Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Whippet, the Republican, and the Crazy Slippered Girl: A Fable

Once upon a not very long ago time in a forest not very far from here there lived a girl in a tiny little, lovely duplex. The girl shared her humble home with her friends Annie, a 6 year-old whippet and Mitchell, a gray furry kitty who had adopted her several years before. Mitchell, Annie, and the girl lived a nice, quiet little life in Lake Daniel Forest.

One spring, Crystal, Annie’s two-year-old niece, came for a visit. Annie and the girl were excited about Crystal’s visit, Mitchell not so much. “Not another silly whippet,” he muttered and flicked his tail. The visit was full of excitement. Annie and Crystal enjoyed reminiscing and sniffing each other in strange places, well, at least strange to the girl; the dogs seemed to think it was perfectly normal. They took turns picking on Mitchell and playing with Annie’s toys. Well, they didn’t always take turns, sometimes they ganged up on Mitchell and other times they fought over Annie’s toys. Eventually, Annie, who realized that she actually really grooved on being an only dog would get cranky, yell at Crystal for a while, and then go to bed leaving Crystal with the girl.

At least twice a day, the girl took the whippets for long walks in the forest from which she’d come home worn out (it was the first time she’d been in charge of two whippets) and they’d come home all happy and smiley. One morning the threesome arrived on the back porch of the duplex after their walk and opened the door to go inside. Mitchell ran out while they were coming in. This was okay because Mitchell was allowed to play outside as long as the girl was home. The girl took off the whippets’ necklaces, put on her fuzzy slippers and then remembered that she needed to go back outside to do some scooping. Just as she opened the door Mitchell let out a huge meow and Crystal dashed past the girl into the backyard. “Oh no!” thought the girl.

As you probably know, whippets are super fast runners and the girl, well she wasn’t super fast, not even quick really. She knew that if she sounded as if she were angry with Crystal or at all nervous that Crystal would run because she would be afraid of getting into trouble. So the girl would have to remain calm, not freak out, and speak ever so sweetly to Crystal who was out in the neighborhood -- naked. All this ran through the girl’s head as she watched Crystal jump on Mitchell, run into a backyard two houses over, jump up on a fence to get at a squirrel, and take off across the street. (Yes, there are streets and backyards in Lake Daniel Forest. Just go with me, it’s 2006 you know, forests have changed quite a bit.)

Now the girl was really nervous. Crystal’s forest back home didn’t have streets – she lived in this cool place called the Greenway and she took her walks around Shelley Lake. Crystal knew nothing about forest traffic. The girl was moving as quickly as she could (well, as quickly as someone can in fuzzy slippers) and using her sugariest sweet voice to call out Crystal’s name. Well, Miss Crystal was having a great time run, run, running all necklaceless and naked. Every few minutes or so the girl caught sight of flashes of brindle and white. You see, Crystal thought they were playing a game and she kept doubling back to the sound of the girl’s voice. As soon as the girl would get near her she’d take off again, that was the object of Crystal’s game – to not be caught. The girl was playing a different game – catch the whippet.

Lake Daniel Forest is bordered by a very busy street that lots of scary cars use everyday. Crystal didn’t know that she was near the very busy street and about to run out of forest when she paused to catch her breath. The girl spotted her and slowly walked up toward her saying things like “hi sweet girl.” Just as the girl put one hand on her, Crystal remembered her game and sprinted away toward the very busy street.

The girl was freaking out now and as she ran toward the very busy street she was rehearsing in her head what she’d have to tell Crystal’s dad if she couldn’t catch her. At that moment she heard a voice say, “She’s over here.” As the girl rounded the corner to find the voice she saw a man sitting in a swing in his backyard. He pointed to the bottom of a steep hill and there the girl saw Crystal standing on the side of the very busy street, breathing hard and not moving. She was happy to see the dog but she couldn’t breath a sigh of relief just yet. She slowly moved toward Crystal calling her name. Crystal was tired and scared of the traffic and very happy to see her friend and walked toward the girl who quickly wrapped her arms around her and held on tight. The girl stood there holding on to the dog for a few seconds while she thanked the man for his help. Then she picked up the 28 pound dog and started her three-block trek back to the lovely duplex.

As she was walking home and struggling to not drop the wiggling whippet she realized where she was and who that man must be. She drove past that house quite a bit and all during the last presidential campaign she’d cursed that house under her breath (and sometimes loudly inside her car with the windows rolled up) because she did not agree with the political signs that were in the yard. She knew now that that man was most likely the person who put those signs in the yard and it was probably true that she and this man didn’t agree on very much. They did, however, agree that whippets should not be in busy streets. And this man, by reaching out to her with his voice, had helped her catch Crystal. This man who she’d never reached out to and had assumed was some kind of bad person because he didn’t agree with her politically. She felt terrible about all this and said to Crystal, “I’m so glad that the republican was out in his yard today, aren’t you?”

What can we learn from the whippet, the republican, and the crazy slippered girl? Be open to the fact that just because someone doesn’t agree with you on one thing it doesn’t mean that she or he disagrees with you on everything else. It’s not always easy to keep your heart open, in fact some days it’s awfully hard, but if you do it you’ll see that somewhere you’ve got a connection with everybody else. The last, more specific, thing is this - republicans are people too! (It still pains me a little to say that – I’m getting better at it, though.)

Go out there into this crazy world with an open heart, y’all. You’ll get hurt sometimes and it’ll feel awful, but in the long run you’ll be a much happier person! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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