Dogs lead a nice life. You never see a dog with a wristwatch.
-- George Carlin
Drake didn't remember exactly how old he was when he named his tail "Matey." It was his first secret. He never told anyone else what it was called—not even Mama Sylvia, who was responsible for Matey's survival.
Drake had always cared for Matey meticulously. Even when he was still a toddler who couldn't be bothered to wipe her nose, he made sure his tail was pristine.
Today, every time he scrubbed Matey with castile soap and then rubbed oil into it, Drake thanked his hippie mom for the blessing of his tail. By the durable grace of Mama Sylvia, his tail had survived.
Mama Sylvia had stood firm on keeping her baby intact, even bloody and groggy as she was after the C-section. She had been prepared to defend the baby boy she was expecting against circumcision, so the mere threat of raising a social misfit—who was probably retarded, because kids born with tails always were, the obstetrician said—did not cause her to budge an inch.
And the baby was fine. Belinda was a fine, perfect baby with a tail. Sylvia Doolittle was rightfully proud of Belinda, her beautiful baby snake. (She had picked the name after looking up its meaning.) She banished anyone who made a fuss over the tail. No one would teach her child to be ashamed. Sylvia trained Belinda to care for her tail as soon as she was old enough to start soaping herself in the washbasin.
It was also Mama Sylvia who first started to call her child "Dooley." It was obvious by the time Sylvia's baby was learning to walk that, regardless of what equipment nature might have jokingly supplied to her beloved little snake, the child was not a girl. Sylvia could not look at the child and honestly see a "Belinda."
So, Dooley it was.
Little Dooley wasn't concerned about her frontal apparatus yet, but she loved her puffy, muscular dorsal appendage. Matey was four and two-thirds inches long, a lumpy two and one-half inches in diameter. As Dooley grew, Matey stayed the same size. Dooley knew Matey would be in proportion someday. Imagining Matey's future glory made Dooley even prouder.
Sylvia encouraged it. Pride and dignity were the birthright of her child, and that child was always going to know it.
By the time Dooley started school and faced the inevitable taunts of her more conventionally configured classmates, she was prepared. She only laughed at how ugly and distorted hatred made the faces of her tormentors. Besides, the attention Matey got guaranteed that no one would notice what else was different about Dooley.
Dooley loved everything about her tail. It was useful. It was beautiful. Dooley could lift it and make circles with it. With more difficulty, she could keep it still under her school uniform. She liked to poke people's legs or hands with it on a crowded bus or in an elevator, enjoying their horrified squirming at the wrong and impossible feeling of it.
And while other kids and grownups were hypnotized by Matey's highjinks, Dooley got bolder and bolder about exploring her less visible gifts. Courtney, a little girl with an angelic face and the fluffy dresses to match, taunted Dooley about Matey. Dooley scratched her ass, looking innocent. Courtney got the most intractable case of head lice the school had ever seen. No one suspected Dooley had anything to do with it.
Today, as Drake the loner, Drake the mainframe dinosaur, Drake the clean-shaven-all-over slender guy who used to be Dooley—today, Drake found it soothing to care for Matey.
Drake would never allow himself to get too fat or unlimber to care for Matey. It was a dedication to his own well-being. It was an homage to Mama Sylvia. It was a tribute to his magical protection. It was loving maintenance of his magic wand, the tool he had learned to use to bestow his slight curses and petty blessings.
Caring for Matey was a ritual. It made Drake powerful.
After taking his patient Golden Labrador Retriever Tiresias on a too-short walk, Drake undressed, carefully folding his t-shirt and lounge pants on the bench in the bathroom. He turned around to look at Matey in the mirror. The tail had never grown more than a fine peachfuzz, even when his ass would have disappeared beneath thick, dark fur from the testosterone shots if he hadn't shaved it.
Drake swung his tail from side to side, moving his hips too. Grown-up Matey was as magnificent as baby Dooley had always known it would be. Matey was winsome. Matey was strong. Matey was sensitive and pleasingly naked. Matey didn't need a shave, but Drake's ass did.
Drake soaped his ass and carefully drew the Lady Schick along his roundness. Even more carefully, he pulled his ass cheeks apart and slid the blade along the crack and around his anus. He stood in the tub to rinse soap and hair off with the shower head, patted himself dry, and inspected the result in the mirror. Better.
This morning, Drake would bathe Matey in the sink. It was more comfortable to squat in the bathtub, but today he was too in love with Matey to take his eyes off it. With his ass in the sink, Drake could see his tail and the process of cleaning in the mirror.
Drake let himself remember everything—Sylvia and Belinda and Dooley and the too-young, too-big Matey—while he contemplatively soaped Matey with the gentle castile soap. He carefully massaged his tail's muscular contours with his thumbs and the heel of his hand, pulling it slowly, admiring the striations of soap foam that emphasized Matey's folds and protrusions.
When he ran the warm water over Matey to rinse off the soap the second time, Drake forgot everything except the pleasant sensations: The warm water flowing over the just-shaved ass cheeks and crack; the feeling of Drake's fingers caressing Matey; Matey luxuriating in Drake's hand.
Washing and oiling Matey was as satisfying as sex. If he permitted it, Drake could channel the delightful sensations throughout his body. He was going to let it happen this time. He needed his whole body and soul to feel as loved as Matey.
When he and Matey were satisfied, Drake pulled out Matey's special fluffy hand towel. Even though Drake lived alone and rarely had visitors, Matey's towels occupied a special place in the back of a drawer, where no one was likely to find and use them for hand-drying. Matey's clean pink flesh with its purple shadows looked the best with plain white towels. They needed to stay stark white and unstained.
Dry now, Drake knelt on the counter next to the sink, his ass pointing toward the mirror. He admired the beauty of his freshly cleaned tail.
Drake preferred to close his eyes and let his fingers admire Matey when it came time for the oil. To oil Matey, Drake stood on the tile floor and leaned his belly against the edge of the sink. Drake loved the contrast between the cold, stark, hard tile on his belly and under his feet, and the warm, muscular springiness of Matey as Drake's fingers rubbed in the fine-quality massage oil.
Clean, dry, oiled, and pure, Drake was complete. He turned to Tiresias. As always, the Lab had patiently waited and gravely watched Drake's ritual with Matey. Ti respected the seriousness.
Today, the ritual was going to vary a little.
Today, Drake unscrewed the lens cap from the camera he had carefully placed on the bathroom counter, well out of the range of any possible drips or splashes. He set up the tripod that had been leaning in the corner. He snicked the camera into place on top of the tripod and positioned it carefully. He adjusted the focal distance and shutter speed and then he stepped in front of the lens. He turned around so his ass faced the lens. He looked over his shoulder to make sure his ass and Matey were centered. Then he clicked the shutter remotely. He moved around, clicking his ass and tail from different angles. He bent his legs, raised himself on his toes. When he had about a dozen different shots, he paused.
Ti paced in the hallway outside the bathroom, whining anxiously. Drake had never done this before. This wasn't what was supposed to happen after a Matey bath.
Drake squatted down behind the camera and browsed the shots he'd just taken. Ti poked his nose into Drake's armpit, and Drake draped his arm over the dog's shoulders, scritching his chin and soothing him.
"It's OK, buddy," Drake murmured. "Ti-Ti, he's my good boy, aha, that's a good one, NO, delete those two, keeper, keeper, HELL NO, it's OK old boy, one more, no two, yeah, half a dozen to choose from. Good!"
After Drake disassembled the tripod and camera setup, replaced the camera's lens cap, and carefully placed the camera back on the bathroom counter, he pulled on the waiting pair of perfectly clean white shorts, the fabric thin and reeking of bleach.
Ti now had the upper half of his body poking into the bathroom. The rear part of his body, all of which was wagging along with his tail, protruded into the hall. This was how the ritual was supposed to end. Ti was happy.
Drake printed the three best photos of Matey and his ass on his not-bad color printer. He spread them out on the kitchen counter. Should he choose one, or should he use all three?
He reheated his cold coffee from earlier in the morning and he sipped it while he pondered.
No, just the one. The middle one. It made his ass look even fuzzier and rounder. Most importantly, Matey looked especially fetching: His tail curved upward at a saucy angle, its contours highlighted by the contrasty effect of the ink from the not-bad printer.
Drake slid the photo into the envelope on top of the rest of its contents. This picture should be the first thing out of the envelope for its lucky recipient.
Now, Drake was ready.
He checked one more time that everything was turned off, that dry food and water bowls were filled, and that the towel in Tiree's bed was clean and dry.
"See you this afternoon, dear boy," Drake said, and he locked the door behind him.
© 2010 Lydia Swartz. You're welcome to read, but do not use elsewhere without permission.