I have one main underlying reason for my social inadequacies.
I was raised with Chihuahuas.
Dad read that Chihuahuas are non-allergenic since they’re almost-naked. I was allergic to almost everything, so we had almost-naked Chihuahuas.
These little “dogs” didn’t appreciate strangers. Constantly yapping during the course of a visit, they would eventually be banished to the Gulag – the half-bath at the far end of the house.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for all visits: knock on door/yapping/coffee being served/yipping/”Robert-the dogs!”/Gulag. The day Ms. Pearl came over was strangely different. The SOP had changed.
“Sell the dogs, Robert,” Mom steamed, “sell them right now!”
Then she calmed down.
“Kill the dogs, Robert,” Mom insisted, “kill them right now!”
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Ms. Pearl was an ancient wisp of a lady that oozed God's grace. Grace seemed to be oozing faster even as Ms. Pearl was moving slower. Just hang around her long enough after church and soon you’d notice that glowing puddle of grace she was always standing in - and the lucky ones would have it gently splash up onto them.
So the day Ms. Pearl comes over for the very first time, it’s comparable to a Presidential visit, (from the guy you voted for, not the other guy). It was a Saturday morning in September. I was almost dead on the couch, the drubbing from Friday night’s football game coming back to haunt me. Mom made me get fully dressed instead of just gym shorts and t-shirt. It didn’t matter. Clothed or unclothed – almost dead is still almost dead.
There was a faint knock at the door. Whitey, the male, begins yapping. Mom shushes him and goes to the door. Enter Ms. Pearl.
Mom ushers her into the living room, steering her over to the “company” chairs, these big Victorian things that were barely used - except for company. Ms. Pearl settles in, putting her handbag on the floor next to her. It’s the size of an overnight bag, a thick, cowhide-leather thing artfully hand-tooled with flowers.
“I’ll get the coffee, Pearl. Be right back.”
Mom follows this up with a glare in my direction and a nod in Ms. Pearl's.
“Hi, Ms. Pearl,” I said.
“Hello, Dennis. How are you this morning?”
“Fine. And you?”
“Fine, thank you.”
My social etiquette exhausted, I’m saved by Tinkerbell aka Tink, our female Chihuahua, who staggers sleepily out from under the sofa. She gets past the coffee table before realizing a stranger is in the room. It's too late to yap or yip so she starts to mincingly move towards Ms. Pearl, a slow, sideways gait.
Ms. Pearl’s face glows brighter, her love of animals apparent by her smile. She slowly bends down to Tink. Ms. Pearl picks her up, holding her at eye-level. Tink has her head turned sideways with her back legs splayed out in a visible sign of submission. However, when Tink submits, she expresses it in an unmistakable way.
Ms. Pearl’s surprise was authentic as a delicate, arching line of disturbingly warm liquid joined lady to dog, making an incredibly memorable moment. At least for me. Ms. Pearl’s response was succinct and to the point .
It takes a moment for Ms. Pearl to comprehend the need to put the dog down. By the time she does, Tink is running on empty.
As Ms. Pearl bends over to set the now-drained dog by her purse, she catches sight of something else. I follow her stare.
Sometime during Tink’s welcoming baptism of Ms. Pearl, Whitey had come into the living room. He was drawn to her big leather purse because of the smell of “animal”. Whitey, thinking he’s an actual “dog”, reacted accordingly by assuming "the position".
As we look on, Whitey coats her handbag with a steady, warm stream which, when looked back upon objectively, was pretty impressive for a dog his size. His territory marked, Whitey wanders off down the hallway. He passes Mom coming into the living room with the coffee service. Lucky for him he got a head start.
Ms. Pearl left about five minutes later. Mom walked the soggy saint to the front door, apologizing profusely.
Since I was fully dressed, I snuck to the kitchen, quietly went out the back door, ran across five backyards and escaped. When I came back for supper, the Chihuahuas were in the Gulag.
Dad had at least talked Mom out of carting them off to the pound. Or the river.