Fellows, a quality woman in a happy marriage will not put up with dog shit in her kitchen, but a grievous woman thrives on discord.
I had been in the kitchen to get a drink to enjoy while watching the football game on television, and noticed a classic expression of canine shit-guilt in the behavior of our small white and brown terrier. Grabbing a beer from the fridge, I stepped around to the other side of the island where I spied the offending matter.
The precisely coiled excrement lay glistening and perfectly framed in the center of a single white glossy tile on the kitchen floor. That’s not the kind of thing I like seeing where food is stored and prepared, but wishing to remain in good spirits and enjoy the rest of the football game I did what any thinking man wishing to get back to his chair before the game resumed after the commercial break: I turned my back on the dog turd and walked back through the kitchen into the den, shut the sliding door to keep the laundry noise from interfering with the game, and sat down in my large, comfortable, leather chair just as the commercial break ended.
Yes, I completely ignored the dog shit in the kitchen, and I didn’t feel right about it. It felt wrong to leave it there. But I had been caving-in on everything with my wife, Pumpkin, for at least a decade, and just couldn’t abide doing so any longer. With our children grown and living on their own, mainly visiting on holidays and an occasional family vacation, I had all the time in the world. I would wait her out, force her hand. Because no woman in a happy marriage could ever abide dog shit in her kitchen!
My reasons for doing this may be childish or may be sophisticated; this I cannot judge. But the washing machine on the far side of the kitchen was running and I knew that Pumpkin would be moving that load to the dryer soon and starting another. She would not be able to miss seeing the dog’s flagrant assault on the very floor tiles she had picked out when we remodeled the kitchen years ago, and would quickly take care of the problem.
Now, you’re probably thinking that shifting the duty on to my wife was a shitty thing to do. I will not argue that point, my good fellows, but since I worked from a home office while Pumpkin worked in an office in town, I was the prime caretaker of this animal, and I thought I was mainly in the right to expect her to take up the mantle from time to time.
My beer was about three-quarters empty when Pumpkin came through the den with a laundry basket.
“Who’s winning?” she asked as she slid the kitchen door open.
“We are,” I answered casually, never taking my eyes off the screen. “Couple touchdowns.”
She nodded and stepped through the open doorway, shutting the door behind her.
I relaxed, breathed a sigh of relief, and kept one eye on the game while listening for the back door to open and close signifying she had disposed of the problem in the usual way, by tossing it out into the side yard where Pumpkin did her business.
Did I neglect to mention that my wife and my dog had the same name at this point in our seventeen-year marriage?
So I watched the opposing team score on an impossibly successful kickoff return and that uneasiness combined with the concern I began feeling at not hearing the back door shut. I was convinced she had not because our back door sticks a little when it’s dry and has to be slightly forced (the same could be said of my wife), which usually mean Pumpkin slammed the door a little when closing it. This could be heard throughout the house.
I wasn’t hearing it. I don’t mind telling you fellows, I grew more and more concerned over what this meant.
Suddenly, the sliding door opened and Pumpkin stepped through the doorway with a glass of wine, slid the door shut, then sunk into the matching leather chair next to mine.
She smiled at me. “That’s the last load,” she said congenially. “Are we still winning?”
“Yes,” I said, “but we’re losing ground.”
She nodded and turned her attention to the game.
I don’t mind telling you fellows that my heart was pounding in my chest. I wanted to leap right up, dash across the den, fling the sliding door open with some vigor, and discover the current status of the dog shit on our kitchen floor.
Instead, I thought like a gentleman spy. My beer was almost empty, and I would continue sipping it at my usual pace but while doing so craftily take in more per swallow so I would have a legitimate excuse to re-enter the kitchen without drawing attention to my actions.
Fuck that! I thought. I stood up and announced, “Remember what happens for me. I need to hit the bathroom.” Then I walked into the bathroom, poured the rest of my beer out into the bowl, and flushed. Walking back through the den I announced, “I’m out. Need anything?” as I made for the kitchen door.
“No I’m good,” she said with a smile.
She did seem to be smiling too much. She was either truly the kind person she let on to be, or she was playing some kind of dark psy ops game that was, frankly, out of my league.
Into the kitchen I went, leaving the door open. I hit the fridge first, made sure she heard bottles clink as I pulled a fresh bottle from the twelve-pack carton, and shutting the refrigerator door loudly, twisted the cap off the beer bottle and stepped around the island towards the trash can where I could verify the removal of the dog shit.
It was still there! Pumpkin lay nearby napping, oblivious, uncaring. As I stepped on the pedal to open the trash can lid and deposit the bottle cap, Pumpkin lookup up at me with bored eyes, let out one of those little sighs dogs emit when just laying around, and watched me walk back towards the doorway.
Stepping into the den and sliding the door shut, I headed for my chair, pretty sure my disappointment and confusion was written all over my face for her to read. I avoided looking at her for that very reason until I arrived at my chair. As I sunk into the soft leather, I looked over at her. She was napping! The sound of the leather and a commotion on the television gave her a start, and she looked up and over at me with tired eyes, let out a little sigh like wives tend to do when just sitting around, and curled up tightly into the leather and shut her eyes.
This was war! Happy wife, unhappy wife, whatever, there was no way in hell I was going to cave and remove that dog shit myself. There was a principle at stake. What’s more, an existential reality. The kitchen was the Sudetenland and she was Hitler. Our house was Western Europe and I was Churchill. If I let her rule the kitchen, where would it end? Goddammit.
So I dug-in, fellows, and so did she. We were never in the kitchen at the same time after that though we never spoke of it or made any compacts or agreements. There was no real accord. The only way we could avoid acknowledging the dog shit in the kitchen was to never speak of it and never be in the kitchen at the same time.
We were mostly living separate lives by then anyway. Once, just a day or so after that Saturday, when unbeknownst to me her car was in the shop, I came home and headed for the kitchen to make a sandwich and caught her walking away from the other side of the island where the dog shit lay, a bottle of air freshener in her hand, heading for the laundry room. She hadn’t seen me and I quickly turned back for the den, but the kitchen smelled of lilacs and lavender for a week after that.
By day five, the dog was acting strangely. Perhaps it was the dog shit drying on her favorite side of the kitchen. Weeks passed. The dog shit slowly dried and hardened. One night I came back late after bowling league, having stuck around for beer and nachos with the boys. Pumpkin was already asleep. So was Pumpkin. The kitchen was mostly dark except for the light on the range hood, casting just enough light to navigate the table, island, and other obstacles. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and peeked over the island. There was a white cloth napkin covering the turd.
As the days wore on, Pumpkin began exhibiting a kind of malaise or depression, at least that’s how it seemed to me. I was still working from my home office and was around her the most, and was still the one who would take her out to do her business most of the time. She would pee but wouldn’t shit. Was she constipated out of anxiety? This really began to concern me. What were we doing to our dog? What were we doing to ourselves?
I took Pumpkin to see our vet, “Dr. Pete”, who I informed of the constipation issue. Naturally, he had questions.
“Anything unusual going on at home? Any unusual behavior from the dog?” he asked.
“Not really,” I lied.
“Has she eaten anything that didn’t agree with her? Anything toxic for dogs that you’re aware of?” Dr. Pete continued.
I paused to appear thoughtful for a few seconds, shook my head and said, “No evidence of that I’m aware of.”
“Getting plenty of water?” he asked seriously.
“Yes, we make sure she has plenty of water all the time,” I answered.
“Has Pumpkin been unusually anxious about anything? You know, stressed out?”
“Not sure what that would look like,” I said.
“Dogs are very sensitive to human behavior and energy,” he said. “So a dog in a happy home is generally happy, barring illness and the like. A negative environment will likewise affect a dog negatively in many cases.”
“Now see here,” I said. “I love Pumpkin. I would never want to see her hurt.”
Dr. Pete raised his hands. “Easy there, pal. No one is saying that. I’m just asking questions here. Trying to help you and Pumpkin. Relax, friend.”
But I couldn’t relax. The direction Dr. Pete was heading in seemed awfully specific all of a sudden. Did he know something? Had he talked to Pumpkin about Pumpkin?
I was starting to wonder if Dr. Pete was fucking Pumpkin.
“Let her stay with me a few days,” Dr. Pete said. “Board her, no charge over the weekend. Pick her up Monday. Let me have some time with her and see what I can do for her.”
“Yeah, okay. Thanks, Dr. Pete,” I said.
Dr. Pete grinned. “No problem, Old Sport.”
Fuck you, Dr. Pete, I thought.
I left Dr. Pete’s office and went for a couple beers. By the time I was pulling into my driveway back home, he called me.
“Good news!” he announced. “Pumpkin took a big poop in our poop yard just a little while ago.”
My heart sunk. We were killing our dog. “That’s great. Should I come get her?” I asked.
“No, no,” said Dr. Pete. “Let’s stick to the weekend plan.”
I said “ok, thanks” and ended the call.
All of a sudden, I hated Dr. Pete.
I parked in the driveway since the garage entry to the house was through the kitchen and laundry room, and I didn’t want to accidentally run into Pumpkin again. I found her in the bedroom, folding her clothes and laying them on the bed.
“Good news!” I said. “Pumpkin took a big shit at Dr. Pete’s.”
She smiled an odd, large smile, and said, “That’s great,” as she pulled a small suitcase out of her closet and placed it on the bed.
“Going somewhere?” I asked.
“Some of the girls are going to Sheila’s lake house,” Pumpkin said.
“Sheila?” I said.
“Yeah, you know,” she replied. “Dr. Phil’s wife.”
“Ah,” I said and headed for the kitchen. We were out of beer.
Pumpkin never came back from her weekend away, not really. Neither did Pumpkin.
I eventually changed the locks on the doors, and we made arrangements for her to come by a few days a week and get more of her stuff until it was all gone. She didn’t want the furniture. She was moving in with Dr. Pete, at his lake house, she said.
“What about Pumpkin,” I asked.
“Oh she’s staying with me,” she said. “You don’t know how to care for a dog.”