Wet Dog, Proud Rooster

One night, near the stretch of restaurants where Moreland meets the I-20 ramps, the wife and I see a dog on the side of the road. The rain is coming down like it’s being poured out of buckets, and this huge sheep-herd dog is sniffing around the rushing water at the curb. Headlights are going by inches from his snoot, but he just gives us the same look as every other dog I’ve seen on the side of the road, alone, in the night — nose down, eyes forward. Wary.

We pull into the chicken place right there and I dodge out into the rain doing all the stupid stuff you do when you’re trying to call a strange dog. I do the voice. I call him “Boy,” then I call her “Girl,” then I go back to “Boy” again. I slap my thigh, I crouch down, I put my hand out. In the rain, his fur is mostly matted, like a thick carpet with a frat’s worth of beers spilled on it.

But the dog doesn’t come. Instead, he goes jogging back into the bushes of the nearby neighborhood. Hopefully, confronted with some schmuck off the street, he thinks back to the warm yellow house where he lives and ducks back through the gap in the fence where some little kid throws her arms around his neck. Hopefully.

The next morning, while the sun’s still lifting the rain off the streets for a new haze of humidity, I drive past that same stretch of restaurants. And there, stepping across the parking lot with disco confidence, his dry coat dry and fluffy and stroked back away from his face, is a strutting rooster. His head goes side to side like an arrogant loser with a brand-new awful haircut that he loves.

He is the representative rooster. He is cocksure. Behind him is a twelve-foot fiberglass chicken in a cowboy hat with a bandana tied around his neck, protected by a black iron fence.

I cannot help it. This is what I think: The cocksure rooster struts through the parking lot of the barbecue restaurant where the shaggy dog ran away in the rain.

This means something. I have no idea what.

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