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Friendship Fiction Happy

     Rufus rises from the carpet and flings himself at the door. 

     There is the sound of the mailbox being opened and then closed, following by a shuffling of feet. 

     “Rufus!” blurts Alvin Jones. 

    The bulldog backs off slightly, but continues his assault on the door.

    Alvin opens the door and slowly walks over to the mailbox. He pulls out four envelopes and takes them inside without looking at them.

    Rufus looks at Alvin and barks slightly.

    “I know it’s past your dinnertime, Rufus,” says Alvin, placing the envelopes on the coffee table.

     Alvin slips into the kitchen, opens the pantry, and withdraws one can of dog food.

    The whirring of the electric can opener causes Rufus to come flying into the kitchen, slipping and sliding all over the tiled floor.

    Alvin chuckles and puts the dog food into Rufus’ bowl. 

    Almost instantly, Rufus recovers his balance, reaches the bowl and places his snout into it. Snuffling joyfully, he gulps down his dinner with gusto.

    Alvin returns to the living room. He plops down onto the couch, and gazes for a few moments at a photograph of his ex-wife, Gertrude. Again, as always, he feels a slight aching feeling in his heart as he recalls her. Alvin had not wanted a separation. Gertrude’s abrupt ending of the relationship had been like a punch in the stomach. He had not seen the signs that she was unhappy until it had been too late. Those had been her last words to him before she had left him forever. Too late, too late, too late. The words had eaten at him since. He had not dated anyone or seen any other woman. Only Gertrude had known how to kiss him properly. She had been his angel, and now she is gone. Yet, Alvin cannot cry or feel anything about Gertrude anymore. There is only a void where she once was, sweet love turned sour, like a stale lemon.     

     He looks again at Gertrude’s brown eyes and dark hair styled just right, her enticing smile. He recalls how she used to cock her head slightly when looking at him and gazing into his eyes. 

    Alvin grunts and knocks over Gertrude’s photograph. Only now does he notice that Rufus is in the living room, watching him with his beady eyes.  

   Rufus had never met Gertrude. Yet, somehow, Alvin senses that the dog somehow knows his sense of loss. Indeed, at least in Alvin’s imagination, Rufus looks slightly sad.    

   Alvin stretches his arms and then considers the envelopes. He examines them one at a time. It is the third envelope that gets his attention. It is from his old university friend and neighbor, Danny. It is an invitation to a house party. There is a hand written note that instructs him to call or e-mail Danny about whether he will attend the party or not. 

  Within five minutes, Alvin has forgotten about the invitation. 


  ******

 Three days later, Alvin is watching a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game when the phone rings.   

  “Hello?”

 “Hey Alvin buddy! It’s Danny! Did you get my invitation?”

 “Oh my goodness,” stammers Alvin. 

 “It’s a BYOB party. There will be plenty of pretty ladies.”

  “Er, yes,” says Alvin. “Unfortunately, my car is in the garage being repaired and it is raining quite hard now.” Alvin peers out the window, and sure enough, rain is pouring down in torrents.

  “Well, you can walk, old buddy!”

  “Er, I lost my umbrella,” says Alvin, petting Rufus, who had run up to him just now, panting.

  “I can come over and pick you up.”

  “Er, I have a slight cold now. Maybe next time.” He turns to look at Rufus, who is crouched down, ready to spring.

  “You don’t know what you’re missing, Alvin. Take an aspirin and come anyways. Come on!”

  “Oh no, I have a bad headache,” Alvin says, avoiding Rufus, who had leapt at him but barely missed.

  “Okay. Next time for sure, right?”

  “Of course.”

  Alvin hangs up the phone. 

  Rufus is running in circles now in anticipation. 

  At last, Alvin understands and he laughs. Rufus had heard Danny say the word ‘walk’ and that was the trigger.


    ******

  Two weeks later, Alvin is watching a Brewers game when the phone rings.

  “Hello?”

 “Hey Alvin, what’s up? This is Rick. We’re having a pool party at my place. We’re going to have a barbecue. Can you bring some hotdogs?”

 “Er, I seem to have lost my bathing suit, Rick. I’m terribly sorry.”

 “You can wear one of mine, Alvin. Hey, there’s someone coming that you must meet. Her name is Inga.”

 “Inga…” mumbles Alvin.

 “Oh yes,” says Rick. “I’ve told her all about you. I’ll introduce her to you.” 

 “Er, I’m coming down with a cold, Rick. I’m afraid I’ll have to take a rain check.”

 There is a pause at the other end of the phone line. “Well, Alvin, if you change your mind, come on over and you can meet Inga.” 

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh, well, maybe next time,” says Rick cheerfully.

Alvin hangs up.

No, not next time either, he mumbles, wandering into the bedroom where Rufus is curled up fast asleep in his doggie bed

“Walk!” exclaims Alvin

There is a jingling sound as Rufus springs up like a jack-in- the-box and starts running around in circles.  

Alvin grins.     


****** 

   The calendar has reached late October. Alvin is in his jacket, raking some dead leaves that have blown onto his lawn when the phone rings. The sound of Rufus’ barking can be heard.

   Alvin sighs, puts down his rake, and goes inside to answer the phone. For some reason, he has trouble opening the door. By the time he opens it and rushes over to the phone, it has stopped ringing. Alvin frowns, looks at Rufus, who shakes his head and snuffles, then heads outside again to finish raking. Just as he has started raking again, the phone rings and Rufus barks on cue. Alvin plops down the rake and sprints inside, determined to reach the phone. However, just as he lifts the receiver, the caller has hung up.       

  Alvin mutters something under his breath, and turns to see Rufus watching him. 

  “What?” Alvin enquires. 

 The phone rings again, and Alvin rushes over and snatches it so fast, he nearly crashes into the table.

 “Hello?”

 “Hey Alvin! Paul here. We are having a Halloween costume party at my place tomorrow night. That gives you time to get a costume.” 

 “Er, I’d love to come but I have an appointment with my doctor.”

“Well cancel it then. This party is going to be a blast! Inga is coming too. I’m really looking forward to seeing your costume this time. We’re starting about 4ish.”

“I can’t cancel the appointment. It’s Dr. Rodenburg and she is so good it’s almost impossible to meet her.”    

“You can’t be serious,” says Paul.        

“I’m sorry,” utters Alvin with finality “Now, I am quite busy, so if you don’t mind.”

Paul doesn’t answer.

“Goodbye, Paul.” 

Alvin hangs up the phone. He walks over to Rufus, but, for some reason, the bulldog struts off to the bedroom and slumps into his doggie bed.


  *******


Rufus is tugging on his leash, trying to sniff a Chihuahua passing in the opposite direction. 

Alvin’s smart phone rings. 

“Hello? Alvin asks, as Rufus continues lunging at the Chihuahua.

“Hello Alvin. This is Danny. Can I talk to you for a moment?”

“What about?”

“What’s wrong with you?” asks Danny in a different tone of voice. “You haven’t gone out anywhere for ages.”  

“I’ve been busy.”

“Oh, balderdash, Alvin! I remember you in university. You loved the inside of a pub better than heaven itself.”

“That was then, this is now.”

“I think you are in a funk. You are in denial.”

“I think you should mind your own business,” growls Alvin.

“You have to get over Gertrude and meet other woman.”

“I don’t want to meet anyone,” snaps Alvin. “And don’t talk about Gertrude.”

“Listen Alvin, I am concerned about you. We are all concerned about you. We want you to be happy.”

“Well, I’m fine thank you,” says Alvin curtly. “Do you have anything else you want to talk about?”

Danny doesn’t respond.

Alvin’s voice softens slightly as he says “I-I appreciate your concern, Danny.”

“Anytime, buddy.”  


  ******

 “Happy birthday, Alvin!” sings the video message on his computer. 

 Alvin switches off his computer and walks to the kitchen to get a bottle of Corona. 

 The doorbell rings and Rufus explodes in a frenzy of barking.

 Alvin, grumbling, opens the door. 

“Surprise!” screams many voices. 

Alvin’s mouth hangs open as he recognizes Danny, Rick, Paul and their wives, along with a pretty blonde woman he doesn’t recognize.

“Happy Birthday Alvin!” they all scream in unison.

 Alvin, blushing slightly, gestures for everyone to come in. “Do I know you people?” 

Danny who is carrying a six pack of beer, laughs slightly. Rick is toting two bottles of red wine.

Within a few minutes, everyone is seated comfortably around the living room, drinking beer or wine. Danny has put a Nirvana CD on.   

Rufus, meanwhile has made a new friend. It is the blonde woman.

“What a nice dog!” she exclaims, patting Rufus.

“What’s her name?” Alvin whispers to Danny.

“That’s Inga,” says Danny under his breath.

For the first time, Alvin considers Inga. 

Inga smiles at him. 

As their eyes meet, Alvin looks away. He dares another glance at Inga’s shapely body and her deep blue eyes and he feels his heart jump as she is still looking at him!

“My parents have a boxer too,” says Inga. 

 Everyone starts talking about their pets.  

“I have a parrot,” says Rick, to the amusement of everyone.

 An hour later, Danny, Rick, Paul and their wives are discussing current events while Inga and Alvin are sitting on the couch as Rufus watches them.  

Danny, rising from his chair, almost topples. 

“Too much wine,” laughs his wife, Kimberly.

Danny wanders over to the couch. He tries to say something to Alvin, but cannot. Alvin is completely engrossed in conversation with Inga. Rufus is fast asleep in front of the couch. Danny smiles and returns to his chair next to Kimberly.

As for Alvin, he feels all his hurt and negative feelings vaporize as he watches Inga’s blue eyes, which seem to sparkle. Inga is an exchange student from Norway. Alvin finds himself entranced by how Inga tosses her blonde hair back and giggles at his jokes. 

Alvin stands up for a refill of beer and then he notices that everyone is regarding him and Inga and muttering things. As Alvin walks past the others, Danny whispers something to him.  

 “Did you get her number?”

 “Got it,” mumbles Alvin.

 “Date?”

 “Movie.”

“Congratulations.”   

“And Danny.”

“What?”

“I think I’m out of my funk.”

Danny grins and smacks his beer bottle into Alvin’s bottle. 

“Does anyone want a refill?” exclaims Alvin.

“Get me a Budweiser,” says Rick.

“Make that two,” adds Wendy, Rick’s wife.

Alvin returns from the fridge with the beers, distributes them and then returns to the couch next to Inga.

To Alvin’s delight, Inga kisses him on the cheek. He blushes and notices Danny wink at him.

Danny stands up and speaks in a loud voice. “It is time to open the presents!”

Everyone claps.

Alvin’s friends all pick up their presents.  

“You shouldn’t have, guys!” says Alvin.

Danny gives Alvin his present, which is in a cylinder. Alvin shakes it and sniffs it and makes faces.  

“Open it, for goodness sakes!” says Rick.

Alvin uncorks the cylinder and out slides a red umbrella.

“That’s for the next time it rains,” says Danny. 

Alvin, slightly taken back, stares at the umbrella, then the others, as if expecting an explanation. 

“Here,” says Rick, handing him a bag which contains his present.

Alvin puts his hand in the bag and pulls out a blue bathing suit.

“That’s for our next swimming party,” says Rick.

Alvin, beginning to understand all this, grins slightly.

Paul hands Alvin his present, which is in a box.

Alvin tears the wrapping and opens the box. It is a stethoscope.

“Now you can give yourself a medical examination without ever seeing the doctor,” says Paul.

Alvin’s gaze fixates on Danny.

“This was all was your doing, wasn’t it Danny?” enquires Alvin.

There is a long silence during which nobody speaks.

“Maybe,” utters Danny, breaking the silence.

Everyone laughs uproariously. Rufus opens his eyes and barks. 

“Very funny,” says Alvin.


THE END  

May 12, 2021 22:16

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1 comment

Robert Consiglio
21:16 May 31, 2021

This story is dedicated to a Japanese English teacher, Misako. (her last name slips my mind). She once wrote a story that was similar to this one, and I was definitely influenced by it. The difference was that English as her second language, yet she was still able to write it. I take my hat off to people who write stories in English when it is not their first language.

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