Ignore the Barking

April 9, 2008
By Bernadette Krause, Havertown, PA

It was a hot summer day in Manhattan and the temperature in Matilda Paglione’s apartment reached 95 degrees according to the thermostat in her sitting room. It felt like the sun walked on to the Earth and made itself at home right next to her apartment. The heat was unbearable. The hardwood floor, in the living room, and most of her other furniture was in direct sunlight because of the plate glass door that looked out over the city. The only place that the sun did not find was her narrow kitchen with stainless steel appliances and a fresh coat of chartreuse green paint. Her middle- aged, pale body sat weak from the heat, and her shoulder-length, chocolate brown hair was plastered to the sides of her face with perspiration. She looked like a water bottle that was just taken out of the freezer. The loveseat she was sitting on soaked up the sweat from her slender, moist arms as she leaned over to pet her two-year-old black lab, Gusty. His coat felt soft and sleek to her moist, sweaty hand. Gusty sniffed her hand as she pulled it away from him. To her surprise, he jumped to his feet and began to bark. Since Gusty had only been with her for a week, she did not know what he wanted so suddenly. Melinda replied to his reaction with a cranky groan, “Go get a toy, goofy!” He kept barking even while she was talking and even after she walked away he barked about ten more times and stopped. (Sometimes she can be the crankiest person in the world and other times she is the happiest person in the world.) She went to her bathroom to get ready for bed and work the next day.
She awoke the next day; she got to her feet and walked to the bathroom. When she began brushing her teeth, she felt a cold, numb sensation travel from her head to her feet. The sweet toothpaste tasted sour to her tongue. When she looked in the mirror, she noticed her lips were drained of color and her face appeared more pale than normal. She felt like a bathtub that had just been drained. She sat on the lid of the toilet until the feeling went away, but it only got worse. Her hearing was distorted and she became weak. She knew she needed to lie back down on her bed. The feeling passed after five minutes, and she went back to get ready for work.
When she was finished, and dressed for work, Melinda headed out to the parking garage to get into her car. She drove out of the garage and entered into the horrific New York City traffic. She felt like the whole world was crashing in upon her because she was in a quiet place with few cars and went to a place where she was surrounded by noise and cars with careless drivers. She approached Queens, where she worked at The New York City Humane Society.
Matilda was close to the parking lot, so she made a sharp right turn into the lot to avoid the oncoming traffic. When she was out of her car, in the door, and up the stairs, she felt ill again! This time her color did not drain from her, but she saw bright colors that caused her vision to blur and again, she became dizzy. The lemon scent of Pine Sol was so strong in the stairwell that people in California could have smelled it; the smell probably made her feel sick along with dizziness and not being able to see. She sat against the wall that was a cold iceberg on the landing, with her legs stretched out in front. She began to hear a low shuffle and wondered if it was in her head from not feeling well. (Her loss of vision did not diminish yet.) The shuffling became louder and louder until she finally realized there was a person walking up the stairs. The man, whom she did not know, asked in a concerned matter, “Are you okay? You don’t look so good.” Matilda quickly responded, “I am okay, thank you. I am just upset,” as she got her feet under her so she could stand. She hoped he would accept the excuse and leave her alone.
She walked right into her office, because she knew she had a lot of paperwork left over from last week. She sat down on her ragged old computer chair and noticed that her cat, whom she kept in her office, was lying on an organized pile of papers on her desk. She looked at him with worry because of what just happened. She noticed there was music coming from the speakers. She felt the beat was harsh, but it was the exact feelings she had at that moment. “I got fear, I got guilt, I got regret.” She had fear about what happened, guilt about leaving her newly adopted dog at home, and regret that she did not stay in bed when she lay down the first time.

She fanned through the pile of paperwork that she needed to complete before the weekend, and it seemed endless to her. The black text showed on each page, for a second, as it hit the light and the crisp white sheets slowly formed back to their natural position, on top of each other, when they were freed from her chapped thumb and index finger. After a couple of minutes passed, she began to realize how serious the incident on the stairs could have been! Ten different possibilities of what could have happened ran through her head at the same time. Thinking about this made her extremely worried but, after making sense of the situation in her head she figured it would be best for her to be at home incase anything else were to happen.

Matilda rose from her chair, walked out the door and down the hall to where her boss’s office was. The door was open and he was in there so she knocked gently on the door frame and said, “Hi Sam, do you have a minute, or two?” Sam replied, “Sure, what’s up?” She said, “About 20 minutes ago, when I was coming in, I got to the top of the steps and I felt dizzy and started to see different colors. I can’t tell if I still feel sick from that or if I am just nervous, but I was wondering if I could go home? “Oh yes, I wouldn’t want anything terrible to happen!”
She said, “Thank You!” and walked back to her office where she got her handbag, took out her keys, and locked the door. The traffic was slow, like always, but after an hour she reached her apartment. She opened the door and Gusty was there to greet her. Her long fingers swung down to pet his head as she walked in between the love seat and the kitchen table to her bedroom, so she could get changed.

Matilda came out in cozy pajamas. She turned on her television and immediately heard Barbara Walter’s squeaky, high pitched voice on the view. She watched the show while dozing in and out of consciousness. She woke up a while later and realized she had been asleep for an hour and a half. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and decided it was time for lunch. She got up and walked towards her kitchen when Gusty got up and began to bark ferociously. She ignored him again and walked to the refrigerator to get the lunch meat. There were utensils sitting on the counter right next to the bread so she took a knife in her left hand and a roll in her right. Thump. She fell foreword and her face dropped down onto the piece of bread. The bread slowly suffocated her. Her hand remained on the counter with the knife facing up right by her ear. Her limp body was supported by the counter top. The vein in her neck was a line of traffic coming to a red light; the pulsating vein in her neck began to slow and eventually it stopped! Gusty sat helpless by Melinda’s body and he talked to himself, “If only she knew that dogs are able to predict seizures and give their partners a dependable alert every time. Some dogs step on their partners’ feet, but my alert to Matilda was barking! If only she knew I was saving her life!”

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