“Ugh” Joyce said, after Keaton’s truck pulled away with him, Travis and Mrs. LaSalle and we went back inside and took a look at the kitchen after Christmas dinner. Keaton again had insisted on clearing, and actually offered to stay to help with the dishes, but Joyce said, no, he was a guest, and you don’t ask guests to work for their supper. So it was just me and Joyce and a sponge and a couple dishtowels…and a little arguing about what could go in the dishwasher. (I’m afraid I don’t get why it is that some dishes can’t go in the dishwasher. I mean…isn’t the whole point of the dishwasher that it washes dishes?)
Then Joyce made us a pot of decaf so we could finish the egg nog by putting it in the coffee, a trick that Mrs. LaSalle showed us earlier in the evening. It was just nice to be alone with Joyce after the company went home. Then we went to bed, where Joyce didn’t try and get me to watch It’s a Wonderful Life again. Instead she got me a DVD of A Charlie Brown Christmas, which everyone knows is my favorite Christmas special. It just so gets what’s wrong about Christmas and what should be right about it. It’s not exactly long, but I did insist that we watch the whole thing . Joyce hasn’t seen it in years and I wanted to convince her of what a wonderful show it is. She agreed with me. She was asleep pretty quickly after that: I reckon she was exhausted from the cooking, and I was pretty tired, too. That weird Christmas Eve dream kept me from getting a good night’s sleep the night before.
I took it pretty easy on the 26th, and hung out at Joyce’s until late in the afternoon. I mean, it’s a holiday in Canada (I don’t know what Boxing Day means, though…but I don’t think it has anything to do with punching bags lol), and it was a Sunday. So I got a little nervous when I got a text from Maya towards the end of the afternoon reading: “IMPORTANT MEETING tomorrow 10 am KEEP IT SECRET FROM THE BOYS.”
“Do you think it means I’m in trouble?,” I asked Joyce. “For staying here so late?”
“I don’t think so,” Joyce answered.
“So what do you think it is?”
“Obviously something secret,” she said, not helping. “You’ll just have to wait until tomorrow morning at 10 to find out. Probably some new idea for the show. She’s always having those.”
“And one of those happens to have gotten me a steady job and even a contract,” I said, defending Maya. I don’t like it when Joyce refers to Maya as ‘she’ – and she (that’s Joyce) does it a lot. It’s nothing to have a fight over, and, yeah, I realize that Joyce is kinda jealous of Maya for some totally unfounded reason, so I make a point of not getting into it about my boss with my girlfriend. Joyce was right, though: I was going to have to wait until the next morning to find out what all the urgent secrecy was about.
The meeting was apparently so important that everyone in the house was in on it, since, after breakfast, Belen told the boys that she wanted their help to bake cookies. I figured that was part of the plan…and so I lied clumsily that I needed to film something for my segment while they were going to be in the kitchen. (I’ve told y’all a bunch of times that I’m a terrible liar. I just hoped that the boys couldn’t tell.)
I stopped by to see Sandy on my way to the meeting in Maya’s office.
“Any idea what the secret meeting’s about?,” I asked.
“None. But I don’t think you’re in trouble, so don’t worry. It’s probably something to do with the boys’ Christmas presents.”
Duh. I should have thought of that. Why else would the meeting be a secret from the boys?
Sure enough, Sandy was right. That’s exactly what it was about.
Present at the meeting were Maya, Robert, Ethan, Jean-François, Sandy and me. I was a little surprised to have been included (the last big meeting I was at was the one where they told me about the idea for my segment) – but I soon found out why.
“I’m glad you all could make it,” Maya said, when we were all assembled. “Is Belen keeping the boys busy, Hunter?”
“Yes ma’am,” I said.
“Good. This has to be kept secret from the boys until Christmas so it can be a surprise for them…”
“…that we can capture on camera,” completed Jean-François.
“What’s the surprise?,” I asked. I really wasn’t sure what they could get that the boys didn’t already have. Unless it was expensive new laptops or something.
I was totally wrong once again.
“We’re getting a dog,” Maya announced.
The only two of us who were surprised were me and Sandy. And if the look on Sandy’s face was any clue, I must have looked pretty dang surprised myself. It’s not that I don’t like dogs – I don’t think I’ve ever told y’all about it, but we had a dog when I was a kid and I like dogs just fine. (On the other hand, y’all do know that I have issues with cats…and vice versa.) I just wasn’t sure why Maya and Robert thought the boys wanted a dog. I mean, I spend at least as much time with Jacob and Matteo as they do, and they’ve never mentioned anything about a dog to me. On the other hand, it’s not like I was the person they’d ask for a dog, so maybe they had told their parents something about it.
I didn’t have too long to think all of that, and the first question out of my mouth was:
“We don’t know yet,” said Robert. “We’re going to the shelter to pick one out right before Armenian Christmas.”
“That should be fun for the boys,” I said. “But,” I added, “what if they can’t agree on a dog?”
“That’s why the boys aren’t coming with us to the shelter. We’re going to pick the dog and surprise the boys with it on Christmas morning.”
“Oh.” I wasn’t sure what else to day. It didn’t sound like as good an idea as the one I had about taking the boys, but they clearly thought this through and weren’t asking my opinion.
“We’ll take the crew to the shelter, obviously,” said Robert.
I was starting to get the picture. I didn’t think that they were completely letting the show dictate the lives of the Sharpman family (and employees), but, yeah, obviously they were thinking that they could make a segment out of the visit to the animal shelter and then have one for Christmas morning.
“You’re coming with us to the shelter, of course,” Maya said, looking at me. “Did you have a dog for a pet when you were the boys’ age?”
“Yes,” I said. “We had a beagle. She could catch a frisbee in her mouth.” Somehow that was the first thing that came to mind…and then I realized that it wouldn’t be bad if the Sharpmans’ new dog could catch a frisbee. I suspected that Matteo could use some frisbee lessons of his own.
“Then you know how to take care of a dog?”
I typed the question mark there, but, at the time, I wasn’t sure that Maya had actually asked me.
“I reckon so. I mean…it’s not that difficult. You make sure it’s fed, has enough water, gets to go outside to do its business and you give it a treat when it does something right.” That made me think that Pancho wasn’t going to like the idea of a dog messing up his beautiful backyard, although there was plenty of room for the dog to have its place to do its business, for Pancho to have his part that looks like it was in a magazine…and for me to have room to run around with the boys and not step in dog shit.
I have to confess that I wasn’t loving the idea of the dog. It’s not that I have anything against dogs, and I think it’s a great idea that the boys can have a pet to take care of and learn responsibility from. The only thing – and, yeah, I reckon it’s kind of selfish – that I was afraid of was that the dog would become Hunter’s problem after the novelty wore off with the boys. I reckon that’s how every adult feels when their kids get a pet…only, in this case, the parents had me to fall back on. Still, Maya and Robert had clearly made up their minds, and maybe the boys would really be pleased with the dog after all. It just seemed kinda risky getting one without having had a whole family discussion about it.
Still, the Sharpman Family was about to grow by one member whether or not #baseballboy thought it was a good idea.
After warning everyone that this had absolutely to remain a secret from the boys, the meeting broke up. I didn’t say anything to Sandy, and she didn’t say anything to me as we walked back in the direction of her office…but I got the feeling she was having the same reservations I was having.
And, boy, did Joyce ever have the same reservations as me. Joyce, y’all can probably guess it, isn’t a dog person to begin with, and so she was pretty dang outspoken about how the boys were gonna love interest in the dog after a week and Hunter was gonna get stuck taking care of it and picking up dog shit. (Yes, Joyce said ‘shit’ and not ‘poop.’) I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t my idea and there was nothing I could do about it, but she wasn’t listening. That’s how bad an idea she thought it was.
I just hoped she was wrong.
Keaton weighed in a little less negatively.
“A boy should grow up with a dog,” he said. “Just a good part of being a kid. We had one. And don’t forget about Charlie.” (Charlie was the little kid Keaton was kinda taking care of when he lived in Alaska, and who was in love with sled dogs.) “It’ll do Jacob and Matteo some good to have something to take care of. I just hope…”
“Here it comes,” I muttered.
“Here what comes?”
“The warning that I’m gonna get stuck with the dog.”
“Relax bubba…the dog may not even like you. You can never tell what person an animal will get attached to.”
“Gee, thanks,” I said. Of course, maybe he was right. Maybe Joyce was right too…but there was no sense in psyching myself out before I even got to see the dog.
Sandy was in charge of ordering the essentials for the dog off of some pet site, although we couldn’t order a bed or a collar until we knew how big the dog was going to be, and that we wouldn’t know until January 5th, the day before Armenian Christmas, when we were going to the animal shelter in Pasadena to pick out the dog. In the meantime, the pet supplies had to be hidden somewhere. We decided on the closet in Sandy’s office (which has a key), although by the time I was done stuffing everything in there, it was a wonder that the door didn’t pop off it hinges.
So we were set. All we needed now was the dog.