Dear Goddamned Beagle,
We have been fogey-sitting now for days. Many days. Hundreds and hundreds of days. I move from couch to table as I work through the hours between tasks like, “Did you hear that? Maybe it’s the mailman!” (We don’t have a mailman.) ” What did you do with the remote?” (Nothing. It’s on your lap for easy raising the volume of MSNBC from the high 50s into the 60s.) “Oh Marjie, I’ve been meaning to ask you. Will you please rewire the wifi system? I bought a router but the thing doesn’t work and I think just a wire will do it. Oh, just drill through the floor.”
11:00 “Is it almost time for lunch?”
4:30 “Is it almost time for dinner?”
7:30 “Is it almost time for Rachel?”
You and I go on our walk each day, rain or that one day there was shine. We go to bed early so that I can watch soothing murder shows on the iPad as the pasty white talking heads yammer away on the TV on the other side of our bedroom wall. By 11:00 pm things are pretty quiet, and sometimes we go back out into the living room and read. We get up early and catch a couple of hours of quiet before the tasks and conversations start again. In other words, we have our new routine brought about by the pandemic we’re in, and the need for certain people to have regular help.
We travel back home about each week to collect our own mail, check-in on the house, take deep breaths of indoor air less than 74 degrees warm. A night or two and we’re back. “Commuting distancing” is, it turns out, more disruptive than regular old social distancing where at least the junk mail doesn’t pile up. Regardless, it’s what we need to do, and though your constant companionship is a fine thing, I do have one complaint.
Your name is Nellie. I call you Beagz. Beagle. Beagie. Never, ever have I called you Wendy. Yet whenever your grandfather speaks to you, which he does with some frequency, he calls you Wendy and you respond.
He’s also called you Peggy and Sally. You responded then, too.
I know you know your name because whenever I say it you look. Well, not at me exactly, but at the table, or next to wherever I am, hoping I’m mentioning you to someone and are therefore distracted enough to leave my plate, maybe, or at least a cracker unattended. Or my tea. You do like English Breakfast.
My years-long history of reinforcement with you seems to pale in comparison to this random renaming. Oh, you may think, I’m being overly sensitive? May I point out that as we sit on the couch, day after day, it is not me you are communing with.
Through this all I’ve noticed a few things, among them: While the Trollop leaves more food on the table for you to abscond with, you still choose the old man as your hip of choice; he has a lot of pink shirts (his choice of women has always left much to be desired, but this one, with the pink shirts…); there is someone on the planet who snores louder than you do.
In a few days, we’ll be headed home again for a brief respite. I’ll sit at my office chair while you sleep in your bed, then I’ll move to our couch where you’ll doze across two of the three seats, as always. And then we’ll return once more to the inexorable tides of working and cooking and eating and cleaning and doing for and, in your case, theft and perfidious napping.
You appear so innocent when you’re sleeping. You just yawned and stretched, and I watched him pat your hip as he said, “You’re a good girl, Wendy.” But I saw your one eye open just enough to look at me.
“See?” you implied, “I’m a good girl. The old man says so.”
If you say so, Beagle.