I sit in my car outside Rudy’s Upholstery, waiting for the owner and watching his left-behind Dalmatian pup through the glass of the shop door. “Back at 2:00” reads a sign on the door – and here it is only 12:55.
The puppy sees me and cocks his head. “Come inside and play with me!” says his small eager face.
I met this upholsterer, whose name is Alan, back when, as a boy with a mop of auburn curls, he sat both in my English class and my homeroom during his Junior year at the high school I taught.
The next year he graduated, and 20 years went by zip, which is how 20 years do. During that time, my husband and I had had several upholsterers in our lives, some pretty good, some not-so-good. One pricey guy practically wept on delivering a Victorian sofa he had put more time into than he pictured doing. “Straw inside it!” he kept exclaiming. “Not even horsehair, STRAW!”
Through the shop window I watch this baby dog investigating a book of sample fabrics, gnawing on its cardboard covers and gumming a nice swatch of burgundy brocade.
Then, maybe two years ago, I drove past Rudy’s and wondered if it was true what I had heard: that Alan now owned it, having taken over the business from his dad and granddad. I walked in saw that it was.
So now, when I have something that needs re-covering – chairs or window-seat cushions, or even those fancy pillows shaped liked Tootsie Rolls, I call him up.
He and his colleague Ray can re-upholster anything – and soon he may have to re-upholster his very shop, since his pup is now biting clear through the edges of some shelving.
Once when I was here, and Alan stopped to take a call, I turned to Ray. “He was a dickens in high school, you know,” I said.
“He’s a dickens now,” said Ray, smiling.
Alan and I always talk: about who has sickened, who has died, who has made it big. We talk about how he still plays baseball and how he has three kids under eight and is nuts about dogs.
When I came one morning last summer, we spoke about the rare illness that had taken his last dog, on that very morning. “I just got in, but I don’t think I can work,” he blurted, looking around distractedly.
“Listen. Find a new dog.” I said, turning to go.
“Oh, I don’t know…”
“I know,” I said in that bossy teachery way. “Find a new dog and fall in love again.”
And so he has done, as I see here today.
Now the little guy has now discovered a pair of gym shorts and is tossing them gaily up in the air.
“Boy are you going to get it,” I start to tell the pup through the thick glass door.
But here comes Alan now, in through the back. He looks around at the devastation, shakes his head and, smiling, bends to pat his little dog.
And I think as I watch them, what could be nicer than this hour I have just now spent? What nicer than to cease rowing for a spell, and rest on your oars, and notice the ones who are sailing beside you?