I have no idea how I get myself into these messes, I say to myself, punching my bed pillow as my Catholic guilt gnaws at me. I think of something my writing teacher, the late great Frank McCourt once said when asked what he thought about Catholicism. He paused, looked at the interviewer and answered with his cute smirk, “I’ve forgiven them.”
I only hope Newsday will forgive me for what transpired today when I got the call:
ND: Hello, is this Janet Berg?
ME: Yes, that’s me.
ND: This is Newsday. We received your submission for the Pet Column and would like to run the photo of your two dogs in the newspaper.
ME: Oh, that’s great! (My heart hurts thinking of my two golden retrievers)
ND: Yes, but we have a few questions to ask. When was the photo taken, this year or last year?
ME: (Hmm…Something in her voice tells me that I have to answer it that way — either this year or last year) Umm, last year. (The two dogs are sitting inside the gazebo, one looking up at the American Flag with a very patriotic expression on her face, and I imagine them in the paper in honor of the 4th of July)
ND: So, this is in your backyard, correct?
ME: (Another trick question? We moved 10 years ago from that house, but only down the block, less than a mile, so it’s not that much of a lie) Yes, it’s our backyard (actually it was in our front yard, but at this point—)
ND: What are your dogs’ names? Tell me something about them.
ME: (tearing up) Jade is on the left and Jewel is on the right. I miss them; they both died of cancer at early ages, 9 and 7.
ND: Oh, that could be a problem. Our policy is to only use photos of dogs that are alive. Which dog did you say is deceased?
ME: (Didn’t she hear me when I said “both” dogs are dead? Maybe she’s giving me an out. Work with her, work with her, I tell myself) Oh, the one on the left (I swallow) Dead.
ND: How old was she when she died?
ME: (I try to remember, what I said earlier, 7 … 9?) Um, nine? (Scrunching up my face waiting for this sweet lady with a foreign accent to catch me in a lie…I wonder if she’ll hold it against all Americans, especially on the 4th of July. I start hating myself, but I’m in too deep, now. And I’m not a good liar, never could play Poker or rob a bank)
ND: Perhaps you can find a photo of only the live dog with the flag?
ME: (This is my opportunity to turn the guilt on her, now, and it’s all true) I do have more pictures somewhere up in the attic, and I could search for them among the boxes piled up, but it’s about 500 degrees up there.
ND: Who took the photographs?
ME: I did. (I relax, for this also is not a lie) I always take pictures of my dogs and they’re real hams. In fact, I even published a small hardcover book for dog lovers, titled Glitz of the Hamptonswhich I dedicated to them, I-I mean to Jade. (Oh crap, shut up, I tell myself. Most people have the bad and good angel sitting on their shoulders, whispering things into their ears; I have the smart angel and the stupid angel. Unconsciously, I flick my shoulder, hoping it’s the correct choice. I had let my guard down and tell myself not to relax anymore…in fact, think of an excuse and get off the damn phone quickly. What if she googles my book and sees the dedication to both Jade and Jewel – copyright 2007? I start doing the math in my head, but I’m an English major. OMG, how true it is, how one lie leads into another) Well, I’ve got to run, I say. I’m babysitting my grandson and it’s difficult to talk any longer. I pretend I’m chasing him around the house, even though I’m alone. “Don’t touch that outlet!” I yell, wondering how good my acting is, compared to my mathematical skill.
ND: OK, would you like me to call you back later?
ME: (Now, breaking out in a sweat, wondering how many more questions can there possibly be about my dog picture??? I want to say, NO! NO! Don’t ever call me again! But, it’s too late, there’s no turning back) Uhh, what else do you have to know? (I feel like I’m on trial and not doing a good job on the stand. I see myself being found out, taken away in my orange jumpsuit and handcuffs by the dead Dog Police Newsday hired exclusively for their Pet Column.
ND: I’ll just email you, then.
ME: All-righty. (I try to sound light. But, I’m like, Oh crap, again; I did give her my email address, didn’t I? Soon, she’ll know my social security # and Everything about me. My picture will be hanging in post offices all over Long Island – WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE – exactly what the requirements should be for the dog photos, if you ask me…I hang up the phone and my hands are actually shaking. I wait for her next inquiry on the computer…tick tock, tick tock.
I may never sleep again, but somehow I do, and I dream about dogs, what else?)