Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Shop Dog


The Shop smelled of broken dreams and lost love and mice and wet shoes, and all of it was fuzzy with dust.

As Virgil watched, almost smiling, I wobbled around, familiarizing myself with the layout. Under the racks and behind the bookcases and into the deserted corners.

I heaved my front end up onto boxes to sniff at the cardboard flaps and stuck my head into the bathroom that smelled of urine and followed a spider along the base of the wall, sniffing, sniffing, until it reared up in annoyance.

I got on my belly and wormed under the sales counter with the dropped change and lost receipts and balls of hair. And then I got stuck. Virgil tipped the counter up on two legs as I scrambled out, sneezing. Everything in the case shifted six inches to the front, and stayed that way.

I found sweaty old clothes hanging from pipes in the ceiling and cut glass candle sticks and board games in broken boxes and photos of someone's ancestors and jars of marbles and half-empty cardboard cartons spilling their contents onto the concrete in places where the linoleum had worn away. There were cases full of sparkly jewelry and broken meat grinders. Anything you could possibly want, you could find in our shop.

Overall, it was satisfactory. There and then, I embraced my new career as a Shop Dog.

Every night we watched television together, and every day we hobbled down the stairs to the Shop. Virgil read novels that smelled like autumn leaves. I lay on my bed behind the counter, or under the army surplus rack, and watched.

It wasn't  just a junk shop. People called it that because we weren't much for cleaning and things were organized according to whether Virgil Got Around To It.

But it was a lot more than a junk shop. A person looking at it with eyes of wonder would have seen a place of possibilities. Anything could be there. Everything was there. Everything in the whole world. I know, you think I'm exaggerating because you only look with your eyes. You glance over something, and you think you know it.

Well, it's not looking that will help, anyway. It's seeing. And seeing isn't only with your eyes.

You know they train dogs to be "seeing eyes", which is kind of ironic, considering our vision is, well, mediocre. But the thing is, dogs don't see with their eyes. We see with our hearts. We see with smell and sound and feel. We know all the scents on the wind, the tension in the air. We see what you're thinking. We hear what you don't say. We touch you with our eyes. We make things happen by wanting.

Dogs operate in a connected universe. People, not so. Even when you think you can see, you're blind: The Orphans of the Universe.