Archived Opinion

Summer nights: baseball, dogs and workout prep

Summer nights: baseball, dogs and workout prep

There are three dogs in this bed: a very old miniature dachshund curled up on one corner, a very young miniature dachshund attached to my hip like a pistol, his head under the blanket but his feet sticking out and pointing skyward like the Wicked Witch of the East, and, finally, an asthmatic chihuahua perched on the pillow behind my head, rasping in my ear like a chain smoker asking for a light. 

I’m up late watching the Dodgers, as I do most nights. They’re just getting pounded by the San Diego Padres and the manager won’t pull the pitcher, which is just a little less irritating than this poison oak that has suddenly appeared on my forearms, the result of an afternoon of reckless weed-eating in our backyard when I remembered to cover my legs but forgot to cover my arms. I’m trying to remember where the calamine lotion is and hoping that we still have some, scratching every few minutes when yet another Padre hits a ball in the gap. 

I try reading some more of a book that just about everyone I know has been trying to get me to read for over a year now. It’s called Where the Crawdads Sing, and reading it reminds me of eating a grocery store birthday cake that has been in the freezer for two years. I know I’m supposed to be enjoying it and join in the enthusiasm and not be THAT person who finds fault with everything, but let me tell you, it’s a close race between which is worse, the plot — which walks that fine line between the impossible and the utterly laughable — or the dialogue. People don’t talk like that, and if they did, you’d avoid them. 

While I am reading and groaning, the Dodgers attempt to mount a comeback by loading the bases, briefly diverting my attention from the book, but just as I summon a little hope, their best hitter, Mookie Betts, who makes about $30 million dollars a year to play baseball, hits a meek little pop fly, a little flare that lands so softly that a spider’s web could catch it. The would-be rally fizzles, and the chihuahua passes gas in protest, which launches me out of the bed to look for that calamine lotion. And maybe a scented candle. 

While I apply the lotion, I remember that I put a load of laundry in two or three hours ago, so I yell downstairs for my 16-year-old son — who is embroiled in an epic video game battle online with some of his buddies — to put the wet clothes in the dryer. 

“And don’t forget we’re going to the gym tomorrow!” I say. “Leg day.” 

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I’m trying to get my son interested in working out, which is like trying to get the dogs interested in studying Portuguese poetry. 

Now, the younger dachshund is evidently having a nightmare, as his bottom feet are peddling furiously. He looks as if he is attempting to escape whatever horrors he has encountered in his dream on a 10-speed bicycle, whimpering pitifully as he goes. Maybe someone is trying to get him to read Where the Crawdads Sing, chasing him down the street with a copy in hand. 

All the commotion rouses the older dachshund, who we call the “elder statesman” because he is both old and extremely vocal, always letting us hear it whenever he wants to go outside, or come inside, or when he would like some fresh water, or more food, or extra space in the bed, or any number of other things that we struggle to decipher. His normal practice is to walk within two feet of me, face me as if we are about to have a gunfight, and then start barking in a series of shrill, repetitive blasts until I attend to whatever his particular need may be at that time. If I guess wrong, he will pause for a minute, stare at me in this really judgmental way, and then simply resume his former stance and continue barking until I get it right. 

Now, he is barking, so I let them all go outside, knowing full well that even though it is already very late, the elder statesman will still wake me up again at 4:30 a.m. to go out, as he does every single night (I refuse to call this “morning” because I am not a farmer and not insane). 

When they’ve completed their little nightly romp outside, they bark in unison, clawing at the door, impatient for their Beggin’ Strips. By the time I march them back to bed, more or less single file, the Dodgers game is mercifully over. I check downstairs, but it is silent except for the reassuring whir of the dryer.  

My son must be in bed now, probably scheming to get out of leg day. I’ll let him choose between going to the gym or staying home and reading Where the Crawdads Sing. Or weed eating. There’s still a little calamine lotion.

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher who lives in Haywood County. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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