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Monday, January 25, 2010


When we stop on our trips to and from Florida, we always try to stay at a Red Roof Inn. We have our dog Chelsea with us, and the Red Roof franchise is pet-friendly. Only once were we disappointed, but that had nothing to do with the motel. It had to do with the couple in the room next to us. The ones traveling in an oversized van with two Great Danes, and something small that never stopped barking. But this isn’t about that.

--Are you going to trust me to carry in the document box?
--Come on. It’s been nine years. I safely drove us hundreds of miles today.
--I drove, too.
--Yes, I know. I just mean I can be trusted to drive hundreds of miles without incident. It should mean I can be trusted to carry in the document box.
--And please also bring in my black bag, and the laptops.

--This is pretty good, don’t you think? I always appreciate the absence of art in a Red Roof.
--Yes, but this one has no table.
--We’ll just sit side by side on the bed and eat off the dresser. It’ll be cozy.
--Remember the Red Roof… I think it was Cincinnati? The handicapper room.
--That I’m pretty sure was north of Atlanta.
--Everything was so low.
--I remember we’d had a fight. We were in this Red Roof Inn, everything in it like furniture in a Montessori classroom. We weren’t speaking—
--You always tell me I don’t speak anyway.
--We weren’t speaking on purpose, is what I mean. I went across to a Ruby Tuesday’s and brought back steak dinners.
--I remember.
--I’d forgotten to bring a cork screw. It was back in Michigan, spending the winter with so much else. They didn’t have corkscrews in the gas station next to Ruby Tuesday's, so I bought a quart of beer. There we were, you crouched over your child’s nightstand eating steak, me with my back to you eating mine. I really did have a sense of ending up. “This is how it will be in our assisted-living apartment,” I thought. “Eating this way, surrounded by grab-bars.
--And Chelsea wouldn’t eat. She was waiting for it all to be over.
--She always knows when something’s wrong.
--That’s true. But I mean she wanted the traveling to be over.
--But she’s very good on the road.
--The best, an angel. Aren’t you, Chelsea? You sweet girl, you.
--She loves being on the road, but doesn’t like the motel rooms.
--She’s much better, though. Remember that first year we brought her down?
--It was pathetic. I felt like an axe murderer.
--We’d gotten her that October, our little special-needs border collie. Then we drove down with her, just after Christmas. You were still working.
--She looked so forlorn. My God, we were doing everything we could think of to cheer her up. Nothing doing. Every time we stopped to walk her—gas stations, rest areas—she tracked the ground, looking for a familiar smell.
--That first night, remember what happened?
--I got up early to walk her, the way I always do. To keep things consistent.
--But she wasn’t on the floor.
--I panicked. I thought, “You locked up for the night, and left her outside. She’s blind in one eye, she’s lost, she’s been killed on the Expressway.” God, it was an awful few seconds. Then I saw her tail sticking out from under the bed.
--It broke my heart. It was almost impossible for her to pull herself out. That’s how low the bed was.
--But not low enough to keep her from pulling herself under.
--Think how scared she must have been.
--Well, you stay here and guard the documents while I forage for something to eat. I saw signs. It will probably be pasta or pizza.
--Try to get something she’ll like.
--A rotisserie chicken? That’s always a crowd pleaser.

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