I walked into puppy class feeling disheveled, knowing that I hadn’t looked in a mirror for hours. I also realized I had to pee, and couldn’t remember the last time I’d done that, either. I didn’t want to be there because there were about a million other things I could be doing, but the first rule of obedience school is that you have to show up to obedience school, so Stella and I obediently went to class.
The trainer’s eyes widened when she saw Stella.
“Wow, Stella!” she said. I thought she was about to say how much Stella had grown. She’s eating like crazy, wolfing down her cup of food in a matter of seconds.
“She’s getting kind of fat,” the trainer said.
Whatever wind I had in my sails after girding myself up for puppy school left me in that moment, and a sort of profound exhaustion set in as the trainer greeted the other dogs, dogs who were thinner, and I only half-heartedly practiced our commands: sit, side sit, wait, down, let’s go.
“Stella is being really good!” the trainer called. “More treats!”
“But she’s getting fat,” I retorted, sullen as a teenager.
It was the last day of class, and the trainer had devised a game. You choose a card, green for easy, yellow for medium and red for hard, and your dog has to perform the task on the card for points.
I looked around the room and knew we were doomed, Stella and I. Most of the dogs were there with two people, people who might whip out their phones and take videos of their dogs playing, people who probably actually practiced the things we learned in class.
When it was out turn, I wanted to choose a green card—the easiest, but, since everyone had chosen a yellow, I felt pressure to choose yellow, too.
“Do a trick,” the trainer read from the card.
I looked at her blankly.
“You know, like speak or shake or something.”
We hadn’t worked on speak or shake. We’d worked on sit. A trick? Am I Houdini? I felt immediately inadequate, like I was a bad mother for not doing enough. I was suddenly over puppy class, wishing mightily for some kind of trap door to appear. I was tired and vaguely pissed off.
The trainer read my expression correctly.
“From down to sit could be a trick,” she offered.
I closed my eyes briefly, and then stood up. “Down,” I said, and down she went.
That same morning had dawned like any other, though Scott was in California. This is not unusual, since he travels for work, but there’s a certain chaos to his being gone. This is partially because he hates chaos and partially because I have to be both of us. Whereas usually I might discover that he’s taken out the trash while I drive the kids to school, when he’s gone the trash is still stubbornly inside the house. So I have to take out the trash. This is not a big deal by any stretch, but there are any number of “not a big deal” items that Scott might take care of for me that he’s not here to do. Unload the dishwasher, for example. Or shoo Kai off the toilet and into his school clothes.
Or get rid of a spider.
I discovered the spider when I looked outside, and seemed to see something hanging in mid-air. As realization turned to horror, I began to understand that a spider had, overnight, devised a web that spanned the stairs that led to our garage.
The spider was huge, the size of a Siamese, menacingly striped. Several large creatures had already been ensnared in her web and were waiting to die.
“Fuuuuuuuuck,” I said.
Under normal circumstances, this would be where I told Scott about a spider and hid in the bathroom until he gave me the all-clear.
But there was no Scott. There was only me and a spider the size of a Cadillac.
Theoretically I don’t mind spiders. It’s just that they have so many god damned legs.
I ran through all the various possibilities of getting the kids to school despite my arachnid problem, including ubering the kids to school or just staying home. Scott suggested via text that I throw a towel over the whole web and he would remove the towel on Friday when his plane landed. But there was something too barbaric about that. I mean, I’ve read Charlotte’s Web. I was like some kind of Motely Crue song. I didn’t want her to die, I just wanted her to go away.
In the end, I climbed over the balcony and jumped, running to the car the way Laura Dern ran from the raptors in Jurassic Park.
I backed out of the garage and brought the car around to the front of the house, and decided that Scott could take care of the spider, now the size of a Winnebago, when he got home from California.
On the way to school, I had a thousand thoughts. About the spider, yes, but also about the craft I was going to help with in Ryan’s class the next day, how I didn’t have all the supplies and needed to find the time to do that, and then I realized that I had agreed to sub a yoga class during the craft and oh, shit I needed to fix that, and I had to work today and I also had an appointment at 2 that I should probably move and social skills group after that and puppy school after that when, exactly, was I going eat or shower, much less get craft supplies?
And that’s when the bee flew into my car and I started screaming.
I pulled myself together enough to go to work. I moved my 2 o’clock appointment so that I could collect leaves for the craft thing on Friday. I did get that shower. I threw several sticks at the spider web until it collapsed. I have no idea where the spider went, but she was gone at this point. I took the kids to Kai’s appointment. I was feeling better, more in control if not flush with time, until I pulled into McDonald’s only to be greeted with a sign that said they would be closing at 7 pm for, and I quote, maintenance. It was 7:06.
“Kids, we’re going to Wendy’s,” I said, a phrase that has been met with cheers by no kid ever, and I ordered two kids meals and raced home. The sitter was already on the front porch waiting for us. I know this because she called me to say as much.
After much negotiation of food bags and backpacks and drinks and iPads and come ON you guys I need you to step up and help me, we managed to make our way from the car into the house. I was carrying the backpacks. As we were unloading, my phone began to ring inside my purse. We clamored up the stairs and in the back door just as the home phone started to ring. I plopped the backpacks down on the stove and climbed over the dog gate toward the front door and the babysitter waiting on the dark front steps. It was then that the children started screaming, and I turned around. Both my cell phone and home phone were still ringing. The front door was wide open and a random person was standing there. And Kai’s backpack, which I had casually tossed on the stove, was on fire.
You guys, his backpack was on freaking fire.
Copious amounts of smoke was pouring into my kitchen, and flames were licking up the sides of the backpack from the lit burner.
I lunged for the backpack and, opening the back door, tossed it onto the grass and then ran down after it, grabbing the house phone as I went, and doused the backpack with the hose.
“Hello?” I said into the phone. No, I did not want to become a member of the aquarium.
It was only later that I wondered what I would have done if the spider was still there.
“You shouldn’t have set my backpack on fire,” Kai said.
I resisted the urge to throttle him because he was, after all, right.
Stella’s second assignment was the wait command, where you tell her to wait while you hold out a treat. She’s actually really good at that, and we aced it. Suddenly, we were tied for second place.
The second place run-off between Stella and a golden-doodle named Jayce was how many down-back-up-to-sits they could do in 15 seconds. Stella did three. So did Jayce, technically, but the trainer gave her a .5 for arbitrary reasons, so we took third overall in the game. I told Stella that she had been robbed, which she had been, and that I was proud of her, which I was.
The trainer made “puppy cakes,” puppy food formed into a bone shape with a cookie cutter. There were eight dogs and she’d only made seven cakes, so two dogs needed to split theirs. The trainer eyeballed us. “Stella can share,” she said. I sighed. My dog is fat, I get it.
Nevertheless, we gamely posed for a picture together, Stella and I. I was pleased that she’d come in third, which seemed like a significant achievement in a room full of people who did not have a spider the size of Kanye West's ego on their porch or have to drag their autistic son to social skills group. People who didn’t light their son’s backpack on fire or nearly cause a multi-car pile-up on Damen because of a bee.
Funny, but I’d bet that any one of those things would have derailed their whole day. But not me.
Stella and I pulled ourselves together and took third place on a day that anyone else would have called crazy—a day that I just call Thursday.