The Dog Father
“Remember Brady’s godfather?” Miranda asked as we watched her son, Brady Hobbes, grow up before our very eyes. It seemed like yesterday he was winning science fairs with the rather passé baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano act.
“Steve’s second cousin, Patrick?” Samantha clarified. “Why do we never see him if he’s so important to Brady’s life?”
“He’s probably off baptizing himself in more bad cologne,” I quipped.
“Yes, there is nothing worse than a disappointing godparent,” Miranda snapped, staring at me.
And just like that, I remembered I was supposed to be Brady’s godmother. I had used the poor kid’s baptism as a segue to talk about my own original cynicism; worse, I had barely been there for the child when his parents separated for six months. And even though I made him ringbearer in my wedding-that-never-happened, I don’t think I have exchanged two words of dialogue with the boy since he learned how to talk.
I shook my head and absolved myself of my sins. After all, you can’t feel Catholic shame if you’re not a Catholic.
“Anyway, Patrick?” I prompted.
“He was extremely helpful with my mother-in-law’s funeral,” Miranda frowned.
“The guy who introduced himself as the godfather with the bad Brando impression at Brady’s christening?” Patrick was in several photos of the blessed event, often with his arm around my shoulder.
“Yes, and by the laws of movie-reference logic, that would mean Patrick the Godfather was supposed to kill Steve,” Miranda said, looking a little disappointed. “Clearly, that didn’t happen.”
Patrick Barold Sontag had been fiddling with his new SUV’s instrument panel during that beloved Sunday evening ritual—trying to find parking in Manhattan—when his Mercedes had been carjacked. The nice Jewish girl he married to please his mother left him, taking their nebbish and always-cold son, Evan, and their nameless daughter.
Barry traced the carjacking to Italian mafia dons, who were passing Polaroids of his 1999 Mercedes-Benz ML 430 around New Jersey and Naples. Barry wisely backed off, spending the next two years in a recliner, watching a mafia-movie marathon so intense that he could even quote dialogue from Godfather III. He finally emerged from his cocoon of pasta shells a new man: Patrick.
In honor of Ray Liota’s character in Goodfellas, Patrick had decided to embrace his father’s Irish/Italian heritage, resuming use of his first name and converting to the Catholic faith, which celebrated both sides of his father’s lineage. He became especially close with his Irish aunt in Queens: Mary, Steve’s mother. Thanks to Patrick’s liberal dousing of cologne, the pair became known as “the drunk and the skunk” whenever they met up at Molly Maguire’s on Sunday evenings.
“The worst part,” Miranda continued, walking around the auditorium where we were having this conversation, “is that the family dog, Churchill, ran away during the carjacking.”
“His dog left him too?” Samantha cried. “This sounds like melodramatic Irish tragedy porn. Somebody call Frank McCourt.”
“He’s dead,” Miranda frowned.
“Dogs run away,” I shrugged. “In my experience, they come back.”
Miranda and Samantha stopped short.
“What?” I soldiered on. “If your boyfriend’s dog runs off while you’re talking to the married ex-boyfriend with whom you are having an affair, and you chase the dog through Manhattan traffic and walk home three hours later in the rain to your own apartment—not even the boyfriend’s apartment that the dog knew as his home, where you should have checked first—the dog is just going to be waiting there for you, at your own apartment, with the clueless boyfriend.”
My two friends continued to stare at me, a united front of silent disbelief.
“It happens,” I finished weakly. “Something to do with their sense of smell.”
“That is the worst urban relationship myth yet,” Miranda said. “Nice touch with the rain, though.”
“Honey, as your publicist, I’m advising you to never try to expand your writing career into the fiction market,” Samantha said, sipping her flute of champagne. “Because that shite is unbelievable.”
I couldn’t help but wonder: do we all just need to be let off the leash sometimes? If Pete could find his way back, who’s to say Churchill never made it home? Maybe Pete the Brittany Spaniel and Churchill the Springer Spaniel met up with Charlotte’s King Charles Spaniel, Princess Dandyridge Brandywine “Elizabeth Taylor” Stork York-Goldenblatt, for spaniel brunches to talk about their spaniel sex lives.
It was entirely possible that Pete or Churchill could be the dog father of Elizabeth Taylor’s illegitimate puppies…or even the godfather.