Christmas Report: Season of Many Dangers

By Nancy Scott Hanway

irst, there is the large water bowl, set down in the corner of the living room. It is a little hard to reach, since I have to nose around the pine branches of the tree set right in middle of the bowl. But it’s worth the effort, because the water tastes wild and refreshing, a delight to the senses. I actually make the mistake of assuming that the lady-boss placed it there for my benefit. Fools me every time. But the very moment I raise my nose from the bowl, she shrieks at me. Bad dog. No. And the tree, which I would assume was there for the occasional nibble, is also off-limits, along with its dog toys. Excuse me? Yes, of course, they are toys. Several of them are even in the shape of dogs, and one is a small wooden corgi emerging from a green box. Is that or is that not chewable? But you wouldn’t believe the reaction when I remove it (delicately) from the branch and begin to gnaw in quiet harmony. Shrieks! Yes, there are shrieks from the boss!

 

Another source of friction between me and the bosses: the toys arranged on the coffee table. All of them in wood, in pleasing shapes: cows, a sheep, a human baby, a fake little manger  with fake straw that makes a lovely crunching sound (although it did get stuck between my teeth for days.) Because I didn’t think anyone would miss it, this year I chose the figure of a lady in a blue veil. With all those other toys, I didn’t think anyone would care. But this was some big deal. Another scream from the boss, more cries of Bad dog, and I am banished to the kitchen yet again. And I have to wonder: Is this simply a test of my moral fortitude, all this placing of toys in the house? Is this what this holiday is all about?

 

Inside is full of moral dangers, but outside there are actual physical threats. During this holiday, all along the street, humans place guard animals outside their homes: savage creatures that threaten the bosses as we are taking our walk. During the day, these brutes play dead, but I can tell right away that they are simply biding their time. The giveaway is the smell. No happy rotting flesh scent, but a strange chemical odor, like that acrid plastic taste when you chew on a kiddie pool. At night these monsters go on the hunt, enormous and bright, bobbing toward us as we walk. A huge white bear (in a highly aggressive stance) stands beside a fat, white-bearded giant wearing a red suit, who waves his arms wildly. A strange black-and-white bird with a red cap stares menacingly as we go by. They don’t dare move toward us; I make sure of that by growling and snapping at them, even when we’re across the street. The boss is oblivious to the danger. He insists on strolling close to them, and he even scolds me for growling (which I wouldn’t do, I hasten to add, if he were fulfilling his duties as pack leader). There are other, more subtle dangers. The humans decorate the outside of their homes with pine branches, curved in round shapes, with looping red tails that wave erratically in the wind. There are lights that flash on and off, clearly a warning to others.

 

Some humans seem to know that this is a dangerous time. They arrive in packs at the door and stand there for several minutes barking in unison: excited yelps and human words that sound like, “No, no.” My bosses don’t seem to understand that this is a signal, or they don’t want to heed the warning. I join in the alarm until the bosses hush me. Stupidly, instead of responding in kind, my masters just hand out hot drinks to the human pack, smiling and thanking them. The pack then moves to the next house to bark the same warning, no doubt hoping to find people who will understand their message.

 

Luckily, this treacherous season lasts for only a few weeks. So far I have kept us safe, with great vigilance and care. Then the enormous guard animals lumber away (to neighborhoods without such brave corgis, one assumes), and the humans take down their indoor trees, and life goes on as normal. Normal, that is, until the season of the eggs and bunnies arrives. But there are always these dangers, and this is my job, after all.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Gabriela D. Flor, W.P.C. (Welsh Pembroke Corgi)

 

 

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Nancy Scott Hanway is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Florida Review, Apalachee Review, Conte, Main Street Rag, Pearl, North Dakota Quarterly, Portland Review, Southern Humanities Review, Washington Square, and in other journals. She lives with her husband and son in Minnesota, where she teaches Latin American literature at Gustavus Adolphus College. She blogs about Argentine wine (mostly Malbecs) at Word Vine (wordvine.org.) In her spare time, she raises a very opinionated corgi.


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