I'm working on a series of short fiction stories/vignettes that explore real human issues through my dog Ruby, which I'm hoping will be fodder for my next book. I thought I'd share one with you guys before my two weeks as a Boinger are over. I actually wrote this one at San Francisco airport while waiting for a plane to Tokyo–Ruby was really barking like a maniac at a sleeping guy, and my imagination took it from there. Here goes:
Ruby Was Angry
Ruby was angry. She didn’t really understand why–but as she stared at the man sprawled out on the floor of the airport, next to the sign for Gate 82 United Flight 899 to Tokyo’s Narita Airport, she began to realize just how angry she really was.
It quickly became clear to her that this anger was not a temporary function of seeing the sleeping man, but the delayed manifestation of a much more profound and long-existing anger that she had kept buried deep in her soul for a very long time. It was hard to say how long exactly. Her eyes narrowed and she bore her teeth like a rabid pit bull about to take a plunge. The fearsome expression on her face looked oddly out of place paired with her pink braided necklace and silver heart-shaped pendant with “RUBY KEILANA” printed daintily on its curve. Her reddish-brown hair stood on its ends like a cat sprayed with water.
Then a strange thing happened. Random memories started to flash across her brain like a picture slide show on a computer screen. There was Dangercat, glaring down at her as she frolicked in his garden, daring her to come back up the stairs into his house, hissing under his breath, claws gleaming in the sunlight; her mom, picking up all her strategically positioned toys from around the house and throwing them ruthlessly in a trash bag; her friend Xica, her big black body pouncing mercilessly at Ruby as Ruby hid under the table, praying not to be crushed under Xica’s weight; the tall white man who called her a rat as she walked by him on Stanyan Street last week; all her so-called friends who once pretended to love her so much and then one day disappeared without a trace.
Throughout all this, Ruby had kept up her positive attitude, her sweet demeanor, and her unconditional forgiveness. But this time she had had enough!
So she barked and growled and barked and growled until she had the attention of everyone in the departure lobby. The waiting passengers, the flight attendants, the pilot of Flight 899, the cleaning man, the pretty young woman driving a cart-full of elderly people–everyone turned around to see what the ruckus was all about.
“I’m angry!” said Ruby. “My name is Ruby Keilana, and I’m angry!”
An awkward silence followed. Then, an old man in a wheelchair spoke up. “Why are you angry Ruby?” he asked.
“I just AM!” yelled Ruby. “Because I just feel like it!”
All of a sudden, the sleeping man awoke. He rose from his nest on the floor next to Gate 82 and stared straight at Ruby. It gave Ruby a slight shudder. She wasn’t a confrontational girl by nature, and this sudden bout of anger had surprised her too. She didn’t know what to expect.
“I’m angry too.” The sleepy man said in a deep, manly voice.
“And why might you be angry?” The old man in the wheelchair asked the sleepy man.
The sleepy man shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he said. “I just am.”
Then, another strange thing happened. Voices started to pipe up from all over the departure lounge. “I’m angry too!”
“I’m angry too!”
“My name is Tom Brown, and I am ANGRY!”
“Me too, but I don’t know why!”
The man in the wheelchair started to clap slowly. One by one, the people around him joined in until there was a steady beat permeating the room, accompanied by a cacophony of voices expressing their inexplicable anger. By the time everyone at Gate 82 had proclaimed their anger, Gates 81 and 83 had joined in…then Gates 80 and 84…and so forth until all the gates in the terminal were thundering with anger.
Believe it or not, this chant went on for a full twenty minutes. There was a lot of anger in the room, and it all had to be expressed. There was such a great communal release that you could see swirls of emotion hovering in the air–reds, blues, greens, all kinds of colors for all the different kinds of anger people were holding in–and as Ruby stared in awe at this amazing phenomenon, the colors swirled together into one huge black cloud that hovered over everyone’s heads.
Then, when an angry airport security guard kicked down the emergency door next to Gate 75B, the cloud saw its chance to escape and flew out the door. The chanting stopped, and the darkness that had overcome the room disappeared. All was silent. Outside, it started to rain. The sky darkened, and thunder clapped.
“I’m not angry anymore,” said Ruby.