Tippy the terrier
had a temper. Ronnie kept him well-behaved through “Dog
Whispering” principles of exercise, discipline and affection but he was still a handful. The dog spent days with her father, a retired colonel who
taught him tricks and spoiled him with low-cal organic dog treats. His
last dog, Mitsy, died and they’d buried her on the mesa behind the
house. Tippy wasn't as smart as Mitsy but he was faster and could jump
higher. He spent all day learning tricks, patrolling the yard, walking
the neighborhood with the colonel and sleeping. Every once in awhile,
when Walter wasn’t paying attention, Tippy would jump the backyard wall
and cross the road to the mesa beyond - the wild edge of the growing
city where exciting smells and risks abound.
Ronnie, Walter and Tippy had moved to Duke City from Minneapolis after visiting one beautiful week in October. She got a job at a temp agency and rented a apartment downtown. But when she got the county job and decided to buy a house, she found the sprawling west side of the city far more affordable. They moved into a new house in Unit One of the huge "Apostrophy" development just before the housing bubble popped and construction stalled. The realtor and developer had made promises about coming shopping, parks and hiking trails but everything came to a stop, including completion of several houses on her street "Parentheses Lane" that now stood half-finished, targets for vandals, tar paper and insulation rattling all night in the wind.
bosses at the county seemed the oddest bunch. The deputy manager
scheduled three morning meetings a week at which he and 3 or 4 top
administrators would eat breakfast burritos and discuss work. The men
(and they were all men) would solemnly emerge from the meetings and
proceed directly to Ronnie’s desk where they would each in turn assign
her tasks they had been given. She always needed to remind them to pay for the burritos.
In the first months on the new job she seldom knew the purpose or context of what she was asked to do. She suspected their requests were garbled interpretations of what they were assigned. The deputy manager himself would invariably misinterpret his boss’s direction and the county manager in turn was responding to one or more of the commissioners. By the time Ronnie gathered the information or completed the assignment for her multiple bosses, it was very different from the first request.
It would have been far more efficient to invite Ronnie to the meetings but when she suggested it they all thought she was joking. She didn’t bring it up again. That afternoon her boss told her it would be OK to order breakfast for herself next time. But burritos weren't the problem. She actually enjoyed going to the restaurant early and talking to the short-order cook, Angelo. He made her laugh and always had good advice.
This morning he was grinning as he deftly rolled scrambled eggs into a tortilla. “Don’t be unhappy,” he said. “Sadness never helps.” She dreaded what he might say next. No doubt it would be that that stereotypic male cure-all: “Smile!” Instead, he said, “Keep your eyes and ears open. Change is constant.”
The following Monday she began listening in on the meetings while she ate the burrito Angelo made especially for her using that fancy Canadian bacon. The speaker phone sat on the credenza in her bosses office, inconspicuous behind a stack of planning documents. No one ever looked at those.