The Secret Of A Man’s Man

Dad in a suit

The day had finally arrived. Two more hours of required community service and I’d be done fulfilling my obligation to God and country. Well, to the county that is. I had chosen to serve my time at the animal shelter, the Capital Humane Society.

Now, people have numerous reasons for giving up their pets. Some reasons are good and justifiable, but a few are merely lame excuses. The answers for “why we wish to adopt” are easy, and usually simple. Most prospective owners have nothing but the best intentions in mind. On a normal day at the shelter, these exchanges are going on simultaneously. A wide variety of domesticated animals come in and they go out. Needless to say, more arrive than go out alive. That’s no secret.

I showed up early that morning, and went in the back. After adjusting myself to that now familiar smell, I made my way to the bulletin board where they post the volunteer’s assignments. “Sweep and mop floors in all areas,” was written next to my name. “Easy enough,” I  thought. It’s a better job than having to clean the bathrooms, or do dishes.

The mop, bucket, broom and dust pan were in the closet where they should be. The bucket I took and filled with the required amount of water, adding the proper amount of bleach, and then I set to work. I had learned by now that it was better to first clean up in front of the main counter before everyone comes in, and that’s where I began.

This particular Saturday, folks were lined up at the front door before the opening bell. It looked to me like there was a family with kids, and another couple who had high hopes of adopting, and going home that day with a new, soon-to-be loved one. There was also a man who had brought a dog along with him. From what I recall, the dog wasn’t a pure breed, nor a pandered pooch. It wasn’t big, mean and nasty looking, nor was it a furry little cutie pie. It was rather undistinguished. It was your standard, medium sized, run-of-the-mill mutt in a rut. Just why the man was here with this dog, I had no way of knowing. It was really none of my business, and I made no judgment. Some neighborly folks bring in lost dogs, or strays, so I couldn’t even be sure it was his pet. This I do know, if one has dirty business to contend with, it’s best to get the job done and over with as soon as possible. That’s why I was there at 8 o’clock that morning.

At 8:30 the manager unlocked the doors and opened shop. After the small crowd had come in, I moved to the front entryway that consists of two sets of glass double doors that swing heavily as force is applied. I swept off the big, black rug first, and then around it, and began to bring together all the dirt, the clumps of hair, and the June bugs that congregate to die by the bright lights at night.

I had just moved off to one side, kneeling down to use the dust pan, when all of a sudden someone comes busting through the doors, as if angry, or in a hurry to exit. I looked up, and it was this man, minus the dog. I had not noticed any shenanigans going on at the counter. I had heard no loud voices indicating a heated discussion. I had to wonder what had gotten into him. I was soon to find out what was gnawing at his guts.

I couldn’t help but to watch after him through the squeaky-clean glass doors. This big and burly guy, who looked to be in his fifties, wore quite typical attire for a man’s man from these parts. He was dressed in old blue jeans, a red and black, plaid flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off, and on his head he kept a well-worn, green and white ball cap.

He quickly moved straight ahead across the small parking lot, and climbed into an old, red Ford pickup. There was a camper shell in the bed of the truck. His personalized license plate read, ” ELVIS “. He had backed into his parking space, so I could plainly see him through the windshield. I carried on as if I were paying him no attention, swinging the mop back and forth aimlessly.

All in a huff, he got in and slammed the door. He was  now safely shut off from the rest of the world, or so he thought. I continued to watch. Elvis just sat there, unmoving, presumably in contemplation of the act to which he had committed himself, and feeling the results as they hit home. Shortly thereafter, he rolled down his window, put his left arm and elbow on the ledge, and leaned his head on a loosely clenched fist. But the guilt and the grief could no longer be hidden. It was more than he could bear, and at that point he lost his nerve and came unglued.

Elvis took off his glasses and slung them on top of the dashboard. With both hands he began rubbing his eyes in a circular motion, as if attempting to remove any remaining sensitivity that could be found in the crocodile tears profusely running down his whiskery cheeks betraying his manhood. He may have felt that by applying pressure where it hurt he could stem the tide and push the soul back into the hole from whence it came. After a few moments, he gathered his wits about him, started the engine, put it in drive, and pulled away. As he made his exit, I caught enough of a glimpse on the back of his truck to read this one lone bumper sticker. And it did say, “ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING”.

I was soon to follow suit.


22 thoughts on “The Secret Of A Man’s Man

  1. I often am amazed at how much more we care for our animals than we do for the humans that are around us. I understand the why of it, sure enough, but it is an odd thing.

  2. Love works by evening things out, Walking Man.
    It has never made any sense. That’s why it explains everything.

  3. I can relate to this having volunteered at our local shelter. I can relate to this being an animal lover, being a man, and being human. Uncle Tree, you have no need to be embarrassed or ashamed of this piece. You’ve done well, my friend, and I have no criticisms, only praise. I enjoyed it and was glad you brought it to my attention. It was easy to read & follow (and WORTH reading, I might add!!), it made me *feel*, and created a world in very few paragraphs. If more short stories are in you, go for it! I can’t write a short story to save my life. But you clearly can.

    Good work.

  4. Wheeew! What a R – e – l – i – e – f !!!

    I’m glad you felt this, too, because that’s how I spelled it. And so did Elvis.

    There are sooo many pets at the shelter I wish I could bring home.
    That’s the tough part about working there. But when I see the smiles
    of children instantly falling in love, and the joy they exhibit, it makes it all
    worthwhile. My hat’s off to the folks who work there full-time. Tough job.

    You write a short story in every poem, and you take me to places that
    I’ve never been before. I needed the education, and a good lesson
    in tolerance. You practice what you preach, and that is quite admirable!

    Thank you much for the support and the nudge, my friend!

  5. Hi uncle, well written text!
    It is quite a paradox to pay your due to society in the animal shelter (taking car of animals). Isn’t it?

    To tell you te truth I always thought about the people who give up their animals just as if they where peice of furniture, it sounds so cruel to me. Why do they think they are called sentient beings? They are attached to people, they tend to be use to a certain way of living. Never thelse lots of people do abandon their pets, I guess they give it up to the sheter and just forget, they do not think about them ever again. You can not do that to a being, because you where the one who decided to own it, now you are in charge of it, as I belive till the animal dies.

    Just a short story. My friend Angeles found a cacaoo in LA, it started following her through venice beach, talking to hear, til they got to her house. So then she took it to the shelter place (I went) and left it there for a week to check nobody claimed. AS nobody this she kept her and a cacaoo. The main one was pink and really big, it use to make the fether on her head. But the funiest think of all is that she use to talk dirty words most of the times a stranger entered the place. Rosita it was called.
    a Hughe hugh

  6. Hello, and thanks, Mariana!

    He’s “gone to the dogs”! I’m sure some people thought that about Tree.
    You notice we don’t say, “gone to the monkeys”, and that’s probably
    because most folks have no wish to remember their roots, and if someone
    brings it up, they vehemently deny it. Btw, do great apes keep pets?

    I’m not surprised you hold that philosophy about all, or most of
    Nature’s critters. Have you ever owned an anaconda? Or a scorpion?
    Tarantula? Vampire bat? Gutter rats don’t count, for they are people, too.

    Funny bird story. They seem to pick up on dirty, filthy cuss words very
    easily. I’ve heard them before also. Those big birds are beautiful though.
    Can we teach one to sing, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog…”?

    Ruff! Bark! Tree-he-he

  7. Uncle Tree, you do know most dogs lift their legs on trees? Perhaps you better take another shape when you write about canines?


  8. Uncle Tree…this should be proof positive writing is not just about poetry. I liked this story. Keep writing in any form that inspiration comes.

    I adore the ending.

  9. Thank you, M’Lady!

    I think one can write a story poetically well-versed,
    and one can also have a pinch of poetic justice
    at the end of the tale. I’m not going to get into
    “what poems do that stories don’t”, I’ll just make
    them to where they don’t look like each other, and
    then I’ll slap some kinda label on it…categorically.

    I’m glad you liked the ending.
    I had fun playing a journalist!

  10. Oh the burden
    Of beasts and children
    To endure the whims of those
    Who ignore
    Or strike the blows

    I loved your story Tree, it is shattering and uplifting at the same time.

  11. Thank you! Thank you very much, Val!
    His stance was that of the Stoic.
    He knows? He may also be chivalrous.

    Everyone has a soft spot, don’t they?
    That’s why it gave me hope, especially for
    the man’s man-kind. I’ve been known to hide, too.

  12. Nice work indeed. If Elvis expressd that man’s soul–then–hell, it was clearly back there with the dog he left behind.
    and gotta wonder just ‘why’ he brought that dog ‘in’–his choice or someone else?

  13. Thanks, Eva. I have no idea why he brought it in.
    I thought about asking, but figured it wasn’t any of my business.
    The real workers there don’t really mix it up with the pseudo volunteers.

    No matter the reason, it’s a good thing he didn’t try to hold it all in.
    I did have this thought: Perhaps his mother had recently passed and
    this dog was his last living reminder of her. Maybe he lived at a place
    that doesn’t allow pets. I can see where in that case it would be
    really hard to leave it behind. I just hope it was adopted by someone else.

  14. Me too—hope it found a new home. Interesting contrast your comment states about real workers and pseudo volunteers—have you written abou this ‘relationship’ elsewhere on your site? if so, direct me to it…if not…well, what are you waiting for? nudge

  15. No, Eva. Elsewhere it is not. Let me try this:
    Real workers at the shelter get paid for what they do.
    (A vet, assistants, office help, etc.) Real volunteers willingly
    give of their free time to work there. They mostly walk the dogs
    and play with the cats. The pseudo volunteers help with some
    of the dirty work. We are there not because we want to be there.
    We are required to complete so many hours as part of a program,
    one that was ordered by a judge because of a first-time minor offense.

    I hope that’s what you mean by ‘relationship’.
    You’re not a spy, are you? :0

  16. Okay, I think I’m following you. Hey, some of my best recycling ‘volunteers’ were folks whose presence was required. Two of them were the best damn cardboard packers and newpaper stackers ever worked a recycling bin. Had several–all of whom could be trusted to run the place as if they were moi whenever I was off site. Never sell anyone short just cause they’re spending time in location they might not otherwise have invested any time or energy in.
    –a spy? me? I wish, I bet they make damn good money. But I seriously doubt me and the spy club would get a long any too well. Nope. Your stuff is your stuff–not my stuff to mess with.
    –thanks for the clarification –I’m slow with some things…

  17. You’re welcome, 47. (Can I call you Eva?)
    I’m glad you understand completely. Perhaps I am afraid of making
    myself too clear, as if I could soon become invisible by doing so.

    Of course I was kidding about the spy comment.
    How do you spell nosy anyway? Oh, like that. Okay.
    No, really. I’ve enjoyed our conversation immensely.
    As for me? I can now hold my own against any other
    floor mopper-upper. Callouses come with the territory.

    Good morning, grinner nudger!

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