A plastic, crinkling cacophony spilled into the little girl’s ears. Her eyes darted to the sound, a blue and white plastic bag moving on its own. Jerky, unrhythmic dashes beside a line of plastic trash cans on the alley behind her house. She stopped her bike, newly liberated of training wheels and watched as the shape in the bag flattened and a figure slowly made himself known. A small puppy, a black bully type, white stripe on its chest, and a pink spotted nose with potato chip crumbs. Five minutes of incessant pleading and Mama finally relented, He can stay with us for the night, but we’ll have to go the appropriate route to see if he belongs to someone.
Dubbed “Mr. Ruffles,” he crawled into her bed that night and nestled into the nook of her arm. Newspaper and towels on the floor, the little girl woke up to a whimper and a few puddles on the floor. She took the pup outside, as Mama had instructed her to do. Firm instruction. It was an hour before she normally got it up, but she was still quite happy to be with Mr. Ruffles. She felt calm. A sense of beauty that flowed through her slightly electric as the gray morning blossomed to color.
A month later, and Mr. Ruffles was still a part of the small family. Most mornings, Mr. Ruffles woke the little girl up with licks and nibbles, soft whimpers that bugged everybody but the girl. Then it was breakfast, and his crate. Or, what he recognized among the “Charlie Brown Cartoon” gibberish as “place.” The little girl and Mama shut the door to his barks of urgency that funneled to a whine and eventually simmered to a sleepy acceptance.
But, when the sun had moved across the three windows in front of his crate, and the sky faded leaving streaks of pink clouds, he would see his two people coming in the door, Mama with an apron, he eventually recognized from the “Where’s my apron” commotion that took place a few times a week. Money in her hands, he recognized from how much money did you make today, Mama?! The girl with a book bag screaming “Mr. Ruffles” among the other sounds he could not understand. He knew that soon there would be food and snuggles and that feeling, the electric feeling of genuine love. Of course, this is not something he “knew” just something he felt.
One day, after breakfast, he didn’t go back to his place. The little girl crawled back into bad, and he nestled right in with her. They did not awake until the sun was in the middle window. And the girl never put on her shoes that day. The next days were the same. The electric feeling remained, undissolved. Sparks in his eyes.
But he noticed Mama and less electricity in her eyes than there had been. And he could feel the fear in her. One afternoon, as the little girl was working in her coloring book, he saw Mama sitting on the couch, fearful and sad eyes looking through the window. He wiggled his way over and jumped into her lap, nuzzling his head into her t-shirt. He looked up as she looked down at him, and he could see and feel her momentary calm. And Mama felt electricity and spark for a little while.