I was at the beach when Ella, my favorite do-gooder girlfriend, phoned.
“Are you saving the whales?” Ella said. “I’m looking on the internet and a couple of miles north you could volunteer to help save a pod of stranded whales.”
“I could.” I agreed, as I spread sunblock on me like I was a basting chicken. “But I just plonked down twenty bucks for a chair and an umbrella.” We disconnected and I looked up the whale story. Already there were squadrons of do-gooders clogging the work zone of the rescue effort. Allegedly, the whales were youngsters and they were coughing in small raspy rumbles, blowing bubbles out their spouts. Volunteers hosed the whales and patted them and chattered in understated tones. They gave the whales names, and they cried as their friends died. Out of twenty whales five were saved and rolled back into the sea. A week or so later many of the volunteers came down with whale pneumonia.
From the beach I passed the Key West animal shelter. “Perfection!” I thought and I steered my car from the road and came to a dusty stop in front of a double-wide trailer and a chain-link fence. A sign read: please do not throw animals over the fence. I entered the trailer to the smell of bleach. A weathered woman with wavy hair like cocker spaniels ears sat at a metal desk. “I want to walk the dogs. If I may?” I said. The woman gave me the once-over and snatched up a three page questionnaire from a tray. I was appalled by the questions, for example: Why do you want to walk the dogs? Are you a dog lover? Are you trying to impress someone? Are you trying to impress yourself?
“Cheeky!” I grumbled under my breath and ticked the box that said I was there for entirely self-serving purposes. To underscore the point, on my way home, I phoned Ella and bragged. “I hope you feel good.” Ella said. By the time the shelter lady phoned to invite me to orientation I was over my surge of feel-good juice. Life had moved on. I had discovered Sam and Tango night, and I was hellbent on introducing one to the other.
At twenty-five Sam is already disillusioned. He has a useless college degree, a menial job he despises and a special fondness for cheeseburgers. “A whale of my own to save!” I thought when we met. If I could get him shaking at Tango night that would be four hours where Sam was parted from the cheeseburgers. We would dance. Sam would shed, and I’d get to heaven. Brimming with sanctimony weekly I texted, “Tango?” Each week he replied, “Maybe next week?”
Finally, he responded positively. I was so excited.
But no, he had no desire to attend Tango night. Au contraire, would I like to join him at the All You Can Eat Buffet?
We gorged like Romans.