I am Seth Rogen’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and I’m obsessed with the words “harlequin” and “inquiline.”
This morning Mikey stopped by and sat down next to Dad. I could tell something was up because Mikey’s harlequin wasn’t with him—Mikey always brings his harlequin! I like to get underneath the harlequin and slash at him with playful slashing lunges. But the harlequin is faster than he looks. He’s huge and fast and slobbery and I need to duck under Dad to avoid the slobber.
Dad says, “What’s up, Mikey, is your harlequin taking the day off?” Dad then tells a joke about a harlequin and a Laker Girl. Dad does his signature laugh, but Mikey doesn’t laugh.
Mikey is smiling, but he says, “Connor and I are getting a divorce.”
I hop into Dad’s lap. I notice that Mikey is wearing a new jacket. His hands are in the pockets of the jacket and the jacket is open and I can see inside the jacket, and I’m thinking: If I had hands and could put them in pockets, I would covet that jacket.
While I’m coveting hypothetically, I notice movement inside the jacket. And I do a double-take because I’d swear that what I noticed was Fidel: Fidel, the barista. The Fidel. Dad is always bantering with Fidel across the counter about being lost in a forest, lost and not knowing anything. That Fidel.
It’s hard to know for sure if it’s Fidel, though, because Mikey keeps on opening and closing the jacket, gesticulating with agitation despite his smiling. I’m both trying to follow what Mikey is telling Dad and also hoping not to be too obvious about peering into the jacket at Fidel.
Dad says, “Whoa, Mikey, that must be rough.” Mikey says, “I’m handling it.” All this time Mikey is still smiling.
Mikey says, “Plus, Connor’s been in rehab for the last six months.” Still smiling, Mikey holds opens his jacket in a kind of how-much-worse-can-it-get gesture. It can get a whole lot worse is what I’m thinking, and at the same time, I nab a clear glimpse of Fidel. It’s unmistakably Fidel, with his broad face and high forehead and big bushy beard. He’s standing up inside an inner pocket, his chin resting on the pocket, cushioned by his beard which spills out of the pocket. Sometimes the harlequin will rest his chin on the edge of a table just like that. A table where a fellow early riser is picking at a brisket burrito or a Burbank Biscuit.
Dad says, “Well, Mikey, if you ever want to chat, I’m here.” Mikey thanks Dad and says that in fact, he was just on his way to see his therapist. Dad tells Mikey that he’s glad that Mikey is taking care of himself.
Mikey again holds open his jacket as if to say, After 15 years together, at the very least I’ve learned how to take care of myself. And that’s when Dad spots Fidel in the pocket. Dad blurts out, “Fidel!” Fidel smiles at Dad from inside the jacket and pretty soon Dad and Fidel are bantering away just like it was any old morning, bantering about being blindfolded, in a forest, not knowing which way is north and which is south.
Mikey tells Dad that it helps a lot that the therapist he’s seeing is the therapist who was seeing Connor before Connor went into rehab.
Meanwhile I’m remembering that I haven’t noticed Fidel behind the counter for at least a week. And that it’s been ages since we ran into Connor. You don’t notice stuff like that because why would you? So much other stuff is happening—just yesterday, for example, a tall pale freckled supermodel rubbed me behind the ears in exactly the right way.
Dad asks Mikey what he’s doing about the harlequin, because obviously Mikey isn’t taking the harlequin with him to his therapist. Mikey opens his jacket again, hands in pockets, smiling, as if to say, It’s a divorce, there’s gonna be suffering.
Just then Fidel calls out to Dad, “Hey, you should bring Zelda over one afternoon, we have the whole place to ourselves!” And before Mikey has a chance to shut his jacket, Fidel and Dad are carrying on, more banter about being plunked down in the middle of a forest, at night, blindfolded, and not knowing which way north is, or south or east or west.
Mikey explains that he and Connor hired Fidel when Connor went into rehab and all of a sudden the harlequin began acting out. Fidel is living in the guest cottage with the harlequin: Fidel is the harlequin’s full-time caretaker. I’m sort of interested in what happened to the attorney who recruits guests for Dr. Phil who was living in the guest cottage?
If this were a different kind of story, Fidel would nurture the harlequin through a difficult time and everyone would reunite: that would be a story about Fidel. This is a story about my vocabulary.
Fidel bails, Connor is back in rehab, Mikey flew the coop. The harlequin spends his days roaming far and wide, unsupervised and unkempt. Dad tells me the story one morning while feeding me scraps of quiche, the story he heard from Chloe’s Dad, who in turn heard it from Ace’s Dad, who actually spotted the harlequin way out in Alhambra, loping along an upscale residential street. Clinging to his side was the attorney, in her signature gray hoodie. Chloe’s Dad told Dad that the attorney goes everywhere with the harlequin, and it’s a fact, we haven’t seen the attorney in the coffee line for weeks.
I keep looking up at Dad waiting for him to given his signature laugh and let on that he’s concocted the story as a joke. But not at all. The attorney who recruits guests for Dr. Phil is the harlequin’s inquiline. Yip! It all adds up. Every so often the attorney hops off and recruits a guest. But mostly she clings to the harlequin’s flank and they wander pretty much wherever the harlequin decides he wants to wander.
Fortunato Salazar lives in Los Angeles when he's not living in Mexico City.