Katherine was feeling frazzled. Gary had been missing for over six hours. They had been walking around the neighborhood, putting up posters, talking with strangers but to date, no one had seen Blake’s white pit bull. Blake ran his fingers through his hair again and again, as though trying to order to thoughts in rows and soothe his internal chaos, but the combing had taken a toll. Blake looks like a Troll Doll, Katherine thought. But she knew what he was thinking: they weren’t going to find him.
“Maybe we should go in and check for messages?” she proposed in her calmest, coolest voice.
Blake stared back at her in bewilderment, like she’d said something in a foreign language. Eyes focused on other thoughts, not on the person straight ahead. His hair swirled up above him like a vague question mark, lost between moments of despair.
Katherine wished she felt as wrapped up in the search for Gary as Blake but beyond the fact that she was cold, she was sick of people and she just wanted to pee.
Blake nodded. A minute late, a dollar short.
Katherine started up the narrow walkway towards Blake’s front door when he darted across the street to hand a poster to the stand-offish people who lived at 47.
The people at 47 were notorious recluses. They didn’t trade hellos or bother with niceties. All anyone knew about them is that they were excessive leaf blowers. True to form, Mrs. 47 bolted from the car straight into the house seeing Blake approach, leaving her husband to fend for himself. Katherine watched as Mr. 47 anxiously shifted his grocery bags from one hand to the other while Blake waved his arms around, describing his dog in great detail despite the fact there was a large photograph of Gary on the poster.
Blake usually had an uncanny ability of making people want to get involved in his needs. Strangers gave him cigarettes. Students shared their lunches. Acquaintances volunteered to drive him places. Even Katherine had offered him a comp ticket to the Taming of the Shrew she’d been holding for a friend. He was so damned earnest and decent and eager, it was hard to turn him down and feel good about oneself.
Blake pointed to where Katherine stood to show where he and Gary lived. Katherine dutifully pasted a smile on her face and waved. Mr. 47 stiffly raised one of his shopping bags in return. It was clear he couldn’t place her even though she’d said hello to him a half dozen times over the past few months. “Fucker,” Katherine muttered straining the ‘f’ through her teeth which were fixed in a smile.
She heard a gate scrape behind her and turned. An older man, possibly Portuguese, with wisps of grey fur coming out of his ears, like fine baby’s breath, stepped out of his front yard carrying a pair of hedge clippers. Seeing Katherine at the edge of his property, the neighbour did nothing. He just stood territorially by his hedge. Katherine smiled as brightly as she could but the old man’s expression did not warm. His eyes casting a hard glance on her clothes, her female worth,souring. He seemed to be waiting for her to move away. She held out a poster and took a few steps toward him: “We’ve lost our dog. Have you seen it?”
His glance broke off. He looked across the street at Blake, still talking to Mr. 47. Katherine could see him curling his dirty fingers into meat hooks so he wouldn’t have to take the poster. She could imagine his hands around her clean white poster, inadvertently crumpling it, letting it slip to the ground. Here was a man unaccustomed (clumsy) to dealing with frailty.
“His…His name is Gary,” she said, losing confidence.
The man shifted his dark gaze back to Katherine but said nothing. Katherine tried to think charitable thoughts. Perhaps English wasn’t his first language. She pressed on.
“He’s usually in the back yard,” she said, pointing to Blake’s yard. Another silence. “He’s blind,” she added, strongly resisting an impulse to point to her eyes. ” Maybe you could check your yard? Or inside your garage? In case he wandered in there? He’d be confused.” This man. Jesus. How could she keep talking like this? How could he just let continue to pull out words from her ass. What else could she possibly say?
Then suddenly, Katherine could smell him. Or rather, it. Pant crotch. A wave of nausea came over her. This was the reason why she had dropped out of social work. Details of the old man’s sweater started to pop out, like pustules. The dirty green beige and brown wool that was so thoroughly pilled Katherine couldn’t make out a pattern. Mixed with hair and skin and sweat. It took a superhuman effort to not vomit “Did…Did you want to keep the poster?” she asked, trying not to breathe. The man raised his clippers and turned dismissing her and clipped his hedge. Release.
“Great. Thanks, a lot. Very helpful,” she said, spinning on her heel. She hoped he’d heard her. She was over this canvassing the neighborhood crap. It wasn’t working. People were jerks. And. She. Had. To. PEE.
Katherine walked back towards Blake, who now stood near the walkway waiting for her.
“Did he say he saw Gary?”
“What do you think?” She brushed past Blake.
NEXT WEEK: Kate tells Blake EXACTLY what she thinks…