Posted by: alegra22 | December 22, 2008

fourteen hours

“Where is Pepita? “Clara asked as I fumbled about the house looking for loose change, gold coins, small silver ten cent pieces – enough money to at least purchase half a serving of wedges and not force Clara to eat her lunch with me staring at her, my hands in my lap, trying to pretend like one person eating at a two person lunch isn’t awkward.

“Maybe sleeping under the house?”

The gates were closed but the yard was still. I called for Pepita in the usual way, “Pepita, you big oaf, come here girl!”

“She didn’t come bounding at me when I came through the gate, I was surprised,” Clara said, stepping out into the bright daylight.

We squinted at one another a moment.

“Hey, was the front gate open when you came, were you able to push it open?”

“Yes, it wasn’t locked.”

Out the front gate I go, hollering, squinting, my heart half-pounding because with the beta blockers I am now like a feminine and slightly less insane version (cardiac-wise) as Hannibal Lecter. I can’t wait to surf this summer. I will be paddling for waves with my heart rate at a cool 70 bpm. I have a theory that most surfers must have a lowered response to their adrenaline and a slow heartbeat. Just a theory.

Pepita was gone. Nowhere. Not here, not there: no-where. My lunch date with Clara was ditched to begin a six hour hunt for Pepita, the big cuddly beast of a dog who must have traded some intelligence in favor of being good-natured. I approached a rat pack of kids that swarm out from the houses behind us.

“Manu!” I holler, doing the Maori-boy eyebrow raise thing.

“Eh? You know my name?” He tilts his head to the side and squints.

“Yeah, Manu. And you’re Honeybee.” I point to his dark-skinned, blonde-haired sister.

“How you know my name eh?” He tilts his head to the other side, “You live in front of me aye? In front of my  nan’s.”

I nod. “You know my husband, Dan. Have you seen our dog?” I raise my eyebrows again, hands hanging loosely at my side.

“Yeah, chur, we just saws her running, aye, that way.”

“If you see her, will you grab her for me? Bring her back to the yard.”

He nods, raises his eyebrows, folds his hands over his chest.


Over the next six hours I would cross path with Manu and his gang twice more. The second time I had been wandering along the green belt behind the wealthy neighborhoods with Sol and Zaviera in tow. We came across Manu and Honeybee and the other neighborhood kids playing in the murky waters of the duck pond. They were shouting and laughing, sediment and clumps of sewage looking material floating around their young happy bodies.

“Hey!” Manu called out, “Hey! Can we swim in this?”

“Has anyone told you not to?” I see an old man anxiously trimming his hedges, one eye trained in our direction as one child picks up a rock and heaves it into the water and hoots.

“No, but if you was hot would you swim in this?” He asks.

“If I was hot enough, yeah, maybe.”

I walk away after several of the boys swarm around me with what they believe to be helpful information that is entirely fabricated about where Pepita has gone. Pepita becomes a sandy colored dog to a brown dog to a black pitbull. Before we leave Sol struts his stuff for the boys by attacking a giant palm frond, while yelling “Patooeeeeeey!”

By 8 p.m. that night we had been down every potential neighborhood yelling out for Pepita. The kids were growing tired. Sol was upset about Pepita being lost and was deeply offended that the strangers we stopped to ask did not say “hello” to him.

“Well, honey, they didn’t even say hi to us! In fact, they don’t even really want to say hi to us, they are just trying to be helpful, not have a conversation.”

“But mommy, I said hello and they didn’t say hello back!”

His angry eyebrows settle on his face like a pair of bad weather bats.

It was time for us to go home. I grabbed Dan’s hand and said, “God, if you bring Pepita back to us tonight I swear I will take her for walks twice a day!”

We went home, put the kids to bed and I put on my gardening gloves and went out into the yard and began to weed. I had some long conversations out there, raking, crouching, digging, pulling, watching night pass over the neighborhood. I refused to close the gate but finally Dan came out and told me it was time.

“Come on,” he said, “Come to bed.”

In the fourteen hours that Pepita was missing, I found love for the wandering neighborhood children who have scribbled small tags on the side of our fence. I saw a different side to our neighborhood, to myself. I was turned inside out – the ugliness I had been placing on the people around me was shifted into my hands as I pulled one weed out after another. I held that ugliness tenderly and felt its weight. I felt a veil drop in the stillness of the neighborhood and everything became outlined with a distinctness I remember from childhood. The world was humming with aliveness, with violence, with joy, with beauty, with loss.

At 2 a.m. I heard some dogs barking and went back to sleep. Half an hour later Dan woke me up.

“Guess who came home?”

Pepita came bounding up onto the bed, snuggling herself into my neck, stretching her dusty, thick body out along mine. She was exhausted.

I wrapped my arm around her and went back to sleep.

We will never know where she went for those fourteen hours, what stories she must have stored inside of her.  But in that gap I fell into my own stories ones, like hers, that I have no language with which to tell.



  1. Fourteen hours can feel like fourteen years when you have lost something special. The last two months have felt like two years too me! And like any experience regardless of the length of time there are always lessons to be learnt. But you already know this!

    The roller coaster of emotions you were on would have been tough, but you had your kids and the neighbor hood kids with you on the ride. And let’s not forget your husband too! I have had the same support through my own recent struggles. This situation is yet another metaphor for anyone else going through a tough time. Walking down different streets searching for you beloved puppy, meeting people who want to help but don’t have any help to offer. Facing ‘rude’ people whom you know in reality aren’t sure what to say.

    then you discover that when you least expect it, when things look the darkest BOOM the thing your were looking for and thought had gone forever comes back to you…hope is eternal. So is the love we have for people and animals. Trust, faith and hope, three things people tend to take for granted sometimes. Your blog reflects these beautifully.

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