The first two rules of writing, as they were explained to me once by the back of a Fruit Loops box, are these:
#1. Write what you know.
Now, what I know is stubborn persnickety dogs, smart-assed responses, embarrassing office humiliations, awkward conversations and apologizing profusely to my wife for most or all of the above.
It’s no picnic to live through. But it does fill up the page nicely. Then there’s:
#2. Know your audience.
Give ’em what they’re looking for, whoever the hell they are. Easy enough.
Only, there are times when it’s not so easy to follow both rules at once. Like walking and chewing gum, sometimes you end up skinny-kneed and needing an emergency Heimlich. Literarily speaking.
Take, for instance, the recent Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. Erma was a much beloved and prolific print humorist, poking gentle fun and pointing out the foibles of everyday life to generations of readers of a now-obsolete medium. She was family-friendly, plain-spoken and wry, and that’s the sort of voice the contest judges were searching for in this contest.
My entry contains the phrase “Mexican standoff” in the first fifteen words.
Clearly, I lean toward Rule #1.
So, I didn’t win. But as usual, my crushing defeats are your mild entertainments. So please to be enjoying the following untitled, judge-rejected, decidedly non-Bombeckian tale. I think you might like it.
But what do I know? That’s a Rule #2 thing.
My dog and I are in a standoff. I’d call it a ‘Mexican standoff’, but there are just the two of us. Also, we’re not wielding guns. And she’s not a Chihuahua.
She is, however, stubborn. Recently, the pooch was feeling sick — so I did what any kind, responsible, caring pet owner would do. I bought special ‘veterinarian-approved’ canned dog food to nurse her back to health. Happily, it worked; the mutt’s fit as a Fido again.
And now she won’t eat anything else.
“In a battle of wills, human trumps hound every time. This is why there are no dachshund debate teams.”
For twelve years, she snurfled down kibble like it was beluga caviar. Every day — the same bowl, the same brand, and the same desperate snout-first dive to the bottom. But now, with one taste of soft gooey grub under her collar, she’s suddenly a canine connoisseur. And that eighty-pound bulk bag of chow I just bought?
“Feed it to the cat,” she says. “My palate’s too refined for that mass-produced mush.”
And so, we dance. Every morning, I kibble her bowl to the brim as usual. But instead of pouncing on it like a hyena tackling a horsemeat-and-cereal-filler wildebeest, she just stares, forlorn. As though she’s asking, “What unforgivable sin did I commit to deserve this wretched ‘food’? You monster!”
But I stand firm. This is perfectly good kibble, and seventy-nine pounds of it, to boot. It’s high-protein, extra-vitaminized, and fully hormone-free. My next cheeseburger should come with so many healthful accolades. It won’t — but it should.
So there’s no way I’m giving in and feeding this canine from a can. Thus, a standoff.
Or so I thought. Yesterday, I passed the dog’s bowl and found it licked clean. I declared victory, planting my flag in the kitchen linoleum. Mind over mutts, I crowed. In a battle of wills, human trumps hound every time. This is why there are no dachshund debate teams.
I ran to tell my wife the good news. She shrugged and trampled my win like an Iditarod team in stiletto heels:
“The dog looked hungry earlier, so I poured out the kibble and gave her some canned. That did the trick.”
It seems that ‘trick’ is on me — it was a Mexican standoff all along! And I’d just been shot in the back. By my wife, no less. Ay, Chihuahua!
So I did what any humiliated, outflanked, defeated pet owner would do. I bought a whole shelf full of special veterinarian-approved canned food for the dog. I still pour the kibble into a bowl every morning. But now I slice a banana over it and eat it with milk myself. It’s healthier than bran flakes, and approximately as tasty. Only seventy-eight and a half pounds to go.Permalink | No Comments