It’s a Dog’s Life
There was a cold nip in the air, the sky just starting to take on the first hues of morning light. India Hamilton shivered and pulled up the collar of her thin Versace coat.
Unable to sleep, she’d tugged on some clothes and left the overheated apartment hoping a walk would clear her head. She was now sitting on a bench on the edge of Central Park, the city slowly coming to life around her.
James Preston had been buried three days earlier. Half of Hollywood had turned up, along with tens of paparazzi. Now the A-list were gone and the media’s attention had moved to the next big story, and she’d plunged from a huge adrenaline high into a sober funk.
Oddly, she missed him. He’d been a means to an end, but he’d also been fun. He’d been as much a fame junkie as she was, happy to exploit any opportunity to grab the spotlight and column inches. They complemented each other, each able to exploit their partnership for their own ends. There was one major difference between them though; he had a substantive talent. His fame had some underlying rationale. In contrast, her celebrity was based on little more than hanging around and sleeping with the famous. She was a parasite with a modicum of beauty, an ability to twist men around her little finger, and an attuned sense of how to sell a story to the media.
Murdering James had been a short-sighted and dangerous. Fuelled by cocaine, speed and champagne she had risked everything to spite his sycophantic PA, Jeanette Campbell. It could have backfired horribly and it still might. The bitch had hired a high profile lawyer who was already asking some difficult questions concerning DNA and timing. And she had cut-off a lucrative shortcut to the inner-circle of Hollywood’s elite. At least the trial would maintain a certain media profile, and in the hands of the right PR agent, could elevate her fame further.
She groaned to herself. Is this what she had reduced herself to? A narcissistic, self-publicist? Is this what life was going to become, an endless quest to maintain her profile? Taking foolish risks for celebrity?
She glanced up and scanned the nearby shrubbery, suddenly aware of how vulnerable she might look in her present state. There may well be a guy with a camera trailing after her, reeling off dozens of photos that would be in the email inboxs of two dozen celebrity feature editors within the hour. Two hours after that, the photos would have been analyzed by so-called psychologists, psychiatrists and fashion ‘experts’ with respect to her hair, her skin, her weight, her expressions, her posture, her state-of-mind, her clothes. Every possible conjecture, hypothesis and conspiracy theory would be forwarded and discussed with a view to shifting as many magazine copies as possible. Her life fractured into a kaleidoscope of lies for public entertainment.
There had to be something more than this, she thought as a heavy set golden retriever padded up to her.
‘I bet you don’t have worry about anything, do you?’ she said, stroking his head.
His tail was swishing, his mouth drooling over her jeans, panting with pleasure.
‘I bet you don’t worry yourself sick about what people think of you, do you? All you’re worried about is where the next meal is coming from.’
‘I doubt he’s even worried about that,’ a deep male voice said.
Startled, she glanced up at a black man standing a few feet away. In his fifties he was wearing a Yankees cap, a grey hoodie and black jeans.
‘I’m sorry, Miss, I didn’t mean to scare you. I was just saying he isn’t a worrier. He’s as happy, go-lucky as they come.’
India focused back on the dog. ‘What’s his name?’
‘Scraps. He lives for them. He don’t beg. Well, not too often. But he’ll eat anything you give him.’
‘Scraps,’ she repeated.
‘I hope you don’t mind me asking, Miss, but are you okay?’
‘Me? Yes, yes, I think so. Thanks. I just needed some air.’ The dog’s enthusiasm for her attention had started to raise her spirits.
‘You want to be careful, Miss. There’s some funny folk hang round the park at this hour. Not that I’m saying ...’ he trailed off.
She pulled a tight smile. ‘I’m sure I’ll be okay, but thanks for the warning ...’
‘Walter. Walter Raines. We come along this path every morning. We’ve not seen you here before.’
‘No. My first time, this early. Do you recognise me at all, Walter?’
‘No, Miss, I can’t say I do.’
She nodded her head, unable to hide her disappointment.
‘I don’t keep up with much except for sports, I’m afraid, Miss.’
She nodded her head. ‘Would you say you’ve had a good life, Walter?’
‘A good life? Well, I guess so. Can’t hardly complain. I have a good wife, two daughters, both in college.’
‘And what do you do?’
‘I work a set of condominiums, fixing and servicing units. I start my shift in half an hour or so. We travel into the city each day. I take Scraps for a walk, then he hangs around in the van or basements making friends with whoever wanders by. Before that I worked on a production line for 23 years before they closed the plant. We get by.’
‘And you’re happy?’
‘Can’t say I’ve thought about it much, but I’m not sure I’m particularly happy or sad. We have our troubles and our ups and downs, but, well, me and Clarissa have each other and our daughters, and Scraps here, and we do okay.’
‘Would you swap all that for anything, Walter? Give it up for a different life?’
‘You mean give up my family?’
He stared down at the dog and shook his head slowly giving the impression he was thinking the question over. ‘No, I don’t think so. I’m not sure a different life would be any better than the one I’ve had. Everyone has their ups and downs. You’re a good looking woman, look like you got money, probably famous or something, but you don’t look that happy to me.
She turned her attention back to the dog, rubbing his ears.
‘You okay, Miss? I didn’t mean to upset you none.’
‘I’m fine, thanks. I’m glad I met you, Walter. And you Scraps.’
‘Likewise, Miss. We need to be getting on. Are you sure you’re okay staying here by yourself?’
‘Yes. Yes, I’m sure.’
‘Okay, well you take care of yourself, Miss. Scraps, come-on, leave the woman alone. She’s got enough of your hair and drool over her.’
India watched Walter and Scraps wander away. Their life was so simple. So easy. They didn’t spend the whole time worrying about how they looked, or who they were with, or what people said about them. They just flowed with the rhythms of life.
She shook her head and rose to her feet. God, she needed to get her head in order. She was going all soft and sentimental. The last thing she needed was Walter and Scraps’ life. There was a party tonight. One of Broadway’s most eligible bachelors was attending. Was three days in mourning enough before starting afresh? God, that blasted dog had made a hell of a mess of her favourite jeans. If the paparazzi caught her now it would look like she’d wet herself! She hurried off back towards the apartment hoping that nobody would recognise her before she had chance to change and do her hair and make-up.