Zingo And Me

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

You gotta have a dog that's got your back.

I knew as soon as I pulled out of Sheila’s driveway for the last time that I was heading for the storage shed at the construction site.  Not that I’d mind sleeping in the rain.  Done that more than once.  But Zingo is fourteen and has arthritis in his hips.  He doesn’t know he’s supposed to act like an old dog. 

I’d palmed the extra key to the shed the other day.  I knew things were heading south with Sheila.  They always did if I was depending on a woman.  It wasn’t her fault.  But I can’t help it.  I’m just not the kind of man that gives a woman what she wants.  It’s not that I treat them bad.  I’m not “open”.  I don’t “let them in.”  Maybe other things I won’t talk about.

There are good reasons for all that.

There are good reasons why Zingo is the only person left that I can have a real relationship with.  And he’s a dog. 

Once there was a different life.  Once there was the Army.  Once there was Carny.

Carny was my nickname for Carlos Nicolas Isbel, which I shortened to Carny.  We were the Recon version of the Odd Couple.  He was Hispanic, highly disciplined, and determined to earn his US citizenship with an honorable career in the military.  He would have made a great general.

On the other hand, I was a product of a spoiled upbringing and parents that were more interested in the bottle and arguing with each other than what their kid was doing.  I did what I wanted, when I wanted, until the judge asked, “Jail or Army?” 

A CO once described me as a fucked up mass of unrealized potential. 

As long as I had Carny, as long as I had the Army, I didn’t have the wiggle room to mess things up.  Now, there is more than enough room.

I unlocked the shed and set Zingo’s pad in a corner.  He curled up and resumed his nap.  I grabbed my suitcase and the box with his food from the truck.  I flipped on the flashlight and closed the shed door.  Arranged cardboard on the floor for a bed, and settled in for a long, cold night.

Carny and I spent plenty of cold nights next to each other, one on guard while the other slept.  We didn’t carry sleeping bags when we went on our hikes through other people’s countryside.  The ground was hard and the missions were dangerous.

But we always did good.  Until that day when Carny let down his guard.  And I let down my guard.  But only one of us paid for it.  The other one only has to think about it every morning when he wakes up, and every night when he lays down and tries to fall asleep.  It’s not that bad.

Sleeping on a construction site is a risky business.  Men who run construction companies have enough problems without having to deal with the inevitable theft and destruction that occurs when people like me decide to camp out.  I’ve been kicked awake by less than sympathetic site supervisors a few times.  Once I woke up with a shotgun barrel in my chest.  He told me to run.  I drove off barefoot and half naked, and Zingo made an incredible jump into the truck bed on our way out.  We were both younger then.

Zingo and me were lucky this morning.  It was the owner of the company that drove up at 5am, just as I was about to leave.  Mr. Nash was a veteran himself.  Someone who’s walked in your shoes might be a little more tolerant, regardless of how often you fuck up.

Before I had a chance to explain myself, he said, “Johnny, I guess you got yourself kicked out again.  Lucky for you I’m a man short on the painting crew.  Take this and get the south wall prepped, the painters will be here soon.”  He handed me a Hardee’s sack.  Inside were a pair of sausage biscuits.

He said, “I just remembered I forgot to buy breakfast.  I’ll be back in a few minutes.  After work we’ll discuss your sleeping arrangements.”

Carny wasn’t the only person that has tried to look after me, despite me being my own worst enemy.

I downed the biscuits and started assembling the scaffolding.  At the end of the day, Mr. Nash handed me an envelope.  It had $250, a key, and a hand drawn map.  He said, “I’m advancing you a week’s pay.  The key and the map are for my hunting lodge.  You’ll need that four wheel drive truck of yours to get there.  You can stay there as long as you like.  It’s about an hour away.  There’s no electricity, and the only water is a spring that runs for a day or two after a heavy rain.  I figure you will get along fine up there.  The lodge is unfinished on the inside, there are building materials and tools.  You know what to do to pay rent.”

The map led us up a steep dirt road that would be impossible to drive on in snow or heavy rain.  This is rugged terrain that would discourage ordinary weekend hunters.  The kind of land you can buy in large quantities, very cheap. 

The lodge was a one room hut perched on the side of the mountain.  Just enough room for four men to sleep.  No bathroom or kitchen.  But it had a wood stove.  No shortage of trees.  No reason to be cold in the winter here. 

I can do pretty good as long as I have something to focus on.  All day at the construction site, I was fine.  I took the money, did some shopping, drove up to the lodge.  Unloaded, Zingo curled up in the corner and went to sleep.  Everything is great.

But now I’m too tired to do anything constructive.  I have to rest.  And that’s when the thoughts start coming.  The first one was, “Carny sure would have loved to hunt in a place like this.”

A bullet can come out of nowhere.  A bomb can fall out of the sky.  Survivors often say they didn’t hear the gun or the airplane.  But when you are moving too fast through underbrush and you trigger a tripwire, you either get blown to pieces, or you remember that sound forever.  Carny was the one who triggered the wire.  He wasn’t the one who had time to jump.  He wasn’t the one who spent the next month recovering from burns, shrapnel wounds, and ruptured eardrums.

It was a cold night.  Zingo looked happy, curled up a few feet from the wood stove.  For me, it was too quiet inside the lodge.  I laid a painters tarp on the porch, rolled out the sleeping bag and put some blankets on top.  I hunkered down for the night.  The sound of the wind helped me to sleep.

Submitted: May 02, 2015

© Copyright 2021 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Criss Sole

I would have probably picked jail, because the army terrifies me. Losing a friend like Carny broke my heart. I really liked him. But that's how war is. In the end you can always turn to a pet who will never let you down.

Tue, May 5th, 2015 2:35pm


My father was in the Army so I grew up in it. I knew I would never be the "yes sir" kind of guy. Definitely not for me.

Wed, May 6th, 2015 1:55am


I liked reading this, flowed very well and I could believe if it was a published work. Also, dogs are cool.

Wed, May 31st, 2017 3:30pm


Thanks. I appreciate the feedback. I like dogs too, but my cat won't let me have one. I based this story on events that happened to a college buddy of mine, who has spent his life struggling with alcoholism and mental illness. For a few years, he had a dog and was reasonably happy. Sad to say, his life isn't turning out as well as the character in the story.

Wed, May 31st, 2017 2:34pm

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