The woman probably thought I hoarded things, I thought — like those sad, demented, obsessed, focused people on recent cable shows. She came to my door in search of a wild, lost, running dog she’d adopted from the Humane Society two days earlier and had a drawing of the thing, seeing as she hadn’t had time to pull out a camera and take photos. She wasn’t much of an artist. I’m no expert in all things traceable, but it seems to me she could’ve gotten on the Internet, Googled “dog images,” found something that looked like her mixed breed, then gone around the neighborhood showing off a picture that didn’t look like a crude cartoon character. I pulled open the front door hard in order to shove a box out of the way and reach my arm out to take a better look.
“A couple people down that way,” the woman said, pointing with her thumb down Slaughterhouse Road, “said that you might have taken a stray dog in.” She looked past my body, through my underarm at all the boxes stacked up in the foyer, reaching back into the den.
“These aren’t my things,” I said. “These are my wife’s brother’s belongings. These are my ex-wife’s brother’s things. They’re my ex-brother-in-law’s boxes, I swear to God.”
Her name ended up being Tabitha. Tabitha! Who’s named that anymore? She said, “I’m Tabitha. The dog is about half pit bull, half retriever, half shepherd, and half chow. She’s a sweetheart, and her name is Blanche. Well, when I got her at the pound her name was Stella, but I thought that I didn’t want to go outside yelling ‘Stella!’ ” like that, you know, so I went with another one of Tennessee Williams’s characters.”
I would’ve bet that Tabitha took me for just an ordinary white-trash hoarding fool who didn’t know A Streetcar Named Desire, and that she wanted to show off her sophomore lit skills. I said, “No dogs around here. Why didn’t you name her ‘A Negro Woman’ or ‘A Mexican Woman’? You could’ve named her ‘Eunice,’ after the landlady, or ‘Prostitute.’ Or you could’ve changed plays entirely and named her ‘Laura Wingfield.’”
I thought about “Gentleman Caller,” but couldn’t think of that character’s name at the time. And I guess it wouldn’t have worked anyway, what with the dog being a female.
Tabitha said, “Wow,” and smiled. “You know your Tennessee Williams. I didn’t think anyone around here knew anything about anything.”
I said, “You can come on in here and look for Blanche if you don’t believe that I don’t have her. You want a beer? It’s hot outside and you look like you could use one.”
Later on I would think about how Tabitha was either too trusting, or hadn’t seen any of those other cable TV shows about how men will appear all vulnerable and decent, then lure dog-searching women into their hellholes. Maybe it’s more “cat-searching,” than “dog-,” I haven’t done the research.
Tabitha wore plain old blue jeans with a hole in one knee and a T-shirt that advertised a place called Ronald’s Rock and Gem Shop. She had her hair piled up on top of her head, which meant I couldn’t tell if it was past her shoulders — and I had a theory that any woman over the age of thirty-seven with long hair happened to be unstable. Again, no research on the subject, just private daily utilitarian observations.
“You know what? I could use a beer,” Tabitha said.
We tried to squeeze her in, and then finally I said, “Why don’t you meet me at the back door? That might be easier. There’s a clearer path from the back to the kitchen.”
I closed the front door, and to be honest figured that by the time I got to the back Tabitha would’ve reconsidered and taken off running faster than stray Blanche. But when I got through my den, and down the short hall, and through the mud room where I kept all of my cleaning supplies and heavy-duty brushes, there she was smiling, holding her odd pencil-on-paper drawing. I said, “I didn’t think to introduce myself. My name’s Bob. Bobby.”
Tabitha walked right in. She said, “Tabitha. Good to meet you, though not under these circumstances, Bobbobby.” She said, “I know, I know — my parents had a thing for that show Bewitched. It could’ve been worse. They could’ve named me Samantha, or Endora. Or Gladys.”
She walked straight through my work room to the kitchen, as if she knew the place. Understand that this was out in the country, outside of Calloustown, not in a subdivision where all the houses had similar floor plans. Tabitha opened the refrigerator door and opened the vegetable bin where I kept cans of PBR stacked rollaway-style on their sides.
I didn’t tell her that my name wasn’t Bobbobby.
. . .