Dan Rattiner's Stories

Me & Bella: A Trip to the Bridgehampton Commons in Early June

This happened. People I’ve told it to say I should write it up for the magazine. There’s a moral here. Maybe two. So here goes.

I needed to go to the mall in Bridgehampton. And my dog loves to go for rides in my Tahoe. And so, even though it was a hot afternoon, I took her with me, driving from the house in East Hampton to the mall in Bridgehampton. My dog loves to perch on top of the backseat, where she gets a 360-degree view of everything. And so, predictably, as I turned the key in the ignition, off she went to do that. In Bridgehampton, I needed to get a hard drive at Staples. I also needed to get a microphone at Radio Shack. In both these places, you can go in with a dog. As I say, it was a hot day, although, as I sometimes do, I opened the skylight so the wind would blow through to Bella.

Arriving at the mall, I parked at the far western end by King Kullen and took my little dog (pictured below), on a leash, into Staples. People admired Bella—she’s a little rescue mix, as you see. I did what I had to do, came back out, put my purchase in the backseat and let Bella, for that is her name, hop into the passenger’s seat. Then, because it’s a longish walk and I was tired, I drove to the east end of the mall and parked in a row of cars in front of Radio Shack. Again, I took Bella in on her leash and again I came back out with my purchase in a bag.

Walking back to the car, I saw I was passing Rite Aid and thought, oh, I ought to get a quart of milk, as we are running low. I wasn’t sure if Rite Aid would let a dog in, so instead, I continued out another 100 feet to the car, clicked open the car doors with the fob, put my purchase on the floor in the front seat and let Bella hop in. This would only take a minute or two. It’s a bit of a risk to do that, but the temperature had plummeted and a wind had sprung up and I saw I’d left two windows partway open. Because there is also a water dish on the floor of the passenger’s seat, she should be fine for just a minute or two. I closed the door and clicked the car locked with my key fob.

The Rite Aid detour was indeed real quick. I was in and out in maybe three minutes. I unlocked the car with the key fob, dropped the bag with the purchases onto the passenger’s seat floor, walked around the car to the driver’s side and got in.

I had started the engine and was already into forward gear when a man sitting in a parked car in the row facing my row began to wave his arms. He was not in front of me. That space was vacant. I could move forward through it. He was in the car parked in the space next to the vacant space.

The man waving was thin, had a thick white beard, wore a wife-beater shirt and was in the passenger’s seat of that car. He shouted something I could not hear, and then, as I pressed further forward, he got out of his car and shouted so I could hear.

“Your dog is in the other car,” he shouted. “The car next to you.”

I didn’t even have to look back to know my dog was on the top of the backseat. I continued forward and this man leaped out of his car, went behind it and around and into the empty space facing me where he blocked me from going further. He then came right up to my driver’s window.

“You came out of Radio Shack and put your dog in this other car.” He pointed to this black SUV next to mine.

I turned around to look at the backseat.

No dog.

Now, from my car window, I looked into the car next to me. And there was my dog. Someone was stealing my dog, I thought. They’d leaned in the window, opened the lock to unlock the door and were preparing to make off with her.

“This is terrible,” I said.

“No,” the man said, “You did it. You came out of Radio Shack and put him in there.”

I then had a good look at the other car. It was a new Cadillac Escalade, which is the gussied-up version of my Tahoe. The interior was all leather, walnut and chrome. My dog looked at me and wagged her tail.

“This is pretty neat,” is what that meant.

Both cars were black. Anybody could make this mistake. When I unlocked my car, I hadn’t even looked closely at what I thought was my car. It was already unlocked—my key fob had done nothing.

I did not hesitate. I turned off the Tahoe, got out, opened the Escalade’s passenger door, grabbed Bella and my purchase from Radio Shack and put them in the front seat of the Tahoe.

Bella
Photo: Dan Rattiner

Then I walked with this man back to his car. I thought about all of this. I was overjoyed. I’d almost lost Bella. He’d risked his life jumping in front of my car to make sure that hadn’t happened.

“You are a gift from God,” I said. And I hugged him hard and he hugged me back. He got back in his car, an old Toyota, and grinned.

Then I noticed there were more people in this car. There was a young woman at the driver’s seat. There were two children in the back. I looked at the kids, who were about 6 and 8, and, I confess, jumped to some conclusions. But what the hell.

“Your parents are wonderful people,” I said. With that, I walked around to the driver’s side and kissed the lady in the driver’s seat on the forehead. And then I went back to my car, kissed Bella, hugged her tight, put the car in gear and, waving merrily, drove off.

This family, if that was what it was, was all waiting in that Toyota for someone else from that car who had gone into a store to get something. That is the only explanation for this. There is no explanation for the man being so alert as to notice what I had done. Amazing.

I am a Type A personality. I know what would have happened if I had driven off and, sometime nearing East Hampton, came to notice that Bella was not in the car.

I’d have had a heart attack and died.

God bless all good people, especially those who shop at the stores in the Bridgehampton Commons in Bridgehampton.

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