"Eat an iguana egg. It will keep you strong."

I was introduced to a man who worked in the fresh produce department. Denise and I went to the store to get me an over-the-counter cold remedy. Denice is a social person who enjoys hearing the latest gossip.  And that's fine with me. I'm all for cultural events like that, but keep in mind that I felt terrible at the time.

In the parking lot, she promised that we'd go straight to the pharmacy section to get exactly what I needed. So I'm not sure how we ended up in the produce section in the first place. Recognizing Denice, a delicately boned old man took a break from maintaining a perfect pyramid of cantaloupes. They hugged like there was no one else they'd rather run into at the market. Not content with that, they chatted amiably in an intimate dialect, while I stood to one side, my brain suffocating.

Denice isn't a name I'd normally associate with the Spanish language. I had to assume she enjoyed practicing her lessons. Across the cantaloupe pyramid, the chatter-bugs paused to look at me for a second and then came around.  "Let me introduce Tony." said Denice, with a wide grin. "He is from Guatamala." Tony sported a pencil-lined mustache, a perpetual tan, and a bird-like sharpness to his gaze. He reached for my hand but then looked at Denice.

"It's just a head-cold. Sinuses." assured Denise, pinching the bridge of her nose and squinting.

"Glad to meet you," I said, shaking his hand. 

I was glad to get through the little introduction and into the cold and flu drug aisle. Tony stepped close, searching my eyes for something.  Goodnight. Why do all the foreigners I meet have to behave so strangely?

"In my country, we have good healthy advice for people with sad eyes like yours," he said.

"Yeah?" I said wearily. "What's that, Tony?"

"Eat an iguana egg. It will keep you strong."

Tony waved and shouted to us as we exited the grocery store with my medicine. "One egg of the iguana. Remember."

How could I ever forget?

The following story is not about Denice. It is about Blanco. As far as we're concerned, Denice Dillworth (name changed) makes only two contributions to the story setup. Serves her right.

  1. She is late in fixing breakfast for Blanco.

  2. Her one wish before she is laid to rest peacefully (she is perfectly healthy, by the way) was granted this morning. She has lived to see her favorite TV soap star (and still a heartthrob), Doctor Rayce Manning reunite with his first wife, (Vixen de jour), Margarette Thornburg. Boo-hiss if you will, but you can't deny these two the crown when it comes to old fashioned daytime drama.

Together again. Sonorous symphonic syrup of redemption and love's triumph still soared in Ms. Dillworth's ears. She knew that after she turned off the television and prepared a bowl of food for the dog, she could lie down and die.

Pursued across the globe to Rome and caught in Doctor Manning's passionate grip, Margarette resisted pitifully.  "Listen to me, Maggie" said Doctor Manning. He almost never lets his guard down like this. "I am astounded to discover that I never truly knew my lovely wife. Despite the lawyers, the years lost, and all the havoc we've wreaked on each other, I still and will always love you."

Margarette's eyes in a camera close-up betrayed silvery blades of hate beginning to melt and pool. And with the ruins of the Coliseum for a sunset backdrop, Rome burned again with a kiss.

Denice stepped outside with Blanco's breakfast eyes still rimmed red with tears.  "We'll just see how long it lasts this time, Doctor Rayce Manning," she grumbled to herself, sniffling, miserable, and happy. She called from the top of the porch steps, "Here, Blanco. Yip, yip, yip. Come and get it."

Only a faintly wooded echo gave the least answer. Birds far and wide continued to sing. A fly buzzed.

The dog was old and wandering and was slowly going deaf. Denice called once more.

Nothing moved on the red dirt road below. Along a meandering footpath toward the pond, a swirling cloud of gnats remained terribly self-absorbed.

"Now where have you gone off to, old boy?" She deposited the bowl of food on the gravel drive and turned.

At the foot of the porch steps, there was a tennis ball. Turning the ball under her thumb, the ragged yellow skin was still wet with saliva. He couldn't be far away. Denice tossed the ball aside and went up the steps. The screen door clapped shut.

A dusty shaft of light fell on the dog's shaggy coat beneath the porch. It was cool and mostly dark down there. Blanco pumped his nostrils. Today's kibbles would include milk and a hint of bacon fat, according to the scent. He waited, inching forward on his belly until the sun touched his nose. Blanco was a patient dog. And there were considerations.

Three black birds with white gilding lifted and soared from the treetops far away. Blanco eased back into the shadows and crouched, his gaze jealously fixed on the bowl.  It could be any moment now.

Magpies dropped in one by one, landing like paratroopers on holiday. They began to dance around the bowl.  They bobbed and strutted, wings half-extended, ready to fly. They goose-stepped and bowed like wise fools in a ritual dance. All chatter and haw, daring one another.

One jumped on the bowl's rim, and more magpies swooped down from above to join in the fun. Blanco's muscles rippled beneath the porch. Black feathers in the sun gleamed iridescent green and purple. The bird tweezed a morsel out of the bowl and held it aloft. Others squatted, waiting for something to happen. The prize was displayed, and the challenge was issued. With a flip, the morsel was in the air and gobbled down. That was all a dog could take.

Blanco charged into the open like a bull from Pamplona. Huffing and growling, he dived in on the birds. He lunged up at blurs of black and white, wind and wing -- jaws clapping hollow on the quick thinning air. There, and there again! So close.

They were all trick and no fight, like ragged shadows caught in a swirling updraft. In a dizzying flash, it was over. Doing lazy somersaults over the ground, only the fluff of black feather remained. Blanco's circle rocked to a standstill.

He woofed once at the full dog bowl, the only thing left to which he could direct his energy. It was pure frustration and nothing personal.

Blanco gave the food a sniff. The warm milky smell reminded his belly of something. It was like the desire to eat. Only the feeling remained mysteriously vague.

Then a shift occurred in him.

Looking at his food, his tail waggled. He turned away. And the wagging tail followed him into the shadows as under the porch he submerged to do it again.

In the window, Denise dropped the parted curtain and cursed the dog affectionately.  It's always the chase with them.