This week one of the Hampton Roads Writers makes his debut at cavalcadeofstars. Please welcome Jim Healy.
BEAUREGARD Vs. ME
By Jim Healy
I have always liked dogs, and with few exceptions I believe the feeling has been reciprocated. One exception was an ill-tempered Chow who chomped on my imprudent four-year-old posterior when I teased him. Another was Beauregard.
Beauregard was a big English bulldog, a big, ugly, English bulldog with incessantly drooling jowls. Very big drooling jowls. He came into my life in the 1980’s via his master and mistress, occasional vacationing neighbors in an adjoining Virginia Beach townhouse. I always knew when Beauregard was in town because his owner, Hal, would spend every other day replacing screens that Beauregard had chewed up or bounded through. Along with being big and ugly, Beauregard, named after a Confederate general, was strong, with a questionable personality which I diagnosed as schizophrenic. I wondered if he perhaps harbored latent British hostility to my Irish heritage, or possibly resentment over the outcome of the war between the states.
Beauregard traveled in style, arriving in his huge, custom-made transit cage, transported nationwide through the friendly skies thanks to Hal’s status as a retired airline captain. A thick chain, anchored to a heavy porch table provided Beauregard limited roaming room on the patio adjoining mine.
In contrast to Beauregard’s quirky temperament, Hal and his wife, Mary, a southern belle, steeped in Civil War nostalgia, were super neighbors. They were also gracious hosts, except for one evening when my late wife, Kit, and I were invited to dinner. Kit looked lovely in a new pair of white silk slacks to which Beauregard seemed to take an instant liking since he kept nuzzling his drooling jowls in her lap throughout our stay. He also displayed a proprietary interest in my dinner table chair, as he shouldered me aside and nearly toppled me to the floor. When Hal finally removed him to another room, Beauregard cast me a doleful “I’ll get even” glare.
Beauregard wasted little time in achieving retribution, with a defiant gesture the following morning as my wife and I enjoyed breakfast at our dining room table overlooking our patio. Extending his restraining chain to the maximum, Beauregard lumbered around the dividing wall like a constipated Sumo wrestler. He dispatched a disdainful glower in our direction, turned his back, squatted, and delivered his calling card.
Following a massive cleanup, and profuse apologies from our mortified neighbors, I confessed no sorrow seeing Beauregard being muscled into his cage for a flight to their Hilton Head residence. “By the way,” Hal said “I’m setting off a flea bomb before we leave. Beauregard always seems to leave a few behind.”
“That’s what those little black critters are,” I said with a laugh, scratching here and there and waving goodbye.
No sleep was lost over Beauregard’s departure until a few days later when Hal telephoned to ask me to check inside his unit to make sure his outside water outlets were cut off.
Are those?” my wife exclaimed when I returned from my next-door mission. She pointed to a mass of small black specks clinging to the legs of my beige slacks.
“They’re all over the place,” I replied, heading outside to brush them off. “Thought I got them all before I came in, but I didn’t see the ones on the back Hal’s flea bomb obviously didn’t go off. They must have been incubating ever since.”
When I reported the developments to Hal, with veiled greetings to Beauregard, he asked that I call an exterminator for him.
We better have Ray The Bug Man do our place too,” Kit suggested. “I’ve found a few of them since you went next door.”
While having dinner a few weeks later, my eyes were attracted to a greenish hue on the edges of our light beige carpet, carpeting installed less than a year before following a flood. (That’s another story.) I invited Kit’s attention to what I thought might be an illusion, or possibly the product of too many pre-dinner cocktails.
“Damn, you’re right,” she said, and we were soon on our hands and knees examining the phenomenon. No question, the extremities of the recently treated carpet all glowed an emerald-green. “Call the insurance man,” Kit directed.
By the time the adjuster arrived a few days later, the greenish tint had spread, prompting the man to shake his head and consult his records. “Sure enough,” he said, “we installed a new brand of carpeting after your flood. There was some ingredient in the dying process that reacts to certain exterminator chemicals Have you had your carpet treated lately?”
The image of Beauregard immediately flashed in my mind’s eye. He had struck again!
In all candor, I must admit that my feelings for Beauregard became somewhat ambivalent, since the carpet manufacturer assumed liability and we received another floor of new carpeting.
I never saw Beauregard again, but received a call from Hal about a year later, informing us that Beauregard had gone to doggy heaven, or elsewhere, as the case may be. It seems that during one of their frequent trips, Beauregard’s luxurious cage had been left too long on an airport’s hot tarmac during a change of planes. He had completed his last flight. It may have been my imagination, but I thought I detected a hint of relief in Hal’s voice. I expressed our sympathy over their loss, but, in all honesty, all I could think of at the time was “Dog gone.”
Bio: Jim Healy is a Detroit native with a Journalism degree from Michigan State. After a short Navy stint he was an FBI agent for 29 years. He writes about cops, robbers, spies, and terrorists, along with humor, fantasy and romance. He lives on Chesapeake Bay and wrote a touching true-life story about saving his wife from drowning during a freak storm on the Chesapeake Bay when they were out on a boat. Published on Moondance http://www.moondance.org/2004/water04/inspirations/almostlost.html