When drama knocks, don't answer the door

Posted: Thursday, July 03, 2003

It all started on Friday the 13th when this black Lab I was dog-sitting had diarrhea in the back of my pickup truck. I was about to take it for a walk and I think I was even whistling when I opened the back hatch. Then, the Lab leapt out and my eyes fell upon the heinous, putrid mess. A half dozen buckets of bleach water later, the mess was gone, but a black cloud had rolled in and parked itself over my head. I felt meanness well up in me like acid reflux.

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Julia O'Malley can be reached at jomalley@juneauempire.com.

The next morning, I woke early to the pitter-patter of golf clapping on TV. Sara, who I live with, was watching men's golf and, for some reason, that made me mad. I play golf and I even like watching women's golf, (I admit I mostly like watching it for the outfits) but men's golf is so dry, so about tubby, Casey-Kasem-voiced dudes standing around speculating in those irritating blue blazers with brass buttons. And, unlike every other televised sporting event, golf goes on all day long for days at a time. I seethed quietly and drank coffee. Sara's robot eyes were locked on Vijay Singh, who was making a long putt. I opened and closed the kitchen cabinets, using more force than usual.

I have this opinion about drama. Drama is like an ex you should never have dated, but you occasionally end up with at the end of an evening anyway. You are lonely, or moody, or sad, and you see drama and drama looks better than you remember, and you conveniently forget how icky you felt after you hung out with drama last time, so you buy drama a shot of Jagermeister from across the room for old time's sake, and then before you know it, you are letting drama drive your car to its house.

Anyway, just as I was about to complain that the sound of golf clapping was like a cheese grater on my gray matter, I realized the black Lab was about to be sick, again, on the carpet. I threw it outside and the Lab began to bark maniacally, in persistent, high-pitched yips. I felt my breathing get shallow. Sara, still under golf hypnosis, sighed and said cheerfully that she needed to run some errands, and asked if I wanted to come.

I considered that for a moment. I could throw on some jeans, I thought, maybe get a bagel. The TV erupted into golf clapping. I felt drama's pull. Maybe things would be different this time with me and drama, I considered. Maybe drama was what I needed to feel better.

"I can't go out," I told Sara. "I'm too fat to be seen in public."

Sara is one of the rare people on the planet who never went out with drama, and certainly wasn't going to get involved in whatever was going on with mine.

"OK," she said, and walked right out the door. I stomped back to my bed.

With my down comforter pulled up to my chin, I realized the Lab was still barking. Piercing yelps rang out across the channel and caused dogs for miles to respond in a chorus. Now that drama and I were together, I was paralyzed, a victim of that wicked, gastrointestinally-distressed Labrador retriever.

"Shut up!" I yelled, woundedly. The Lab was quiet for a brief moment, but started again. I heard a pounding at my door. Generally, no one comes to my door on North Douglas except Jehovah's Witnesses, so I tried to ignore it, but the pounding intensified. I changed out of pajamas.

When I opened the door, a man was standing there, smeared with mud, wearing cut-off jeans, XtraTufs and a wild look in his eye.

"Listen," he said. "Can you do something about your dog? I'm trying to garden, and it has been barking all morning, and it's driving me crazy."

"I'm sorry," I tried to explain. "It's not my dog. It has diarrhea. It can't come inside. I don't know what to do."

"I can think of one solution," the man said, staring me down. "And it would be permanent."

The man turned on his rubber heel, and stomped off. The TV applauded in cruel, muted claps. I suddenly felt a rush of sympathy for the Lab, now mercifully silent, that looked at me through the patio door, a ribbon of drool wrapped around its muzzle.

I couldn't take it. I snorted out a sob because I had seen into my future. If things kept up with me and drama, I'd be knocking on the door of people I didn't know, threatening their dogs at 11:30 on a Saturday morning. Like a road-worn ex enhanced briefly by the dim light of a bar, drama might seem convenient, or cathartic even, but it doesn't really get you anyplace but back where you started, depressed, and yelling at an incontinent black Lab from your bed.

In that moment a lesson was learned: When drama comes knocking, don't answer the door. Put on your jeans, and go get a bagel.

Julia O'Malley can be reached at jomalley@juneauempire.com.

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