Sunday, December 5, 2010

Angel in the Ghetto

This is the third chapter in my book which is yet untitled. The book is about Kate Quigley, a local animal activist, but primarily just Chain of Hope's Dog Rescuer Extraordinaire.

Chapter 3

            “We’re going to Antony’s house.” Kate said.
            “Ok.” I said.
            “Antony is a neat one. You will love him. He has a dog tied outside but don’t judge – this is one dog that is truly happier living her life outside, tied out.”
            Kate rubbed her right hand on her jeans while steering with her left.
            “Damn my hands hurt. Walked Tyson and Sampson yesterday and they’ve never been on a leash. Much less on a walk. They pulled so hard my fucking hands have rope burn.”
            “I know, right?” I said. “I walked Sampson the other day and the little guy is a hell of a lot stronger than he looks!” I looked out the window at the passing downtrodden houses and obvious oppression all around our beat-up van.
            “Anyway, about Antony. After years of working with him, he agreed to pull Melody inside a long time ago. She sat by the door and scratched. And cried. Until he let her back outside on her tie-out.” Kate shook her head. “I couldn’t believe it. He had such good intentions bringing that sweet little dog in during those cold winter months. But she wasn’t having it.”
            I felt ashamed. Ashamed that I judge people and their treatment of dogs. Had I passed Antony’s house without knowing his story I would have assumed he was another ass hole who kept his dog on a chain.
            “Here we are!” Kate said. She steered the van to the curb next to a yellow and brown house with a deck off the second floor. A set of rundown stairs descended from the deck to the concrete below. The house was not as dilapidated as the others in the neighborhood, but still did not look safe.
            “Melody needs antibiotics, food and let’s give her some treats too.” Kate gave every dog treats. Usually we have donors who give food and treats as well as vets who donate meds but if the rawhide supply was scarce, Kate would pull out of her rent money to make sure these dogs had their rawhide. It was like Christmas for these dogs whenever Kate came around.
            The door off the deck opened and a man walked out with a huge smile on his face. “There’s my angel!” He exclaimed.
            “Antony, hi!” Kate said. She walked to meet him and they met with an embrace.
            “Who is this angel?” Antony said and pointed at me.
            “This is Sarah. Sarah, this is Antony.” Kate said.
            I walked to where they stood and extended my hand. He put his arm around me and pulled me in for a hug.
            “Sarah, let me tell you about Kate.”
Kate groaned.
            “Now don’t be actin like that Kate, my angel!” Anthony teased and poked Kate’s arm. He was a big man at six foot two.
            I walked to the dog, Melody, who was protecting her turf of five foot radius that her tie-out allowed for her. I recognized the dog house as one of a handful donated to us years back. Getting down on one knee I extended my right hand. Melody came right to me, sniffed my hand and dove into my chest for some attention.
            “Ok Antony, let’s hear about Kate.” I said.
            “It was about two years ago.  I was working third shift at Ford. It was freezing cold, winter. I’d just gotten off work. I got home and opened the door. The house was freezing. I hadn’t paid the gas bill because I couldn’t afford to. The gas had been shut off.  I turned around and went back outside. Melody, my dog was in her dog house. I went to pet her and she wouldn’t come out. I remember wanting to climb in that house with her. I knew she was mad. She was hungry. I hadn’t fed her in days but I couldn’t afford dog food. I went back inside hoping to get my wife to love me. There was a note from her, Marni. The note said she would pray for me but my drinking was too much. She left me. I couldn’t believe it. I fell to the floor and just sat there. Hours must’ve passed by. I was freezing and hungry. I worked a double-shift that next day."
            Antony was animated as he spoke. Kate stood with her hand on her lip listening to him speak. She had a smile on her face.
            "I stood up and brushed myself off. I walked to my car with the same clothes from the night before and my full bottle of Jim Beam and my car wouldn’t start. This happened before. The bus wouldn’t be across the street for another 20 minutes and I had to switch busses twice. There was no way I was going to be on time. My landline had been shut off so I walked to the nearest pay phone. The pay phone down the street at BP didn’t work so I walked another mile to the 7-Eleven and called my supervisor at Ford. He told me not to even come in. This was my third strike. I was fired. I walked into 7-Eleven and bought another bottle of Jim Beam. I walked home through the snow and had the first bottle gone by the time I got in the door. I drank the second bottle and just waited for Jesus to take me home.”
            I stopped petting Melody for a moment and watched this man talk, with a gleam in his eye as he spoke with such raw honesty. I felt ashamed, once again.
            “There was a knock at my door. I don’t know how long had passed but I could hardly stand up or see. The cops were there to ask me to come identify a homicide – shooting victim from the night before. They believe the victim to be Kendall, my son. They left. I begged Jesus to take me home.”
            As he spoke, Antony didn’t have tears in his eyes. He didn’t plead for sympathy or pity. He spoke again.
            “I didn’t have any pills in the house, not even Aspirin. I didn’t have any money to buy any pills to wash down with the Jim Beam I almost had gone. Then, there was another knock at the door. To be honest with you, I think at the time I thought it was Jesus, come to take me home. I opened the door and there were two ladies. Two skinny white ladies. One was old, white-haired and the other was younger, dark hair.
            “Good afternoon sir, we were in the neighborhood and saw your dog. We were wondering if you needed anything, dog food, dog treats or maybe some medicine to help the sore on her back right leg heal.”
            I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t say anything at first. Then the other white lady, the younger one, spoke to me.
            “Sir, are you ok?”
            I couldn’t answer her at first. Then I said, “Who are you?”
            “I’m Kate and this is Judy” said the younger white lady. “We are with Chain of Hope. We were in the neighborhood. We saw your sweet dog and thought she looked a little skinny. Could you use a couple bags of food?”
            I started crying. I didn’t understand who these two angels were. The old one sat me down on my coach. I was embarrassed – the couch was falling apart.
            “Do you need anything else?” The old one, Judy, asked me.
            “I got fired from my job. My car won’t start. I don’t have any money for the bus. They turned my gas off. I have no food for my dog. My wife left me because I have the demon, it makes me drink…”
            “Shhh…its ok, its ok.” And then, the old white lady hugged me. Just like that. Then, the two of ‘em starting getting stuff done.  They went outside and one took Melody on a walk while the other cleaned out her dog house, put fresh hay in it and gave her a new water bowl. She filled the food bowl and put two brand new bags of dog food on my deck. Judy was the one who took Melody on the walk. I just stood at the door staring at what was going on.
            I remember Kate came up the stairs with a Styrofoam cup in her hands. I opened the door and let her in. She gave me the Styrofoam cup and said “here’s some hot coffee for you, would you like coffee? I haven’t even touched it yet.”
            I stared at her and took the coffee. She went on to tell me that dogs really shouldn’t be living outside in the dead of winter, especially Melody cause she was kind of a smaller dog.
            “Ma’am, I mean, Kate, I would love to have Melody inside with me but she don’t like being inside.”
            “Can you try, for me?” Kate asked me.
            “Sure will ma’am.”
            Judy had come back from her walk and put Melody back on her chain in her dog house. Judy came inside and held out her hand. “This is for you to get your heat turned back on, and for bus fare to get you a new job.”
            I opened my hand and saw several twenty-dollar bills folded up. They were my angels, them two white ladies. I owe my life to them. I’m working now, and Melody has food every day. And this here Kate – she’s my angel cause she come to my house once, maybe twice a month to make sure me and Melody are getting along ok.”
At that moment, Antony put his large arm around Kate’s tiny frame and squeezed her close to him. He kissed her on the forehead and said “Kate’s my angel.”
Kate pulled away and brushed his arm off her jokingly and said, “You are a good man Antony. You deserve all that’s come your way.”
“I thank God every day. I pray and thank God. That day, that dark day back then two years ago when I begged my Lord to take me and bring me home to him, I prayed and prayed. He gave me you.”
I let Kate and Antony catch up and walked back to the van. Moments later Kate returned to the van. She hopped up into the driver’s seat and started the van.
“He is why I do this. Because I know there are good people out there who just need help. When we first met him I assumed he was purposely starving and neglecting Melody. Not at all the case. Just goes to show you there is always more to the story.” Kate lit a cigarette. “And, don’t judge.” Kate started the van.
“He is why I do this. Because I know there are good people out there who just need help. When we first met him I assumed he was purposely starving and neglecting Melody. Not at all the case. Just goes to show you there is always more to the story.” Kate lit a cigarette. “And, don’t judge.”

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