The Visitation of Miss Pearl
This is a true story. Really. Hand-on-a-stack-of-Bibles. Okay. There might be small embellishments, but the truth really is stranger than fiction.
I have a significant underlying excuse for most of my social quirks.
I was raised with Chihuahuas.
Dad read that Chihuahuas are non-allergenic since they’re practically naked. I was allergic to almost everything. So we had practically naked Chihuahuas.
These tiny vermin-like dogs were constantly yapping during visits by "strangers". Their constant, thin barking would eventually get them banished to the Gulag – the half-bath at the far end of the house.
Here was the usual scenario when we had visitors.
Knock on door / yapping / coffee being served / yipping / "Robert-the dogs!” / Gulag.
But on the day Miss Pearl came over, the scenario changed slightly.
“Sell the dogs, Robert,” Mom steamed, “sell them right now!”
Then she calmed down.
“Kill the dogs, Robert,” Mom insisted, “kill them right now!”
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Miss Pearl was an ancient wisp of a lady who had God’s love just oozing out of her. Hang around Miss Pearl long enough and you’d notice that glowing puddle of grace she was always standing in and, if you were lucky, some of it would gently splash over on you.
So when Miss Pearl came over for the very first time, it was comparable to a Presidential visit, (from the guy you voted for, not the other guy).
And what a visit it turned out to be.
It was a Saturday morning in September. I was almost dead on the couch, the drubbing from Friday night’s football game coming back to haunt and taunt me. Mom had to threaten withholding lunch to get me get fully dressed instead of just gym shorts and a t-shirt.
I conceded. Clothed or unclothed – almost dead is still almost dead - but lunch is lunch.
There was the faintest of knocks on the door. Whitey, the male mutt, begins yapping as Mom goes to the door.
Enter Miss Pearl.
Mom ushered her into the living room, steering her over to the “company” chairs, those big non-slouchable Victorian things that were only used by company. Miss Pearl settled in, putting her handbag on the floor next to her. The handbag was the size of a little suitcase, a thick, cowhide-leather affair artfully hand-tooled with flowers. Mom excused herself.
“I’ll get the coffee, Pearl. Be right back.”
Mom followed this up with a glare in my direction and a nod in Miss Pearl's.
“Hi, Miss Pearl,” I said.
"Hello, Dennis. How are you this morning?”
“Fine. And you?”
“Fine, thank you.”
My social etiquette exhausted, I’m saved by Tinkerbell aka Tink, our female Chihuahua, as she staggered sleepily out from under the sofa. Once she got past the coffee table she realized a stranger was in the room. Caught by surprise, Tink started to crawl-walk towards Miss Pearl in a slow, sideways gait.
Miss Pearl’s face glowed brighter, her love of animals apparent in her smile. She slowly bent down and picked the dog up, holding Tink at eye-level.
"Ohhhh. What a darling little dog."
Tink had her head turned sideways with her back legs splayed in a visible sign of submission. However, when Tink submits, she expresses it in an unmistakable way. A way I remembered about 3/10 of a second too late.
Miss Pearl’s surprise was genuine as a delicate, arching line of disturbingly warm liquid joined lady to dog, making an incredibly memorable moment. Miss Pearl’s quiet response was succinct and to the point.
It took a moment for Miss Pearl to realize she must put the dog down. By the time she did, Tink was running on empty.
Miss Pearl bent over to set the now-drained dog on the floor when she caught sight of something that stopped her immediately. I followed her stare to the side of the chair.
During Tink’s welcoming baptism, Whitey had entered the living room. He was drawn to Miss Pearl's big leather purse. In hindsight, it must have been the smell of “animal” from the leather that provided the catalyst.
Whitey, thinking he was an actual “dog”, reacted by assuming "the Position".
As we watched, the little dog coated Miss Pearl's handbag with a lengthy warm stream which, when remembered objectively, was pretty impressive for a dog his size. His territory marked, Whitey wandered off down the hallway.
He passed Mom coming into the living room with the coffee service. Lucky for him he got a head start.
Miss Pearl left about five minutes later. Mom walked the soggy saint to the front door, apologizing profusely.
Since I was fully dressed, I snuck to the kitchen, quietly went out the back door, ran across five backyards, and escaped. When I finally came back for supper, the Chihuahuas were in the Gulag.
Dad had at least talked Mom out of carting them off to the pound. Or the river.
And Miss Pearl?
She never came over again.