pablo (1)

The pickup truck sat idling in the pharmacy parking lot. It had been a warmer fall day, but as the sun continued on its sidereal path and brought the lights down with it, the windows were beginning to fog up. Jerry turned on the defroster to combat the rising tide of frosted glass. He took off his glasses, almost instinctively, and wiped them on his shirt. The edges were beginning to fog with grease. He cleaned them again, and again, until the streaks formed by a rushed job were gone. Patrons filled the lot, going from car to pharmacy, renewing prescriptions before the weekend, grabbing snacks for road trips, and picking up some last minute supplies. The sun glinted off the corner of the pharmacy and caught Jerry in the eye. He tossed his head back at the shock of the glare and put his sunglasses back on.

Out of the right side view mirror he saw Mark approaching the passenger door. A younger man, about six feet tall, Mark had his chin sunk down into his throat, hands stuffed in his coat pockets, and grocery bags hanging from each wrist. Jerry sat up straight as Mark got in. “You get everything?” asked Jerry.

Mark shot his gaze at Jerry, “If it was on the list, it’s in the bag,”

Jerry held out his hand. “Let me see the receipt.”

“Are you going to write it off?” said Mark.

“You never know what they’ll ask to see.” He scanned over the receipt. Mark grabbed a pack of gum from the bag and grabbed a piece. The smell of sugary mint filled the cab. Jerry looked up and glanced back down at the receipt. “Did you buy that somewhere else?” he asked. Mark just shook his head. “Did you buy it yourself?”

“Ain’t no way I’m spending money on this,” answered Mark.

Jerry tilted his head a little to the right, his brow raised with his tone, “You stole a pack of gum?”

A wide smile streaked across Mark’s face. “It’s what we do isn’t it?”

“What’d you do that for?” His mouth just sat there, hanging, as he finished the question.

Mark shrugged. “I don’t know. I just felt like it, I guess.” The smile still lingered.

“That’s the one thing you don’t do,” Jerry said. “Everyone knows that. My god, come on man.”

“What?” Mark threw his arms out. “It’s not like it messed with you or anything.”

“That’s not the point,” said Jerry.

“Well what is?”

“There’s just some things you do and some things you don’t do, and that’s just something you don’t do. What even gave you the idea to do it?”

“Would you lay off? It’s just a pack of gum. Doesn’t even cost two bucks.”

“Exactly. Exactly.” Jerry clapped his hands at each syllable. “It’s careless and foolish. What if you had gotten caught?”

“Not a chance.” Mark laughed. “It’s like taking candy from a baby.”

“Only punk kids take candy from the baby. You know better.” Jerry shook his head. “Gum?”

“I’m sorry, Christ. I’m sorry. Here, look, I’m tossing it out.” He rolled down his window and flung the pack to the curb. “See. You happy?”

“I’d be happy if you took this seriously. I’d be happy if you acted like a grown-man rather than the school-yard bully. I’d be happy if you could just do the job.”

“Effin’ A. There’s just no pleasing you. I got everything you asked me. I got the cables. I got the glue. I got the duct tape. And I wanted some gum.”

“This is not about what you want.”

“Well ain’t that right.” Mark sat back and stared out into the dark night. The street lights passed by; along with post-boxes, fire-hydrants, and newspaper stands. The busy-body pedestrians meandered down the sidewalk. His eyes followed any Rolex, or Coach purse, or pair of Corthay’s which happened to cross his gaze. Jerry kept his eyes on the road.

“Where’s our turn at?” asked Jerry.

Mark raised his hand, palm facing upward. “Hell if I know. I thought you were the map-man.” He continued to stare out the window.

Jerry reached into the middle glove box and grabbed out a map. He handed it to Mark as he turned. “We just took a left onto Walton. Follow the line I’ve traced and tell me the next turn.” Mark took the map from him and opened it, “Right on Turner.”

“How far?” asked Jerry.

“After that or till that?”

“Till it.”

“I don’t know, four miles maybe.”

“Ok, and how far after that?”

“The next turn? Or–”

“Both.”

“I don’t know. Hell, what is this?” Mark tossed the map onto the dashboard.

Jerry flicked the blinker on and turned into the parking lot of a small convenience store. He rolled into an empty spot at the far end of the lot. Mark made short interjections of “What?” and “Really?” as Jerry put the truck into park. “Pick up the map, Mark.”

Mark pursed his lips and cocked his head a little to the right. He stared into the eyes of the man twice his age. “Listen to me,” said Jerry, “Forget about the gum. Forget about all that. I told you I wasn’t going to parent you. Now take a step back from your macho-man routine. It’s a shame your dad never taught you how to handle a little confrontation, but do not let the faults of your father be the road to your destruction.”

“Are you fu–” Before Mark had finished that rhetorical question, Jerry’s hand, which had been propped on the headrest behind Mark, sprung up and knocked the back of his head. “I said, don’t let the faults of your father be your destruction,” Jerry said in a much less elevated tone than one would expect after such an episode. Mark sat there not saying a word. “Now, please, pick up the map, and give me exactly what I ask for,” said Jerry, this time dropping down to almost a whisper. Mark coughed. “Yeah, it’d be a shame if I let my father ruin my life.”

The evening sky was filled with a dark pink as a cloud, almost like a thick blanket spread across most of the expanse. The street lights shone as darkness crept along the streets, and the cooling fall air was beginning to become rather cold. Mark could feel the dropping temperature as he rested his head against the window. The cool glass sent a calm across his pounding head. His sighs were made manifest and apparent by the path of fog proceeding and receding with each labored and forced breath. Mark extended his hand to the dash. His fingers grasped the edge of the map and pulled it back as if he expected a stern slap for grabbing it wrong. “Thank you,” said Jerry. He put the truck into reverse and pulled out of the parking lot back onto the main strip. “We’re back on Walton. Turner should be a little over two miles away.” Jerry helped Mark get his bearing.

Mark blinked and tried to let his eyes refocus. “After Turner, we have about a mile and a half to East Cumberland, and we’re on that for say ten miles, right on Redwood. Fourteen more miles till we get to the house?”

Jerry smiled as Mark finished rattling off the specifics of the trip. “The specifics of the drive are as important as the specifics of the house. How many turn-offs, service roads, stop signs, traffic lights. Are there any traffic cameras. Which signals last the longest. You can know the alarm system, the number of turns, and everything within a house. But if you can’t get out of it in time, it doesn’t mean jack.”

Mark stared at Jerry as he began his mini-lecture. “There’s four stop lights on Walton alone, five including the one we turn at. Along Turner we hit one. And East Cumberland gives us seven more. The only stop sign is along Redwood, and then the one we hit going back to the shop. Turning off of Cumberland onto South Harpeth cuts the traffic lights but adds another six miles. You’re right, you know, about my dad. I don’t think he taught me much of anything.” Jerry continued to smile.

“How many police man are in the area?” asked Jerry.

“Two precincts cover the area from shop to job. Four hundred officers in one, two hundred and thirty in the other. Response time to an alert: about four minutes, maybe six if we’re lucky,” Mark said in a tone that never changed.

Night had settled. The dark pink had now vanished and the blanket had been stretched across the sky. The street lights grew less frequent as they continued onto East Cumberland. As they decreased, the number of glaring eyes along the road increased.

Little eyes of shining gold glinted at them as they drove. Mark turned his head, watching the passing darkness, towards Jerry, “What are their names?”

“Who? The people we’re paying a visit?” Jerry clarified. Mark nodded. “Does it matter, Mark? We only learn what we need to for the job. We know the type of vault. We know what should be in the vault.”

“You didn’t even look at their names when you were studying?”

“No, I learned their names. You don’t need to learn their names.”

Mark pursed his lips and nodded. “Sounds about right.”

“It’s not right, and its not wrong. It’s just not for you to know.”

“Stop with the philosophizing. We’re stealing from these people. Robbing them blind. Taking everything they’ve worked for. I don’t think they worry about me knowing their names.” Mark kept his hand in the air, and the sardonic smirk stayed curving the right side of his lip upwards.

“When’s my turn on Redwood,” Jerry said with a calm sigh.

Mark shook his head. “Up here in a bout half a mile.”

“Good. Now stop.” Jerry flicked off the headlights. He parked the truck right after they turned onto the road. He went off a little into a the grassy shoulder. Had anyone passed by they would have simply thought a late night service was off in the distance working on a power line. The house stood about fifty yards on the right. The bright lights revealed the cracks of the dense copse in between.

Both Jerry and Mark stepped out of the truck. “Grab the bag,” Jerry said. They both met at the back of the truck. Mark popped the top of the bed-liner and lowered the tail-gate. Jerry pulled a backpack forward and dug through it. “We’re going to need both bags. Make sure the drill and pliers are in there.” Mark grunted at Jerry’s instructions.

“And here.” He tossed him a little case of black paint. Jerry’s own face was already smothered in the stuff. “We’ve got that skin that shines white like snow in the dark.”

Mark peered the cracks of the wood as he smeared the paint across his face. He saw the Hydrangeas and Gloriosas brightening the front yard. The two spot lights at the corners of the house revealed a whole row of privot, evenly cut, running along the front. A stone path led from the front door to the driveway. “A beautiful garden,” Mark said. “They’re just asking for someone to drop in. If their collection is as nice as their garden, I don’t doubt this’ll make our year.”

“And they’re gone till Thursday. They didn’t ask a neighbor to check in or anything,” said Jerry, pointing to a flyer hanging from the front door. “I left it there two days ago.”

“You sure about that one?” Mark smiled. “Last time we basically walked in on them getting ready for bed.”

Jerry shook his head. “Don’t remind me.” Both of the men, faces smeared in black paint, grabbed one of the duffel bags from the truck. “You’ll only be pointing out my mistakes for so long, and then you’ll have your own son to point out yours.”

“Aww, come on now dad. Where would you be without me?” Mark poked his father in the side. Jerry smiled and turned towards the house. Mark followed.

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Collars and Commitment

by Perry Tate

For most people, the idea of settling down is appealing, whether that means having a steady job, getting married, starting a family, or some combination. But others have so much more they want to do: enjoy relationships with different people, experience all sorts of pleasures, try new things in general, travel and see the world, and do anything but settle. They dislike, and even fear, commitment. The movie Lady and the Tramp makes a strong case for the benefits of commitment, through the recurring idea of dog collars.

The idea of the collar or lack thereof is presented in four different ways throughout the movie. The first way is through the eyes of Jock and Trusty, who represent the greater population of dogs. The second way is how Lady views a collar, particularly her own collar. Her view does include someof the meaning that the
other dogs think it has, but it goes far beyond that for her. The third way is how Tramp views the collar and his own lack of one. He sees it all quite differently from how Lady does, and he spends a great deal of the movie trying to sway her over to his way of seeing the collared and collar free life. The last way is how Tramp comes to see the collar by the end of the movie.

When Lady gets her collar, she immediately shows it to her friends Jock and Trusty. Jock comments that it must be expensive. Trusty is surprised and glad to see it. “How time does fly,” he comments. “And now, there she is, a full-grown lady. Wearin’ the greatest honor man can bestow. The badge of faith and respectability.” Like most dogs in the movie, Jock and Trusty see the collar as a natural part of becoming a respectable pet. For them, settling down is the ideal. It’s what everyone’s supposed to do. Moreover, Jock and Trusty have low opinions of dogs don’t have and don’t want collars. They distrust and dislike Tramp initially. However, by the end of the movie, Jock and Trusty have this assumption challenged when Tramp saves the baby from the rat. They realize they misjudged him all along and that a collar does not inherently make a dog good and the lack of one does not necessarily make a dog bad.

Lady shares their positive views of collars, but not their negative stereotypes. To her, the collar primarily means that she has a family that loves her. She has someone with her for the long run that she can care for and protect. Her view of the world may be narrow in its scope, but what she does experience has far more depth than simply a life of trying to experience all there is to do and see. She has purpose, happiness, and contentment in a collared life. She’s proud of her collar and all that it means, and doesn’t understand why someone would want something different; however, she does not automatically assume the worst of those who see it differently. Perhaps it is partly because she is naïve, but it also has to do with her good and kind nature. This allows her to give Tramp a chance and eventually bring him to know the true meaning of a collar.

Tramp begins with a radically different view of collars; he sees them as an end of freedom. He takes Lady to the top of a hill to look out over a sprawling scene. All Lady notices is the pretty homes and yards below, but Tramp points out that there is a whole wide world out there full of places to see and things to try. For him, collars narrow that world down to only the houses and the yards. He wants her to open her eyes to what a dog’s life can really be when he isn’t living life on a leash tied down to one family; it’s the freedom to go wherever and do whatever they want.

Tramp sees the monogamy of collars as destroying the freedom of relationships. When Lady asks him whether or not he has a family, he replies that he has one for every night of the week. He has a lot of families, but none of them have him; he gets a little bit from everyone and gives nothing back. There are promiscuous undertones to this idea, and they are further emphasized when Tony, the owner of the Italian restaurant, tells Tramp that he should settle down with this one (Lady). When Lady hears this, she is annoyed, and asks Tramp, “This one?” Tony implied that Tramp had brought many girls around there. This is confirmed when Lady goes to the pound and Peg tells her about all of Tramp’s previous conquests.

Another aspect of Tramp’s dislike for collars is it forces a dog to take responsibility. In one scene, Tramp asks Lady to come scare some chickens in their coop with him. Lady is unsure and thinks that it sounds bad, and Tramp says, “That’s what makes it fun.” It becomes evident that Tramp enjoys getting in trouble, and since he doesn’t have a collar, he can get away with it. He’s also notorious for his ability to work his way out of any tricky and incriminating situation, but he’s only able to do this because he doesn’t have any accountability. A collar, and by extension a family, would mean that he would have to face the repercussions of his actions.

Perhaps the most significant part of Tramp’s dislike for collars is his distrust of humans. It is never explained why Tramp has this distrust; perhaps he had a family who mistreated him, or other dogs had told him of their own poor experiences, or he is just making assumptions based on observation. When Lady is muzzled, Tramp says that’s what happens when a dog attaches himself to one family. They are mistreated, silenced, made docile, and put second behind everything else whenever something new comes along. That explains even further why he is constantly switching between families. He has them, but they never have him; in that way, he can never be hurt by them. To commit to one family would be to make himself vulnerable. Not having a collar means he does not have to put his heart at risk.

As Tramp spends time with Lady, he comes to see things differently. By her example, he begins to understand the appeal of having a collar and giving all of one’s love to a single family. He develops great affection for Lady throughout their time together, and he eventually falls in love with her. Because he cares for her, he begins to care for everything that is important to her. When the rat sneaks into the baby’s room, Tramp immediately protects the baby and kills the rat, for Lady’s sake.

After Tramp is adopted by Lady’s family, he receives a collar of his own. In part, Tramp’s assessment of collars was right. He lost the freedom to wander between families or flirt with other dogs. But he gained Lady. He gained puppies of his own to nurture and raise. He gained a home where he could stay for more than just a single night. He gained a family who would love him and stay with him. Ultimately, he gained something worth living for, loving, and protecting. A portion of the world was cut off to him by the collar, but a better world opened up to him for the first time.