Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets a Life. Rowena Deals With Life, Part 1

Rowena Plays With Her Dog

Fiction by S. D. Youngren

Rowena squeaked Linus' latex hamburger at him. She did not let Linus play with it unsupervised because she didn't trust it, but tonight she was staying home with him. “Get it, Linus! Get it! Grrrrrrr.” He pounced, and Rowena let go. The hamburger squeaked savagely as he worried it. Rowena ruffled up his fur.

The hamburger had been a gift from Terese. “I looked all over,” Terese had said, “but I just couldn't find a squeaky cup of coffee. So I got the next best thing.”

“I don't think he would like coffee anyway,” Rowena had replied.

“Not now, maybe, but just wait'll he grows up and gets sophisticated.”

“You're not going to go and get sophisticated on me, are you, Linus?” He rolled his eyes at her and she tussled with him. He let out a little yip. “There's a puppy. There's a puppy.” There she was, calling him “puppy” again. “Linus! Linus!” He seemed to respond to that, but then he responded to just about everything. “Do you know you're Linus? Linus?” He abandoned the hamburger for his mistress; the toy lay upside-down on the floor, slightly torn on one side.

Maralynne had given her a puppy present, too—a book of dog horoscopes. “I don't really know what sign he is, of course,” Rowena had told Sammy. “He's supposed to be ‘about four months old,’ but that only narrows it down to, I don't know, a field of three, I guess.”

“Maybe you're supposed to backwards-engineer it,” he'd suggested. “You read the book and figure out his birthday from that.”

“And find out he was born next month.”

“Hey, nothing's perfect.”

Rowena smiled. She scooped Linus into her arms for no reason at all. Sammy was working late and couldn't even call her; he would probably work late the next night too. “He gets all the actual glory, of course,” Sammy had said of his boss, “but I get to brag about it too.”

“He'll get plenty of glory from this one,” Rowena had replied, “if he wins it.”

We,” Sammy had corrected her, “will win it. If there's any justice in Judge Berkeley's courtroom. And up to now there usually has been.”

“So why are you working so hard?” she'd teased him.

“So I won't end up looking like a complete idiot for having said that, of course.”

Rowena put Linus down, reached for his ball, rolled it across the floor. She watched him dash after it, thinking, If he were a big dog, I'd have to run around with him. Of course, she wouldn't keep a big dog in her apartment. She sighed. Sammy was working on an important case, Terese had just been promoted, Lorraine down at the office had had a baby, and here she was, just . . .

“Yeah, yeah, I know; I'm important to you,” she told Linus. “But you would think that about anybody. You would. You would.”

He didn't even try to deny it. Rowena retrieved the ball and threw it towards the hallway. Her mother wanted her to marry Sammy and make him go to law school, after which she could have three or four babies and retire. Terese thought she should become a paramedic or something. Eloise thought she should take Mr. Schmed's special training course and . . . and basically stay with the firm, in one capacity or another, forever and ever. Rowena sighed again. She was pretty sure she didn't want to do that. But what did she want?

Something poked at her feet; looking down she saw that Linus had rolled his ball back to her. “What a smart puppy you are!” she said. She would of course assume he'd done it on purpose; she saw this as a kind of duty, to tell Terese how smart her dog was and get laughed at. Not laughed at, exactly, but . . .

She rolled the ball in another direction, and Linus charged after it. The apartment seemed awfully quiet; the telephone in particular was very still. At least, she told herself, at least she hardly ever had to work late. But . . . She could hear Linus' ball bumping against the kitchen wall, the wall she shared with the Changs, and she checked her clock. Late enough to maybe annoy somebody. She got up and fetched Linus back, pulled his tug-of-war towel from under the table. It was hardly an even battle, playing tug-of-war with a dog Linus' size, but he always acted as if he had a chance. Which he did, because of course she let him win. He dug in his feet and glared at her. She gave the towel a shake. Quiet. She wondered when Sammy would start taking her for granted. They always did—didn't they? Wasn't that how it worked, no matter what the guy had been like early on? Even a guy like Sammy, who went around being nice, who didn't try to deceive her, lie to her, take advantage of her? Would he end up ignoring or patronizing her the way all the rest of them supposedly did?

Leaving her nobody even to him.

Rowena let go her end of the towel, and Linus pranced off in triumph. Rowena wondered whether he would still be this playful when he grew up. If everybody would just stay the same . . . except Rowena herself . . .

And in some respects, her mother . . .

Rowena shook her head, picked a book up off the coffee table beside her, and dropped it onto her lap. Her mother. She had somewhat less to worry about on that front since she'd moved out—there'd even been fewer shot-in-the-dark references to chastity than she'd expected—but now that she was away from them and had a little more time she also found herself worrying; was it also true what they said about ending up, no matter how hard you tried, just like your parents?

Rowena hoped not. She thought up all sorts of ways she couldn't possibly be—ever—like her mother. She was too smart. She was too tactful. She—

So maybe she wouldn't be like her mother, but who was she?

Rowena got up and fixed herself a cup of tea, Linus pouncing at her feet. “Don't you ever get tired?” she asked. Sometimes she envied him. All that energy and nothing to worry about. “Do you have any ambitions, Linus? Do you want to grow up to be a police dog or something?” He looked up at her and wagged his tail in a very un-police-dog-like manner, which was just as well. Evidently all he wanted was to be a friendly little pet.

Rowena took her tea to the couch, Linus bounding after. She sat down, and he tried to jump up after her and missed. “Oh, Linus!” said Rowena. “Come here.” She scooped him up and put him in her lap. She petted him, very careful not to spill her tea, and after a while he actually settled down and fell asleep.

Rowena sat awhile, looking at her empty teacup and thinking. The apartment was very still, the light from her lamp a tangible substance in the air. Rowena wondered whether it mattered, what happened to her. Some aspect of her life would probably work out. Probably. Though—

Something good could happen as easily as something bad, she told herself. But she wasn't sure she believed it.

She looked at the clock. She ought to go to bed. On her lap Linus twitched in some kind of puppy dream. She couldn't possibly wake him. She watched him, his little paws; his mouth opened a bit and closed. “Hey,” she whispered. “I have to sleep too, you know.” But he was too cute to wake. Rowena smiled at him, even though it was getting later and later . . .

The phone rang.

Linus leaped up and so did Rowena. She ran to the phone.


“I hope I didn't wake you,” said Sammy. Rowena closed her eyes a moment. Her heart was beating.

“No,” she said. “No, you didn't.”

“Oh, good. I—I know how late it is, but we just finished and I thought . . . We're leaving in a minute but I wanted to talk to you.”

“I've wanted to talk to you,” Rowena said.

“What have you been doing?” Sammy asked.

“Playing with the dog. I think I actually wore him out for once.” Sammy laughed. “How's your case?”

“God knows. I'm too tired to tell. I expect it'll work.”


“Hey, look, I gotta run. I just wanted . . .” He trailed off; when he continued it was almost in a whisper. “I just wanted to hear your voice.”

Rowena closed her eyes again. She wished Sammy was there with her. She couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't sound stupid.

She remembered Sammy telling her once, “Of course that's not stupid. This is not a stupid relationship,” and she hoped he was right. She thought that maybe he was right.


Next Story:
Rowena Gets Abducted By Aliens

Rowena Deals With Life, Part 2

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