Bogart’s Hug

Who knew a dog could give a goodbye embrace?

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Jack, a member of our writing group, invited us to an appetizer party one afternoon after Christmas. On arriving, I rang the doorbell but heard no sound and saw only one car parked outside. I rang the bell again, then phoned to ask if I had the wrong time and place. Marlene, Jack’s lovely wife, promptly opened their front door.

“So sorry, but we’re all in the noisy kitchen.”

Jack added, “And the doorbell sticks sometimes.”

I was relieved, and joined everyone in the kitchen chatting and nibbling on Marlene’s creative appetizers: vinegary okra, sugar-coated cranberries, chunky chocolate with nuts and raisins, hot mushrooms, and bean dips. I had to slap my hand from eating more. It’s tough trying to live like a Trappist monk in the world.

Wanda is working on a cozy murder mystery. Eldon is Wanda’s husband ― in his eighties and looking great. He seemed out of his element, sitting by himself as everyone else stood about, ate, and chatted. Like me, he’s not a mixer.

I felt a bit awkward interrupting well-established conversations, so I sat down with him. He’s a retired mechanical engineer who worked on oil platforms and says he knows why the Deepwater Horizon gulf explosion happened ten years ago.

We talked for an hour. Revealing details, he told me in no uncertain terms that it was the higher-ups to blame, sitting in their mahogany offices. They had not been working on an oil  platform for 20 years and knew little about current methods of operation. They let things slide, not knowing any better, and got into big trouble. British Petroleum was penalized a record $20.8 billion for their administrative incompetence.

Pearl Harbor, WWII, FDR, Hitler, Stalin, German subs, concentration camps ― you name it — we touched on it.

“FDR must have known, when we blocked Japan’s oil shipments that they’d retaliate at Pearl Harbor,” I said.

“The President likely knew where but not when,” Eldon added. “But our American admirals had to have known our cruise ships anchored in a row were floating ducks for Japanese Zeros.”

“I wonder if Navy brass may have been lobbied by our military industrial complex to keep FDR in the dark. President Eisenhower in his Farewell Address warned about our military industrial complex meddling in global politics to profit from wars,” I said, while still tossing a ball for Jack’s dog.

“3,000 personnel died that day. Severe ship damages crippled our Navy in the Pacific. It all could have been prevented ― another example of incompetence by top executives in the Navy.”

By the time it was 6 pm, we had Gary (authoring a sci-fi novel) and Dave (Debbie’s husband) standing right there listening to us talk. Eldon was thankful for our chat, and said he rarely meets people who can discuss other than sex,  sports, soap operas, or cars. He loved talking about his work experiences, so I suggested he write an expository memoir. Meanwhile, Wanda started tapping her husband’s shoulder, to leave already.

I had been tossing a ball for Bogart, Jack’s poodle. At least 50 ball tosses later, it was time to go home. I stood up to give hugs and say goodbyes, but Bogart (Jack’s standard 160-pound pet poodle) would have none of it. He got up on his hind legs and actually hugged me. As I thanked Jack for hosting our gathering, his dog reared up again and rested his paws on my arm, and did this three or four times. I felt a little embarrassed by all the attention it garnered.

Jack said, “I’ve never seen him do that to any one. He must really love you. I’ll be watching to make sure he doesn’t get into your car,” he joked. He nudged Marlene to look at their dog hugging me. Everyone that saw it was amazed. Debbie (authoring a children’s fantasy story) was smiling ear to ear, no doubt conjuring a puppy scene for her book.

On arriving home, I entered my dark and empty house, but managed to keep smiling over my two new friends: Bogart who kept hugging me for playing ball with him, and of course Eldon for all the insightful rallies in that lively discussion of ours.

 

Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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