Out on a stroll with Ernesto, we stopped into a dog clothing shop to get him a tiny faux leather jacket. The proprietress, busy at her sewing machine, smiled in greeting.
The inventory was primarily novelty outfits–a circus or halloween supply shop. But on one wall hung the kind of chocolate-brown, shiny vinyl jackets that Shaft once sported, and that a dog could wear with dignity.
“They’re too small,” I said.
“No they’re not,” said Cate.
She squeezed one of Ernie’s legs through a sleeve, then stretched and pulled to force the other leg home. She put him down. He sat like a statue, immobilized by the fabric’s tension, his forelegs splayed and rigid. He looked like an ottoman.
“Why?” his eyes seemed to say. “Why?”
“See?,” said Cate. “Fits.”
“He can’t move.”
“Yes he can.”
“He looks miserable.”
“He always looks like that.” She clapped her hands to her knees. “C’mon, Ernie! C’mon!”
Ernie tried to wobble forward, pivoting from one paralyzed forelimb to the other.
“It doesn’t fit,” said Cate.
We pried the jacket off.
All the while this was happening, the dog-jacket maker watched benignly, wordlessly, reams of dog-jacket fabric spread across her lap, tape measure hanging around her neck.
In an alternate reality, she scurried over to take our dog’s measurements. We discussed and eventually agreed upon a payment method and price, just so much for a deposit, such-and-such day to pick up the product. In this alternate reality, Ernie would one day scamper toasty-warm though New Jersey’s bitter winter, stylishly clad in a Shaft costume. In this alternate reality, the lady’s business thrived, expanding to take over the space next door now occupied by the podiatrist whose entryway is adorned with poster-sized photographs of the most nightmare-worthy things that can happen to Mexican feet.
But in real reality, the dog-jacket lady just smiled with that helpless expression we’ve come to know so well here. The resigned look that says there is absolutely, positively NOTHING than can be done to make this work. And isn’t that just too bad? Isn’t life hard?
“Esa es la mas grande,” I asked?
“Si”, she replied. And we left.
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