It is teardown morning at the state fair. This is the morning after the fair closes, where you have a number of show people (aka carnies) who worked the day before running carnival rides, spent the entire night tearing them down and now it's daylight and they're all hungry and pissed and at the mercy of the sun and each other. The chances of getting screamed at or injured seem to be much higher, on teardown day.
It is the day I've agreed to take the dog and like everyone else, neither I nor the dog have slept for the last twenty-six, going on thirty-some odd hours. Stella didn't have a name then. They called her chola or more often just - the puppy. She is tied, by an eight-foot leash, to a big rig that is not only her home but also home to a spectacular carnival ride called the Vominator (really, that's just my pet name for it). She is three months old.
As soon as the sun rises I shoot a few pictures and like a nervous new mother, I go over to check on her. I have a nagging fear that three hours before becoming my dog she'll be backed over by a truck or knocked in the head by a sledgehammer, purely by accident.
Her truck is parked behind a different ride nearby. I can hear her barking madly from a distance though, amid the harsh grind of generators, and steel slamming into steel. Before I can actually see her I hear someone, a man's voice, screaming at the top of his lungs for her to "shut the fuck up".
Enter huge, ill-tempered, sleep-deprived, boss. El jefe. He's trying to pry something loose on the back of the ride, wracking the muscles in his arms and upper chest to their limit and driving his own blood pressure into sixth gear. He has a cigarette in his mouth and a wrench that it takes two hands to hold onto, in his hands. The puppy - naturally terrified of the chaos and his cursing, is barking out-of-control, just a few feet away. Spitting distance. Hammer throwing distance. It's all I can do not to run.
Once I'm physically on the scene, both the man and the dog, stop barking. This has something to do with mothers, I suspect. The puppy and I sit (for the last time) under her trailer bed together and when she's calm, I promise I'll be back for her in a while. She barks after me, but only once. From a distance I watch her lie down behind the big truck tire on a wet towel. Billy said the night before that he'd yell for me when he got ready to move the truck and I stand right in the middle of the midway and pray to God, he won't forget.
I notice my hands smell like gasoline and I wonder what I could've gotten into.