My partner Sam really wanted a dog, which terrified me because I knew I would kill it. I am the person who sees the worst possible scenario in clear, neurotic detail. The leash would snap, and then a tractor-trailer carrying elephants to the circus would run the thing over, and I would be in the street, sobbing, weeping, the broken leash dangling from my arm like a hangman’s rope. Then Sam would break up with me, and I’d wind up in jail for animal cruelty.
I am the person whose phone is always cracked. I am the person who leaves his wallet at the grocery checkout, and poor Gladys the Grocery Bagger with her white hair askew comes running after me, sans walker, Excuse me, sir! I once threw my toll transponder, normally glued to the windshield, in a trashcan at a gas station. How would I care for a small, helpless animal?
Sam bought books to prepare us (meaning, me) for the dog, books on house training and canine kindergarten and dog whispering. Dogs for Dummies. He read them, studiously and carefully, like one of his court briefs.
I wouldn’t touch the damn things. “Won’t you at least read a chapter?” he would ask. I couldn’t tell him the truth, that we wouldn’t need those books because I would become Adam, the Canine Killer, when I dropped a piece of poisonous chocolate on the floor. Or maybe when a rabid squirrel catapulted itself into our condo and sunk its foaming teeth into its trembling flesh, chittering, You’re a terrible parent! In my nightmares, squirrels talk only in accusations.
“He’s not an it!” Sam was yelling at me, looking at the website for our designer dog breeder from Tennessee. I have allergic reactions to life, so we had settled on one of the most hypoallergenic breeds possible, a mix of toy poodle and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He is checking out flights for our unborn child. “What in the hell is wrong with you?”
“It,” I said, “has not been conceived yet. It’s not even a fetus.” “I’m beginning to think you don’t want this dog.” “You can’t read a book and be a good a parent!” I said.
The argument went on for weeks, until I finally sat down and skimmed through the books long enough to memorize a few basic facts and spit