Our rescue dog Leo was named Ivan by the shelter where he was captive. We’ve had him for three years and until recently called him Ivan. But by pure accident I said “Leo” one day and Ivan’s head shot up in recognition. Now he responds in a positive mode to “Leo” and has taken to doing a lion-like pose on the beach when he is off leash. Better yet, when I call “Leo”, he actually comes to me. Is his original name “Leo,” or is that name just a positive command that means “you’re free to be happy”? I choose the latter.
Another fact to confirm that he is a Leo is that he did not bark for nearly three years. Then last week he was outside by the front door when a repairman opened the front gate. I was inside the house where I heard a loud deep bark. At first I thought it was a neighbor’s dog barking. When I opened the door I saw Leo giving the repairman one more lion roar. If nothing else, Leo is reclaiming his life as a dog.
(Last Sunday: Brazil sees combat action in Ukraine while Chartan is surprised by the uplifting behavior of teenagers in his limo.)
First Chartan saw the black and white image of the fetus inside Gina. But what he carried home from the OBGYN’s office was the sound of the heartbeat—it followed him everywhere, including that evening when he had another teenage prom fare. The sound of the tires on the freeway at 65 m.p.h. went well with the rapid heartbeats of their son. Yes, the doctor, when Gina asked, had revealed that they were going to have a baby boy. Chartan had much to think about as he drove six teenagers to the dance at the high school gym. He fought off the notion that he didn’t want to be apart from his wife with less than three months to go. They needed his income. He didn’t want anything to go wrong, especially at work. He’d drive carefully and bite his tongue when his fares acted poorly although the last group of teenagers exceeded his expectations for good behavior. He couldn’t tell about this current fare—they were strangely quiet.
Hours later when the prom crowd began to leave the gym, Chartan was anxious for his fare to show up. But after nearly an hour the six teenagers hadn’t come to the designated pick up place at the front of the school. Chartan walked to the school entrance holding a sign over his head: The Miller Group. Inside the gym was nearly deserted. A teacher stationed at the entrance said everyone had left and that she recalled seeing Tommy Miller leaving with his friends about half an hour ago.
Chartan returned to the limo that glistened in the overhead lights—the only vehicle in sight. He called the various phone numbers listed on the rental form—there was no answer at the first two numbers. But then Tommy Miller’s mother answered the phone.
“You don’t know where they are? she yelled into the phone.
Twenty minutes later a city police cruiser pulled up behind the parked limo. Chartan showed the rental form to the two officers.
“No doubt they went drinking somewhere in a private car—we better find them fast—you stay here,” said the taller of the two officers.
Chartan nodded. After the cruiser left he called Gina. He was perspiring heavily
The peonies in our backyard bloom for a day or two before they fall apart. The best part may be those few days before a peony blooms as in this case when a ladybug is crawling on the tight bud. The colors are rich.
(Last Sunday: A contrast in heroism: Chartan gets credit for saving people from a forest fire while Brazil patrols the streets of war-torn Kyiv.)
“We bleed like everyone else—the same goes for dying,” said Brazil to a crowded room of international fighters. “I’m ready.”
Fifty years ago Brazil had said these same words to men in his unit as they were minutes away from crawling through a Vietnam jungle. This time he wasn’t certain the men he was facing were listening to him. He had an old body that ached all over. They didn’t have to listen, all that counted were his actions and he had no hesitation about storming a building occupied by Russian troops. There were a few more soliloquies issued before the only sound was breathing. Suddenly, without a word the group of 20 men moved like a python slithering through the rubble of war. This was why he had come—this was a time to live or die.
The combat lasted less than 15 minutes. The handful of Russians who weren’t killed surrendered. Brazil looked into the prisoners’ eyes for reasons why they were fighting. He saw the faces of men who had given up.
Chartan’s knuckles were red—he’d been gripping the limo’s steering wheel too tightly. His fare of six teens on prom night did not anger him as he had expected. They appeared to be good kids, still he was prepared to absorb some inane comment from someone in the backseat. Instead, at the evening’s conclusion one of the girls look intently into his eyes when she asked him for his autograph.
“Why do you want it? “ he asked.
“You’re a hero Mr. Chartan and I don’t know any,” she replied.
He signed the napkin from the hotel where the prom had been held. The young girl took the napkin gently from his hand as if she thought it might rip at the slightest tug, then she ran to a car on the street outside of Sloan’s parking lot. He watched her hug her date before getting in on the passenger side of the car. It was a soft moment in a day where Chartan had thrown up self-imposed obstacles as he fought off images Gina straining to give birth and Brazil dying in a hail of bullets. Now a teenage girl had restored his faith in the simplicity of goodness.
(Last Sunday: Chartan, deep in thought, reacts to a forest fire outside of his apartment building while Brazil questions his decision to do battle in Ukraine.)
Chartan, seated behind the wheel of his limousine with Gina by the passenger door, stares at the thick smoke 100 drifting slowly towards the parking lot.
“I’m glad you called the fire department when I was trying to wake up—we didn’t even have to drive away,” said Gina.
“It could have been worse—we’re lucky the fire crews got here so fast,” answered Chartan.
“You’re my hero,”said Gina. “I like watching the sunrise with you in a limousine.”
“Thankfully, I was awake in the middle of the night.”
“Why were you up?”
Chartan was about to answer when a TV news crew approached the limo. He lowered the window.
“Mr. Chartan, we meet again,” said the woman who had interviewed him about the window bandit over a year ago. “The chief says you called in the fire…”
A few minutes later Chartan and Gina, wrapped in a blanket, stood in front of the limo after listening to the reporter explain how Chartan had been the first person to alert the fire department about the blaze. The wannabe guru shivered with what he believed was contrived heroism by the media. They should be interviewing my friend in Ukraine—he’s a hero.
Brazil and his American partner Zeke walk close to a tall building on a major street in Kyiv. They didn’t expect to meet any opposition and that was dangerous to Brazil because expectations didn’t keep the combat mind sharp. Worse, he had begun to think of Julie and why he hadn’t thought of her much since leaving California. Their instant marriage had been a mistake like whiskey going down the wrong way. I better snap out of this or I’ll get killed.
“Over there,” said Zeke, pointing at a building across the street. “Someone behind that first floor window just ducked out of sight.”
“Let’s cross over to that alley, ” yelled Brazil.
The two men ran safely to the alleyway.
“Maybe it’s nothing,” said Zeke.
“Your instincts are sharp,” offered Brazil. “I’d trust them.”
Zeke peered around the corner towards the window in question. “There’s a woman and a child coming out of the building—must have been them I saw.”
“Yeah. In Iraq that woman might be carrying a bomb under her clothing with a kid as a shield, but here the people are genuine.”
A few seconds later the woman and the boy walked by holding hands—they didn’t notice the two armed men watching them pass.