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The Bare Minimum

     It was 8 AM and eighty-two degrees with a million percent humidity. The stink of rotting fruit in the French Quarter was getting heavier in the air by the second. A slight helicopter breeze generated by a ceiling fan fluffed the sheets around the two naked bodies lying in bed.
     The young woman stirred and looked over at the clock, then out the open balcony of the second floor hotel room.
     “It’s raining,” she said.
     Xavier rolled over and looked out the window. He blinked and then smiled getting out of bed.
     “What are you doing?” she asked.
     “Getting my shorts for a run.”
     “What? It’s pouring out there.”
     “Goddamn right it is,” he said as he slipped on a pair of black basketball shorts.
     “You are crazy.”
     “Don’t steal anything,” he said grabbing a black t-shirt.
     “What the fuck does….”
     And he was out, slamming the door and bouncing down the stairs as he pulled the shirt over his head. He went through the lobby of the hotel and nodded at one of the bellhops before hitting the streets at a quick jog.
     People dodged about, avoiding the downpour and puddles as the trash washed into the gutters and clogged drains. He smashed through it all.
     Passing Andouille’s Café some girls whistled at him and he jogged in reverse to yell “What?” before continuing.
     “Tourists,” he muttered as he crossed Rampart St and then Basin. Flower pedals floated past as he ran up through the St. Louis cemetery and he slowed a bit to watch a funeral, everyone with mismatched umbrellas. What a miserable time to be buried, he thought, but he did appreciate the patches of light that came through the clouds of rain.
    As he left the cemetery a medium sized black scrapper dog ran out next to him and kept pace.
    Xavier tried to outrun him a bit but the beast stayed at his side for the rest of the run and followed him all the way back to the covered patio of Andouille’s Café, but the girls weren’t there anymore. The scrapper dog walked in circles not knowing what to do. Xavier sat down at one of the tables and closed his eyes while shaking his hair. The dog followed suit and then sat down under the table.
     “Who’s your friend sugar?” Charlotte the waitress asked.
     “I don’t know. Bring me my omelet. And a side plate of sausage for the beast.”
     “Oh, that’s so sweet…” She rubbed his shoulder, “Look how wet you are.
     “Omelet and sausage, woman!”
     “Be polite.”
     “No.”
     “Say you’re sorry.”
     “I won’t lie.” Evil smile.
     She slapped his shoulder and huffed as she spun on her right foot and went back in to the restaurant.
     “And orange juice!” he yelled after her.
     The dog got up barked at her once then sat back down at Xavier’s feet.
     “Good beast…” he said to the dog.
     The omelet and sausage came and the two ate fast and in silence. He ordered a second glass of orange juice and a second serving of sausage for the dog.
     When Charlotte came back with the second servings she asked. “Is that dog yours?”
     “Nope,”
     “Whose is it?”
     “I have no idea.”
     “Does he have a collar?”
     “Do you see a collar on him?”
     She hit him over the back of his head with a wet smack.
     “Goddamnit Charlotte,” he said and the dog barked.
     “Well, what are you going to do with him?”
     “Up to him to decide.”
     “How you going to keep him living in that hotel?”
     “Who said I was?”
     He stood up and tossed a damp twenty on the table and walked away. The dog looked at him and then Charlotte.
     “If you get the urge to bite him, go ahead,” she said to the dog.
     The dog went in circles a few times and then bounded off after Xavier. When he caught up to Xavier he kept to the right side.
     “I’ll tell you what: if you stick it out a week I’ll give you a cool name. Something with character, something unique.”
    They walked right through the hotel lobby and went up the stairs to the second floor. Nobody noticed.
    When he got to the room he swiped his magnetic card key and they went in. Lucile the maid was in the room. The girl wasn’t.
     “Good morning, Mr. Piladio, may I keep the bottles?” she asked motioning to a trash bag filled with beer bottles.
     “As always.”
     She noticed the dog and dropped the bed sheets back onto the bed. “Oh! What a beautiful doggie! Come here!” she said clapping her hands together and kneeling down. The dog ran over and began to lick her as she pet him.
     “He’s going to be staying here for a while…” he said.
     Lucile looked back up at him. “But what about the manager?”
     “He can go fuck himself.”
     “But Mr. Piladio! I won’t tell him but he will certainly find out.”
     “Lucile, I want you to tell him. And I want you to tell him he can go fuck himself. This place is at 40% occupancy. He needs the business, and if he tries to raise rates on me I’ll go elsewhere.”
     “You really want me to tell him that?”
     “Oh yea I do…”
     “But if you want a pet why not a cat instead?”
     “Because they are only there when they want to be. If you aren’t home for a few hours they tend to get pissed at you. Shit on your bed and the like. I don’t need that kind of an intense relationship with a throw cushion.”
     “OK, Mr. Piladio.”
     She played with the dog a bit more as she cleaned and gave Xavier a ticket for his laundry before leaving. He closed the windows, the balcony door, and then turned on the AC and fan. He stripped down and tossed his damp clothes into the laundry hamper before getting into the freshly made bed. The dog made a few circles and then sat down next to the bed. Xavier’s eyes fluttered closed while looking into the eyes of the dog as the sleep got him.

***


    He awoke to a knock on his door and the barking of the dog.
    “Here we go…” he muttered getting out of bed.
    Putting on a bathrobe he opened the door to Charles the manager.
    “Yea?”
    “You know you aren’t supposed to have a dog in here.”
    “Did Lucile tell you to go fuck yourself?”
    “What?”
    “Did she tell you to go fuck yourself?”
    “No, why would you ask me that?”
    “Because I told her to tell you that.”
    Charles studied him for a few seconds before speaking. “She’s smart enough to know not to say something like that. Are you smart enough to understand the concept that guests aren’t permitted to have pets of any kind in this hotel?”
    “Yea, but I don’t give a shit.”
    “I can appreciate the fact that you are a paying customer, and have been for the past 9 months, but that doesn’t give you the right to infringe on the rights of the other guests.”
    “Tell you what, if they complain enough, then I’ll get rid of the dog. Until then if you give me any grief about it I’ll pack up and move out the next day. So you choose your words well in the next 30 seconds because I know how bad this place is doing, and it’s going to be a long time before it gets better.”
    “This isn’t about how bad we are doing, or how much you pay. Let me remind you the discount you get because of your long-term inhabitance here. This is about policy. No pets of any kind. Very simple.”
    “Very simple… OK. I think you’re an asshole. I think you know it and don’t care much about it. So go get the cops and have me thrown out. I’m ready for a fight and I’m ready to get dirty.”
    “What are you talking about?”
    “War, Charlie. I’m talking about war. If I had crayons and the time it took to learn how to draw I’d show you little charts and diagrams to help explain it all. But I’m not going to. So you either call the cops now to kick me out, or you shut the fuck up and take the money. That way you don’t have to explain to the owners why you’re even deeper in the red this month. Yea, I know how much you hate that color. But that’s your deficiency. Not mine. I’ve got money, so I don’t have to give a fuck about you. No one ever really has.”
    Charles clenched and unclenched his fists.
    “You’ve been living out of one suitcase. You don’t have a history and you don’t have a life. Sure you may be running women in and out of here every night but that’s nothing. You may have some money, but that’s all you’ve got.”
    “Nope, cause now I’ve got a dog and I ain’t giving him up for a bureaucratic cunt like you. So it’s your move, Princess.”  And with that he slammed the door on Charlie.
    Xavier stood there for a second imagining Charlie on the other side of the door. Blood so angry it started turning black in Charlie’s veins. Choking thick like oil and burning like fire.
    The dog barked once and Xavier turned around and walked over to scratch the beast’s head.
    Xavier pulled a beer out of the mini fridge and opened the door to the patio. The clouds had finished breaking and the rain was over. He sat down in one of two plastic white chairs and began drinking while hoping for the sounds of police choppers and sirens in the distance.
    The dog laid down on the patio in the sun light as the little pools of water evaporated around him.
    “Five bucks says he doesn’t call them…” he said to the dog. “But I’ve been wrong before.”
    Spring had finally arrived…

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