From the author: In order to prevent him from flunking a test that will affect his grade negatively, Dinsdale "Dinny" Dog is prepared to undergo a re-do of his assignment. But whether he is prepared to deal with the rigours of daily life in Gennett, Anthropomorph, to do it is another matter entirely.
I sat there, looking at the paper in my paw.
And, even though I’m a grown-up, tall, and apparently handsome humanized male dog with a chestnut pelt and blue eyes, I was crying, softly, as I waited for an upcoming appointment.
Because what the paper signified meant I might not be able to achieve the things I desperately wanted to happen.
It was a term paper for one of my courses here at Jack Kinney College in Anthropomorph. The world where everything that isn’t “real” or scientifically “proven” to “exist” in the Earth you know is an actuality. Your dreams come true, and your nightmares incarnate both.
Most of the time, though, you’ve only seen us as two or three dimensional images in your world, in animated cartoons. Because that’s where all of us are from, originally. To the last…..whatever.
Although, like the so-called “dark” Internet, there’s a whole other side of us that never got filmed. So many more untold tales there than told ones. I’m one of those. At least, until now.
My name is Dinsdale Dog. Also known as Dinny, Din, Dinsy, Din-Din, Double D, and Chairman of the Bored (for my habit of looking somewhat jaded when I stand still, thought that’s not the case at all) to both my family and the extremely few friends I have. The latter is on account of my being a shy violet in general, and a shrinking one in particular when it comes to girls.
Particularly when they’re mad.
Other than, perhaps, my astonishingly acquired wolf girlfriend, Sawyer, who gave me the time of day when nobody else would in class after I was thoroughly humiliated by the prof. And whose admiration I gained only and chiefly (I believe) because I smacked down a guy who tried to force his way into her pants. Which I would never do myself, and we both know it. But I also know that she’s better than me at acting and singing, and throws a punch and a kick that actually have those things in them. So she’s helped me grow up, in so many ways. And I know better than to upset her because of that. Way better.
Also because of my mom, and my little sis, Danica, who, despite being “only” ten, is already most of the gal Sawyer is now. And, unlike Sawyer, she curses worse than your average sailor when mad!
The ones I have trouble with are authority figures, people with power over me they’re not afraid to use. Like the ones at JKC. Some have been kind and understanding, others not.
JKC is a liberal arts college with a low tuition rate (which is why my parents insisted I go there) and a focus on the performing arts, not surprising considering how indebted Anthropomorph is to Hollywood to keep its economy intact. So they teach you how to act and to sing and to tell a good joke and be quick and fast on your feet on-camera and off, and not much else.
Unfortunately for me. I was valedictorian of my all-canine small town’s sole high school when I graduated, chiefly for my skill at English and History. But it’s hard excelling at English and History at a college where they mostly don’t exist unless needed. So I don’t get the kind of chances to shine I might get at some other places, and I miss that.
Now add to that being dressed down by the professor in charge of most of my mandatory classes for being a tone deaf singer and a bad actor, and more than once, and you might see my problem.
What had gotten me all bothered was the aforementioned paper, which, in addition to what was written on it, now had a large “F” scrawled on the front and an extremely angry diatribe put on the back in bright red. It was an important paper, worth 40% of my grade in the course, in which I was supposed to read and analyze the text a play of my choice and explained how and why it worked as it did.
And I had bombed.
JKC has a fairly tight no-fail policy, since they have no time for half-stepping with people who aren’t willing to pull their weight both there and in the “real” world. Just failing once puts you on probation. Another time and you’re out.
Did I mention that the professor who flunked me and I have a somewhat….difficult….relationship?
So, if the grade stood without me appealing it, and she did it to me again…..
Well…then it’d be kind of hard for me to get the full-time job I want and need to have in order to eventually achieve my dream of writing full-time. You think anyone wants to hire someone now who flunked college- even if he did okay in high school?
So that was why I was sitting there crying, waiting for my appointment with the school counselor.
Not everyone on the faculty has been mean to me. Captain Smiles, the ROTC commander, has been very kind to me- though perhaps that was because I was the only one in the whole school to pick it as an elective the year I entered JKC. Much better to get to know somebody like that on a one-on-one basis. And she’s been as swell towards me as Sawyer has.
And certainly Ms. Dalmatian, the school counselor, whom I made the appointment, has been like that, since, as she keeps saying, it’s her job to care. And it’s easy for people to care about her given what she looks like. She has, after all, the exterior form of a cute puppy, with elephant-like ears, enormous eyes and a scrawny torso beside the famous white coat with black spots. And she has a honey-coated voice that makes it easier to believe everything she tells you. At least until she gets tough, and then she can burn you like acid, and handle you physically as well if that won’t work. But she gets me to behave with just the voice.
So she heard me crying, obviously, and shouted two words at me:
I stopped crying and looked at her, as she exited her office.
“Big boys don’t cry,” she said. “Big girls don’t, either. How many times have I got to tell you that?”
“You don’t understand…” I started.
“Not until you tell me,” she finished. “Let’s get it over with. By the way-xxy.”
“The barn door is unlocked.”
“Your fly is open on your pants, you idiot!”
“That must have been why I got laughed at today,” I said, fixing the zipper before going into the office.
“So you got a lousy grade,” she told me. “You can survive a bad grade- as long as it’s a passing one”. She gave me one of her trademark big wide grins. “The important thing is that you don’t let this derail you.”
“It’s not just a lousy grade,” I said. “It’s a death sentence.”
“You exaggerate!” she retorted. “Let me see that paper.”
So I showed her the paper, and she read it over quickly.
“Well, Professor Goldfishberg does seem to have a vendetta against you,” she said. “So bad that Captain Smiles and I, as you know, have had to vouch for you with the Board before. Because we knew perfectly well that, just because you didn’t match up to what her exorbitant standards of perfection, it didn’t mean you were a good student. I half expect that if you had anyone other than her running the program, they’d be more sympathetic. Especially if you’d been here back when I was a student. It was a lot easier to get through then if you were a milquetoast and not a hell-raiser like I was. Now, it seems, it’s gone the other way entirely. They want people who are assertive over there because that’s the only way people are gonna pay attention to the shows for more than a few seconds now. Again, not like my day at all.
“You’re fighting a tougher battle than I did, Din. As a fellow canine, I especially want to make sure that you, among all others, succeed and get out of this provincial place. At least, as long as you can, and for you to save as much of your money as you can during that time so you don’t have to come home with your tail between your legs- so to speak, since yours is small and docked thanks to your gene pool- and can be a respected and honoured citizen of our land. Like me and the other Governors. But you already knew that- and if you didn’t, you do now.
“But it’s hell out there for a dog. Even the ones who could pass for humans, like you easily could, I might add. We get more shit out there than all of the human-looking ones combined, and for perfectly good reasons. That’s why I keep telling you to “man” up, as it were, and Professor Goldfishberg has, too. It’s the only way you’ll survive. We know it, and you need to as well.
“But I cannot help you succeed when you make an enormous mistake. Like what you just did. I can possibly smooth the waters with management, but it doesn’t change the fact that you smashed up your raft, and are clinging to a rock right now.”
“But what did I do?” I said. “Professor Goldfishberg just flipped the paper on my desk and gave me the stink-eye when class started. And when I tried to talk to her about it afterwards, she just told me to go fuck myself, and walked out.”
“Typical her,” she answered. “But you did the worst thing a student could do to a teacher, Dinsdale. She told you to do something, and you did the exact opposite of it.”
“Excuse me?” I exploded, as bottled-up frustration was released inside me. “I did exactly what she told me to do. Exactly! She said pick a play you were interested in and write about why you thought it worked. I did that. I studied that damn play in high school, and my teacher gave me an excellent grade then. She even complimented me on knowing it so well. And that helped me make the honor roll and become valedictorian there. So why did I get a bad one this time?”
“You picked the wrong kind of play, is why,” she answered. “You know as well as anybody here, Dinsdale, that we cartoon characters are, by default, assumed to be clowns and jesters and harlequins by nature, and not sullen brooders, because those are the only parts Hollywood wants us to play. At very least, the ones of us who are not reincarnations of figures from other media who are just like that, and those are very rare. Our livelihoods as actors have largely been yoked to one genre, and one mode of performance alone, whether we like It or not. Animation is about comedy. Pure and simple. Comedy in the sense of getting laughs, sure. But also in the sense of its original meaning and concept in the art of dramatic performance. That is: a story with a happy ending, where nobody dies unless they deserve to, and the belief system of the intended audience is reinforced instead of violated, as so many sadistic viewers seem to want from the live-action stuff nowadays.
“So Professor Goldfishberg assumed you were naturally going to pick a comedic play because that’s how we roll, and she didn’t need to say ‘pick a comedy’ because she thought you knew that was what she wanted.
“And Hamlet does not qualify as COMEDY under any circumstances!”
“It has comedy in it, yes,” she continued, silencing me before I could interject. “Shakespeare was better than most at balancing the demands of various genres and audiences, and he knew that putting a little laughter in even a tragic situation would make it easier to deal with the bad ending. But an ending where everyone ends up DEAD is not HAPPY!
“I can see why you might have picked it. Hamlet’s in a difficult position in his life, dealing with stuff he can’t deal with. Especially the relationship between his mom and his father-murdering uncle-cum-stepdad. And he takes it out on his best girl just when they both need each other the most. It’s not unlike you going from a big shot in high school to numero zero here, and trying to make sparks with Sawyer because you so obviously dig her. Hamlet has that effect on that on everyone who’s first read and studied that play when they’re young, particularly the guys. And the girls all dread ending up like Ophelia for the same reason.
“And you probably wanted to show the boss lady you were serious about wanting to be a good and responsible actor by showing you knew and cared about old Bill S., since all us clowns secretly want to play Hamlet, as they say. But you picked the wrong one of his things to do it with. If you had done The Comedy of Errors, say, or Much Ado About Nothing, or As You Like It, or even The Taming of the Shrew, then you would have gotten a much higher grade, and you wouldn’t be nearly as torn down a la Rimbaud as you are now.
“There is one way this can be fixed, though.”
“How’s that?” I asked.
“Although we cartoon characters can be very explosive in our temperament when we get mad, we are also among the most loving, merciful and forgiving people on this Earth. Particularly if we receive a fully detailed and culpable statement from the person who wronged us, explaining to the best detail possible how and why that happened in the past, and what steps will be taken to prevent it from happening in the future. She’s probably calmed down a bit now, and less likely to permanently punish you for your error. My advice would be go to her now, or whenever her office hours are next, and do just what I just told you to do.”
So I did it. I wrote the earliest time on the Professor’s call-in sheet outside her office that was available, and then came back at the appointed time. I didn’t know whether or not I would be facing her everybody’s pal persona or her raging virago one, since she can switch pretty easily and unexpectedly between them sometimes. But, fortunately, it was the first one I got that time.
I told her it was entirely my fault, because I misread the assignment summary, and assumed that it meant any kind of play and not just a comedy. Then she cut me off.
“Oh, that,” she said, batting her large black eyes. “Well, it was also my fault, too. Probably shouldn’t have been grading papers after going through a traumatic breakup with someone, but what are you gonna do? The Board’s paying me to do this job better than I ever got in Hollywood, and they expect a lot out of me. And, likewise, I expect a lot of my students, as you know.
“It wasn’t that you didn’t do a good job writing your assignment. Far from it! You probably spent more time with a Complete Works volume in your paws than most of us even dare, since you wanted to get it right. Your future would be in writing criticism, not in acting or singing, because you don’t necessarily need to know how to act or sing like an Olympian god or goddess to decode the performance modes once you learn what they are.
“But I still had to fail you. Because, although you did a very good job decoding Hamlet, that play is a tragedy and not a comedy. That, however merciful and lenient I might want to be with you right now, is about the only unacceptable no-no we have around here. At least when it comes to academic protocol beyond fraud and other forms of cheating, of course. I and the others have absolutely no prejudices when it comes to defining works of art by what genre they happen to be and whether or not they matter. No actor wants to be typecast, and certainly not Governors like myself, who have been there and back. We don’t want to have other people think of us as uncultured boors, even though some of the prejudicial among the humans of Earth think of us that way, and will be permanently convinced we cannot or will not be any other.
“However, in their land, we must play by their rules. And, one of them, at least when it comes to “fabricated” thespians, sadly, is that making people laugh will always be paramount over moving them to tears with the incomparable words of William Shakespeare. They have human actors aplenty who can do that much better than we ever will. So they just want us to shut up and do the jobs they gave us in our little corner of the universe. So we have an automatic fail policy against tragedy to put the fear of the Lord into those who haven’t gotten it. Hence, I had to fail you. So it’s not personal, Dinsdale. It never is. It’s just business. It’s impersonal, yes. But all business is like that. Especially Hollywood business. Better you find that out now that being on the business end of a contract that gets you screwed in more ways than one, like even most of us Governors did.
“The good thing is, we always give the ones who do this another chance. Especially ones who write well, the way you do. It’s only fair. If you get Shakespeare, then you easily could write about a comedy-oriented playwright, like Aristophanes or Neil Simon, just as well. And if you can do that, all is forgiven. So I’m going to give you that chance.”
“Ms. Dalmatian told me a lot of that when I came to see her,” I pointed out.
“She knows well of what she speaks. She calmed me right down when, in this very same course situation, I did my paper on Titus Andronicus- a play much more gruesome than Hamlet, if you know what it’s about- and then had the temerity to suggest that we stage it as our undergrad production for that year. I did and said a lot of stupid things in high school, Dinsdale, just like I did on my show later on. But I really put my fin in my mouth there. I really thought I was gonna get expelled, but she just said tell ‘em you’ll write something else on a comedy and that will save you. So I did another paper on Ben Jonson’s Volpone, since it is a comedy, and all was well.
“So I believe in second chances. Go find another play that speaks to you the same way Hamlet does, but make sure it doesn’t end with anyone or everyone dead at the end. And also make sure it’s not one of the Shake’s comedies. I get so damn tired of everybody just taking the easy way out and doing one of his lighter things. I mean, seriously- is that the only guy who wrote laughs for the stage? Hell, no! There are lots of good and funny plays out there waiting to be read, like any other type of lit. All I want is for you to find one of them, and convince me that it matters as much as it convinces you.”
So I set out to do just that.
A visit to a computer terminal at our campus library, the Michael Maltese Memorial, helped out greatly. Since Hollywood is in the United States, it would make perfect sense for me to do a comic play by an American playwright. I was shocked that I hadn’t thought of it before.
I made a general search in our main Internet search engine for American playwrights that had written comedy plays. The first one that caught my eye was something that impressed me just reading the summary, so I decided to see if we had the text in the library, as we may very well might. Better yet, it was a musical comedy, so I could show Professor Goldfishberg I knew music and comedy both better than my singing and acting skills, or lack thereof, suggested. Not only that, it had won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, no less. That would give me a strong position to argue from, for once.
The play was called Of Thee I Sing. It was written by George S. Kaufman and Morris Ryskind, with music by George and Ira Gershwin, and was first staged in the 1930s. It satirized politics of the time, particularly with a very broad brush in the music and the comedy both. Despite the composers’ pedigrees, there weren’t too many of the tunes that I recalled immediately, other than perhaps the title song: “Of Thee I Sing, Baby”. But nothing else grabbed me the same way that one did. Other than perhaps the immediate sequel, Let ‘Em Eat Cake, in which the United States is turned overnight from a democracy to a Fascist dictatorship by the President from Of Thee. Not exactly heartwarming stuff there, but I could still use it since nobody died at the end.
Yet I was thwarted. After finding a copy of the script in the database, and carefully making sure I had copied the call number out correctly, I then discovered that it was not there, even though the database clearly said it was. I reported this to the bespectacled turtle librarian on duty, who seemed annoyed to have to deal with me.
“You checked, right?” he said. “It might have been misplaced.”
“I looked over the whole shelf,” I answered. “Not there. Look, I’m desperate. I need to get this book to do an assignment I really need to pass, and I….”
“You might want to check the Scheimer’s collection,” he said.
“And where’s that?” I answered again.
He looked a little dumbfounded. It seemed like I had asked him about something he assumed everyone he knew was familiar with.
“Aren’t you from Gennett?” he asked.
That’s Anthropomorph’s capital and largest city, by the way. And, although JKC is just on the outskirts of it, and a lot of the students go in there to tie one on in the bars and places like that on the weekend, I had yet to venture inside of it alone.
“No,” I said. “I’m from the Dog Paddle district.”
Which is just north-west of Gennett and JKC, separated from it by the northern part of Leaky Lake.
“Figured that from the way you look,” he said, snidely. “Hick-town central. You all got that wall-eyed stare over there.”
“Are you going to tell me how to get to the Scheimer, or am I going to have to become difficult?” I said, using the great size difference between us to my advantage by beating a paw against a fist.
“Sure,” he said, writing down the directions to it on a slip of paper. “Anything to help a dog-breath like you get out of my sight.”
So, although my feelings had been hurt, I had to hustle in order to make sure I could make the last bus into Gennett for the day. If all went well, I could get to the library, find the script/score for Of Thee I Sing, get it out, and then find some way to get back to JKC for school the next day.
All did not go well.
I happened to be on a bus that had a number of rather shady residents of the inner city who were probably students at JKC like I was, given they wore red sweatshirts with the school insignia on the upper breast like I did, and/or skirts made from the same material and on the same design plan. Or they were the kind of people who preyed on the naivete and inexperience those originally from outside of the city, like me, display often, making us easy marks. I was so shocked when a girl boldly came up to me and asked me if I wanted to make love to her on the bus- right then and there- that I not only refused her request bluntly, but pulled the cord so I could get off. Even though the Scheimer Library was still several blocks ahead.
So I trudged forward, having no other option but to do just that. Eventually, I found a corner where a lady goat in a black skirt and white blouse was busy busking on the corner with an acoustic guitar. To be polite, I waited until she was finished singing until I spoke up, putting a couple of dollars in her open guitar case in the interim. She needed them more than I did then.
“Am I on the right path to getting to the Scheimer Library?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she answered. “But you still got a while, college boy.”
“How did you….?”
“The shirt’s a dead giveaway. Everybody knows you’re from Kinney if you walk around like that. That’s why I never got one of those things when I went there. “
I must have had my mouth open or something, because she fixed me a grin that said you stupid idiot better than any words could have.
“You probably think you’re gonna become some sort of hotshot going there, don’t you?” she said. “More likely, you’re just gonna end up like me and my roomies. In trouble- and in debt up to your eyeballs forever. Especially when they drop the ax on you in Hollywood without you expecting it. Better you just….”
Suddenly a car pulled up. A pig was bawling his eyes out in the front passenger seat. A human sized cricket was holding a raw steak up to one of his eyes in pain. And a humanized banana, with arms and legs and an angry looking face, was in the driver’s seat.
“Get in, Goat,” he said, without fanfare. “We gotta get out of here!”
“What happened now?” the goat said, as she put her guitar in her case, closed it, and put the guitar on her back.
“Complicated story,” said the banana. “Short version is: I’ve been accused of treason by the President, Cricket grew a bully in a vat that gave him a damned good whacking, and Pig shot and killed his gal pal when she tried to steal his pickles.”
“Nobody gets between me and my pickles,” the pig mewled. “Not even her. They’re my FAVORITE!”
“And you,” said the banana, “are obviously practicing the oldest profession with this john here.”
Naturally, we were both outraged at the meaningless accusation, and I was about to say that I was not and would never be anyone’s “john”- whatever that meant. But the goat was so outraged at having her virtue insulted like that that she and the banana got into a drag down, highly profane argument right then and there, before I could get a word in edgewise.
Then I heard the sirens approach, and I had to get out of there right away. The police might not understand what was really going on there, after all, and haul me in for no good reason. They’re like that here.
I only was able to get a little bit farther when I was stopped in my tracks by someone directly in my path on the sidewalk.
The creature- as that’s the only way I can describe her- had a switchblade, with a very long blade, in her hands, and demanded I hand over any and all money I still had on my person.
She was a little human-animal hybrid thing, with human carriage and pink animal fur. The only thing she had on was a shift covering her torso that looked like it had been made out of a sack of flour, with a rope functioning as a belt around the middle.
But what stunned me the most was that she was about the same age as my little sister, Danica. Given how much putty I can be in her hands, not daring to want to harm a hair on her head, even if I wanted to, I naturally didn’t want to do the same to this fallen angel, either.
Besides, she was the one who ended up doing it to me.
She counted the bills she had shaken out of my wallet after she removed them from it by force, gave it back, and then pronounced that it wasn’t “enough” for her.
“Do you know how much food costs in this dump nowadays?” she snarled at me. “This’ll barely cover the cost of one meal. Come on now, college boy. I know you got more than that. You folks are all pretty free and easy with the greenbacks. I know that if I know anything at all.”
“How did you know that I….?”
“The SHIRT, you rube!”
She stabbed me in the leg with the ‘blade, and I lost my balance and fell down directly to her eye level.
“Please!” I said, just after I yelled out painfully and unmanfully after being stabbed. “I just want to know how to get to the….”
“SHUT UP!” she thundered. “I don’t care about your life, okay? You’re the first guy who’s happened around here with a bankroll I can use today, and you better give me ALL of it!”
“But I did,” I protested. “That’s all that I….”
Then suddenly, without warning, she stabbed me as hard in my stomach as she had in the leg, and I blacked out….
“Dinny! Are you awake? DINNY!”
I was in a hospital room. Sawyer was there, as she had spoken, and it was a combination of relief and pain I saw on her face. As was Danica, with the glaring face both she uses when she’s mad at me peaking beneath her ever-present backwards baseball cap. So obviously I had been cut deep by that blade-wielding kid. Why else would I be lying down like this, in pain, and not of my own accord?
“What happened?” I asked. “All I was trying to do was get to the Scheimer Library and get the script for Of Thee I Sing. Is that so wrong?”
“You got rolled, bro,” Danica said. “Sawyer saw ya lying in the gutter and gave me a call to come here when she got ya here. ‘Cause you got my phone number in your pocket, silly,” she added, when I attempted to ask how that happened. “Like you always do, Din. You’re pretty bright about your schoolwork and other stuff you can control, but you beta-blocked yourself out of a lot of real life doing that. You should have had me go with you, ‘cause I would have rolled that punk that rolled you before you could even think I could. Remember that- if ya can!”
“Why in the big wide world would you go into a place like that without friends to help you, Dinny?” Sawyer added. “Funkytown eats people like you alive every day!”
“Funkytown?” I said.
“That’s what they call that place,” Sawyer continued. “The meanest and roughest part of Gennett, and therefore, the meanest and roughest part of Anthropomorph itself. What in the world were you thinking? You’re usually much more sensible about these things, Din.”
“I was thinking about getting my assignment done, because I was going to flunk out of JKC if I didn’t,” I said. “That’s reason enough, isn’t it?”
“Not when you risk your life just being there after the sun goes down.”
“How would you know about….?”
“Dinsdale, I grew up there. Not too far away from the corner where you got mugged. It was pure chance that I happened to be around looking in on an old relative and saw you with that horrible ink leaking out of your body. If you’d been cut in the wrong spit, it would have all poured out of you like the Johnstown Flood, and you’d be dead. Trust me. I’ve seen worse.”
“And that’s why you punch and kick so good,” I mused.
“Right. And sing. And act. You know. Anything that doesn’t involve sex or death to survive. I’m surprised you didn’t look me up before you went up there.”
“I didn’t know….” I admitted.
“There’s a lot you still don’t,” Danica interjected. “Good thing we’re here to square things and help you out when that cigar blows up in your face, huh?”
“Yeah,” I said.
Then I started panicking suddenly.
“How long have I been out?” I blurted. “I must have missed my deadline for…”
“No worries,” said Danica. “Once we told your prof about what had happened, she was broken up. She and your counselor friend, who was also shaken up a bit, are trying to get you an exception with the Board so that they can accept the paper you did on Hamlet for your course.”
“But there’s no guarantee for that,” Sawyer said. “Here.”
She put a book on my bedside table. Five Plays By Kaufman and Hart, published by the Modern Library.
“You also could have told me about how you dig George S. like I do,” she said. “Then I could have helped you there, too. I did my paper on The Man Who Came To Dinner, so avoid that. You could do yours on You Can’t Take It With You or Stage Door. It’s not Of Thee I Sing, I know that much. But, if you can understand what’s going on well enough to critique it like you apparently did Hamlet, you have a very bright future, Dinsdale. Danica and I both know that, and that’s why we care enough about you to help you. And, in my case, to love you in a deeper way when we’re both ready for it.”
“I couldn’t imagine life without you, bro,” the usually taciturn Danica said in a sob-choked voice. “Don’t ever scare us both like that ever again. Confide in us the same way ya do your counselor pal. She’s not always going to be available for ya, especially after ya graduate.”
“But we will,” Sawyer added. “Always.”
At which point, the Doc ushered them from the room, and gave me a small dosage of morphine designed to help me sleep and recover my strength.
I did that. And, while I did, I felt better and more secure in my life than I had ever been before.
This story originally appeared in Original to this site.