A struggling actor has a career epiphany made possible by a pooch with an unexpected plan. 2,377 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.
I was in the bathtub about to slide the straightedge into my wrist when I heard Marlon Brando call out, “Don’t do it, Paul.”
“Ronnie?” I called back in a voice that alarmed me when I heard it. Ronnie, the closest thing I have to a friend, is an impressionist. I thought maybe Providence had made him afraid for me and sent him, like the angel Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life.
“It’s not Ronnie. Come here, I want to talk to you.”
I laid down the blade on the side of the bathtub, pulled my body out and sloshed into the main room of my studio apartment. I didn’t bother drying or covering myself. If it’s Ronnie, who cares. If it’s the ghost of Marlon Brando, let me present myself as God made me.
I didn’t see Marlon Brando or his ghost in my apartment. Only Bella, gazing up at me from the kitchen area faithfully and – I knew her so well – hungrily. I stared at my dog. A mutt, delicate, pure white, forty pounds give or take, her fur hanging down her sides long and fine but, on her head and face, short. I’d almost left her alone in the world, my personal Old Yeller to whimper endlessly over my grave. I scratched her behind an ear and sobbed as I pulled her head against mine. I’d bathed her recently and she smelled like vanilla cookies.
“I love you too, Paul,” she said in Brando’s voice. Her mouth moved, like the talking dog in Babe. She glanced behind herself and added, again in Brando’s voice, “Jeez, I wish I had balls to lick.”