Barry had really wanted to be a priest, but he only got as far as learning the sympathetic handshake. The one with two hands and a gentle pat on the back of your hand. Soon after he joined the seminary he fell in love with a local girl who worked in the coffee shop he went to before class. What she did to his fantasy life alone convinced him he was not cut out for the celibate life of a priest and he quit soon after. Barry seemed to fail at most everything he tried in life. Quit college after one semester when he realized he had no idea what he wanted to study. He told himself it was better than wasting his father’s money. Six months later and Barry was thrown out of his parent’s house when he would not get a job. Now at 23 he was finally figuring it all out. It started with a friend who offered him a place to stay while he looked for a place to live. All the friend wanted was for Barry to walk his dog for him while he was at class. Barry took the offer and found out that he got on well with dogs. They did not judge him or care that he didn’t want to go to school or get a full-time job. Barry realized that dogs were also easier than girls, show up be consistent and offer love and a dog responds, but girls find these same qualities often creepy if you are not classically handsome. Barry came to believe unrequited love was as hard to live with as it was to spell. Dogs offered easier terms to a guy like Barry.
Still, the dog thing was really working. His friend recommended Barry to a friend of his parents and Barry was soon walking their dogs daily as well. The money was OK and got better when Barry realized that people seem to love their dogs as much as they love their kids. He learned how to win over a dog quickly with treats and belly scratches and the owners appreciated that Barry was punctual and dependable. Over the next eight months he doubled his clientele three times. By the next year there was a waiting list to hire Barry. People would brag that they had the only professional dog sitter in the county working for them. Barry charged more to watch dogs than some people charged to watch kids and the people lined up to pay. Barry reinvested in his business by buying personalized shirts with pictures of his client’s dogs on them. He would wear them when he walked the dogs and people went crazy with the kind of joy that leads a dog owner to buy their pet a jacket that matched their own.
Barry had the money for his own place but was still living with his friend, he told him he wanted to go somewhere permanent once he moved and that he was one or two more clients away. The friend never complained as Barry still walked his dog daily and pretty much kept to himself. That summer one of his Richest clients hired Barry to watch their three pugs during the wedding of their daughter to a prominent local lawyer. The wedding was in Bar Harbor Main and they rented Barry a white van just to drive the dogs up there. Once he arrived he was put up in a nice hotel that accepted the pugs and Barry was even invited to the wedding. The bride wanted the dogs in the pictures, so they were included in the wedding party with Barry holding their leashes in all the pictures. The celebration lasted over a long week end and the family asked Barry to transport the presents along with the dogs in the van as he headed home. The parents were sending the kids away to the Bahamas for their honeymoon and wanted to stay in Bar Harbor a few extra days after. Barry of course said yes.
It was fifteen hours from Main to northwest Pennsylvania, so Barry had a lot of time to himself. On the dark highway past midnight he realized that he was still not interested in a college education and not really that excited about dog sitting or dogs for that matter, Barry started to wonder if this wasn’t the perfect situation, maybe this was the only real chance he was ever going to get to change his life. As a kid he had looked for the dare to be great opportunity all kids dream of but never found it. At 24 he had been thinking it was something he was supposed to make rather than find. It only took him a few hours to convince himself that he could do it. All he needed was a little courage and a little luck and he could be gone before they found him.
He made the contact with the family by email the next morning. He wanted 75,000 dollars or they would never see their precious dogs again. At first the family was confused but then got angry and reported Barry to the local police back in Erie, Pa. The police told them to calm down they doubted he meant it. Who would pay that kind of money for a dog? The family was offended and insisted on speaking to the police chief to communicate the seriousness of the crime. In the end the police agreed to investigate it, but a dog napping was a pretty low priority for them. Barry has been counting on this fact and hoped he would be safely across the Canadian border before they came looking for him. Barry sent a detailed email outlining how they were to transfer the money into a Canadian bank within two days or they would never see their pugs again. The family made several more calls to the police and reported their rental van and a few thousand dollars’ worth of wedding presents missing. They swore they would not pay Barry but changed their mind when they received an overnight package with the dead body of one of the pugs and a note saying they were running out of time. In the end they paid him 100,000 for the two remaining dogs. Barry raised the price when he had to kill the dog. He had not expected to have to get his hands dirty, but now that he had done it he knew it was something he would have to be prepared to do again when necessary. Barry left the other two dogs in a Pennsylvania motel with enough food and water for three days. The next day he withdrew all the money from the bank and headed to the farthest corner of Canada without incident.
Barry eventually settled in a small town and immediately started putting up flyers offering his services as a dog sitter. References available on request. Within a week he had three clients. Barry was pretty happy, the kind of happy you feel when you realize that you are actually good at something.
Bio: Matthew Borczon is a poet and writer from Erie, Pa. He has published ten books of poetry the most recent being Ghost Highway Blues through Alien Buddha press. He has been nominated for a pushcart and a best of the Net. He works as both a US Navy sailor and as a nurse for adults with developmental disabilities. He has a wife and four kids and not enough time to write.