather jacket.

Hector was thinking of The Girl Who Drives Past With Dogs, wondering whether he’d see her tonight. She’d been driving by so long that he’d started to dream of her. To get her out of his head, he lit a cigarette and went over his resolutions:

Getting an early start on his resolutions, he was rehearsing what he’d say to The Girl Who Drives Past With Dogs when her convertible pulled up at the stoplight by the club. Looking through a tangle of blonde hair, she smiled at him, turned to the dog in the passenger seat, and whispered something. The dog cocked its head, listened intently for a moment, then jumped over the windowsill and ran.

He dropped his coffee, tripped over his stool, and sent his flashlight skittering over the pavement, forgetting himself as he chased after the dog. Running, panting, calling after it. Finally, he coaxed the dog into his arms and carrying it back to the crying girl’s car, but big, shy Hector couldn’t say a word as the light changed and she drove away.

2.

Jen led the dog to her car, put him in the passenger seat, gave him a treat. She sat down behind the wheel, moved a scrunchy from her hair to her wrist, and started the car.

Three years. She’d made this drive so many times, and it was always the same. Still, somehow it was easier afterwards, like they’d given her permission by staying.

The dog hung his head over the door, drinking fast air.

“Everyone deserves a chance,” she said aloud to the night.

She pulled up in front of the Latin nightclub by the park. When her car stopped, the dog turned and licked her hand, nuzzling her.

“Go,” she whispered. “I love you, but you can’t stay with me.”

He looked at her for a moment as if he understood, licked her face once, then jumped out of the car and ran. It was the happiest she could remember being, tears welling up in her eyes, until that fat bouncer caught the dog and brought it back to her.

She cried harder as she took the dog back to the shelter to put him down, just like the rest.

This entry is part of Jack Rusher’s journal, originally published January 1st, 2011, in New York.