Saturday was a beautiful day. I was enjoying my new-found proximity to Hannibal’s riverfront, first riding my bike down to Central Park, where I talked and played music with eccentric troubadour Jake, then down to Main Street.
Jake told me that he was getting itchy feet and planned to head north on I-61.
“I’ve been in this town for two weeks and that’s a long time for me, Larry! I’ve met some nice folks here, but the open road calls me.”
“So where are you headed?”
“North to I-80, I guess. I might go east and I might go west. I hope travelin’ with the kitten works out! I’ve decided not to take the guitar with me, just the mandolin and my harmonicas. I’m worried that I might break a mandolin string way out in the middle of nowhere, so in a while I’m headed up Broadway to Mr. Haug’s music store. I’m hopin’ that he’ll trade me a set of strings for that guitar.”
“I imagine he will. He could easily sell that guitar for twenty bucks, even with that crudely-repaired bridge. Albert’s a good guy.”
I bade Jake adieu and pedaled on down to Main Street. I was sorry that Jake was leaving town, as I had just met him. There will be others, though, as Hannibal seems to be a magnet for eccentric drifters.
Down on Main St. I heard the distinctive sound of a sweet-toned soprano sax echoing from the storefronts. I had an idea of who that might be! For the past year a silver-haired British man has been living in Hannibal, a veteran of many a dance band years ago. I parked my bike by the curb and spent some time listening to dulcet improvisations on classic standards from the thirties and forties, such as Django Reinhardt’s Nuages and Cole Porter’s Night and Day. The sax player, Rex, was accompanied by another Larry, a retired Navy veteran playing a classical guitar. Rex had written out chord charts which Larry followed assiduously, creating a rhythmic trellis for the sinuously baroque vines of Rex’s sweet playing.
I had been home twice during the course of my excursions, grabbing a bite to eat and using the bathroom. The girls were conked out, not uncommon for them during the daytime, and Myrlene was secluded in a room upstairs, nursing a cough and trying to get some rest. Each time I came into the house the dog Ubu exhibited such excitement, dashing around the living room and wanting attention, as if to say:
“I am s-o-o bored, Larry! I’ve chewed and torn up anything I could find, gotten into the trash, and harassed the cats. Let’s do something fun!”
I felt sorry for the six-month-old dog. She gets plenty of loving from Myrlene and the girls, and I try to be nice to her (when she isn’t acting up), but she obviously needed to be taken outside. Up until now I had felt that she wasn’t my dog, and that exercising her wasn’t my responsibility, but I couldn’t help but respond to her wordless entreaties. Myrlene had said to me when I first moved in “I tried to take Ubu walking, but she just pulls too hard!” I think Myrlene might have tried one time some months ago.
“Okay, Ubu, let’s get a leash on you!” I said and off we went, walking down Center Street towards Central Park. I was pleasantly surprised — the dog kept close to my side and picked up on the old dominance game between human and canine. Perhaps because I’m the only male in the house, Ubu responds appropriately to my gruff “No” when she was tempted to bark at people or cars, or attempted to forge on ahead of me. I think she was just so grateful to get away from the house and explore the invisible scent landscape that she was very anxious to please me.
Since that day I’ve taken Ubu out a couple times a day; her hyperactive tendencies seem to have been somewhat ameliorated and I can’t help but respond to her joy at being allowed to trot alongside me. Perhaps I’ll be able to inveigle Myrlene or (more likely) Myrlene’s younger daughter Ronnie to spell me from time to time. I won’t even bother to ask the older daughter Bobbie (“I’m 18 and I can do what I want!”), as she doesn’t do anything else around here. I’ll be lucky if I can induce Bobbie to quit stubbing out cigarettes in her dishes!