I remember when Hank first walked into the pet store. He was looking for a certain type of poodle that we didn’t have at the time. He said to me “Do you have any French ones?” To which I didn’t know how to reply, “No, but we have a German one.” He paused for a second, questioning my answer. I repeated myself and again he looked puzzled.
I offered him a lick of my green tea.
A lick?” he asked.
“Yes, a lick.” Or maybe it’s called a sip. At the time I was too entranced by his stature. It was soon after that when I offered to close the shop and go out into the streets with him, to other shops, in order to help him find the dog he was looking for. We spent hours searching, but nowhere had what he so desperately seemed to need.
We ended that night by eating ice cream at a small local diner named “Jay’s Eatery”. He had a chocolate milkshake; I had a chocolate-vanilla twist. He told me how the dog was something his daughter had always wanted, but she had passed away recently in a car crash with her boyfriend. The dog was a childhood dream of hers, like a pony or a princess tiara.
He thought that if he got the dog it would bring her back in a way. But the dog seemed to be lost, and instead of bringing him joy it was reminding him that she is also lost, and nowhere to be found. I asked if he would come by the shop again tomorrow and help me with the new kittens we had coming in. he had visited me after work that night and said he would do the same the next one.
The next night came and he showed up, just like he said he would. His tie half off his neck, bottom of his shirt ruffled, his shoelaces untied. I asked him “What happened? Are you okay?” and he responded with a sobbing gesture, a letter he had written me the night before after I had left the diner. It was written on one of the bar napkins and it appeared to be a confession.
He wasn’t actually looking for the dog. He came in looking for me! This shocked me and I didn’t know how to reply to this as he stood there at the pet store’s doorway eyeballing me.
“What does this mean, Edward?” I asked him using apparently his real name.
“I’ve been walking by this pet store for years, seeing you here behind the glass, always too shy to say a single word, almost each and every day after work. So…I made up a story, something to talk to you about. I made up my daughter, or whoever’s daughter that really was,” he replied to my questions.
I told him that the story was a sweet one, though I honestly felt a bit betrayed by it as well. He said that he was sorry, but that it was all that his anxiety would allow. We held each other in a comforting hug, thought I could tell that without his story he felt bare…exposed.
We walked around the pet store, getting to know one another all over again. He laughed as he watched the new kittens play in their pen. He named one of them Oliver and another one Twist. Twist had spiral looking pattern on him, but I knew the reference he was making. After I finished my green tea, or rather he did, I asked him “Do you want some more?” We both laughed together loudly at that one.
Once it was late enough, and a few regulars had come and gone, I closed up the shop and we headed outside once more.
The moon that night was dazzling. It was a rather dark, scary vibe, or otherwise would have been without Edward. But he insisted that we visit the graveyard. We walked there and it took us nearly half the night to traverse the entire area, he didn’t seem to be looking for any grave in particular. Before heading out though, it was as if something snapped in his mind. Still holding my hand he turned us around and began a solid sprint. I kept up as best I could but I knew I was lagging us a bit slower than his intended pace.
He stopped in front of Mr. Elnorm, a man said to die in 1978.
“Who is this?” I asked him.
“It’s supposed to be buried here,” he replied.
“What is?” I asked, very confused by this sudden desire to dig up a dead man.
“Just wait and see,” he replied with an unsettling smirk.
This man has managed to stump me as to whom he is twice in a single day. What was wrong with him? Is there something I’m missing in his character?
He told me to stay put so that he could easily find the grave again. He ran off and I could hear him trying to break off the lock to the groundkeepers shed. He must’ve figured it out because he came back holding two shovels and attempted to hand one over to me. I refused, telling him that I wanted no part in this vandalism and neither should he. He shrugged, but told me to wait and see what was inside.
He dug for close to two hours, and yes, I stood there being his lookout. Somewhere in this strange man was something I seemed to admire. He was a quiet and mysterious gentleman.
“Ah hah!” he finally spoke from down in the hole.
I peered down and noticed something had been buried a couple feet above where the coffin would be. He dragged something out from the dirt and lobbed it up onto the dew loaded grass.
“What is this?” I asked him.
“Something that is going to make our lives a lot easier,” he replied.
The chest was padlocked, but he soon cracked it open via a few whacks from his shovel.
Once opened my jaw dropped as I saw what was inside.
“Tiny rocks?” I asked.
“What? No.” He laughed and pulled a lighter from his coat pocket. Did he smoke? I wondered.
He lit the flame and exposed the tiny rocks to be radiant purple gemstones.
“Each one of these is worth more than both our salaries in a year!” he exclaimed.
“Then why wait until now to dig it up? Why aren’t you in Hollywood?”
“Because I was waiting to meet you, I didn’t want all this money and still be alone. I’ve had this buried here,” he says bashfully “for years.”
A tear falls down my cheek at this gesture, however creepy it may come off as. I was actually smitten by it.
“That’s beautiful, Edward.”
“Not as beautiful as you,” he replied.
We gobbled into our hands and pockets as much as we could before throwing the chest back down into the hole for safe keeping.
“Won’t someone notice?” I asked.
“Not as long as we cover it back up with the grass clumps,” he responded.
He was right, with the grass clumps set back on top of the once again covered grave you could almost not even tell what occurred this night. It would remain our little secret for as long as we both could keep it.
We pawned off two gems that night. Getting nowhere near as much as we should have, but we had money now, more than either of us was used to.
First thing we did was hail a car and hit the bars for the rest of the night…or rather morning. At 8am, slouched in a drug store, we both decided it was time to end our tirade.
A different cab driver picked us up, but received the same handsome tip as the one before.
“Gee, thanks a lot, Pal!” he shouted as we left the small yellow cab and headed for my apartment door, up a single flight of stairs and two keys to unlock the door before we were finally alone once again. Before being able to do anything dangerous we were passed out on the kitchen floor, the refrigerator open and pudding smothered onto each of our faces.
I woke up the next day to find him sitting on the balcony smoking a cigar.
“What’s up?” I sarcastically asked him.
“What time does the pet store open?” he replied with a smirk. We both missed work that day, he hadn’t called in and got a warning from his manager, moments after he called back and told his manager to “Fuck off!” because he didn’t even need the job anymore. The rest of that day we spent lounging around the apartment in our underwear, passing out periodically because of all the cheap wine I kept in various “hiding spots”.
A week went by, the shop remained without my care, but I gave my few employees more responsibility, or rather ALL of the responsibility.
We spent most of the week on the balcony, just planning our escape.
Eventually we packed our bags and headed for nicer weather. We ended up in Miami, feeling like we were way overdressed.
We bought a luxurious home, several servants, guards, cooks. We got all of it, the cars, the pool, the…he wanted an airplane as well as a helicopter to compliment the pad we had put on the roof.
“Won’t people be suspicious of all of this?” I asked him during my first sober moment in months.
“What does that matter? They can’t even reach us!”
I shrugged, thinking that he had a point, in a way.
The days seemed to be getting longer. I was missing my job back at the pet store. The regulars like Charlie and Diane. David, a young teenager was just starting to become one. I could tell that he would eventually be buying a snake.
“Can we go back?”
“Why would we do that? We have everything we could ever want!”
He had a point. We seemed to have it all. More days flew by, like birds migrating they all seemed to be leading somewhere, though I wasn’t sure if it would be good or bad.
Edward got into using drugs to pass the time. I refused to indulge with him and instead I’d spend my time outside on the patio, reading or writing up a poem.
I was losing him, or losing who I thought he was. I never seemed to ever really “know him”. It was always a dream when he was around. The gems, we had plenty at the beginning, but they would soon run out. We would have to go back to the grave and get the rest of them. One morning he made the plans to do just that.
We got onto a flight back a little before brunch and both of us were wide-eyed the entire plane ride. We both just wanted those gems so badly, it seemed like years had gone by in a single day.
Once back to the beginning we ran full sprint and found the grave. With shovels in hand we both frantically dug for close to an hour, until we heard a harsh “thud”. We had hit the coffin, and not found the gems.
I could see in his eyes that he was about to start crying. So I placed my hand onto his shoulder and he snapped back at me. He raised his voice and shouted “You! Where did you put them? You vile witch!”
I was blown away by this. Why would I take them? I tried to explain myself but he wouldn’t listen. He picked up his shovel and gripped it tightly. I became worried and placed a hand to mine while still on the ground. Aiming for my neck he lunged with the shovel’s blade, missing me as I dodged. With my own shovel I swung at his shins and shriveled him to the ground. Before he could think to act again I plunged my shovel into his gut. I crawled out of the grave, weeping. No one was around, so I ran, leaving my shovel behind.
I still had a couple gems I hadn’t told him about. I went to the same pawn shop we had gone to those years ago and got my money.
My first purchase was a dog; my pet store finally got them, a French poodle. It reminded me of someone, someone who had died and that I loved very much. He once expressed a desire to have one, and so, to remember him and all the great things he did, I got one.
I had named her Isabel, the name I had always wanted to give a daughter.
The rest of that day filled with rain. All of what happened washing down into the grave.
I write this now, at my desk, in my old age. To say “I’m sorry, Edward. I loved you to the point of my own demise. I watched you come into my life as well as leave it without ever truly getting to know you.”
Isabel lived for six years, dying of a seizure while I was away. At least that is what the facility caring for her told me. I believed them, but cried deeper than ever that night. The first night I had truly been alone in years.
I never visited the pet store again, and I never found out if David ever got that snake he wanted so much. But I bet he did, David was a good kid, a real gentleman.
As for our house in Miami, I suppose the butlers, cooks, guards and jesters all fell bored of waiting and either left or partied. The house was under his name and I’ve never bothered to return to it.
The pet store, maybe I should visit before I go, one last time for the sake of it. I could watch the new kittens, listen to them purr. Or see if any new poodles are in. But seeing another Isabel would be tough on me. It would be like meeting Edward all over again. That man that walked into the pet store, shy, sad, looking for his daughter.