I’m sitting outside a Commercial Drive cafe, with a 75-cent newspaper and a hot coffee. I’m looking for a place to live, but I’ve been getting into the New York Times Crossword Puzzle since moving to Vancouver, so I’m also just happy to be drinking a coffee and doing a good puzzle.
There’s a loud noise just up the street. I look up and see a scrawny, nearly emaciated dog plod out from behind an overturned garbage can, munching on something. Its salt and pepper coat looks matted and dirty. The dog looks confused and overwhelmed. I can relate.
I look around but no one around seems to belong with this dog. So I check its tags. There’s a phone number and a street address. And a name: Rufus.
I call the number and get an answering machine. I leave my name, number and a brief message explaining that I’ve found Rufus wandering along Commercial Drive eating garbage.
I’ve got my coffee and I really should look over the apartment listings, but I’m worried that Rufus will wander off. Commercial Drive traffic is no place for a dog as confused as this. The address on his tags is only a few blocks away. The paper can wait. I tuck it under my arm and call for Rufus to follow me.
He meanders behind me, walking pretty slow. O, he must be weak and famished, I think. The poor thing.
When we turn the corner onto the street where Rufus lives, the dog perks up and bounds up the front steps to his gate. I open the latch, let him and the secure the gate behind him. I wave so long.
I walk up Commercial to the SkyTrain station to catch the B-Line down to Main. That seems as nice an area as any to look for a place. For the first time in weeks, I feel like I’m going to be okay. Look at this small-town guy with his get-up-and-go, I say to myself, this big city won’t know what hit it. I stop at another cafe and get another coffee, and what the heck, I deserve a muffin.
The 99 is packed as always, so I stand in the aisle. As the bus rolls down Broadway toward Fraser my pocket buzzes. I don’t recognize the number on the call display, so I hope it’s one of the places I looked at last week. My references check out, I can move in any time. That kind of thing. No dice.
“Are you the fellow who found Rufus?”
“Yes, did he stay in the yard where I left him?”
“Oh, yes, but you see, I was at Continental with him. He’s sort of a regular there. I like to let him off his leash and go romp around in the back alley.”
“Oh no! I’m sorry. I saw him eating out of the garbage...”
“Well, I appreciate your concern, but if you see him there again--”
“I’m so sorry.”
FIRST DRAFT POSTED ON SEPT. 13, 2006