The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive

(Author’s Note: As some of you may know, our dog, Banjo, occasionally writes letters to us and our friends. This is the story of the first.)

It wasn’t very long after Banjo came to live with us that I became aware of an immutable, cold, hard fact.

Our dog liked my wife more than he liked me.

The signs were all there. When we walked through the door, he practically vaulted himself into her arms. If she walked out of the living room to her office, he quickly followed suit. If we were on our respective couches, he would curl up on hers.

Anywhere she was, was where he wanted to be.

Now, it’s not like he was particularly unfriendly to me. It’s not like he growled when I approached, or put up a fight if I scooped him up and rubbed his tummy (and heaven knows, I certainly would). And if it was just he and I in the house together, he would follow me around, curl up in my lap, and be very interested in all food-related items I had on or near my person.

But the second my wife entered the picture, he would become possessed by the mania of 10,000 whirling Tasmanian Devils, jump off my lap (more often than not using my Gentleman’s Area as a launching pad), bounce off every wall in the apartment, land at her feet, and go into a one-canine recreation of every dance number from Breakin’.

I became embittered. I envisioned a future where I was written off altogether. I would come home one day, and find a note from my wife saying that her and Banjo had bought a sweet-ass conversion van, and were driving around the country solving crimes, while looking absolutely awesome in kicky ‘70s-influenced ensembles. And if you know anything about me, you know that is MY DREAM STATE OF EXISTENCE. A dream which THEY STOLE FROM ME. Or rather A DREAM I DREAMT THEY STOLE FROM ME. Because I am A COMPLICATED DOOFUS.

So, I stopped relating to our dog. I walked him, I fed him, and if he hopped up on the couch next to me, I gave him a bit of a scratch on the head and went back to my very important work of refreshing Twitter. After all, he was just killing time with me until my wife was available. Why bother? Why put any energy into a friendship where I was not getting back what I put in?

A few weeks had gone by of me having this sort of “nod if we pass each other in the hallway” sort of relationship, and while I had no idea how he felt about it, I was pretty miserable. I thought about getting my own dog. A dog I would train from jump to be totally into my whole deal. A dog who would sit by the stereo, listening to Nick Drake when I was away, and immediately switch the iPod to Primal Scream’s “Loaded” when I walked through the door. A dog who would be MY DOG. And we would get A VAN. And solve CRIMES. And eat ROTISSERIE CHICKEN.

One evening, I was listlessly searching and getting huffily upset there wasn’t a section called “Spite Dogs”. I closed my computer, put it on the coffee table, and rubbed my eyes for a split second, annoyed by the stupid world and all the stupid things in it.

When I opened my eyes, there was a tasteful ivory envelope addressed to “Cashew J. Fagan”, laid atop my computer. As it was just me and the dog in the apartment, it didn’t take long for me to figure out:

The dog had the ability to write letters, and had excellent taste in stationary. The dog had not bothered to learn my actual name, which was absolutely par for the course for him.

I walked over to toss it in the trash, when Banjo trotted up to the can, and stood between me and it. Obviously, he could not talk, that would be ridiculous. But if he could, he would say, “Please. Read this missive. Don’t be a jerk.”

I dramatically humphed back on the couch, tore the letter open, sighed so he could hear me, and began to read.

From the Desk of Banjo L. Cagan Freelance Creative Supervising Content Manager
June 2013

Dear Cashew,

First and foremost, I do hope the name I’ve given you is close to whatever you think your name might be. Long ago, I learned that names are a thing that are sort of imposed upon you, and all one can hope is that the name one receives jibes with what one calls oneself.

For example, for many years, I knew myself to be “Bartholomew Louis The First, Consumer Of All Feathered Foul And Majestic Taker Of Naps.” Somewhere along the way, I was informed that my name was, in fact, “Banjo”. Although slightly less dignified, I found it to be a pleasant, cheerful enough moniker, and so I answer to it when the mood takes me. So it will be with you and “Cashew”. Maybe it is not your name, but it is the name I have given you, so here we are.

(As a side note, you might be wondering if I have a third, secret name, as Eliot theorized about my feline brethren. I do not. It would make filing taxes nigh-impossible. Why dogs have to pay taxes and cats do not is beyond me, but that is another conversation entirely. What a world.)

Would that we had the luxury of discussing trivial matters such as names and inter-special tax laws, Cashew. But we are currently in a crisis, you and I. A crisis that threatens to tear us apart, and could possibly bring upon the demise of the free world as we know it. THIS IS NOT HYPERBOLE, CASHEW.

Let us cut right to the chase, then. I can sense you have cooled to me over the last month or so. And although I am hurt, deeply hurt by this scorn, I am canine enough to understand that it is not unwarranted.

So let me put it out there in the open, and we will move forward from there. I think the world of your wife, Kayla. (What a humorous coincidence that the name I chose for her happened to be her actual name! I wish there were a way to say this in a less cumbersome fashion, but I am laughing out loud!)

As I’m sure you know, your wife is a wonderful woman. Her voice is like a chorus of angels, she positively glides across the room, and her hair is the color of that lady’s hair from the Wendy’s logo, which means that she probably has unlimited access to hamburgers. (Note to self: Check on that.)

When one is presented with a human like Kayla, one cannot aspire to be anything else but the best of friends with her. And so aspire I do. Yes, I am effusive with her in a way I am not with you. Yes, I will often stop whatever you and I are doing to go be with her. And yes, the more I think about it, the more I am almost certain that she has unlimited access to hamburgers, and possibly those indeterminately-flavored Frosties.

I can see why this would make you upset. I can see why this would make you question our friendship. And I can see why this would cause you to spurn me.

I can see all of this, Cashew. To a point.

But if you will forgive me for delivering a gentle dressing-down in my rebuttal, I’m curious how you define “friendship”.

Do you define friendship as a path decided by one person at all times, a series of rules and regulations ratified by one, to be followed by both?

Let me put this another way. Just because you want to have the same friendship that Kayla and I share, does that mean that I need to fall in line immediately? Regardless of my feelings? Regardless of my feelings towards you?

Make no mistake, Cashew, you are okay in my book. You are no Kayla, but who is?

Just because you and I do not share the bond that she and I immediately had, does not mean that we share no bond. It just means we have to figure out what it is, together.

To me, that is how friendship works. Two beings, who know they like each other an awful lot, both simultaneously following and leading. It is an odd dance indeed, but once mastered, I daresay it puts anything they’re doing at the Bolshoi to shame.

So I do not dance and jump about for you the same way I do for her upon your return. I am still happy to see you, but I only have so much energy for dancing and jumping about, due to the fact that I am wicked small. Maybe I hop off your lap to see what she is up to in the other room. But nonetheless I was on your lap. Or by your side. Or at your feet. I am with you, friend. You have to believe me.

Besides, Cashew, and I cannot stress this enough, she may have hamburgers in that other room. She might have them when she walks through the door. At any given time, any second of the day, she may finally reveal where she is keeping all of the hamburgers. AND THEN THEY WILL BE MINE.

Where was I?

Oh yes. In conclusion, we are, as you would say, “cool”. We will figure out our friendship together, because that is how friendships are figured out. And I have no doubt that we will be the best of friends, and possibly “bros”, which I understand is the greatest bond two gentlemen can share.

Now if you excuse me, I hear keys rattling at the door! It is she! It is Kayla! And although it has not happened yet, I am almost certain that she has a giant sack full of hamburgers! AH, LIFE! AH, DESTINY! AH, GROUND MEAT!

Your Friend,

Banjo L. Cagan

Later, Kayla walked through the door, and Banjo lost his mind with joy and delight. She sighed, still getting used to having this tiny creature follow her everywhere, and walked to her office. Banjo followed suit. But before he disappeared into the other room, he turned, and gave me a dignified nod.

I returned it in kind. Later that night, he curled up on my lap, and we watched the Dave Thomas episode of A&E’s Biography.

It was finally the beginning of a beautiful friendship.