Elsa’s Toddler

elsa - 2018 - 3x2 portrait
Eduardo Suré; Elsa, 2018; Watercolor

The sun is reflecting off the large pet store’s windows on Sunday morning. In addition to pet supplies; the store sells bathing services, adoption services, and kenneling. There are training classes on Sunday, which is why Elsa and Jeffrey have come.

Elsa is a border collie with long flowing black and white fur. Jeffrey is a human toddler with blonde hair and freckled skin. Elsa is gently leading Jeffrey into the store. Since he pulls when they walk together, she uses a harness that fits around his torso. If she were using a collar, she would be strangling him: he does not want to go into the store.

Elsa patiently guides Jeffrey through the front door as other dogs walk out. Strangers give Elsa and Jeffrey impolite looks which she ignores. She is aware he is not well trained, and for that reason brings him to this class.

The two of them walk past store aisles to a round pen where the class will be held. Jeffrey looks down the aisles of toys and food with interest and is walking distractedly. Elsa has to stop him before he runs into the wall of the round pen where the training will be given. She opens the small door and coaxes him in. They find room on the floor to sit and wait for the class to begin.

“Good morning, everyone,” a German shepherd says. “Welcome to Toddler Training 101. My name is Sawyer, and I will be teaching this class for the next six weeks. Let’s take a few minutes to get to know each other. Please tell us your name, your toddler’s name, and what you would like to get out of this class.” There are a total of seven dogs in the class and each brought one toddler. Elsa is the fourth dog to respond.

“Hi. I’m Elsa and this is Jeffrey,” she says. “I guess I want Jeffrey to learn good manners, but I would also like him to bite me by the end of the class. Or at least fight with me in some way. He’s really shy.” Some of the other dogs agree that they would like that from their own toddlers as well.

After the remaining three dogs finish introducing themselves, Sawyer says, “Let’s take some time to loosen up. Play with your toddler for ten minutes. Let’s help them relieve the tension of being somewhere new and get really comfortable with this space.” The dogs glance around the pen at each other. They’re not sure how to respond to the instructor’s request. Some of them give their toddlers’ leashes slack so that they may roam near. Others try to get their toddlers to play with their neighbor’s.

Elsa takes a toy out of her bag. It is a stuffed banana with big wobbly eyes and floppy arms and puffy feet. She wiggles the toy in front of Jeffrey. He looks at her and then at the toy, but does not take it. She rubs the stuffed banana over his face hoping he will bite it, but he turns away. She then grabs his face, shakes it, and growls. He does not respond. When she tussles his hair, he moves away as far as his leash will allow.

Sawyer approaches Elsa and Jeffrey. “Elsa, right?” he asks. “Is he usually this easy-going?”

“Yeah, mostly,” she replies. “There’s maybe one or two toys he plays with. I keep trying to make him more aggressive, but he’s just too chill.”

“Is that banana one of the toys he likes?” Sawyer asks.

“No, he likes a ball that’s squishy and lights up when you hit it against the ground,” Elsa replies. “I think I brought it.” Elsa stuffs the banana back into her bag. She rummages through until she finds the ball. She rolls it to Jeffrey, his eyes light up, and he picks it up. He bumps it against the ground and it beings blinking wildly. A smile erupts on his face as he admires it and squeezes it in his small hands.

“What does he do when you take the ball away?” Sawyer asks.

“I don’t know,” Elsa replies. “I never tried that.”

“Go ahead. Take the ball away from him and let’s see what he does,” Sawyer says. Elsa reaches over and snatches the ball out of Jeffrey’s hands. His face turns red with rage. He walks up to Elsa, draws his arm back, and swings an open hand at her face. It connects with her snout and makes a hollow smacking sound.

“Oh, my Dog!” Elsa shouts. “I can’t believe he just did that! Thank you, Sawyer!”

Sawyer nods at Elsa with a smile. “You just have to think about what motivates them. Some toddlers like food, others like toys, and some just want attention. Take it away or give it to them depending on what you’re trying to get out of them.”

“How do I get him to attack other dogs?” Elsa asks. “I want him to get really territorial with my friends when they come over.”

“Whatever his favorite toy is, give it to him to play with before your friends arrive,” Sawyer says. “As soon as your guests come through the front door, take the toy away from him and give it to them. He’ll learn to hate them.”

“That makes sense,” Elsa says.

“Do you have a water bottle?” Sawyer asks. Elsa nods. “Ask your guests to spray him in the face a few times when they come over.”

After a few more minutes of play, Sawyer asks everyone to form a circle. He hands out a calendar that outlines each week’s lesson. He explains how the training course was developed. He shows them by example how to teach their toddler to come to them. He tells them to try to train their toddler to come to them before the next class and then dismisses them.



voters - 2017 - widescreen
Eduardo Suré; Voters, 2017; Watercolor
Last summer, two men sat at the counter of a plebian diner somewhere between the sounds of cooking in front of them and the clinking of forks on ceramic plates behind them. Daniel frequently stopped at the diner after work. The cold air calmed his body after a long day landscaping in the sun. Eugene only stopped at the diner before his last night shift of the week at the factory. Both middle-aged men sat at the counter hunched over their own business. Daniel thumbed through his phone and Eugene flipped through a marked up sample ballot wrinkled from being frequently taken in and out of a pocket. The woman working behind the counter brought Daniel a plate with two eggs, two slices of bacon, two sausage links, and hashed browns covered with cheese. Eugene’s eyes dwelled on Daniel’s plate.

“I want good health,” said Daniel out the side of his mouth as he chewed sausage. Eugene snorted when he suppressed a laugh. “Is something funny?” asked Daniel.

“You might want to get your cholesterol checked,” said Eugene.

“I don’t go to doctors,” said Daniel as he cut through the hashed browns and stuck a piece in his mouth. “If I go, they’ll find something wrong with me.” Eugene turned his head, squeezed his eyes shut, and wrinkled his forehead.

The woman behind the counter surveyed her area of responsibility. She tossed a towel she was holding in her hand into a tub that released the smell of bleach into the air. She picked up a remote, aimed it at a television, and turned it on. A politician appeared on the screen speaking angrily and pointing his index finger at a map of Europe that was superimposed on his right. The woman behind the counter listened to the rant for a minute and then flipped through the channels until she found a baseball game. She tossed the remote next to a cash register and looked around.

“We should be polite to our neighbors,” said Eugene aloud to no one in particular.

“We want foreign allies,” said Daniel.

“That’s right,” said Eugene turning to Daniel.

“…so we can’t be polite,” Daniel finished saying. The expression on Eugene’s face conveyed confusion and regret.

“Sorry?” asked Eugene.

“We need to tell them how it is and what we want, or else they won’t work with us,” said Daniel. He finished chewing his bacon and looked at Eugene. “Do you want a world free from terror?”

“Of course,” replied Eugene.

“Then we need to kill all the terrorists,” said Daniel.

“Well; yes – obviously, killing all of them would do it; but…”

“If you’re going to kill all of the terrorists then you must be able to identify all of them,” interrupted Daniel.

“How do you propose that we identify all of the terrorists?” asked Eugene.

“We have to sort out the terrorists from the non-terrorists,” replied Daniel. “Are you a terrorist?”

“No,” replied Eugene.

“See? Like that,” said Daniel. He wiped his mouth with a paper napkin, placed his knife and fork parallel on his plate pointing to three o’clock, and called the woman behind the counter. She pulled a bill out of her apron and placed it in front of him along with a red and white mint. He looked at the bill without picking it up. “Food costs more and more every day.”

“The economy will get better,” said Eugene.

“Or worse,” said the woman behind the counter.

“Or both,” said Daniel.

“The economy will certainly not get better, honey,” said the woman behind the counter. “It will get worse.”

“Or both,” repeated Daniel as he placed his money on the bill on the counter. “Have a good one,” he groaned as he spun on his stool, stood up, and walked out.

Eugene watched the woman behind the counter. She pinched and scratched at her crotch. Her eyes met Eugene’s when she looked up to see if anyone noticed. She smiled apologetically and said, “Sorry, hon: I have a rash and the itch is just torture. It just comes on all of a sudden. I’m scratchin’ before I know what I’m doing.”

“Do you think anyone is going to vote for that guy?” asked Eugene.

“Who knows?” replied the woman behind the counter.

“Would you vote for him?” asked Eugene.

“That’s a very personal question, don’t you think?” asked the woman behind the counter with raised eyebrows.

“Sorry,” said Eugene.

“You want some coffee?” asked the woman behind the counter as she scratched her crotch.

“No, thanks: just the check,” said Eugene. The woman behind the counter pulled a bill out of her apron, glanced at it, and placed it in front of Eugene. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the sample ballot. He stared at the page and the candidates he circled until someone new sat next to him and startled him. He shoved the ballot back into his pocket and felt the other pockets for his wallet. The woman behind the counter watched as Eugene left his payment on the counter, got up, and walked out the door. She continued to watch him through the window as he stood in front of the store. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the crumpled sample ballot. He looked down at it, clenched his fists around the edges, bit down on the top of the pages, and whipped his head sideways to tear off the pieces.