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Life, viewed sideways. Emotions, amplified. Answers, questioned. Me, between the lines.

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"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Mad Dog to the Rescue

Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French fraile, from Latin fragilis fragile, from frangere
Date: 14th century
1 : easily led into evil
2 : easily broken or destroyed : FRAGILE
3 a : physically weak b : SLIGHT, UNSUBSTANTIAL
4 : how Mad Dog looked, not how she was

It was 1978 in Myrtle Beach, and she was sitting at the bar of Sloppy Joe's nursing a beer the first time I saw her.

I think I might have known her real name at some point, but all I remember now is the nickname everyone called her by..."Mad Dog."

I heard many stories as to how she got that name. One was that she would suddenly blow up into a tornado if she got into a scrape. Another was that her preferred libation was the cheap wine Morgan David 20/20 (referred to as "Mad Dog 20/20") in copious amounts.

Then again, there was the fact that one of her front teeth grew straight out from her face instead of down, and her top lip would sometimes get hung on it, presenting the world with a quite effective and unintentional snarl.

Or maybe it was all three. Sometimes nicknames, odd as they are, just fit.

Well, there was Mad dog, nursing her beer. Sometimes she would waitress in the bar. Most of the time though, she just sat there on a barstool, kinda hunched over the countertop. I think she might have done this because, even with the tooth thing, she was a very pretty girl. Blond hair, blue eyes, nice complexion, good figure. But sitting like that, it was obvious that she was not open to conversation. She would just sit quiet, keeping to herself, like a little flower growing in a crack in the sidewalk.

That is, until some idiot started a fight. That's when Mad Dog would shine.

She would leap from her stool like an avenging angel, grab the guy from behind by his belt, lean him towards the door, and off he would go to the paddy wagon parked outside. It was always so unthinkable that this little frail girl would do something like this, it caught the target by surprise every single time.

Mad Dog had a sister too. I forget her name, but she was pretty as well in a used rock star with too much make up sort of way. Her hair was auburn, her eyes were dusky brown. Where Mad Dog's skin was pale alabaster and porcelan, hers was tanned and ruddy from the sun. Where Mad Dog was sweetness and light and smiles, she was mystery and darkness and intensity.

One evening Mad Dog came to me as I was getting off work and said that her sister had been "rolled" on the beach walking home that night, and was in her room hurt very badly, probably with broken bones or worse. Could I help? Would I talk to her?

Absolutely, I said without hesitation. So we went to where they were living.

I had no idea such places really existed, at least not in Myrtle Beach.

It was an old hotel, and I think they were renting it out for about ten dollars a night per room, or maybe the people therre were just squatting in it. They did have electricity, so it was probably being rented. The place was horrible, smelled like stale urine (which is even worse than the fresh stuff), was torn up, probably infested with every type of vermin you could think of plus some extra ones the scientists have yet to discover.

Mad Dog led me up several flights of stairs, past drunks and people who were stoned into oblivion, leaning against the walls drooling or giggling at some inner comedy. This was as bad as I had ever seen. The fact that it might be dangerous never crossed my mind, I was on a mission and being led by an angel.

We came to the room, and went in. I was stunned.

There she lay, on a bare filthy mattress on the floor. That was the only piece of furniture in the room. There were piles of clothes here and there. All of this squalor left my mind when I saw Mad Dog's sister.

She looked like she had fallen from a three story building and landed on her face. The poor girl was a mass of bruises and blood, and she could barely breathe because she had broken ribs.

And all this so someone could steal $20 from her, Mad Dog said.

I set to work with my best skills of persuasion. No, she refused to go to the hospital. I pressed onwards, and she still refused.

That was when the commotion started outside. Lots of yelling, hollering, and other ominous sounds. Screams, loud bangs, bodies hitting walls.

The door to the room burst open, and framed in the door was a policeman, one that I knew. He was all ready to search everyone in the room for drugs and arrest them all, but he froze, looked at me, and said "What are you doing here?"

Well, its good to know that I didn't look like the type that would hang out in a place like that, but complements aside, I told him what was going on. He immediately stopped what he was doing and helped me talk her into getting medical attention. After a little while, she finally agreed, and we got her to a hospital.

Mad Dog thanked me the next day for helping. I saw Mad Dog's sister a couple of times after that; she was slowly knitting back together. But I don't think she was able to go back to work for the rest of the season.

At the end of the summer, Mad Dog and her sister went to wherever it is that girls like that go when the world moves on. I never saw them again.

It's been almost 25 years now, but in my mind there my friend Mad Dog still sits, faded jeans and a t-shirt that has seen better days, stringy blond hair laying limply on her back, blue eyes focused on her Budweiser, just sitting quietly.

Ready and willing to come to the rescue.

Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.
Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC), Nichomachean Ethics

Permalink: 1/22/2004 06:06:00 PM |
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