"CHARLIE! COME HERE CHARLIE!"
Eyes scanning the lawns of the houses as I walk up the street, I’m trying to make out the form of a dog. It's been at least an hour now. An hour of wandering around like an idiot, yelling out for a dog that isn't even mine. An hour of watching the sky fade to black above me and reminding me that this is another reason I don’t have a dog of my own.
Where I should be is at my friend Andy's house, watching the hockey game. Arriving at his place, I found him outside, distraught that his dog Charlie had escaped the backyard fence and begged me to help find him. I had agreed at the time, mostly because it was another half hour before the game began and it wasn't yet dark out.
Now the street lights are on and I'm still wandering the street like a lost soul. Andy had gone off in the other direction, hoping we'd cover more ground that way. It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that I didn’t actually know the area and could face the very real possibility that I would get hopelessly lost.
Movement in one of the windows catches my eye. Someone is watching me as I walk by their house and call out Charlie's name again. They probably think I'm some crazy person, looking to lure in children with the old "Would you like to help me look for my lost dog?" story. Well sorry people, I'm not that kind of girl and there will be no children's bloody bodies found in pieces because of me. Find yourselves another psycho to look for; I'm just looking for a dog named Charlie.
In fact, it should be me that they're worried about. A lone girl wandering the streets when it's almost dark, how smart is that? Not that violence is a big concern around here but still, this isn't the smartest thing I've ever done. If someone were to abduct me right now, only the nosy watcher in the window would see. It'd be my body the police found bloody and in pieces, not some kid.
Not that I’m a sad weakling of a chick. If I keep my wits about me, fighting off an attacker might not be impossible. I could inflict some damage of my own I’m sure. Besides, half of the battle is mental. Show no fear. Get that crazy look in the eyes. Go for the throat. Oh yes, the keys in my pocket could be used as a weapon. That certainly would give that watcher in the window something to gawk at as I jabbed the throat of some attacker with my keys.
It only takes me another few minutes of paranoid thoughts to decide that turning back is indeed the best idea. There aren't any dogs around here, Charlie or otherwise. Walking up the other side of the street will hopefully convince the nosy watcher that I'm harmless and retreating back the way I had come. Maybe it will give them something to talk about over dinner with their spouse.
The way back is looking quite different. So intent on trying to find Charlie, I hadn't paid any attention to where I was going. Great, who would go out looking for me now? Not Charlie, that's for sure. That dog is probably pissing on some person’s prize winning flower garden while I’m out here lost and starting to feel pretty annoyed with the whole situation.
The hockey game would have begun by now. The anticipation of watching it was the only thing keeping me going this week and now I'm missing it. Figures. The one time I plan to go out and do something and it's thwarted by a lost dog and my own pathetic sense of direction. If this were a TV show, this would be the episode where my character is out wandering all night and can’t find a way home while everyone in the audience laughs at me for being so clueless.
Maybe Andy was lying. Now that I’m thinking about it, I don't remember ever seeing his dog before. Has he always had one? My memory doesn't bring anything to the surface to indicate that I had seen this dog Charlie or even heard of him before tonight. Maybe there was no dog and Andy was just trying to get rid of me. Maybe he made up this dog just so he could send me into the streets and laugh at me as he watched the game by himself.
So this is how the madness begins; I'm out looking for a dog that doesn't even exist. What if Andy doesn't exist either and my own twisted mind made it all up just to confuse me and send me out into the streets to meet my death? Panic begins to sink in. What if I really am going mad?
Breathe, just breathe. Andy exists; we've been friends for years I remind myself. After a few more breaths my brain relents and releases the memory of Andy telling me he's dog sitting for his sister this weekend. I'm not going mad yet and Andy hasn't lied to me about Charlie. This dog very probably exists.
A loud bark scares me out of my thoughts and I let out a yelp. Running as fast as it can, straight towards me, is a large shaggy dog.
"Charlie?" I manage to get out, hoping it is and that I'm not about to be torn apart by some wild rabid dog. It comes to a skidding stop in front of me and barks again; its tail wagging so vigorously that it almost falls over.
Andy's strained voice causes both Charlie and I to look up the street. Just able to make out Andy's expression in the dim streetlights, his frown relays that he is not enjoying this dog hunt. Realizing that now is my chance to put an end to this, I reach down and firmly grab Charlie's collar.
"Time to go home." I tell him as he looks at me and wags his tail.
“I’ve been chasing him for the last 10 minutes.” Andy pants when he finally reaches me. Clipping the leash on, he scolds Charlie for running away and making us miss the start of the game.
"Sorry about all this." Andy apologizes to me as we walk back towards his place. "How about I get us pizza to make up for it?"
Charlie barks and pulls on the leash as if suddenly in a hurry to finally get home.
“With extra cheese? And I don’t have to share with Charlie?”
Andy laughs. “No pizza at all for Charlie tonight. Besides, he already got his fill of someone’s garbage about a block over. Damn dog. My sister can go clean the mess and him up.”
An hour later the whole search has been forgotten and Charlie forgiven. Let inside to watch the final period, he barks as we cheer and eventually gets Andy to cave in and share his pizza. As I leave for the night, Andy tells me he’ll phone tomorrow and I wave good bye to Charlie as he peers at me through the window and wags his tail. Maybe I should get a dog, they’re not so bad.