Monday, July 5, 1999
As one of my dumber ideas—and let me tell you, I’ve had plenty, though none involved investing in water bras—I thought we’d take the dog to the Fourth of July Celebrations. She’d been alone all day, locked in a strange room. She’d behaved perfectly, not even messing up the bed she’d probably been loafing on. Nothing was wet or chewed. What better reward than a night out?
How about a night huddling under the mattress?
Dogs don’t like fireworks. I shoulda read the instruction book. But protective Tom didn’t know that, either, or he wouldn’t have let me bring her along.
We ‘d gone to dinner first, without her—there are damn few dog-friendly restaurants. This was a different place, less pink than the night before’s, but with lousier food. “Where are the good fireworks?” I’d asked the waitress.
Damned if she knew.
I asked the motel clerk, heading out—this restaurant was conveniently in our Best Western. As I stood at the counter waiting my turn, a young woman was efficiently settling a large bill. It seemed she’d gotten married the night before. And if it hadn’t been for her great-aunt—who was supposed to come in from out-of-town, but had to change her plans at the last moment ’cause she was kinda old and wasn’t feeling up to traveling in the heat—Tom and I might not have had a dry place to stay.
She didn’t exactly tell me this, so I couldn’t offer congratulations, and politely ask about her great-aunt’s health. The clerk had casually mentioned, the day before there’d been a cancellation, and when we arrived in the room there’d been a welcoming basket given to all immediate members of the wedding party, along with instructions for the rehearsal. I’d returned it, displaying my honesty—and what was I gonna do with cheap perfume anyway?
But I did smile at the new bride, and wish her well, then asked the night clerk for firework directions.
“Down by the river,” came the answer—which sounded Biblical, but made sense. If you’re gonna set sparks off in a desert at least shoot them where they can’t catch fire.
“How do I get there?” I asked. And once the clerk made sure I wasn’t joking—this was a one-river town—he drew me a map.
Which didn’t include parking. Or all the people, from miles around, who’d come to see the mini-blasts. And had been picking the good places on the river banks while Tom and I were gumming medicore dinner.
“Where should I go?” Tom asked, a frequent counterpoint to “I’ll pay for the damage.”
“Right,” I suggested. Then right again. And further right. The river was on our left.
“It’s getting dark,” Tom observed. And over the river, we could hear popping.
But we found a place to park. And we found a grassy knoll by the water. And the festivities hadn’t begun, so we settled in.
And the dog was under Tom. Or trying to get under Tom. Shuddering at his shoulder. Digging between his legs. I noticed she didn’t come to me for comfort. She knew instinctively who’d suggested this torment.
“Should we leave?” I asked Tom.
Since he hadn’t read the manual, he didn’t know this was a genetic problem. And there were no other dogs around for comparison. Except a baby Pekinese, bolted to its owner’s Xtra-large bosom.
“She’ll be okay,” Tom decided, stroking her ears.
Well, maybe not.
But you gotta say this for the dog—she was game. Whenever the booms stopped for a moment, she’d peek out from under Tom’s arm. Only to retreat at the next flash. She quickly grasped the concept that light travels faster than sound.
The fireworks were only okay. Mainly, it was the City on one bank and the Masons on the other—this announced by dueling electronic megaphones from boats in the river (now that was the place to be, except if you were a dog). Neither side had anything really pretty. Or understood how to build to a finish. Or even start small. It was all very Slam-Bam. Isolated ooohs, then erradic pauses filled by a distant high school band—coming late, we were at the wrong end of the river.
Though had we been at the right end, the dog might have torn out my throat. Not exactly my idea of a capital Fourth.
Still, she sure slept well once we we back at the Best Western, and this morning we set off for Deming. There was nothing particular there, and when we left Carlsbad we had no idea where we were heading. To Tucson, the day after, to stop by Tom’s mom. But oh, how dumb was Deming.
You’d think it might not so seem so bad after rust-strewn Alamogordo. (We glanced at the nuclear white sands, then at omnipresent missile range warnings, but didn’t stick around for obligatory X-rays.) Just before that, the Lincoln National Forest was, well, green. But there was no more reason for it to be named for Abe than to explain the road signs intersecting one-lane-Hollwood Boulevard with dirt-Broadway.
In Deming we stayed at the Holiday Inn. We ate dinner at the Holiday Inn. We had breakfast in our room. Morning meals had gotten so bad, that a few days earlier Tom bought a couple of discardable bowls and a box of Corn Flakes. Each morning, getting up far earlier than I did, he chased down fresh quarts of milk and orange juice, and drinkable coffee.
We could afford the Holiday Inns and Best Westerns now because we were almost home, and knew how much we’d spent. Pretty much as predicted: about five grand each.