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.