October 18, 2006
There is grief everywhere. Somewhere, as you read this, someone is moaning in pain, her life shattered, her dreams a puddle of mangled flesh, her agony inconsolable.
But it is doubtless the pits of despair have ever been as deep as they were last Sunday at my house.
Garcia, our troubled dog, has had a rough time in this world. He doesn't quite comprehend things the way a normal dog does. When we ask him to "sit," he'll scratch his ear. When we ask him "do you want a biscuit?" he wants to go out. He is bewildered and befuddled, which is why I fondly call him "Tardo."
Sunday, however, apparently bored with being alone, he did something that for him was completely out of character, meaning it required dexterity and even some intelligence, which, as far as I could previously tell, he didn't have an abundance of. Put another way, if Garcia and a walnut were given an IQ test, the walnut would be a 3-1 favorite to score better.
In the interest of full disclosure I should point out the dog really wasn't completely alone. He was almost alone. I was in the house — as Karen would bitterly point out later — and yes, technically speaking, I was sequestered in my den, or as it is fondly known during football season, The War Room. I was really, really busy.
Garcia, upstairs, might as well have been on another planet. So when he ambled into Karen's studio and began poking at the bag on the floor, no one heard him. He wiggled his nose around, opened the bag that had been loosely tied and dragged it around the room until he secured a treasure for himself that he carried onto the bed to more fully appreciate, that is to say, eat.
I was busily gathering the stats from the afternoon games when Karen arrived home and went upstairs. The resulting wails of anguish, the sobs of utter ruination, pierced the air. I was, needless to say, devastated. I turned the volume up to hear the game and the very next commercial I raced upstairs.
"You won't believe what happened," she said gravely, the despair seeping from every pore.
"All our relatives were engulfed by a giant fireball and their charred bodies are being sold on e-Bay?"
"Worse," she sobbed.
"A plane crashed into TJ Maxx?"
Devastated, she held them up. "They're dead," she said through the sobs.
"They're just shoes," I observed.
"They are not just shoes," she said angrily. "Donna Karan peep toe, sling back, hand embroidered platforms, and they are ruined."
I tried to console her. "Hun, don't cry. I will buy you another pair."
"They are one of a kind!" she screeched. "They cost a fortune!"
I tried to console her. "Hun, you can buy yourself another pair," I whispered gently, trying to embrace her, kiss her, calm her before I missed any more of the game.
I knew, instinctively as married men do, that this was going to turn ugly very soon. In other words, I knew that before it was over it would be all my fault. This is where experience comes in. Men, if you don't know this, learn the lesson well now: THE BEST DEFENSE IS A GOOD OFFENSE.
Sensing a fierce attack about to come my way, I lashed out. "How many times does this have to happen before you learn not to leave your shoes out?" I shouted. "What's wrong with you?"
"I didn't leave them out. They were in the bag, in my studio. You were here! It's your fault!"
There it was. As always, when times are tough I stood up, as the man of the family, puffed up my chest, and readied to carry the burden. Well, not really.
I wheeled around and confronted the dog. "You ate the shoes! Bad! Bad!" I shouted at Garcia, who wagged his tail. "What's wrong with you?" He just stared at us with that dumber-than-a-walnut look on his face.
Karen gathered up the remains of the murder victims like a mother might cradle her infants.
"Do you want to bury them outside next to the dead parakeets?" I asked earnestly. She just glared.
I mourned with her until I heard halftime ending on the TV downstairs. It was time to begin the healing process by forgetting about the entire incident.
"They were beautiful shoes," I whispered as I grabbed the bowl of nachos and my beer. "They led a happy life."
"I never even wore them!" she sobbed.
"They were virgins, then," I pointed out. "They go right to heaven."
I turned and walked down the hall, took a swig, looked back at this limp, slumping ball of misery and uttered a last, soothing sentence. "At least the Jimmy Choo's are safe," I whispered.
Rick Murphy won four writing awards at this year's New York Press Association convention. "Low Tidings" is a three-time winner of the Best Column award.