I dress for the agency Open House in a stylish and, so says my Color Identifier, matching sweater and slacks set. I brush Randy in the vain hope he won’t shed big black hair balls onto co-workers, distinguished guests and community bigwigs. We station ourselves just inside the entrance, with no purpose save being present and presentable.
A chirpy hostess offers me the event’s signature treat, a root beer float. And boy, do I love root beer floats. As a kid, I called them Black Cows. But these days, my tendency toward spillage gives me pause. Dare I risk defacing my pristine outfit? Yes, I do. I’ll just be extra careful, that’s all.
My root beer float comes with a wide-body plastic straw. No muss, no fuss, hands-free delivery system. I draw hard on the straw but find no purchase. Must be clogged with ice cream. I draw harder. I taste air and make bubbles. I slide my fingers the length of the straw. At the midpoint is a slit, courtesy of a stock boy and his utility knife. The slit is aimed at my heather gray cashmere sweater. The sweater is sodden with root beer float.
“Jeff,” says the Boss, “I’d like you to meet my wife, Helen Gregory.”
“Pleased to meet you, Helen,” I say. I extend a sticky hand and we shake.
“What a handsome guide dog you have,” says Helen Gregory. “What’s his name?”
“Randy,” I say. “We’ve been partners five years. At first, I thought Randy was a stupid name. Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie stupid. But it fits. Randy’s a name for a ten year-old boy. He’s a big lug. He has no guile. All ears and feet and eagerness. He’s a goof, a doufous. Simple as a ten year-old boy. When he shakes his head, it sounds like a box of rocks.”
“He is quite well-behaved,” says Helen Gregory.
“Jeff,” says the Boss, returning from the periphery. “I’d like you to meet my son Zachary. He’s ten years old.”
I stick out a sticky hand and Zachary takes it.
“Oh, Jeff knows all about ten year-olds, don’t you, Jeff?” says Helen Gregory.
Zachary unsticks his hand from mine. Randy shakes his head. His ears go slap-slap-slap against the sides of his huge noggin.