This week, I’m visiting the sprawling and nicely appointed Piedmont Dog Park in Atlanta’s Virginia Highlands neighborhood. It’s a balmy, Sunday afternoon in August—but there’s a breeze blowing in from the south (probably thanks to Hurricane Isaac), and the tree canopy in this part of the park is providing lots of welcome shade. The park is teeming with dogs today—all shapes and sizes. They’re sunning, snoozing, chasing tennis balls, or cautiously sniffing each other’s…um…credentials. Their human companions are similarly engaged—only they get to do it all while clutching 32 oz. Starbucks confections, and sporting shoes that probably cost a month’s salary. I’m in Atlanta to chat with Patrick and Albatross—the two, long-suffering canines from SIDECAR’s novella “Bottle Rocket.” Patrick and Albatross have just finished sharing a “puppy cup”—a big dish of vanilla frozen yogurt with a Milk Bone garnish. Their tagalongs, Kate Winston and Shawn Harris, are sitting nearby on a blanket beneath a Tulip Poplar, fighting over the books section of the Sunday New York Times. Patrick points out that this type of discourse is common between the two women.
PATRICK It’s really annoying. I wish they’d just grow up and buy two newspapers. Or join the 21st Century and read the damn thing online.
ANN McMAN Well, disagreeing about things is sort of their hallmark.
PATRICK You think? Even making toast ends up being adjudicated in the Hague.
ALBATROSS Paddy? Are you gonna eat those biscuit crumbs?
ANN So they argue a lot?
PATRICK Is the Pope Polish?
ANN Well. No. Not since 2005.
PATRICK Nobody tells me anything. Maybe if I could ever get my paws on the damn newspaper….
ALBATROSS I’ll give you one of my magazines, Paddy.
PATRICK Thanks, but I quit reading Highlights forty-nine years ago.
ALBATROSS But, I’m only seven….
PATRICK I rest my case.
ALBATROSS I have People and InStyle, too.
PATRICK Of course you do, Allie.
ANN What else do they argue about?
PATRICK Are you serious?
ANN Um…I think so.
PATRICK Let’s see…There’s global warming.
ANN They argue about global warming?
PATRICK Yes. Kate is persuaded that Shawn is personally responsible for it because she NEVER remembers to turn on the exhaust fan when she takes a shower. She blames Shawn for the “pernicious buildup of mildew on the bathroom ceiling.”
ALBATROSS Mildew is very bad for the skin. It can cause eczema and psoriasis. Plus it can really dim the sheen on your undercoat.
PATRICK Look, Allie…frisbee!
ANN So you’re saying they don’t get along?
PATRICK Define “get along.”
ANN Well…by the end of “Bottle Rocket,” they seemed to have buried the hatchet—so to speak.
PATRICK Right. There’s nothing quite like spending a night in the joint to bring people together.
ALBATROSS Is that why they play those weird Warden/Inmate games?
PATRICK I thought you always slept through those?
ALBATROSS How could anyone sleep through that? The sirens, alone are earsplitting. Besides, the smell of mustard always wakes me up.
PATRICK Hello? Lady? Didn’t you write this story???
ANN Oh. MUSTARD. Right. Got it.
PATRICK Pretty weird-ass sex toy, if you ask me.
ANN Technically…it wasn’t a “sex toy”—it was collateral damage.
PATRICK You are one, twisted Lesbyterian.
ALBATROSS Is “Collateral Damage” what they call that sandwich they always order at the Common Market in Charlotte?
PATRICK Look, Allie…SQUIRREL!!!!
ANN Wow. She can really run!
PATRICK I know. With luck, she’ll turn around and head back when she gets to the South Carolina line.
ANN But what about the squirrel?
ANN Oh. Duh. Okay. So…tell us. How are things really going between Kate and Shawn? Do you think they’ll still be together when BACKCAST hits the shelves?
PATRICK You tell me. At the rate you’re going with AFTERMATH, we’ll all be pushing up daisies by the time that one rolls around.
ANN What’s that supposed to mean?
PATRICK Oh, come on. Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina in HALF the time it’s taken you to write the damn acknowledgements.
ANN I hardly think that’s fair. I have a day job.
PATRICK Yeah? And my anal glands need expressed—but you don’t see me dragging MY ass.
ANN I see your point.
PATRICK A breakthrough.
ANN So…back to Kate and Shawn….
PATRICK Trust me. They’re doing just FINE.
ANN How do you know that?
PATRICK Well, for starters—they seem to have given up on the whole books page and moved on to find some other common ground.
ANN I’m confused.
PATRICK Well, just turn around and you’ll see what I mean.
ANN Oh, my.
PATRICK It happens ALL the time.
ANN Are people really allowed to…er…do THAT in a public place?
PATRICK Lady…this is a DOG park. Who do you think is gonna complain? The Pomeranian over there applying eyelash extensions?
ANN Okaaaay, then. So…I think I’ll just slowly back right on out of here and head for the nearest MARTA station.
PATRICK Wise decision. Oh…and if you pass Albatross on your way up I-95—just tell her to peel off and head for home. Word on the street is that we’re getting Merrick’s Smothered Comfort™ for dinner.
ANN “Smothered Comfort?”
PATRICK She thinks it has squirrel in it….
ANN Righto. Thank you, Patrick, for your time today.
PATRICK No problem.
ANN Um…you gonna be okay with those two?
PATRICK Oh, sure. I’ll let ’em go for about twenty minutes—then I’ll drop a load next to their blanket.
ANN Will that work?
PATRICK I ate three bean burritos last night…you tell me.
ANN Is that the bus? Wow…gotta run. See you in Vermont!
Join us next time when Ann interviews SIDECAR’s salty prison matron Mavis Pantz—who has more than a few tales to tell about her night wrangling the CLIT-Con 13.