CHELSEA,SPEAK!




CHELSEA, SPEAK!


Hello. My name is Chelsea.
You’ve already met Bill. He’s the main character in a novel called Just Bill. His mister is named Fred Vinyl. Most of the story’s human characters have names like that, to tell readers something about them. For instance, Fred used to be in the vinyl siding business. There’s a family called the Telecoms, and a lady known as Trust Fund. The dogs also have names that say something about them: Chiffon, Emma (named after a character in a story written by Jane Austen), Luger, Wolfi and Stanzi. They all live on a golf course in Florida.

The writer thinks of Bill as his collaborator. He thinks of me that way, too, in life. But unlike the dogs in the story, my given name doesn’t come from a place or line of work. Or from a famous person. like Chelsea Clinton. Even if it did, no one I live with could know about it. That’s because I am a rescue dog, Barry and Barbara Knister's actual dog.

True, the dogs my mister made up are also “actual,” but in a different way. He imagined them. He’s strange about that. He spent so much time with Bill and his other characters that he pretty much thinks of them as real. Not real the way Barbara and I am real, but real enough.

He says that, for good or ill, what takes on life in the mind is real. In the same way dreams are facts. You can’t see or measure dreams, but they exist. They're real.

Before she died, my mister had a good friend who thought the same way about her cats, and also about an antique teddy bear. Charlie is the bear’s name, and the friend and her mother wrote about him, the way the mister wrote about Bill. The mother got this bear years ago, at an antiques auction. She brought him home, and came to think of Charlie as a companion. A friend. She made clothes for him, and saw to it he had other teddy bears and stuffed animals for company. She thought of each of them as having a distinct personality.

So, was this nice old woman crazy? Maybe. I never met her. But I met her daughter who published a book about all this. And although she was different from most people, I don’t think she was crazy. Her husband had died, and she lived alone with her cats, and Charlie and Charlie's friends. So she treated her pets and stuffed animals as people--so what? They kept her company in an empty house. Maybe, they kept her from becoming crazy. That seems the best way to think about it.

Anyway, it's how Barry Knister thinks about his dead friend, and also how he thinks about the characters in his story. How he thinks about me is different. He created a history for Bill, so he knows the made-up dog better than he knows me. He can’t know a thing about my parents, my puppyhood, or my previous two families.

 And it bothers him. He says I exist outside history, floating in the space-time continuum. I came into his life like an apparition, a postage stamp-sized photo on a rescue-dog website, along with a two-hundred word description. Then, weeks later, I appeared on a hill overlooking the river that separates Covington,Kentucky from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Adopting a dog never before met, on a hillside being visited for the first and last time, then driving hundreds of miles to reach home changed him forever. For someone who lets things like that get to him, it’s quite a story. Especially when he wonders about what must have been going on in the mind of his new dog. Me.

P.S. For reasons I don't understand (and neither does Barry Knister), I am afraid of cameras. There are almost no photos of me, but the one at the top was taken of a sculpture in the Naples, Florida Botanical Gardens. We hope you like it.
www.bwknister.com

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