An Odd Couple
Margaret KeyesGus was a street thug. Me, his invisible Boswell he considered his ‘number one gofer.’ My only task was to act the heavy, as he strutted down the street each morning, picked up messages, accepted greetings and tributes, and made his first drop of the day. Jimmie Cagney, film-star and gangster look-alike, doing his thing.
He could be charming. He understood the privileges and responsibilities of his position as the neighborhood ‘hunk.’ Flirty teasing with his groupies.
Aida was something else though, an acquired taste. With icy blue, disdainful eyes, this elegant femme fatale, sure of her allure and incapable of making an ungraceful move, silently observed his show. Like her grand opera namesake, a princess with ancestral rights to be worshiped, Aida initially kept her distance. Her judgment: Gus was a clown sent by the Gods for her amusement.
But Gus had a split personality, another side that won my heart; and probably Aida’s. I first saw him when he was behind bars in a nine feet by six feet cinderblock cell at the Marin County Humane Society. He had one paw stretched out to touch-comfort a lugubrious Springer Spaniel three times his size in the next cell. He glanced my way, keeping his paw in place, and made a low raspy comment.
Voiceless, I thought.
Wrong. Gus, a miniature Dachshund-Jack Russell mix, was simply hoarse from three days of loud and furious protest. He watched me sign him out with wary approval. His bark reappeared during our stroll the next day. He made it clear to the German Shepherd at the corner that he was the new ‘patron’ taking over his territory. Aida, who commanded the heights of furniture and countertops in our home with her long Siamese legs, ignored his attention and took none of his guff.
Aida was a master hypnotist, though. I can’t swear who made the next move, but I did find Gus’s ball in one of her high spots, and once or twice I thought I saw a stealthy paw push a piece of chicken to drop on the floor. Gus downed it in a single gulp, while Aida sat on the counter looking bored. Clearly the games were on. Mostly ‘tag’ chases and ‘gotcha’ ambushes.
Of course, they had separate interests. Aida liked the view of the City from Potrero Hill roof tops. She could have been the world’s top cat burglar, but she preferred to create little happenings. Her favorite was to perch on Jacques’ — my neighbor, a photographer — steep roof outside my kitchen window and pretend she was marooned and terrified. Back and forth, she’d pace, mewing piteously, method acting. I’d bought her act the first time and made the mistake of hauling my library ladder to the window to make a bridge across the alley. Mistake! It became her preferred mode of entry; complete with photo-ops for Jacques to catch her irresistible poses.
I was smart enough not to enter either of these megalomaniacs into an animal show. Gawd knows what they’d have devised for a larger audience.
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