This guy’s neighbor, next door neighbor, left their dog with him. It’s an apartment complex, so imagine that first. Then imagine it’s a late-winter weekday, the kind that get dark quickly and the wind is biting and there aren’t twinkling holiday lights or anything, just wind and sleet off the lake and even if its not windy it feels bleak, but this is an apartment building and it’s the second of four floors and the walls are that textured stucco stuff that looks like it’s stained with cigarette smoke.
Anyway this guy hears someone knock on his door a few times and it’s after dinner but not quite bedtime and they’re adults anyway so maybe no one has a bedtime but either way he goes to the door and opens it and attached to the knob of his door is a leash and attached to the leash is a scraggly haired, wiry brown dog. The dog is sitting, facing away from the door, facing down the hallway where, once this guy pokes his head out, he sees the neighbor speed walking around the corner saying something like I’ll be right back or Just for a little or something like that, but it’s something he forgot right away and then regretted he didn’t write down because it was going to be important to him, at least for a little.
They looked at each other for a minute or two then, the little dog and the guy. The little dog turned his head around to look at him and the shuffled a bit, without getting up, it was pretty cute actually, the shuffling around to face the guy. The guy finally took the leash off the knob and he looked down at the dog and spoke in French and said the equivalent of “ok let’s go” and the dog took the hint and the body language, even though he didn’t know French, even though he’d only ever been spoken to in english, and he walked through the doorway into the house.
That night they didn’t hang out together very much, the guy made a little blanket bed and the dog wandered around and tested out different spots and the guy googled what human food a dog can eat and he stayed up much later than he normally would’ve, nervous he’d miss the knocks of his neighbor, returning for his dog.
The next day, and the two days after that, went the same pretty much. He called into his job and said he wouldn’t be coming to the office, that he would work from home. It wasn’t unusual for his job or his field even for that time, post-virus, pre-post-virus, if that makes sense. The dog ate dog food that the guy eventually bought a small amount of. The dog peed and pooped when they went out, a few times each day, braving the cold. The guy had this big puffy red coat with a furry hood and the dog didn’t have anything and if they stayed out too long the dog would lift one of his four legs, whichever was coldest, and he’d hop on the other three and that’s how the guy knew that they should go in. Each night before they went to bed, the guy would make a little blanket bed for the dog and he’d leave the apartment and knock on his next door neighbor’s door and he’d say in english Hello and Are you home and I have your dog.
I’ll speed this story up a bit. In a movie this would be a montage I guess, or maybe a narration depending on how bad the movie is. This early into a movie for there to be either would be a bad sign I guess but for now lets say weeks passed without much change. They had sunk into their routine and the guy bought a larger bag of dog food and got a tag printed for the dog, the dog had a collar but no tags, and he bought little winter booties for the dog as well, bright red. The tag had this guys phone number on one side and the other side in all caps SONNY, after Sonny Corleone in the Godfather, this guy’s second favorite American movie. His first favorite is Rumble Fish, but he couldn’t fit Rusty James all on one line so he went with Sonny.
This guy’s family lived up in a state two states north of the one they were in and the weeks ticked on and the guy decided that Sonny would have to come with him up two states to visit his family. There was a celebration for the guys grandfather who was turning 98, which the family, unbeknownst to the grandfather, decided would probably be the last for him. The guy brought him on the train all the way up.
The guy was nervous about it but he the dog never made noise, ever since he got dropped off at the door all those weeks and months ago, and he stayed quiet on the train. Kids loved Sonny, adults either loved him or ignored him, cats seemed unimpressed, other dogs courteous. Sonny was great the family house too. The blanket bed was made, he found a new spot for peeing and wandering in his booties. His parents, in French, gave him different commands, and the dog, having been trained a long time ago in english, didn’t know what they were saying but sometimes could guess right and other times guessed wrong but still was rewarded for the efforts.
I didn’t speed up quite enough to cover enough ground so let’s zoom out again but a little farther.
Three years later the guy and Sonny were at a new apartment in a new neighborhood of that same city and this apartment was bigger with these huge floor to ceiling windows that let all this light in to bounce off the wooden floors and Sonny had grown gray around the muzzle and he liked starting his day off laying on the wooden floorboards, feeling the sun hit him, even in the colder months, warming his side. Every 20 or so minutes he’d move a bit because the light would move and the warmth with it and the guy would watch him from his desk at home and he’d hear his little feet patter the wood and he’d hear him let out a little hrumph and a little sigh while he laid back down.
This one morning, in this new apartment, the guy was on a call, his desktop screen covered in little talking heads, most of them speaking French, a few in jilted english-french trying to get their points across, and the guy heard a door knock, and he removed one of his earphones, but he kept his eyes on his screen, since he was on camera, but he heard the knock again, this time without a doubt from his door, and he turned his camera off and typed a quick sentence into the keyboard and he got out of his chair and went over past the kitchen and opened it and the guys neighbor was there. Not his current neighbor, but the old neighbor, the one he’d last seen moving around the corner, this was the original owner of Sonny.
The neighbor looked at the French guy with a small little mona lisa smile and raised his eyebrows as if to say “what were you expecting?” and then he peeked over the shoulder of the French guy and he let out a little whistle. Before the guy even turned all the way around he heard the little patter of feet on the wood, and just as he got all the way around, Sonny was at his legs, moving past him now, right over the threshold there, and now walking down the hallway, with the neighbor beside him. The guy waited a beat but neither turned back around, all they did was keep walking, turning the corner at the end of the hall.