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Monday, August 29, 2011

Bubbles

I watched Waffles--our Dachshund--snapping at bubbles floating around him like they were fairies. Like they were dandelions.

Waffles bared his teeth. He jerked forward, planted his forepaws onto the hardwood floor, and snapped down so hard the click of his teeth could be heard a room away. Then he jerked his body up, stretched out his neck, stretched open his mouth, and snapped down again.

Greg, operating the bubble-blow gun, giggled. "He's so determined to catch one," he said.

"What we're watching," I replied, "is a dog having the canine version of an existential crisis."

As if to confirm this, Waf snapped out at the cloud of bubbles--the fairies, the dandelions--coming at him, and realized all he'd gotten was air. His teeth clicked together. His forepaws bounced up and down on the floor. He whined, as one would weep for something lost.

"No matter how hard he tries, all he's doing is fighting the invisible, the empty," I added.

"Well, he is getting some flavor. I mean, liquid soap has a taste."

"Right, yes, but it tastes awful. The joy he is getting from attacking those bubbles isn't because of taste. It's because he feels he's having some influence on his surroundings. And he is realizing that influence isn't very much."

Greg pressed the trigger to the bubble-gun, aiming it just above Waf's head. Waf went into a fresh frenzy of bubble attacks. "Jesus, Marc, it's just funny. Dog with bubbles. It's not a Swedish film."

+++

Bubbles, it turns out, are very pretty. I'd forgotten how nice they look--fragile orbs floating on the weakest of air currents, hovering, dancing, refracting and ultimately blinking out of existence, leaving nothing more than a razor-thin puddle. Since Greg bought the bubble-gun a few days ago, I've rediscovered my appreciation for bubbles.



The bubble-gun, by the way, is this: It's a cartoon head, a squirrel with it's cartoonish mouth wide open. The bubbles shoot out of its mouth when a trigger is pressed. A mechanical motor presses air out of the mouth while simultaneously sucking up soapy liquid from a reservoir. Out come the bubbles. Out, also, comes a bright blue light--the trigger triggers both the bubbles and the light.

The bubble-gun makes this noise when the trigger is pressed: RRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrr.

It also encourages this noise from Waffles: Click. Click. Ca-lick. Clatterclatterclatter.

+++

Just after Hurricane Irene, Greg and I took Waf to the nearest park, which is just across the street and up a lot of stairs. We went with a friend and neighbor named [Name]. [Name] is a great deal older and a good deal wiser than either G or I (or Waf, but that's not a fair comparison). The stairs leading up to the park were covered with the debris from the previous storm.

There was persistent wind. A lot of it. A lot of invisible, rushing pressure streaming across the park like water and moving nature as it saw fit. Rearranging things. Dislocating tree branches. Mussing hair like a drunk uncle. Stealing hats from heads and sending those hats across walkways, over benches, into the street.

Above us was the sky, which was the color of sterling silver mixed with a bit of mud. [Name] said he'd seen the color of the sky before, and told us a story about a French pirate, and the pirate's treasure recovered from the Seine. The French pirate had been exceptionally dim-witted, and the treasure--mostly silver forks and spoons-- had been exceptionally dull, and the sky above us on the day after Hurricane Irene had the same mixture of silver and mud as the French pirate's treasure.

Which is to say that the sky was grey, and seemed like contraband.

+++

Here's the thing about [Name]: He has a great history. He is now contraband. Before he came into our possession--which is the wrong word, since contraband cannot be possessed--he had another life. He is our unpolished silver.

+++

The wind, that invisible force, rearranged tree branches in the park, placed leaves down in places more suitable to its taste, and tried to rip my hair from my head. It pressed my shirt into my chest. It pulled at my pants like a tailor.

It made this sound: Fiiiiiiiiiiiiii.

FiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiFu.

And here's what Greg said about the wind: "We should strap a kite to Waffles and let him fly."

And here's what [Name] said: "Just make sure he's leashed."

Because with that wind and a kite, poor Waffles could end up in Connecticut in no time. Surprising for him, surprising for us, surprising for the person in Connecticut who discovered him.

+++

So I'd brought the bubble-gun to the park. I'd hidden it away in my bag, which I take everywhere as if it's my own treasure-chest. And I reached into my treasure-chest of a bag (which had doggie-toys and doggie treats, a Kindle and an umbrella) and pulled out the bubble-gun.

RRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Click. Ca-lick.

+++

"It's like watching humanity attempt to find God," I told Greg, later, in the apartment away from the wind.

Waffles jumped into the air, mouth wide. He sank his snapping teeth into dead air enclosed in soapy spheres. He was rewarded with the dull taste of soap-suds.

"We're ruining the floor," I told Greg. "Those bubbles can't be good for the finish."

Clatterclatterclatter.

Ca-click.

+++

[Name] sat down on a rock in the park. True: the rock is often used by a neighborhood witch to make incantations, and those incantations are meant to keep the neighborhood safe. No one bothers her about witchery. We all secretly hope she's as successful as the wind in rearranging the neighborhood to her taste.

[Name] sat on the rock because of a medical condition, which he's had for two decades. He sat because standing is a burden. He watched Greg and I chase Waf around the park, and then he watched us do this: RRRRRrrrrrrr. Click. Clickclickclick. Ca-lick.

Bubbles.

I pulled the trigger of the bubble-gun, and a stream of bubbles flew from the cartoon mouth of the plastic squirrel, and the light came on, and iridescent, hollow orbs of soapy liquid flew into the disagreeable wind and danced about in the dull post-hurricane world, and the wind tried to discover the best place for them to be. They danced along the grass. They danced into trees. They met suddenly-treeless leaves and performed gavottes in mid-air.

Click. Clickclickclick. Ca-lick.

Waffles snapped at the bubbles. He attacked them. He tore into them.

And the bubbles snapped apart, and his teeth slammed together, and all that remained was a taste of soap, and the air. And neither Waffles nor the wind could decide if the bubbles should be in one place or the other.

While Waffles and the wind negotiated the bubbles' proper location location, each bubble snuffed itself out.

+++

In the apartment, later, Greg said this as Waf jumped around trying to catch more bubbles in his mouth: "It's so cute!"

Waffles planted his feet on the hardwood floor, listened to the RRRrrrr of the gun, and waited to attack, again, the hollow orbs issuing from the mouth of a plastic cartoonish squirrel.

"It's the human condition," I said.

"Stop being so..." Greg shrugged. Pressed the trigger.

Click clickclickclick. Clatterclatterclatter.

"So what?"

"It's just bubbles. They're really barely there. No need to make a metaphor about them."

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