You Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks…

“You can’t know how much you have to lose until you lose everything.” — Britney King, Water Under the Bridge 

Often I like to do character sketches whenever a new book idea hits. Sometimes, if a little time passes and I don’t finding myself wondering just what in hell I was thinking when I thought it sounded decent, these ideas turn into shorts, where I throw the character into a situation and see how they respond. It helps to get to acquainted. Anyway, I thought I might share some of them here from time to time. I figure… what better way to see which characters resonate. That said,  keep in mind, the shorts are rough, raw, (likely) contain profanities, and for the most part are highly unedited. That’s kind of the whole point. 😉 

Long story long, (or short story short:) below we meet Ned. The back story: Ned is a 28 year old ‘genius’ who developed a social media app in his parents garage despite the fact that he is anything but social. You’re probably wondering what kind of twenty-eight year old has a name like Ned these days, and that would be a story in and of itself. Anyhow, Ned recently sold his app for an undisclosed sum of money… but it’s probably safe to say he never has to work another day in his life. Despite his ‘good fortune’ Ned is less than happy about selling out—in fact, he hates himself for making a buck (or lots of them) by selling people’s personal information to the highest bidder. But, he did, nonetheless, his mother saw to that. In turn, Ned rebelled by marrying a high-profile model, without a prenup, and well, you can guess how that turned out….

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks…

Ned was the kind of guy who liked to take long walks around his neighborhood. He was also the kind of guy who took the exact same route every day without deviation. And every day, without fail and much to his dismay Ned passed what he called ‘that damned dog.’  Each day ‘that damned dog’ ruined what he thought was supposed to be a pleasurable, sacred experience, when the mutt chased and barked at him the entire length of the street, nipping at his ankles the whole way. And every day, Ned carried on walking, shaking his head at the commotion and the passerby’s as though to say ‘nothing to see here.’

Ned had experienced lots of ankle-biters in his twenty-eight years, in a variety of forms, but this particular ankle bitter was a golden terrier mix. He knew as much because he’d Googled ‘small noisy dog breeds’ once when he wanted to find training materials in which to present to the dog’s owner.

Eventually, he did just that. Only instead of thanking him as Ned figured the owner would, he simply laughed and said ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ Ned begged to differ.

But he walked on instead, with each step further deciding “loving thy neighbor” is a bullshit sentiment intended for people who have neighbors with manners and without passive aggressive dogs.

Ned’s ex-wife had a habit of telling him he liked to run from his problems. But Ned knew better, he liked to call it strategic retreat. Which is precisely how he got away from her, even if it cost him a lot of money in the end. But that’s a story for another day.

Still, Ned thought about his ex a lot. He thought about her every time the spousal support check cleared his bank and other times, too. Sometimes, just seeing that yapping dog triggered a memory, but given that Ned’s walks were the best part of his day, he tried his damedest to leave her out of them.

Until one day, Ned decided to stop strategically retreating. He didn’t realize this would be the day he’d make a change. Not at first. Not until ‘that damned dog’ appeared and delivered his onslaught of bad behavior, and something flickered inside of Ned, something long buried, something that lie dormant, something that felt a lot like red hot rage. It wasn’t a familiar feeling for Ned, but he couldn’t ignore it either, not that day and perhaps not since, and so he simply stopped, pointed his finger and said, “You know what? FUCK YOU.” His voice surprised even him.

But Ned liked the way the words felt as they rolled off his tongue and so he didn’t stop there. He kept right on going yelling profanities until much to his surprise, he’d developed a sizable group of onlookers. Still, the dog didn’t stop barking. Not immediately, anyway. But when his owner called him off, bit by bit, he strategically retreated. Once the dog was in his arms, the owner stared at Ned, sizing him up—maybe for the first time. Ned met his eye and took a slight step forward. “And fuck you, too,” he added for good measure.

Then he put his hands on his hips and surveyed his audience. In doing so, he smiled for the first time in as long as he could remember.

He shook his head and stood up a little straighter. And they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

As for the dog, he never did bark at Ned again.

Now, for the ex-wife….

If you’d like to read another fictional story, albeit a darker one, about a person learning to stand up for him or herself, check out my first novel, Bedrock. It’s free via all major retailers. More details here.


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