Poodles by Susan Tepper

Girls wore poodle skirts in the fifties, I tell him.

A large white Poodle is occupying a chair in this dining room. The Poodle sits quietly beside an elderly French woman.

Dogs at the table are something I can live without, he says.

It's kind of traditional here in France, right?

I'm spooning in the most incredible soup. Cream of sorrel. I almost want to order another bowl.

I love this soup so much, I say.

It's wonderful, he says. But leave room for the duck.

I will, I say scraping the bowl quietly.

He raises an eyebrow. I tell him that he has supersonic hearing.

It's amazing I can hear at all, he says.

I know he means the rock bands. They are so incredibly loud. He is a maker and shaker of rock bands. He has to wear ear plugs when scouting new bands or will eventually lose his hearing.

It's one of the downsides of my business, he likes to say.

Of course there are the upsides, I'd like to say. You weren't the one cleaning planes a week ago.

A week ago I was cleaning planes at JFK. Our whole management team was cleaning planes because the real cleaners went on strike. They call us management but we are really their dogs. Poodles in our demure business suits, we are called upon to fill in whenever there is a strike.

Besides cleaning planes, I have answered phones in reservations, worked as a stewardess, driven the biffy truck under the planes to empty the toilets, and painted yellow lines on the tarmac. And once I stood in front of a 707, as it taxied in, waving my arms to indicate where it should park on the ramp.

But I don't say any of this. What's the point? It's not his fault any more than the Poodle's fault that it's here in the dining room; annoying him. It's not his fault he has a great life, and that mine is, well mine.


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