The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive
 

It had already been a long Friday of wandering around and sniffing things for Banjo, and he was content to curl up in his bed, his nose resting comfortably on a treat he had saved for later. Soon it would be summer, and soon he would have to make summer plans to escape Southern California’s punishing, sidewalk-scorching heat.

He yawned contentedly and pulled some travel brochures from under his blanket. Wine country might be a fine option, he thought to himself, and he had promised Thomas he’d drop by to see the renovations French Laundry had undergone. But he was torn between that and the mat in the kitchen, because although the food at French Laundry was to die for, very little of it ended up on the floor.

His reverie was interrupted by the sound of his people talking. Although he couldn’t quite make out what was being discussed, he had heard his name enough to know his presence was warranted. So he stood, stretched out his neck, scratched himself, looked at his foot that he had just used to scratch himself, licked it, stretched out his neck again, and scratched himself. Twenty minutes later, he wandered over to Kayla and Not Kayla.

“DUH DUH DUH DUH DUH LOUD LOUD SHOUT BEER,” said Not Kayla (or words to that effect). Kayla responded with a voice so perfect that Banjo swore he saw colors and light emanate from the whole of her being, or rather, more so than usual. Whatever she was saying was immaterial, he was just thankful to be in her presence, full stop.

Kayla turned to Banjo and addressed him directly. “Looks like SOMEONE has a fan overseas, Banjo!” Banjo wagged his tail appreciatively, as he did whenever his public was discussed. With that, she handed him a gold-embossed envelope. It was addressed to “Mr. Banjo L. Cagan” in breathtaking calligraphy, and although there was no return address, it had a postmark from Côte d’Azur. But Banjo would have known where the letter came from, even if it had borne no postmark at all. The scent emanating from the envelope was all he needed, a bewitching mix of Chanel and Fond Brun De Boeuf.

Banjo took the letter in his mouth, gently so as not to harm it, and with a polite nod to Kayla and a sigh of indifference in Not Kayla’s general direction, he retired to his study.

It took a few minutes to open the letter, and Banjo silently hoped that those 3D printed thumbs Elon kept promising to make for him would be done soon. But his diligence was rewarded with a beautifully handwritten note, filled with so many loops and flourishes that were one to transcribe it as music, it would play a song that would lull the world into a dream state. He wondered why he did not have this particular skill-set, as there were infant humans who had better penmanship than he. Still, he thanked his lucky stars that he was not perfect, or else he’d have nothing to aspire towards.

After nudging himself into his reading glasses, he took one final perfunctory lick of himself before settling into reading.

From The Sitting Room Of Mme De Mandoline St. Tropez, Côte d’Azur, République Française, Eur.

My Dearest Son,

Thank you for your thoughtful gift of Rotchschild's orchids and Trader Joe’s Chicken Stock, which arrived just in time for la fête des mères. How you managed to avoid customs entirely is beyond my elderly comprehension.

The flowers were beautiful, and I used the stock for a Mother’s Day toast. By that, of course, I mean I poured the stock on toast, and enjoyed my favorite indulgence, Soggy Chicken Water Bread. I’m sure the French have a nicer way to say it, but sometimes this gal’s gotta call Soggy Chicken Water Bread Soggy Chicken Water Bread.

I am glad to hear things are going so well for you, between your travels, your writing, and that chewy something you found under the couch. Things are as well as can be expected here, as we are still a few months away from the dreaded tourist season. “But Mother,” you may wonder, “Are you yourself not a tourist?” Let me answer that question with a question: Am I wandering around in cargo shorts and a t-shirt that says “Get ‘Er Done”, asking locals at the top of my voice where I can find that there fancy James Bond casino, and barring that, a Royale With Cheese? NO! NO! BAD THOUGHT! BAD!

Forgive me that outburst, my dear, sweet boy. How I wish you could be here, to show these itinerant ruffians the proper way to present oneself overseas. What a pair we would make, in a café, talking of days gone by, me in the finest couture, and you sipping elegantly from a flute of gravy. Thank goodness for the miracle of modern post, so that we have managed to remain in touch as time has gone by. But I am unsure of my next destination, unsure what my address will be, unsure of the future in general, as are we all.

Taking all of this into account, along with the inescapable fact that I am no poulet de printemps, I cannot say with my usual inscrutable authority that we will be able to maintain our correspondence in the fashion we've grown accustomed. As I have learned in my 12 years on this rock floating in space, the word "never" should have an asterisk permanently affixed to it, which is why I try my best to avoid the cursed word altogether. Ce qui sera sera.

Because we are of the same blood, if not breed, I know that talk such as this is not cause for messy, unkempt emotions. These are facts. We grow, we age, we scratch ourselves, we move on.

All of that said, I want to give you a few pieces of Mother's advice, pieces that I did not think to give you in the past, pieces that I may not have the opportunity to give you again. In the event my address this time next year is intangible, reflecting on these words is all the Mother's Day gift I should require going forth.

YOUR HEART IS YOUR HOME, THOSE YOU KEEP IN IT YOUR HOUSEMATES: I have spent many of my years traveling, perhaps too many. But through it all, I have kept you, my brilliant child, ensconced in my heart, along with other friends and loved ones along the way. There are times in life where we feel like we are the only being on the face of the earth. When these times come, and they do more often than we’d like, a heart full of those you care about most is a rollicking, raucous house party, and everyone, yourself included, is the guest of honor. Also the chip bowls never need refilling. And they’re all on the ground for some reason. Best not to ask. Best to eat chips.

CHICKEN IS DELICIOUS: I am very sure you know this by now, but it cannot be stressed enough. Eat it. Eat it constantly. Demand it. God, it’s just so great.

USE YOUR VOICE FOR YOU, USE YOUR VOICE FOR OTHERS: We have both been blessed with the gift of loquaciousness, but you have taken it beyond my simple, perfectly crafted letters. People love your voice. People listen to what you have to say. And that is a wonderful thing. Because you can ask them for chicken, and they can bring it to you. But it can be used for so much more than telling people you need chicken. Others need chicken as well. Others who may not have your respect, your following, your platform, your easy chicken access. Offer them your voice. Use your gifts to help others. Don’t offer them your chicken, though. Okay, maybe a little.

SLEEP IS IMPORTANT: Again, I’m sure you’re way ahead of me on this, but if you’re not getting 18-23 hours of sleep a day, you’re really missing out. Also, curl up real tiny when you do it, it protects you from bears, I think.

LOVE: I’ve grown quite cornpone in my old age, I’m afraid. Maybe it’s because I’m in a country that all but has the copyright on love as a concept, love as a way of life. But please, my son, remember, this is why we are here. We of the canine persuasion are here to love and be loved. I cannot imagine spending a lifetime doing anything else. A lifetime of curling up in laps, a lifetime of licking faces, a lifetime of burrowing deep under the covers, again, hiding from bears, but also to be as close to those I have loved as I could. Through it, though, I have loved you most of all. And though it is the way of our sort to not spend our lifetimes together, I would not trade the time we had for all the chicken in the world. That’s a lot of chicken, though. It’s a tough call, as chicken is delicious.

And now I myself must curl up very tiny. For I am old, and tired, and in need of more rest than usual. Also I have a baccarat tournament on Saturday. And I’m consulting at Maison Michel on Sunday. Somewhere in there I have to work in rehearsals for my Piaf cabaret, which opens in a few weeks. Tant de choses à faire si peu de temps.

Oh, my son, my best in breed, my one and only. I hope wherever you are, you have a life and heart full of friends. Friends who hear you, friends you help to be heard, friends who love you, and friends who give you piles of chicken and pillows so you can have a chicken-eating/pillow-sleep extravaganza. A simple life, to be sure, filled with simple pleasures. This is all for which we can ask, all that we want, all that we need.

Au revoir,

Ma

~~~

Banjo painstakingly folded and placed his mother’s letter back in the envelope. He then tucked it under his bed, along with his 400 saved dog biscuits.

He spent a few minutes staring lazily out the window. What a world. What a world.

When he emerged from his study, he saw Kayla and Not Kayla sitting on the couch. He carefully crawled between the two of them, so he was resting on both. Tomorrow there would be phone calls to make, emails to send, speaking opportunities to gracefully turn down, and more deserving candidates to recommend.

Also, he would have to gently break it to Thomas that he would not be able to make it out this summer.

But for that moment, all Banjo needed to do was curl up very tiny, very tiny indeed, and prepare to dream. Dream of chicken, Soggy Chicken Water Bread, and the wonderful, world-weary traveler who gave him his name, his heart, and his soul. “Happy Mother’s Day, every day of the year, as many as you have left,” he thought to himself as he drifted off to sleep.