I bet you think this is the looming sad part. It is. But not in that way. This week is a bit different. The story will pause just once. Promise. Remember that this is about how Norman and I set out to conquer the world. Me a young – pretty stupid – young guy wanting to jump into the writing life and Norman a seasoned writing veteran hoping to notch one last victory. We’re not quite into the second act. But something has been dogging me… literally. Just how much has Norman impacted my life?
At this point, you are either a little like my normal self – barely looking into Norman and letting his personality and humanness unfold in front of you. Or you are like my working self – immediately researching the guy to find out who he is. If you’re the latter, then you know his accomplishments. He had written at least two books – Life’s Snapshots and The Gamblers – and had written opinion pieces for various papers including the New York Times.
In my rewriting of this story, of my own life’s snapshots, I have done a little digging into Norman’s background. I’ve been curious to learn more about the white-haired, prim-and-proper man from Point Pleasant. One writeup lays bare his entire life. I read it once a week and laugh each time because I’m unsure whether our lives were always destined to be on similar paths or if his breakfasts impacted me so much that I’ve become him. Forty years from now, I’ll be sliding across the kitchen floor, my head covered in white, curly hair, and my wrinkled body slipped into pressed slacks and a powder blue sweater. Shit, with how I dress, I may be close.
I mentioned a while ago, that I’m writing a collection titled Porch Stories. There’s no better way to describe these – short fictional tales written while sitting on the porch during the pandemic. One week, I had penned a letter instead of fiction. It’s titled Goodbye, Old Friend. And I’ll share it now:
Goodbye, old friend of 15 years. Why – you ask – am I bidding farewell now? I’m still here, you say.
Clouds cover your brown eyes and fog fills your ears. Your once popping gait stiffens each day as you drag your hind legs as if they’re a forgotten nuisance. So goodbye now. Goodbye before you won’t understand and my opportunity evaporates like the morning dew.
I carry you up the porch stairs to spare your joints. You’re cradled in my arms and pressed against my chest, just like when we rescued you. Our final embrace.
Patty is her name. She’s a lab, pit, and mutt mix that my wife and I took home from New Orleans while on vacation fifteen years ago. Most people who visit that city leave with hangovers or VD. We left with a six-week-old puppy, a bait dog hung in front of angry pit bulls. There’s a whole story to it that includes a fake blind man, a fake wheelchair, forty bucks, the ASPCA, and a pit bull fighting organization. A story for another time. Regardless, Brittany and I flew home to New Jersey with a puppy and named her Patty – after Pat O’Brien’s.
Fifteen years later, we’re watching her deteriorate. Thanks to 2020, it’s happening quickly. Even while writing this I’ve had to stop and hold her up so she can eat without falling over. It will surely be a rough few months ahead and our daughters will miss their pup as much as we will.
After penning that letter, I found out that Norman once published a piece in The New York Times called Soap Box: A Dog’s Life, an article about his love for his Pekinese. The article apparently received more positive feedback than any other article of its time.
So we come to what the hell is this installment about?
Well it’s a thank you. Thank you to all who’ve been reading this and have encouraged me to continue writing the story about my unlikely friendship with Norman. Your comments and feedback have lead me to investigate and learn that he and I are somehow more connected than I ever realized. It’s a thank you to my wife and daughters who somehow put up with me. And it’s a thank you to Patty, my furry friend who has been with me for fifteen years. She scurried under my legs throughout my ordeal with with Norman. She was there when I came home from the marina each day. She was under my desk while I typed my stories and scripts. And she was by my side when Norman and I plotted to disrupt the television world.
One phone call – “Hi, is this Matt?” said a woman’s voice – catapulted the two of us into that plot. And that’s where we’ll pick up next week. But for now, Thank you.
And in case you’re curious
Soap Box: A Dog’s Life: https://www.nytimes.com/1999/06/13/nyregion/soapbox-a-dogs-life.html?searchResultPosition=1