Sweet Pie and French Fries Part 2 – Nuggets

There was an interminable pause.

Had T-Mobile’s spotty beachfront reception sandbagged me yet again? Or perhaps saved me from an embarrassing calamity?

It was a really good first date. The kind where you actually have fun. Where you maybe drink a little too much, but somehow don’t make a total ass of yourself. The kind where you decide early on, I’d better behave myself, and for the most part, you stick to that. She laughs at your jokes, you roll a decent bowling score, and at the end of the night, after you let her know you’re about to leave town for a week, she lets you plant a kiss, right on her… cheek. And after she drives away, and you hop in your ’02 Prius, you sit there thinking, I want more.

Then you drive home thinking, I want more.

You get in bed, and then lay awake thinking, I want more.

And then, I woke up with a crazy idea. So grabbed the phone and called her.

“Hello?” She sounds – what? Surprised? Unsure? Weirded out? Shit. NEVER call the next day, let alone the next morning, LET ALONE before 7 am on a Saturday! SHIT!

“Hey, it’s me – sorry, did I wake you?”

“It’s okay, I needed to get up.”

Liar! “Cool. Well, listen, I had a really good time last night-“

“Me too,” she chimed nonchalantly. But did I detect the whiff of excitement in her undertone?

“Good, good. Um…” I was stalling. Was I really going to go against everything I’d learned reading Neil Strauss? “So you know how I’ve got this trip up north today?”

“You might have mentioned it one or twenty times last night, yeah – how drunk were you?”

Shit. “Not very, but maybe a little… I don’t know; I was nervous.” ‘I was nervous?’ Did I seriously just tell her I WAS NERVOUS. Pack it in Rookie, you’re headed back to the locker room.

“Could have fooled me,” she proffered the words like a carrot dangling in front of a jackass.

Okay, here goes nothing: “I don’t know what you’ve got going today, but how’d you like to take a ride with me?”

There was an interminable pause.

Had T-Mobile’s spotty beachfront reception sandbagged me yet again? Or perhaps saved me from an embarrassing calamity?


She was still there. “TO SAN FRANCISCO???”

Uh oh. “Yeah. I mean, just for the night, and I’ll fly you back tomorrow, so you’ll be back in time for…”

“Work,” she finished for me. “I have work. Tomorrow’s Monday.”

I scrambled, frantically clicking through Virgin America’s website to find an acceptably priced one-way fare. Lucky for me, the early morning flights were still open and cheap. “No problem. We can be there by 4 or 5, have the evening, get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll drive you to the airport in the morning. There’s 6 am flight, you’ll be in Burbank by 7.”

Another long, breathy moment passed by. Then she asked me a question I didn’t expect: “What’s your mother’s Maiden Name?”

Now there was a question I knew better than to answer.

“Cohen.” What the fuck?!

“Social security number?”

Okay, she caught me off-guard with mom’s name, but no way I’m going to give her my— “Four-one-two-oh-seven-oh-nine-three-eight.” SHIT!! What kind of Jedi mind-shit is she pulling on me?

In 60 seconds she pumped me for enough information to take out a mortgage, enlist in the Marines, or have me declared dead. Then she told me to, “Hang on – I’ll call you back in thirty minutes.”

My plan was coming off the wheels. I had hoped for a little more time with this girl, some company for the ride up to San Fran, and maybe a little action on my friends’ couch if everything went well. Now I was sweating bullets, packing my bags and debating whether to call Equifax to put a freeze on my entire Identity. Despite my frequent check of the clock, my mind insisted that hours were flying by, yet a mere 29 minutes later, my phone buzzed. I answered before it had the opportunity to let out an audible ring.

Be COOL. “Hey!” You sound like a tool.

“I checked you out, and gave all of your information to my roommate and also to my mom. They know I’m coming back in the morning.”

“Cool.” Yeah, that sounded real cool. “I already bought your ticket.” That actually did sound pretty cool. “Get packed. I’ll pick you up in an hour.”

“Great, see you then. I’m texting you my address. Bye.”

HO-LY-SHIT. Did that actually work? Is this really happening? Am I taking a girl on a date to San Francisco and then flying her home the next day like I’m Richard Gere in ‘Pretty Woman?’

I bought the ticket. I finished packing. I showered, brushed my teeth, ate cereal, brushed again… I hit the road.


She was waiting on the front steps when I pulled up, wearing a tight t-shirt, jeans, and backpack. She looked even better in the light of day, as she bounded down the steps, her long blonde ponytail bouncing behind her. My trance broke in time for me to pop out of the car and open her door. But first, the obligatory guy-and-girl-who-aren’t-kissing-yet hug.

We hit the road.

We plowed through the small talk… quickly.

Before the Ventura County Line, we grow quiet.

We drive in silence, letting the radio do the talking for us.

What the hell have I done?? We’ve got 4 and a half more hours and nothing to say to each other? DAMMIT!

She glanced over at me, wearing a smirking smile that was impossible to read, but my frantic mind only saw the worst. She knows I am full of shit. She knows everything. And then I started talking, and no matter what I said or thought, I just couldn’t stop myself. I started telling her everything. My divorce, my parents, my past, my truths, my lies – it all just poured out of my mouth like floodwaters through a broken dam. And when the floodwaters finally ran dry, we fell into another silence. I drove on, like the survivor of some disaster, still reeling from the devastation, knowing I would have to eventually pick up the pieces and rebuild… or move on.

Then she spoke. “Are you hungry? There’s a rest stop.”

I could barely nod my agreement, so I flipped on the turn-signal to acknowledge her request, and pulled into the first open parking lot: a Wendy’s. I hate Wendy’s. But I was so desperate for the distraction, I would have eaten a Double Baconator and Fries just to plug up my blabbing mouth. Fortunately, we opted to split some chicken nuggets, and she insisted that I let her pay.

As we sat there in that roadside stomach fill-up station, taking turns dipping crispy nuggets and sipping Dr. Pepper, somehow the conversation continued.

“Why did you tell me all that stuff?” she asked me kindly, but bluntly.

I struggled to find an answer that would let me keep a shred of status, but when nothing came to mind, I resorted back to the truth. “I don’t know. I just really like you, and I wanted to start out on the right foot. I want you to know the truth about me.”

She slowly chewed her nugget and stared at me from her sea-blue eyes, sizing me up. It seemed like she was making a decision, but what? Finally she responded, “Okay.” She gathered our trash. “Should we keep going?”

We did. We kept going to San Francisco.

the Habitation Game – Book Synopsis

Were you hoping to read something from me today? Well, I really hoped you were because I realized I haven’t released my book synopsis to everyone yet! What better way to do that, than right here on the blog?! I hope you enjoy it and are ready to read this bad boy soon! 

Xo, Jaime                                                                                                                                                         

the Habitation Game by J Parker Sticklethe Habitation Game – Book Synopsis

Emily sits, staring at the clock on her computer screen, counting down the minutes until she can leave for the day while musing on how she ended up working for Corporate America. Little did she realize the worst part of her day was yet to come when happy hour obligations put her front and center with the woman who would put the word dead, into Emily’s dead-end job.

As Emily recounts 30-years of roommate relationships, some worse than others – like the time she lived with a nudist, whom she suspects was also a Nazi; to the times she unwittingly allowed an alcoholic, a drug dealer, and a couple of mobsters’ kids to live with her. Nothing could have prepared her, though, for Adeline.

Not only did Adeline manipulate Emily into living with her, but she also moved in with a secret boyfriend and an oppressive personality disorder. The worst part – Emily and Adeline work only three desks away from each other.

As anxiety begins to knot and twist around Emily’s stomach, the fear that she’s made a grave mistake by moving in with Adeline is validated when Adeline’s mood swings start to manifest themselves and secrets of her own past roommates are revealed. At least that’s how Emily sees it when Adeline starts to communicate with Emily using a butcher’s knife instead of a Post-it note.

As Adeline continues to mind-fuck Emily, she is unaware that she is playing with fire. After years of living with crazy people, and months of putting up with Adeline, Emily may have the motive to strike back.

Book coming! 2018! Woohoo! Make sure to follow me here or on Instagram for updates!

Sweet Pie and French Fries

He picked me up an hour later in his first generation Toyota Prius. I’d never seen the first generation of Prius.

On our second date my husband and I went on a six-hour road trip together. I knew very little about him, except that he was dreamy, funny, and that I was infatuated with him. Oh, and that he had to drive six-hours to San Francisco to meet up with a group of friends to go camping at a Phish show – which, at the time, I didn’t understand what that meant. Phish? Who? Camping? What? Jam-band something or other.

After a successful first date of bowling and then late-night fresh, very sweet, blueberry pie with a slightly burnt buttery crust and a giant plate of salty hot french fries (since sweet and salty ARE the best combo) from the all-night diner, I knew I wanted to see him again and again and again. He really sealed the deal when he kissed me goodnight, confidently, on the cheek.

When he called me the next morning, early, on a Saturday and requested a second date immediately I felt giddy and eager. When he said he wanted me to drive with him to San Francisco, stay the night and then he’d fly me home the next night, I said “no, I’m not going to sleep with you, I barely know you.”

He laughed. “I don’t want to sleep with you either. Well, I mean not on this date. We’ll be staying with a bunch of people, sleeping on the floor, but I promise you a great time.” He was just so damn charming.

He gave me 30-minutes to accept his invitation, so I took his social security number, mother’s maiden name, driver’s license information, and more. I called three friends and gave them the list of information. I did a quick criminal record check and stalked his social media for any red flags. At the 29-minute mark I called him back and said, “Okay! But remember, I’m not having sex with you.”

He picked me up an hour later in his first generation Toyota Prius. I’d never seen the first generation of Prius. On our first date we had met at the Bowling Alley, because I’ve learned from past dating experiences that giving a first date your address can be an annoying, regretful, and sometimes frightening experience, and I had driven us to the diner and back. His Prius made me giggle. It was tiny, and round like the cars the clowns drive in the circus. And he’s six feet tall, broad shouldered with big hair, and a bigger personality. To be honest, that car matched him perfectly.

We commenced with the flirtatious small talk:

You look great!

I had a lot of fun last night.

You were hilarious.

What do you mean, ‘you won bowling?’ I clearly won.

You get the idea. Then we were both silent, for a really long time, and it was awkward. We were driving on the I-5 North and the landscape was dry and barren in the August heat. Brown hillsides, power lines, and debris crowded the horizon. street-238458_640 There was a heavy, thick dust that skewed my peripheral vision, forcing me to constantly turn my head to the right, like I had a tick or was trying to avoid looking at my co-pilot.

When it didn’t seem there could be another second of the silence, which had stretched nearly ten-minutes now, he stole a glance in my direction, and with profound gravity said, “I like you.”

“I like you too,” I grinned from ear to ear.

“Before we can go any further with this, I have to tell you some things. I want to start this relationship off without any lies,” he continued seriously.

My mind raced. I started to think worst-case scenarios: Is he kidnapping me? Is he already dating someone – am I the other woman? Is he going to kill me? Did he just break-up with someone? Is he going to leave me stranded in San Fran? Was he going to try and sleep with me? Where was my Woman’s Intuition? Why wasn’t my gut talking to me?

“My dad died six-weeks ago,” he said. And before I could recover from this news and my thoughts that followed, he continued, “and I’m divorced. I was married to my college girlfriend. I haven’t dated anyone seriously since then. I used to be a pathological liar. I told my mom for a long time I was gay. And I’m leaving on a cruise ship for a five-month contract in six-weeks.”

It was so much information. I wasn’t sure what he wanted me to do with all of it. It was our second date. Where do I start?

“You were married? But you’re so young!”

“Yeah, we made a youthful mistake.”

“I’m so sorry about your dad, are you okay?”

“Not really. But yeah.”

“So you leave in six-weeks, huh?”

“Yup. For five months.”

“Hey, there’s a sign for a rest stop, are you hungry?” I was out of questions at the moment and needed an excuse not to talk – food.

So we got off. We were about an hour outside of Los Angeles. I contemplated going home. We ordered some Wendy’s fries and a Frosty each and we sat, staring at each other in silence until we both started laughing. We couldn’t stop laughing.

“Why did you tell me all that stuff like that?”

“Because I want to be nothing but honest with you. I like you.”

I believed him. I liked him too.

To Be Continued…

P.S. Leave me a comment below! You don’t need to leave your email address, promise, I’ll never spam you! Let me hear your story or thoughts! Xo


I sit adjacent to her long, sinewy arm, our legs brushing against each other’s by force of proximity, and I stare into her piercing, icy blue eyes – I’m not going to back down this time. Her character assassination, though disguised as a general opinion of sorts is nothing more than her own insecurity of self worth and value.

“A writer isn’t much more than fluff for entertainment. Anyone can write about anything, it doesn’t take any sort of talent, or skill… you don’t even need an education. It’s not a profession,” I felt her words bunch up my guts like red meat: tough to swallow, hard to chew, regretful.

I smiled in spite of myself, favoring the approach of niceness and I questioned her, “do you read? Books? Fiction? Creative non-fiction? Do you? Any of the great works of literature past or present?”

She stares at me, a smirk passing over her lips that make her eyes dance a little in the light. It’s her tell. I know she’s going to come at me swinging. I’m ready to take a blow, as I see her thoughts passing through her expression. What would she say to cause me injury? Is she so eager to make another hit so early in the conversation?

“No. I suppose I haven’t and I don’t care to. My schedule doesn’t permit the luxury of books. I’m in the business of making money. I suppose that may be an excuse and I could make the time if I thought it were important, but I don’t. Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t think books are important.” She giggles and picks up her wine. I think she may have had enough. Drinking makes her bold and unfiltered and while that can be charming on some it is not the case with Lily.

flowers-2067604_640Lily is an aging beauty. I make-up her past based on stories and photographs. A woman that men adored for her physical attributes and exotic accent, but Lily chose to live life on her own. Her life has been ruled by her fears and anxieties. It feels like a great loss to me. She could have been so much more, a soldier in the fight for humanity, the arts, feminists. She could have been a source of inspiration, but instead she’s a tale of warning.

“We aren’t learning anything new in this conversation, so we should just stop talking about it,” Lily offers as I am distracted by thoughts of who I wish she were.

“Okay,” I too easily agree, regret even, but I know better than to push for more. I know I won’t change her mind, or prove her wrong, but I wish I could point out the masters of the trade and what makes them great. I wish I could find the words that would sway her and make her understand why the world needs writers… my mouth is opening to speak —

It’s too late.

I’ve lost her to other interests. Lily rises from the table, and is moving onto a discussion regarding the inadequacies of individuals that work from home, “a luxury afforded to less ambitious people,” she determines.

I look at her wishing the conversation had not taken place.

I think less of Lily when she makes remarks like this.

I glance at her with a weak smile.

She silently smiles back, her eyes twinkle. I can see she wants to spar.

I decide to go to bed.

I know tomorrow will produce more of the same logic from Lily and I want to point out to her that The Grapes Of Wrath is critical to our country’s history, and how James Baldwin makes us cry as a nation and the influence Ayn Rand has had on politics or Orwell – how can she live in the dark not even considering what these authors left us with?

Not a reader, that’s fine, but to criticize writing as a “lackey’s ambition” is too far. I’m sweating under the covers unable to sleep or calm myself. My frustration turning into anxiety, I reach for my Kindle and pull up a book and I begin to read. My heart rate slows as I lose myself in the beautifully crafted prose of Sedaris. Laughing at the humor of ignorance – or, arrogance? I know I will not change Lily’s mind, but I can write about it here on this page and feel safe knowing she’ll never read what I wrote about her…

On Account of Ghosts

By Michael Chrobak (Guest Author)

There are times when life moves in such a way that it becomes impossible to deny there’s a higher power. Relationships that come at the exact time you need them, or resources to help complete a project you thought might be dead. We’ve all had them. You take a wrong turn while driving in a strange city, and you end of finding the best jazz club you’ve ever been to. Call it a predestined moment, or divine guidance, or just old-fashioned good luck, but it’s clear something outside of ourselves had to be involved. That’s how I came to live where I do now; in a beautiful, loving home; with a ghost.

Let’s go back fifteen years. I was married (still am) with four kids (two of which I shared custody of), all trying to co-exist in a 1400 square foot house. There was barely enough room for our furniture, let alone ourselves. Then, I became a Realtor, and my income jumped. This was during the years when a blind monkey with one arm could find success as a Realtor in the super-hot California market.  I did better than most. After a year or two helping other people move into nice, new homes with lots of extra space, I decided it was time to do so as well. So, I started looking. (It was kind of hard not to be looking, since looking at houses was my job.)

I found a house that seemed absolutely too good to be true. For one, it was quite a bit larger; over 1,000 square feet larger, actually. It had an incredible backyard, and was in a very quiet neighborhood, too. I went to look at it, and immediately fell in love. I told the owner to let his agent know I was submitting an offer, then I went and got my wife and kids so we could all see it. She loved it as much as I did. It was the house we had been dreaming of and one we knew we might never leave.

I went back to the office and called the agent. That’s when he told me there was a ‘mistake’. The price listed was $100,000 under what they were really asking. He says it was a typo, I think it was a brilliant marketing scheme. I wouldn’t have even looked at it at the higher price, thinking it was out of my price range – way out. But, by that time, my wife and I were too much in love with it to pass it up, so we went for it. And, using some creative financing (not illegal!!) we got it.

It was about 4 or 5 months after we moved in that I first felt it – the ghost, that is. I was on the couch watching TV when I caught something out of the corner of my eye, and I felt a chill down my spine. There was nothing there…nothing visible, anyway. But I could tell it was there all the same. I didn’t feel afraid, or worried, just a little curious. “Where did the ghost come from?” “Whose ghost is it?” “What does it want?” I never got the answers to those, and I never talked to anyone about it…not even my wife.

Over the course of time, that ‘something is there’ feeling continued to happen, over and over again. And then, pardon the phrase, but shit got real. No, blood didn’t start seeping out of our walls, nor did my daughter’s baby dolls start chasing us with a butcher’s knife. What did happen was worse. Our appliances started breaking down.

The a/c went out, and we replaced it. The stove went out, we replaced it. The dishwasher, water heater, garage door opener, you name it, we’ve replaced it, or repaired it, or both. Blenders, hair dryers, electric shavers, televisions, computers, anything with power was at risk. Either our ghost doesn’t like technology, or it just didn’t like our bank account. I’m not sure which. Fifteen years we’ve lived here, and we’ve replaced every appliance at least twice, and repaired them multiple times in between. And the repairs have always been the kind where the maintenance guy says, “I’ve never seen a (enter appliance here) do that!” Lucky us! We not only have an appliance killing ghost, but a creative one at that.

This year alone we’ve had two repairs on the dishwasher, two on the oven, bought a new fridge, replaced the furnace and the a/c, have burned out three (yes – 3) blenders, 2 immersion blenders, a food processor, and at least one cell phone. This year has definitely been the worst year so far, and though I’ve never done anything about it before – don’t want to upset the ghost, right? – I intend to find out whose ghost this is, track down whatever relatives they have left behind, and hand them a list of all the items I want reimbursed. I have all the receipts saved in my banking software, in a folder entitled, On Account of Ghosts.

headshotMichael Chrobak has been involved in working with Youth and Youth Ministry programs since he was a teen himself; a long, long time ago. He has held the position of Director of Religious Education and Youth Minister for St. Bonaventure’s Parish in Concord, CA, and also as Youth Minister for St. Michael’s Parish in Livermore, CA. He has survived raising four children of his own and now lives in Oakley, CA where he continues to stay involved in Youth Ministry through his blogs and books.

How to Connect:


Travels With Animals

By Chelscey Clayton (Guest Author)

Take a road trip, they said. Use your move as an opportunity to explore, they said. Except that those people didn’t travel with 3 pets. Or if they did, I guarantee you none of those animals were cats.

First, a little context: I have never lived more than 60 miles from Los Angeles. When I travel for long distances, it’s me and my dog (and sometimes husband), because he’s a good dog and loves being with me at all times—literally (this applies to the husband, too). Then, the husband got a job in New Orleans and I said, “Well, why not? Let’s do it!” And so, we packed up our life and started to drive. This included packing up our 2 cats and our dog, and drugging them for 4 days straight because oh my God, those cats were driving me crazy.

My dog, on the other hand, was a saint.

I don’t have children. I imagine my cats crying all through the night in every hotel room was akin to a baby crying and keeping parents up all night.

The pet sedatives that we had—because, fun fact, cat’s won’t stop meowing for 8+ hours of driving if you don’t mellow them out—always wore off at about ten at night. Just about the time when we were settling in, and preparing for another long drive the next day. At which time, my little balls-of-fluff were just beside themselves.

I get it, they were scared, and didn’t know what was happening. But while my dog would look at us and decide “Well, if Mom and Dad are here, then I’m good.” My cats would look at us and think, “OHMYGODWHEREAMI?! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!”

Did I feel bad for them and wish to ease their discomfort? Of course! I’m a devoted pet parent. But I couldn’t figure out what to do. They didn’t want to cuddle with us, they didn’t want to eat, they just cried, and cried. Again, I assume much like a teething toddler where there is just nothing you can do to make things better for the suffering child. Unless you employ some shady methods—usually involving whiskey (I won’t judge you).

We passed through beautiful states, we saw some amazing vistas, but all from the “comforts” of our car because we couldn’t risk leaving the cats alone for a moment, and this included the hotel rooms. We couldn’t take a stroll through the city, dine at a local haunt that was just-to- die-for, because if we did, the cats would lose their minds, and the dog would respond by trying to “play” with them—which the cats would hate even more.

I kept telling myself, “Next time, we’ll do this the right way. Next time, we’ll take the scenic route”. But that was a bold-faced lie. Why? Because I love my cats, even when they are insufferable jerks, and I wouldn’t leave them, or give them up for anything. Eventually, I stopped trying to force feed myself the lie, and my mantra became “This will be over soon. We’ll get to our new house, and it’ll be fine”.

Well, spoiler: we did get there, but it was not fine.

We didn’t have our furniture, power, or hot water for the first few nights (but that’s a different story), so we had to sleep on an air mattress, and the blankets and pillows we took with us for packing purposes. We could have stayed in a hotel and been more comfortable, but I was so tired of subjecting myself—and the pets—to that, that we just decided to “rough it”.

Again, this could have been fine. It could have been like urban camping from the “comforts” of our own home; except for the cats.

No, they weren’t crying anymore. They sensed we had arrived and things were okay by that point. Instead, our cats would see the sleeping lumps of their humans and think, “That looks like a monster. I must slay it!”

Please note: they have never thought that before when they saw us sleeping.

Cut to one of my cat’s pouncing on my foot, claws out, in the middle of the night. I did mention we were sleeping on an air mattress, right? Good. How that thing didn’t pop is beyond me, but thankfully it—and I—survived the encounter.

“So, Chelscey, would you do it again?” Willingly? No, but that’s not an option. I won’t be in New Orleans for the rest of my life, so I will be moving again at some point. Which means we’ll once more be loading up our fur-babies, and attempting to travel cross country.Have I learned anything from the experience? Sure: kitty-downers are a life saver. Will that change anything for the future? No. Because unlike babies, cat’s never grow up. They stay inconsolable little creatures who I will always have to clean-up after, and who will never be able to tell me what’s wrong, but whom I will still love fiercely.

I will tell you what I would do differently next time though; stopping at fewer hotels and just powering through the drive. Because either way, I’m not sleeping.

20171111_135442Written By: Chelscey Clayton, author of The Monster of Selkirk series.

C. E. Clayton (Chelscey) was born and raised in Southern California where she worked in the advertising industry for several years on accounts that ranged from fast food, to cars, and video games (her personal favorite). This was before she packed up her life, husband, two displeased cats, and one very confused dog and moved to New Orleans. Now, she is a full time writer (mainly in the fantasy genre), her cats are no longer as displeased, and her dog no longer confused. More about C.E. Clayton, including her blog, book reviews, and poetry, can be found on her website: https://www.ceclayton.com/


Adiós Chihuahua Ojo

My mom’s dog died last week. I know, I know, but don’t worry – she still has my dad and her health. And she’s pretty young, so there’s that too.

It’s interesting how much we rely on our pets: for friendship, protection, emotional support, and as great excuses for not having to do stuff. And let me say this: people are far more forgiving when you say your dog is sick versus when you say your kid is sick. I don’t know why the heartstrings pull so hard when friends or co-workers find out your adorable fur baby needs care, but when your toddler is suffering… again… they annoyedly brush you off with a dismissive, “they’ll get over it.” It’s the power of the fur.

Before you make me out to be a callous human, in case you don’t know, I rescued three strays in 2 years, cared and paid for one’s cancer treatments for another two years before she passed, and am absolutely ga-ga, head over heels for my current two fur babies, who mean the world to me. So, I get it. I also have a toddler.

All of that being said, my mom’s dog died a week ago. He was a 126-year-old, one-eyed, shaman looking, 27lb Chihuahua (Chihuahua mix…oops, they paid for a pure bred). The truth is either the damn dog was sick for all his 18 human years, or my mom developed Munchausen by proxy. I’m not a doctor. I’m a writer, I am in no way qualified to make this diagnosis, but, the dog was never sick until this last year of his life when he suffered from old age ailments. So I’m sticking to Munchausen. Let me explain:

Most individuals who suffer from a condition that requires a support dog, get a dog so they can have a pseudo-normal life – leave the house and live amongst the world. My mom used her “support dog” as an excuse to never leave the house again. Ever.

A little history on the pup: Originally he was a gift from my father. The then two-eyed Chihuahua was meant to rekindle a marriage that my mother had already extinguished and abandoned. She was living in a new home, with new people, and the dog, then just a puppy, was left in my father’s care. Under my father’s watch the puppy lost an eye. I know, I know, “WHAT!?!” but yeah, this is quite common in certain breeds. The veterinarian assured us that the dog, having been so young at the time of the incident, would never know the difference, and he didn’t even feel it since the nerve was cleanly severed. I sound very clinical relaying the information now, but it was a long and traumatic day when I had to drive my terrified, sobbing father, and my mother’s scared puppy to the animal hospital all those years ago. Someone had to stay strong and make choices, like calling my mother at her new home with her new (roommate? Boyfriend? Main squeeze?) partner, and telling her that her puppy had lost an eye.

After the “incident” my father could no longer be trusted with the pup and my mother could not keep the pup at her new family’s home, so ultimately she came back to my father, to care for the puppy, and eventually terminated the divorce proceedings. So I guess the dog did his job? This all sounds a bit sketchy, but for the purposes of time and length, it is a story for another day.

Since losing his eye, my parents determined that the dog needed two parents to care for him full time. Apparently, something not even their high school teenager, new grandbabies, young adult children, their home, or other two adult dogs needed. This one small dog that was missing an eye, but otherwise was in perfect health, was the only living creature my parents needed to give their full attention and time to. My mom spent time making inquiries to plastic surgeons about the possibility of a glass eye. My dad set up wee-wee pads around the house so the dog wouldn’t have to be burdened with using the yard. The pup was also segregated from the other dogs in the house until he was a year old; or perhaps I should say, the older dogs were forgotten, much like their teenage human sibling (not me). For all intents and purposes, the puppy was also segregated from all my parents’ adult children because we didn’t know how to “play” with him delicately, this now 27lb bowling ball of a dog.

It was hard not to resent the dog. He received the care and attention that none of us had or ever would get from my parents. Every phone call or text message received or made revolved around the dogs day, his feelings, emotional health, physical well being. A trip to the vet for gas, bloating, hiccups, wet nose, dry nose, bad breath, soft stool, hard stool, you name it. It was hard to feel anything but severely annoyed. Was the son-of-a-bitch spending my one-day inheritance on his hypochondria? Hahahaha! I have no inheritance don’t worry. But seriously, what the hell was going on all these years? And before you activists weigh-in on the idea of diet, the dog had all his meal specially prepared: boiled chicken breast and steamed green beans with a little olive oil. He wasn’t sick, he was spoiled, literally, spoiled like expired milk, he was no longer a dog but a vessel for emotional pain. Poor guy.

My parents declined to attend birthday celebrations, canceled holiday plans, and rejected every dinner invitation extended by my siblings who lived locally. “We can’t leave the dog; he needs us. He’ll die if we’re not home with him,” they’d plead on every phone call.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, WHAT? Yes.

It had never presented a problem in the past with the number of family dogs we’d had before, but this dog carried the burden of all my parents emotional baggage: betrayal, unhappiness, entrapment, marital obligation, years and years and years of emotional grief and depression; all of which were heftily laid upon the back of one small dog, just like that.

Once joyful and spry like a young dog should be, he quickly became aggressive and mean to anyone who wasn’t my mother. Hugging my mom became impractical, as we never knew if the mixed breed Chihuahua would leap from her lap or arms and take a bite out of us. As my parents were unwilling to leave him at home, the executive decision fell on the parents of my nieces and nephews to not invite Grandma and Grandpa over, or out anymore, since the dog could not be trusted with children, or the children with the dog.

My parents feigned outrage, but truly they could not have been more relieved to be let off the hook. “Think of us as grandparents who live out of state. On the rare occasion we can see you, it will mean so much more,” they claimed. All these excuses and lies in the name of the poor dog.

That dog, living with one eye, became my mother’s reason for not living these past, nearly two decades. “We don’t get to take vacations; we are bound by our sick dog.” Or, “we can’t have anything nice because of our sick dog.” And of course my favorite: “we need you to elope, because of our dog, we just won’t be able to come to your wedding, meet your first born child, our grandson, or see the life you’ve built for yourself in California over the past 15-years, your entire adult life, because of our sick dog.”

Alas, this poor sick dog (he was never sick) has passed away. My parents carried him to the crematorium, watched as he was lowered into the flames, and came home with an urn, engraved with the dog’s name. I imagine my mom has sat holding the urn in her lap for the past week. She has not stopped crying or left the house. And just this morning they both decided not to attend my nephew’s (their 2-year-old grandson’s) birthday party, because their dog has died. They also don’t think that Christmas will happen this year for them; possibly even next year.

The dog, even in death, must shoulder my parent’s burdens. Poor fucking Pepper (oh, that was his name, Pepper).