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By Eralides E. Cabrera
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Eralides E. Cabrera
All rights reserved.
Carolyn Collides was barely twenty-two when she spotted the poor creature limping across the highway and she yelled out to her parents from the back of their Ford station wagon. It was a freaky type of yell that sounded like she was in agony. Her mother jumped from the passenger seat and turned to look at her daughter as her husband slowly attempted to pull over the shoulder of the road. It was not easy on Route 287 during those days in Morris County. The newly constructed road had wetted the appetite of thousands of commuters who had until then endured the hard and uncomfortable rides on the county roads. Traffic was heavy on this new highway and drivers were impatient with slow moving vehicles. Carolyn's father got a few beeping horns behind him as he finally was able to slide onto the shoulder. By then he expected the animal to have died, crushed by one of the fast moving cars whose drivers would stop at nothing. There was no chance for a dog to make it across the road at this hour. It was suicide, pure suicide. If its owner had wanted to make the animal disappear he sure had picked the right way to do it. Just drop him in the middle of the highway among a beehive of cars. Is that what had happened? Mr. Fred Collides wondered. If so, the asshole deserved to be thrown in jail.
"Carolyn, what is it? You scared me. I thought something happened."
"Mom, it's a dog. Look! He's hurt, he's hurt! He's right in front of us. He got hit by a car."
"I saw him," Fred said. "I saw him."
"Dad, we can't leave him here."
There was the cracking sound of the door being opened and then it was Fred who jumped off his seat.
"Carolyn, don't you dare go out there!" he said, turning to his daughter. "You wanna get run down by a car?"
"But Dad, you can't leave him on the side of the road. He'll die. He'll only try to cross the road again and he'll get killed by a car. Let's help him."
"Honey, calm down," her mother told her. "Let's see what we can do for him. There's so much traffic though. It's horrible at this time."
She knew her daughter's fondness for animals and her extreme compassion towards them. As a little girl, she had always had an entourage of cats following her in their country home and it was rather common for her to bring stray pets into the house occasionally, pets she'd run into on the road or at other neighbors' property.
Fred had pulled the station wagon onto the shoulder of the road and was doing his best to gain the dog's attention by snapping his left thumb over the open driver's window but the animal just sat on its hind legs in the middle of the slow lane of the highway, having made it almost all the way across, staring towards their car, apparently attracted by Fred's attempts to gain its attention but not enough to make it move over.
Fred and his wife Stacey heard the rear passenger door snap open and before they could say anything, Carolyn was outside, walking resolutely towards the front of the station wagon. Stacey was the first one to jump out to follow her, alarmed that her daughter could be hurt by a car.
"Carolyn, stop! Get back!"
Carolyn was clapping her hands, standing audaciously at the edge of the road, to gain the dog's attention. They heard the screeching noise of a coming vehicle that could not make the switch to the next lane because of other oncoming traffic. Just then the dog stood up and walked into Carolyn's arms. The car was a mid-size Oldsmobile Cutlass and it was weaving from the pressure of the brakes as it tried desperately to stop. Carolyn moved back immediately with the dog in her arms and the driver of the vehicle, realizing that they were now out of the way, sped up, yelling profanities at them as it passed by. Carolyn seemed totally oblivious to the dangerous situation and the near miss, concentrating only on the animal she carried in her arms back to her father's station wagon.
"She's hurt, Mom," she said. "She's bleeding from her rear leg. I think it's broken."
"Carolyn, do you realize you almost gave me a heart attack? You almost got run over out there! What is the matter with you?"
Stacey followed her into the car, still scolding her as they got in.
"Dad, we have to take her to an animal hospital. She's hurt bad."
"She?" her mother asked, turning from the front seat. "How do you know it's a female?"
"Because I looked, Mom. She's a girl."
"All right, all right," Fred Collides said as he tried to put his vehicle in motion. "First I gotta worry about getting back on this highway which is not easy. Everyone is moving at ninety miles an hour, even in the slow lane. How am I gonna get back in?"
"Take your time, honey," Stacey said. "Don't try until you get enough of a stretch. Remember, objects may seem far away but when they're traveling fast they can creep up on you. I don't see any chance right now. Wait," she warned, looking back into the road to help him.
"Oh, my God, poor girl," Carolyn kept lamenting. "Mom, she's bleeding. I've got to try to stop her bleeding."
Stacey leaned over the seat to look.
"She's not that bad Carolyn. Gee, maybe we ought to wrap something around her leg. Let's see."
She grabbed her purse and looked inside.
"Mom, I've got it," Carolyn said.
She had pulled her red bandanna from her back pocket and carefully began wrapping it around the animal's wounded leg. The dog did not resist but began moaning, clearly in pain.
"See what I mean, Mom. We've got to get her to a hospital. She's hurt."
Just then the station wagon pulled into the highway and sped up. Fred had managed to find some empty stretch on the road and quickly took advantage of it.
"Carolyn," Fred said. "Let's not get overly dramatic about this. Let's get the dog home and wash her up and give her something to eat, okay? Then we will see. If she needs medical treatment, we'll take her to a vet."
"Dad, she's hurt bad. I think her leg is broken. She needs a hospital."
"We'll see," her father said. "Let's get her home first. That's enough for now. Come on."
The Collides house was in western New Jersey, a country home near the city of Belvidere. Fred Collides was an accountant and worked for a firm in Hackettstown where he drew a healthy salary that allowed him to provide a comfortable living for his family. His daughter Carolyn had finished high school and had gone on to college but suddenly changed her mind and took a job as a waitress in Central Jersey where her brother kept an apartment. She now divided her time between Edison and the family house in Belvidere. His daughter's decision not to follow up with her education had been more hurtful to him than his own faulty heart that now kept him on a load of daily medication and a diminished sexual drive that bothered him psychologically. But his daughter had been his life's agonizing concern. He could handle his son's refusal to go on to college and take a job at a local motorcycle parts store. He was a strong boy. But Carolyn was a different story. He knew her character better than her mother, or understood how life's intolerant ways would unmercifully penetrate her ways. She was a soft hearted young girl who now at twenty-two thought with the naivety of a teen. Education would have shielded her from harm and prepared her for the ruthlessness that lay ahead. There was perhaps still a chance.
The station wagon pulled into the long driveway from the main road, all five hundred feet of it guarded by a row of wild shrubbery on both sides that gave the house a buffer of privacy. Fred brought the vehicle right up to the front door and turned the engine off.
"Mom, help me with her, please," Carolyn said from the rear.
"I'm coming honey, I'm coming."
The dog kept groaning slightly. It was not a deep groan but rather like a faint cry that dissipated at times and intensified when she was touched. Now that the two women carried her in their arms she sounded as if she was wailing in pain. Fred opened the front door for them and they laid her down on top of a floor mat. Her leg had stopped bleeding now that Carolyn had tied a tourniquet around it but clearly there were other things wrong. Carolyn searched carefully around her body and she found several bloody spots.
"Mom, it's a miracle she's alive. She must have been hit by a car when she crossed the road. We need to get her to a vet right away."
"Carolyn, it's six o'clock in the evening, where are we going to find a vet open at this time?"
"Dad, I told you, we should have just driven her straight to the hospital."
"You know how far that would have been? There are no animal hospitals in Belvidere or in Washington Township. We'd have to drive into Hackettstown and it may be all for nothing because it's probably not open at this time. Animal hospitals are not like human hospitals, you know?"
"Then let's call somebody, Dad. There's gotta be a vet taking calls somewhere."
Fred looked down at the dog lying on the floor mat with Carolyn holding her hind leg and petting her. There was no changing his daughter, he thought. And he truly felt bad for the poor animal's plight. Perhaps if he had been alone with his wife when they saw her hurt on the road he wouldn't have gone this far. He probably would have done something to help help her, like laying her on the side of the road or call for help.
"Stacey, get me the phone book from the dining room. Let's call Edward Shoenning."
He sat in the living room sofa, next to the end table where there was a keypad phone, almost across from Carolyn. When his wife returned with the phone book, he looked through it and dialed a number. It was a short conversation. Edward Shoening was a veterinarian who lived east of town. His wife said he wasn't home yet but that she was expecting him any minute. Fred left word for him to call him. There was somewhat of an emergency with one of their pets, he said.
"Oh, Dad, I hope she makes it," Carolyn said. "I think she's got more than one fracture."
"Let's clean her up, Carolyn," Stacey said. "We can patch up some of her wounds at least."
"Poor girl, left out on the road just like that. What a cruel thing to do to an animal."
"Yeah. She is too grown to be just a stray dog. She had to have had an owner. Maybe she just wandered off, Carolyn. We can't really say."
"No, she didn't, Mom. Someone left her out on the road to die. I know that's what happened."
"You don't know that, honey."
"There aren't any houses around that area, Mom. It's an interstate highway."
Fred had made himself comfortable on his love seat. He lit up his pipe and let out a cloud of smoke.
"Whatever it is, Carolyn, we're stuck with it. Now we gotta assume responsibility for that dog. It's ours, bills and all. We gotta get a veterinarian over here and have her treated. We may even have to have her in a hospital and do you realize how much that's gonna cost? You think your tips at the diner will cover it?"
"Oh, Dad, stop. You know we couldn't have left her out there in that condition. That would have been murder."
"It's not murder, Carolyn," Fred corrected her. "Murder is when a human being is killed. She's not a human being."
She ignored him and kept rubbing the dog's body with one of the wet rags her mother had given her, meticulously going around the red blotches of raw skin that hid inside her copious black hair while the dog grunted weakly.
Fred Collides was not a callous man. On the contrary, he was very sensitive and gave everyone a fair shake. But he was strong willed and practical. He had to be. His wife was always giving in while he was resisting. It just seemed that way. A few weeks later, Brandy, as Carolyn had named her new dog, had a bed of her own in the Collides country home, set up by Stacey who kept watch over her while Carolyn was gone during most of the week working as a waitress and staying at her brother's apartment. Brandy had almost recovered fully in a few days.
"I knew this is how it would end. We inherited a new member in the family. Our daughter would never have the time to care for this dog. Now it's become our problem."
"Fred, she takes care of her but what would you have her do? She can't take her to Edison and leave her all day by herself in that apartment."
"You know what I think, Stacey? I think we've taken good care of this dog. We've made her well. We've treated her injuries but we can't inherit her. We're old. I think the dog should be put up for adoption."
"Yes, Brandy. That's another thing. How does she go about naming the dog after a human? Brandy is the name of a woman."
"It's a song, Fred, by gosh. What's wrong with that? You've never heard it?"
"No, I don't think I have."
"That's because you're too busy listening to your big bands' records, Fred. But there is another world out there. It's a different one than the one we lived in. But it is there. It belongs to the young."
"Fine. Let the young take after their own problems, just as we did when we were their age."
"You say that now, Fred, but the minute she calls, you'll be all melted and you'll go back on everything you said to me just now. That's how you are with Carolyn. She's got you by her thumb."
"Don't be too sure about that, Stacey. Carolyn needs to grow up."
"Yeah, yeah. Brandy, you're a fine girl," Stacey was humming as she got up from her chair. "What a good wife you would be."
"That's it, ah? That's the song you're talking about? Boy, my wife is really keeping up with the times. Maybe I do have something to worry about after all."
Fred got up from the sofa and he walked towards Stacey. He took her in an embrace and she reciprocated, wrapping her arms around him. They were both in their mid-fifties but had never ceased being affectionate towards each other and held hands when they were out together.
"I don't think that's anything you need to worry about, Fred. For me, there's only one, no matter what the times, no matter what the music. Not even the dogs."
They both laughed and kissed each other. They had known each other since their teens, both children of Greek immigrants who had migrated to America in the mid-twenties and had lived as children through the rigorous times of the depression in the thirties. That's when Fred Collides forged his character and became resolute in knowing that he and his family, whenever he had one, would never know poverty or even a trace of the misery that he went through as a child. He had been working since he was eight years old and he had put himself through school by working at night in a delivery business. How he was able to pay his way through college later on was a mystery that even he could not explain at times. He had been a tremendously ambitious young man who stopped at nothing just so he could get an education. He had met Stacey just at the brink of finishing college, a then beautiful and slim young waitress who went to a Greek Orthodox Church on Sundays and spoke softly and smartly. Fred fell for her in a flash and before a year went by they were married. They never looked back.
"Today is my mother's birthday too," Carolyn said to the young man she had met at a popular night club in Sayreville, New Jersey.
She had gone to the club with her child hood friend, Kathy, who was much bolder and had approached the young man after Carolyn whispered in her ear that she found him attractive.
"My friend likes you," she told him.
It was spring of 1975 and the disco craze was sweeping the country in full force. The loud music was playing incessantly from the club's gigantic speakers making it hard for anyone to hold a conversation.
The young man was in his early twenties and as it turned out, he was of the same age as Carolyn. After asking Kathy to repeat herself several times, he followed her to be introduced to Carolyn. They took a seat in one of the small tables crowded near each other on a raised platform, facing the dance floor.
"Wow, what a coincidence," Joe said. "Well, wish her happy birthday."
"I'll be leaving early in the morning to see her."
"She does not live in the area?"
"No, my parents live in the country. About one hour drive from here."
"I take it you don't live with your parents."
"I spend the week up here. I share an apartment with my brother in Edison and spend most of my weekends with my parents."
"Yeah. It's rather hectic, actually, but for now it has to be that way. I need to be at their house on the weekends to look after my dog. As it is, I feel kind of guilty that I leave them stuck with that responsibility of caring for her."
"Why can't you bring your dog up here?"
"The apartment's rules," she said. "You know, they don't allow pets in our apartment."
Joe lifted his Kirby cordial glass, beaming with the reddish-golden color of a Tequila sunrise, trying to make a toast. Both Kathy and Carolyn lifted their own glasses and clanked them together.
Excerpted from BRANDY by Eralides E. Cabrera. Copyright © 2013 Eralides E. Cabrera. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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