By Jenny Kalahar
Weegee, my Terrier, was sitting on my lap the other day looking at photos of pets in Halloween costumes. I really thought she’d think they look ridiculous. I mean, Weegee is very sensible. She’s a great novelist and poet, after all. However, after viewing a few dozen dogs and cats and hamsters in various get-ups she told me that we should try a costume on her this year.
You could have knocked me over with a feather toy!
I craned my neck to catch her eye. “Well … what do you suppose you’d like to disguise yourself as, Weeg? A squirrel? A wolf in sheep’s clothing? A cat?”
She hopped down from my lap to casually scratch her ear. I could see the wheels turning in her brain. “I don’t know. Let’s go to the pet shop to see what they have.”
“Probably the selection will be pretty picked over by now.”
“Let’s go anyway.”
Pat, my husband, kept throwing out clever ideas as he drove, but nothing lit up Weegee’s eyes. She just kept saying she’d know “her” costume when she saw it.
Once we were on the highway, Pat asked, “Written anything new lately, Weegee?”
She had been preparing to woof at a German Shepherd in a passing minivan, but then let the air out of her cheeks to answer. “I have a poem I’ve been working on. About autumn.”
“Oh, let’s hear some if you have it memorized,” I said enthusiastically.
She looked up at the van’s sun visors to collect her thoughts, and then, after taking in a deep breath, recited: “a kick of crunch, a crunch of crisp, loamy loamy, smoke and wet bark, rising to me through the near dark. glow, small flashing flickers glow, my dogged heart will frost too soon. flow, autumn, blow.”
Pat winked and smiled at her, and then chucked her under her fuzzy chin. “Nice.”
I hugged her tightly and kissed the black spot of fur on the top of her brilliant head. “Love it,” I whispered.
We walked into the pet shop, and our mood changed. We’d been feeling warm and leafy from Weegee’s autumnal brown tones, but in the bright light we were brought back to the modern world and commercialism, flamboyantly-colored toys and packaging, and the noise of yaps and human conversation. The costumes for dogs were near the front of the store. And yes, they were very picked over already.
Pat took a pair of pink, fluffy pig ears on a headband from a metal rack. And then he tried them on me. I left them on my head while we looked at the few offerings left in the discount bins and on racks.
“You could be a ladybug. Oh, wait,” I said, unfolding it. “This is for some sort of monster-sized dog. Although I can’t imagine a Great Dane getting enthused about pretending to be a little red-spotted insect.”
Weegee shrugged and kept looking, nosing through the alligator snouts and Frankenstein neck bolts in the bottom bin. Finally, after sitting again to scratch an ear, she said, “We need to go to the craft store instead.”
“They won’t let you in there, though. Discrimination and all that,” I reminded her, taking off the pig ears.
“That’s okay. I know what I want you to get.”
Pat shrugged, nodded, and off we went.
Weegee tried on her costume this morning to make sure I didn’t need to make any alterations or adjustments before the big night. She looked awesomely terrific!
“Should it be perched a bit lower?” she asked, admiring herself in a mirror I’d set on the floor in my office. Tiger was nearby, stretched out on the carpet while flicking his tail in amusement.
“I don’t think so. It’s perfect. Okay. I’ll take this stuff off of you so it doesn’t get messed up before Halloween.”
Weegee didn’t step towards me for a while. She wanted to keep admiring herself.
Pat was walking by the office, so I called him in to see the outfit since it was finally put together. We’d bought dark gray cotton that I’d sewn into a vintage-look suit coat, white cotton for a mock blouse, dark brown felt made a convincing mustache and heavy eyebrows, and a strip of creamy satin was now tied into a long neckerchief. A fake black crow from the farmyard decorative section of the craft store sat clutching Weegee’s left shoulder, its glassy black eyes shining.
Pat laughed, but it was a laugh of true recognition. “Edgar Allan Poe—I’d know you anywhere!”
Jenny Kalahar, her husband Patrick, and their pets live in Indiana where she sells used and rare books and writes novels and poetry. Her two novels about fostering cats are Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and The Find of a Lifetime: Another Tale of Used Books and Cats. Her collection of nostalgic and humorous poetry is One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. For more, visit her blog, Bookselling and Writing with Weegee.
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