After the Flagship City Book Signing

My brother, Mike, made a left-hand turn. In less than five minutes I would be home. Yes, home! After a nine-hour day of alternating  between long lulls of silence and intense foot traffic at the Flagship City Book Festival in downtown Erie, I could finally relax. I enjoyed the crowd when it surged my way but the long quiet interludes of sun made me sleepy. I would finally be able to stretch out and chase the end-of-September chills away with a cup of hot tea..

Wait. Wasn’t I supposed to do something?

Yes. My niece’s dog, Vader, was waiting for me in the garage. I had promised to take him for the weekend.  Her text had sounded desperate. “I have a sale and Vader is scaring away my customers!”

How hard could it be?

“No problem. I just have to keep him away from my cat, so he doesn’t eat her, right?”

“Yes, that would be wise.”

“I can do that,”

In preparation for Vader’s arrival, I had the maintenance guy put my bedroom door back on. It would mean a live cat so … well worth the money.  Midnight was old and wouldn’t adjust well to Vader’s presence — or, I suspect, to being eaten.

We pulled into the driveway. “I’ll be right back after I take the dog for his walk.” I told Mike.

I opened the garage door. “Hey there–”

A barrage of joyful barks sounded as a thousand pounds of pure muscle threw himself at me.

“I-I-I guess you’re ready for your walk,” I stammered, extricating myself from two front and back legs by backing into the wide garage door. “Let’s get your leash.” It hung on the door.

“Lemme … Lemme . Can’t go without your leash … uh, doggie.”

Luck helped me click the leash onto his collar and I opened the garage door.

“Aaaaahhhh!” I shouted as the power of Underdog and the size of Marmaduke pulled me forward.

Vader the Dog 1

“We’re headed over the hill,” I called out in the hopes my voice might carry into the house. But the flash I caught, the window remained firmly shut.

I cheered myself as we took to the pavement. “Okay, okay, we’re getting our exercise here. It’s all good.”

Ears flapped in the wind. Paws and feet pounded the pavement. I felt like I was holding on to a runaway gelding. The long lolling tongue showed me Vader was enjoying this breakneck romp after four hours of confinement in the garage.

“Stop! STOP!” What was his name? “Buuddddyyyy!” No, that was my dog. “Darth. Um, Vader.” Otherworldly did fit him at the moment.  We were headed straight for the pond. “Uh, let’s go down to park,” I cried, tightening the reins, I mean, doubling the leash around my wrists. I dug the heels of my dress shoes into the decaying leaves to halt us before we both took a dunk. “Dirty. Dirteeee!”

I pulled Vader away from the murky water more with force of will than strength.

His eyes danced in delight. He was having the time of his life. I, on the other hand, was seconds away from a heart attack.

“Thi-i-s way!” I called, praying Vader would not catch the scent of a deer. That’s all we needed. “Slow, slow, STOP!”

The darkening sky startled me. “The tree cover makes it look darker,” I reassured myself.  Vader panted, slowed down and peed on every bush for the next couple of minutes. That gave me time to catch my breath.

Okay, Lord, this is a no-cane adventure! Give me time before it gets dark. I have no idea how to handle this monstrous creature in the light let alone the dark.

I tried to make my voice sound fun. “Vader, let’s turn around.”

Even though I had lived next to these hills all my life, once the darkness set in, the hills and turns would confuse me. With my eye condition, I always felt like Cinderella. I had to get home from the ball before midnight. Midnight? Before darkness set in!

Halfway back to the first gate, my cell phone rang. I hesitated to loosen my hold on Vader even for a second. The ringing jangled my nerves and I somehow managed to keep walking the dog while answering it. Barely.

“Hel–lo!” I panted into the mouthpiece. “I can’t talk. I’m walking my niece’s … Vader. Help! I need help!” I continued breathing heavily.

“You shouldn’t be walking that dog. It’s tooo…”

“Gotta go…” I cried hanging onto the phone with my ear and the leash with my life.

“….big” she shouted into my ear.


We made it to the gate. “No, Vader, not the pond.” A sharp veer to the right and we raced up the path to the Sewage Disposal Plant instead.

“Smells awful!” I cried, “Sto-o-p!” I had visions of breaking through the fence and ending up sucked into an open-ended pipe. We would be like flies captured and tossed headfirst into the putrid matter.

Luck was on my side. Vadar steered me left. I gulped, both relieved and frightened . “Where are we headed, Darth Vader?”

Too late. I discovered his intention: a long series of mud puddles. He led. I followed connected by the thin, delicately corded umbilical cord. Vader flew down the center of the puddles, drinking happily with me in his sloppy wake. It seemed he had developed a thirst after all his running.

I dragged my feet in a useless effort to slow this high energy creature down. Mud oozed between my toes. My socks made sucking sounds inside the leather. “Ayyy, yay, yay!! Va-der! Home! Home. Home.”

Heading Home

We slowed as both he and I tried to make it up the final, steep incline home.

I panted. He sniffed and peed.

“Exercising. That’s what we’re doing,” I reminded myself. “I must have lost three pounds in the last forty minutes. Think positive!”

“Okay, Buddy, I mean, Vader. In the garage you go.”

Vader In Garage

I dragged myself onto the front porch.  My toes squished. Time to change my shoes. To avoid disturbing Vader, I went through my mother’s garage, kicked off my shoes at the door and peeled off my socks.

After a quick trip to the bathroom, I patted my pocket for my cell phone.

The next one. And then my pant pockets. All remained conspicuously flat.

Oh. My. Word. I lost my cell phone. An eight-hundred dollar purchase. Gone. No way.

I streaked off in search of my super bright police-criminal-catching flashlight in the garage. Ooops. Wrong door. Before I could close it, Vader’s nose edged it open. I turned and flew upstairs to check my bedroom door.


I breathed a sigh of relief as I felt Vader at my heels.

“You stay here, ” I instructed Vader. “Lay down.”

With flashlight in hand, I raced down the hill in search of my cell phone. I suspected I lost it by the mud puddles. Or maybe before the first gate. I was going to find that phone if it killed me.

“Gonna find it. Have to. I know I can. I will,” I mumbled into the dimming light.

What now? The flashlight, typically so bright my hand felt hot at the touch, dimmed, flickered and … went out.

No way. Oh no! The flashlight’s charge died.

“Okay, Okay, I can do this.”

I galloped up the hill, stopping only to catch my breath. Mike would drive me down in the car to search for my cell phone.

But when I  arrived home, the car was gone. No! Mike went to hang out with Donnie, my younger brother.

I half-ran, half-walked to my niece’s house five blocks away. Michael, her husband, would surely take me down to find my cell phone.

Only….I knocked and knocked. No one answered the door. I ran around to the front. Maybe the family was in the living room. I crossed my fingers. Tap! Tap! Tap! Still no answer. No lights.

My shoulders slumped as I trudged home using only the halo of the street lights. i stumbled on the uneven sidewalk, missing the calming presence of my white cane. I lifted my feet up in exaggerated movements to avoid tripping over the crooked cement.

“Where were you?” Mike called from the chair on the porch.

Too tired and discouraged to answer, I plopped down in another chair. Then I dragged myself into the house. But my spirit wouldn’t let me give up. In the living room, I searched through my pockets like a mad woman.

“What are you looking for?” my brother asked.

“My cell phone. It fell out somewhere over the hill. And … and …” I was closed to tears.

“What? No it didn’t. I saw it on the front porch. ”

“Are you kidding me?” I ran to the porch, letting the front door slam behind me. “Where?”

There. It. Sat. Right on the fence post. I must have set it there to catch my breath before I changed my shoes.

“Thanks, Mike!” I called, as I clutched my cell phone in my hand. I went through my garage and climbed the stairs to my apartment.

In my apartment I noticed two things at the same time. Vader was missing. The door to my bedroom was open.

Fright sent me running to my room.

There Vader stood next to my bed, licking his chops. He turned to me with a goofy grin.


He moved forward as if to get a pat on his head.

I glared, fearing a tail hanging from his mouth. But only his toothy smile and a cheerful bark greeted me. “Did you eat her? Spit her out, you fiend!”

Even as I said the words, I knew Midnight had survived. At eighteen, she still had quite a lot of smarts. She always escaped from the loving pursuit of my great nieces Surely she escaped a dog the size of Marmaduke and the strength of Mighty Dog.

Midnight would live to see daylight.

Under my brother’s bed.

How hard could it be to take care of Vader?

I shook my head. That would teach me to blindly volunteer my services.

I collapsed on the floor and closed my eyes.  Just twenty-four hours to go.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!