The men met
At the corner of Cherry Street and Terry Ave.
The one with the dog
Was dapper, groomed, face washed,
Warm in his Sherpa jacket
A dog in tow on a retractable leash.
The one with the deeply lined face,
Puffy eyes, 3 day old scruff on his jaw,
Missing several teeth, others in dire need of repair,
With no coat, wrapped in a 12th Man flag,
Spoke with the strong odor of ethanol and decay
Emanating from that disheveled gob.
“That’s a fine-looking dog.
I’d love to have a dog like that,
But I’m not responsible enough
To have one.
What’s his name?”
“Felon,” the other man answered.
The man with the dog noticed a puzzled look on the questioning man’s face.
This happened ALL the time.
The man with the dog noticed it, expectantly.
Must be his pronunciation.
“Felon…like a criminal,” said the dog handling man.
That man saw the light go on in the other man’s face and eyes.
“What a COOL name!” said the snaggeltooth.
“He’s a fine animal.
You see, I’m an alcoholic,
No news flash.
“I have a dual diagnosis. May I pet him? I always ask.”
“Sure! Fel…come here and meet…ummm…”
“…Gary. Come here, boy”
The drunk reached out a trembling, weathered hand,
And gently stroked the dog’s wide,smooth head.
The dog’s tail wagged as it always did when shown such affection.
“He’s a fine dog,” he murmured breathing out fumes.
“Maybe someday I can have a dog like him.”
“Well, I hope so,” said the dog’s owner.
“I wonder what you’d have to do in order for that to happen?” he asked respectfully.
“Well…stop drinking, get a job, and a place of my own.
But that’s really hard.”
“Yes, Gary, it is.
It can be done tho.”
The dog’s chaperon thought back,
Twenty five-odd years earlier,
His own drinking and cocaine use brought him to his knees.
Couch surfing after a hospitalization, faced with the same dual diagnosis.
So bewildering…the dog walker had made it through
The maze of the strong pull for release promised by substances,
The seemingly endless maze of one set of meds
After another, and another, and another.
And yet, here he was
Just doing the next best right thing after the next best right thing.
How would Gary do it?
Without even a couch to surf from?
Burned bridges strewn in his past.
Burnt out friendships and relationships.
No job, no anchoring to any semblance of reality
That the man with the dog had found, after much searching.
“Well, I’ve gotta go,” said Gary.
“You have a good day, Gary”
“Thanks!” And Gary shuffled off, body lurching from impending DT’s.
Right down the street, Straight to the convenience store
To get that “magic potion”
That would set him aright for a few more hours until he required another dose.
“I guess not today, Gary,” the dog’s owner thought,
As he headed home.
And not him?”
© Richard A. Martin, Jr., MD, CPC, 2016