Traffic is heavy. There is a blind dog in the passenger seat of my vehicle, emitting strange and exotic smells.
The dog’s name is Marigold. We call her “Marigold the Magnificent.” Or “Marigold the Marvelous.” Or, if she’s chewing another pair of my reading glasses: “Marigold the Maniac.”
We have traveled a few hundred miles. I have to make a speech at a private get-together tonight. The audience will include a very famous politician. I am more than a little nervous.
Also, I haven’t told anyone I’m bringing a canine with me. This gig was booked long before I rashly adopted a blind animal who needs me 24/7.
I’m hoping they allow coondogs at the venue.
I arrive at my hotel. It’s a nice joint. Art Deco interior. The woman clerk looks at me funny when I waltz to the front desk with a purebred hound.
The clerk is aghast.
“Excuse me, sir?” she says. “Is that a dog?”
“Is this a trick question?” I say.
“We don’t allow pets.”
“She’s not a pet.”
“What is she?”
“Look,” I say, “they told me I could bring my dog when I called ahead and booked a pet-friendly room.”
She crosses her arms. “I’m sorry, sir, but nobody told me about this.”
“It hurts being left out, doesn’t it?”
It takes some doing, but we finally get things straightened out. The manager is called. He says it’s no big deal. Then I pay a pet deposit. Bada bing, bada boom. He’s glad to have our business.
Although, honestly, Marigold still holds a grudge against the clerk. She decides to let the disgruntled woman know exactly how she feels by making some Art Deco on the hotel grass.
Our room is fancy. It comes with all the trimmings. Huge beds. Fat pillows. Soft towels. Robes so thick and plush you can hardly get your suitcase closed.
I work on my speech for a few hours. Then I get dressed in my formal duds. My attire for the evening is a fine suit, handcrafted by the world-class artisans at Sears. Marigold wears a turquoise collar.
We drive across town to the venue. It is a swanky place. Seated dinner. Podium. Chandelier. Circular tables in a ballroom. I believe they are serving prime rib tonight.
It bears mentioning that Marigold has an overdeveloped sense of smell when it comes to food. Marigold is a scenthound. Meaning, her sense of smell is already superior to 99 percent of the animal kingdom. But now that she’s blind, her nose is on steroids.
And the prime rib smells pretty good.
Marigold’s handler for the evening is Mikayla. Mikayla is a sophomore in high school, daughter of one of the guests. Mikayla likes to play on her phone a lot, which is not a great quality for the babysitter of a canine with a nuclear-powered nose.
The event begins. The band plays. The emcee introduces me. And here I am. Making my speech.
Midway through my speech, something happens.
I notice people in the crowd are snickering. A commotion sort of moving through the audience, akin to people doing the wave at a sporting event.
That’s when I see a dog wandering through the ballroom. Unsupervised.
Marigold the Malnourished has escaped. She is now standing before a nicely dressed older woman in a sequined evening gown. Marigold is politely asking for prime rib. The woman shoos the animal away. But Marigold is a big believer in persistence. So she says please.
People laugh wildly.
Mikayla rushes into the ballroom and removes Marigold. And as Marigold leaves the ballroom, I can see there is no saving my speech. I might as well take a swan dive off centerstage.
When my performance is finished, I am shaking hands in the lobby. People are sort of avoiding eye contact with me. The event organizer has already taken me off her Christmas card list. The catering staff wishes I was never born.
I see the aforementioned politician weaving through the mass of heads, making his way toward me.
The man pumps my hand sincerely and says, “You did okay tonight, son. But if I were you, I’d keep the dog in your act.”