Authors: Emily Kimelman
A Sydney Rye Novel, #1
By Emily Kimelman
Copyright ©2011 by Emily Kimelman Gilvey.
Cover Illustration by Autumn Whitehurst
All rights reserved. No part of this eBook can be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission.
Author's note: While this story and all of the characters in it are fictional, the historic facts are true.
Books by Emily Kimelman
(A Sydney Rye Novel, #1)
Death in the Dark
(A Sydney Rye Novel, #2)
(A Sydney Rye Novel, #3)
For Mette and David
I am a man, and therefore have all devils in my heart.
Table of Contents
My dog died today. He once took a bullet that was intended for me. A bullet that ripped through his chest, narrowly missing his heart, and exited through his shoulder blade, effectively shattering it. This left him unconscious on the floor of my home. Amazingly, this bullet did not kill him. It was a bar of chocolate that I accidentally left where he could reach it, which he did. It gave him diabetes, which killed him.
Ten years ago I adopted Blue as a present to myself after I broke up with my boyfriend one hot, early summer night with the windows open and the neighborhood listening. The next morning I went straight to the pound in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Articles on buying your first dog tell you never to buy a dog on impulse. They want you to be prepared for this new member of your family, to understand the responsibilities and challenges of owning a dog. Going to the pound because you need something in your life that's worth holding onto is rarely, if ever, mentioned.
I asked the man at the pound to show me the biggest dogs they had. He showed me some seven-week-old Rottweiler-German shepherd puppies that he said would grow to be quite large. Then he showed me a six-month old shepherd that would get pretty big. Then he showed me Blue, the largest dog they had. The man called him a Collie mix and he was stuffed into the biggest cage they had, but he didn’t fit. He was as tall as a Great Dane but much skinner, with the snout of a collie, the markings of a Siberian husky, the ears and tail of a shepherd and the body of a wolf, with one blue eye and one brown. Crouched in a sitting position, unable to lie down, unable to sit all the way up, he looked at me from between the bars, and I fell in love.
“He’s still underweight,” the man in the blue scrubs told me as we looked at Blue. “I’ll tell you, lady, he’s pretty but he’s skittish. He sheds, and I mean sheds. I don’t think you want this dog.” But I knew I wanted him. I knew I had to have him. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Blue cost me $108. I brought him home, and we lived together for ten years. He was, for most of our relationship, my only companion. But when I first met Blue, a lifetime ago now, I had family and friends. I worked at a shitty coffeehouse. I was young and lost; I was normal. Back then, at the beginning of this story, before I’d ever seen a corpse, before Blue saved my life, before I felt what it was like to kill someone in cold blood, I was still Joy Humbolt. I'd never even heard the name Sydney Rye.
A Lifetime Ago
My foot tapped against the spotted linoleum as the subway squealed over the Manhattan Bridge, and clacked up the East Side. I scolded myself for my constant tardiness and vowed that from that day forth I would change my life. I would get organized. I would become better.
Three hours later, a pastel-clad woman with bad hair asked if she could have a macchiato, which didn't make any sense. A woman wearing pastels, obviously from a place where women still wore scrunchies, asking for a shot of espresso with a touch of frothed milk on top. This woman should have been asking for a Frappuccino just like all the others who walked into the shop assuming that it was a Starbucks, because who could possibly imagine that there was coffee that was not Starbucks?
“Do you know what a macchiato is?” I asked.
The woman smiled benignly. “Yes, I want a caramel one.” She obviously had no idea what she was talking about. You don’t put caramel in a macchiato.
“So what you're saying is that you would like a shot of caramel and a shot of espresso with a touch of frothed milk on top.”
“Why not? Let’s give it a go.” She smiled at me and I thought,” This is amazing. She is willing to try a new drink—not only a new drink but a drink that she practically created for herself. Had anyone else ever ordered this? I swear, in that moment, I was filled with a renewed sense of life. I had been wrong—not all dowdy women dressed in pastels were unadventurous lemmings.
“Oh, this isn’t what I ordered,” she said, looking down at my small cup of perfect caramel macchiato from above her two chins.
“Yes it is. It is a shot of caramel and a shot of espresso with a touch of frothed milk on top.” I had been wrong. She was like all the rest of them.
“No, I’ve ordered this before at Starbucks and it’s iced and in a very large plastic cup with a straw. It’s not at all like this,” she said as she waved her pudgy hand at my creation.
“Actually, this,” I pointed at the little cup, “is exactly what you ordered. Exactly.” I looked at the line of tourists that snaked out the door behind her onto 60th Street and continued, “I asked you if you wanted a shot of caramel and a shot of espresso with a touch of frothed milk. You said, ‘Sure, let’s give it a go.’ “I used a high-pitched nasal voice to imitate her. “Now, I will make you a new drink,” I said, “but it won’t be any Starbucks knockoff and you won’t get whatever it is you want unless you first admit that you are an idiot.” Her face turned red and all her features made a mad dash to the center, leaving her with only cheek, forehead, and chin.
“That’s right,” I was really rolling now, “an idiot, a dumb-ass who has no idea what is in her coffee. I bet you don’t know that Frappuccino is a Starbucks name, not the name of a real coffee drink. Frappuccino is a trademark, not a beverage.” I was still explaining the finer points of coffee in an outdoor voice to the tourist when my manager, a guy named Brad who always seemed to be staring at my tits, came out from the back and fired me. Although the way I stormed out of there, you would think I had quit. I threw my apron on the floor and told Brad to fuck himself and stop masturbating in the coffee grounds. Yeah, the customers liked that one.
By the time I got home, I was crying.
A Huge Fucking Dog
It is not often that the weight of daily existence catches me in public. I usually have to be in bed, alone, in the dark. But this time I was standing outside my apartment crying so hard I could barely get my key in the door. The thing is. I wasn’t crying because I got fired or because I’d broken up with Marcus. My job was stupid, and Marcus was an ass. Breaking up with that dick-wad was something on the list of “shit I’ve done lately that I can be proud of,” but it was pretty much the only thing.
Blue whined and circled me at the door, desperately happy I had returned. I sat down in my hall, my back against the door, crying. Blue nuzzled me and licked my face. I hugged him and he squirmed. “You’ve only known me a day and already you like me this much, huh?” I asked him, sniffling back my tears. He flopped onto his back, exposing his belly and warbled at me in answer.
Blue followed me down the hall and into the kitchen, where my answering machine sat blinking. “Five messages,” I told Blue, wiping my face with the back of my hand. He leaned his weight against me and nuzzled my stomach.
I hit play on the answering machine and heard Marcus’s voice. “Hey, listen.” In my mind I could see Marcus’s tongue sneaking out to wet his lips. My chest tightened. “I was thinking I’d come over later and we could…I don’t know…talk or something. Call me back.” Beep. “Hey, it’s me again. Look, I’m in the neighborhood. I guess you’re not home yet. I think I’m just going to head over…alright, um, bye.” Beep. “What the fuck, Joy. I was just at your house and there was a huge fucking dog trying to kill me. I—” Beep. “Your fuckin’ machine sucks, and where the fuck did you get that vicious dog? I mean, we just broke up last night and you already have a new dog. I don’t know what that means, but I just don’t know about you anymore.” Beep. “Listen, just call me, OK?” Beep.