A Kiss is Just a Kiss…
Or so states the line from “As Time Goes By,” the song made immortal when Dooley Wilson sang it for Ingrid Bergman in the movie Casablanca.
While a kiss might be “just a kiss,” most of the time, there are “special” kisses. I’ll bet you remember your first kiss and maybe a few others. Some kisses are so special you’ll never forget them.
When you’re writing about a kiss, you can’t just describe it and have it mean anything. No matter how great you are at describing a kiss, it has to mean something to the characters if you want it to have meaning for the readers. In other words, if a kiss is to have impact, it has to have a story.
Different Kinds of Kisses
Peck on the cheek
A kiss hello
A good-morning kiss
A good-night kiss
An I-want-you kiss
An after-the-fact kiss.
The list goes on and on. But no matter the kiss, it has to have a story. Think of some of the most famous movie kisses:
Gone With The Wind, when Rhett Butler proposed to Scarlett and kissed her while Atlanta burned in the background.
Pretty Woman, when, after proclaiming throughout the movie that she doesn’t kiss clients, Julia Roberts’ white knight finally came to get her and they kissed.
From Here to Eternity, when Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr shocked the movie-going audiences with their passionate kiss on the beach.
Casablanca, when Bogart reunited with Ingrid Bergman in his upstairs apartment.
The Princess Bride. Who can ever forget the “kiss to end all kisses.”
I was writing a scene the other night that had a kiss in it. I got to thinking about the different kinds of kisses and realized the one I was writing had no meaning. Then I thought of a story to get my point across. Of course the story was from one of the animals on our sanctuary. In order to appreciate it, though, you’ll have to get to know my dog…
I’ll start off the story by telling you flat out—if Whiskers were a human, she’d be a hermit. To call Whiskers independent would be a gross understatement. Aloof wouldn’t come close. Anti-social would be closer to the truth.
We have an animal sanctuary with forty plus animals, and twelve of them are dogs. Whiskers won’t sleep or eat with any of them. Dogs are pack animals; they’re supposed to want to live together. Not Whiskers.
We first met Whiskers when she was two months old. She was living in a drainage ditch under a little bridge. I used to joke that she was like the troll from the children’s story, Three Billy Goats Gruff.
For about a year or so she lived by herself on the street. One day she got hit by a car and couldn’t walk. We took her in and tended to her. For a month my son carried her outside every day to let her go to the bathroom. He took care of her until she was able to manage by herself again. She stayed with us after that, but it was on her terms.
She wouldn’t drink from inside the house
Wouldn’t sleep with other dogs
Wouldn’t sleep inside at night
Wouldn’t live with other dogs
Wouldn’t eat with other dogs
Wouldn’t stay in the fenced area
In return for our generosity, Whiskers appointed herself guardian of our property, about 15 acres. Every night for the past ten years, she has stayed outside, through heat, rain, cold…it didn’t matter. She has fought with, and driven off, stray dogs; chased deer; fought coyotes; and even held her ground against wild pigs, though she stopped short of fighting them.
A Crippling Event
A few months ago, while I was writing, I heard a noise outside. When I looked, I found Whiskers dragging herself toward the house. Her back legs weren’t working; she was crippled. I carried her in, and the next day we took her to the vet. He didn’t give us much hope. We kept her in the clinic for two weeks, but she still couldn’t walk. We decided to take her home.
For three more weeks we gave her pills and carried her out every day. There had been slight improvement, but not much. She still couldn’t walk ten feet without falling down. We decided we’d give it another few weeks.
The next morning around 6:30, I fed Dennis, our wild boar, fed the horse, gave Whiskers her anti-inflammatory pill and took her outside, then went to the kitchen to make coffee. When I finished my coffee I went back outside to get her—she was gone!
I looked everywhere and couldn’t find her, so I got my wife and we both looked. Then we got the tractor and drove around the property—through the woods, around the pond… She was nowhere! I got that sick feeling in my gut. Something was wrong.
We started at square one. This time I walked every inch of the property, calling her name the whole time. After almost an hour, as I was making my way around the pond for the second time, I heard a whimper. I looked but couldn’t see her. I called her name, and again I heard a tiny whimper. It was coming from the pond!
As you can see from the picture, the pond has been invaded by giant salvinia, a species of plant from South America that takes over in a matter of weeks. It is damn near impossible to get rid of.
When I got to the edge of the pond, all I could see was her nose, and, when she bobbed her head, a bit of her mouth. She went under just as I got there. I jumped in and briefly went under, all the time I worried that the giant salvinia might be much more than an invasive plant species. Images from Aliens which I had watched a few nights before came to mind. Suddenly the salvinia seemed to have “hands” or at least “grippers.”
I grabbed hold of Whiskers and tried getting to the shore. My headset fell off and submerged. My iPhone, always in my shirt pocket, went down for the third time, and I prayed that it was not the metaphorical “third time” like in the movies. All the while, Whiskers struggled to stay afloat in my arms, and I struggled to stay on my feet, as the bottom of the pond puts the definition of slippery to shame.
To top it off, I must tell you, I’m not a water person. I have no fish in my ancestry. Not anywhere. I grew up in the city, and while we had a public pool a few blocks from the house, I think it costs a dime to get in. Dimes were better spent on cigarettes in those days.
So there I was, slipping my way toward the very-steep bank, and struggling to keep Whisker’s head above water. Oh, and I wondered aloud, with more than a few curse words, why I ever wanted to live in the country.
I managed to get Whiskers to the side of the bank and push her up on it, but she kept sliding back. The floor of the pond had a steep slope and I couldn’t keep balanced. I finally found a foothold on a branch from a tree. I gave Whiskers one big push, stabilized my position, and managed to crawl out onto the ground next to her. While I lay there on the bank with Whiskers, I leaned in close and said, “You damn crazy dog. You almost killed us both.”
She let out a small whimper, and then she did something she has never done. Not once in the ten years I’ve had her—she reached up and kissed me.
That might not seem like much for you people reading this. It’s not much for any dog. But for Whiskers—it’s a lot.
Whiskers Has Never Kissed Anyone.
Not my son, when he carried her outside every day for a month after she was hit by a car.
Not my wife, when she spent days tending to Whiskers after a copperhead bit her and her face swelled until she looked as if she had a grapefruit attached to it.
Whiskers has never kissed my grandkids, my niece, or me. No one! Ever.
That kiss was magic! There’s no doubt in my mind what it was. It was a “thank-you” kiss.
The Bottom Line
If I told someone, “I got a kiss from my dog Whiskers today,” it wouldn’t mean much. But if they knew Whiskers, and what it took to get a kiss from her, it would carry a lot more weight.
So the next time you’re writing a scene with a kiss, think about Whiskers, and make that kiss magical.
PS. Now that I know what it takes to get a kiss from Whiskers…I hope I never get another.
Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. He also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.
When Giacomo isn’t writing, he’s helping his wife take care of the animals on their sanctuary. At last count they had 45 animals—11 dogs, a horse, 6 cats, and 26 pigs.
Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar, who takes walks with Giacomo every day and happens to also be his best buddy.
Visit Giacomo on his Website 🔗, Twitter 🔗, Facebook 🔗 and Goodreads 🔗 pages!
Genre: Non-Fiction, Animals
Published by: Inferno Publishing Company
Publication Date: April 2017
Number of Pages: 150
Whiskers and Bear Book Launch
Out of all the books I’ve written (almost thirty), this one is closest to my heart. For twenty-four years, my wife and I have run an animal sanctuary, providing homes for dogs, cats, pigs, horses, and even a wild boar. I don’t know how many animals we’ve had through the years in total, but at one time, we had as many as fifty-five.
A Plea For Help
I don’t often ask for help, but this is important. We have run this sanctuary for twenty-four years using our own money—no donations to speak of. The feed bill alone was more than a thousand dollars per month. And there are plenty of other bills, vets, fencing, shelter, medical supplies, and more.
In early 2015, I had two heart attacks followed by two strokes. The result was that it left me disabled. Now it is difficult to continue paying for everything.
I wrote this book in the hopes that it would sell enough to help with the funds, as all sales go to the animals. And I mean that—every penny goes to help support them—nothing for anyone else.
Whiskers and Bear were two of the best dogs in the world. They didn’t always listen or even try to listen, but they were loyal to a fault, and they were the best of friends. They hunted all of their food, and they protected our animal sanctuary with no regard for their own safety.
Check out my review HERE.
And don’t forget to enter the giveaway. Click on WHISKERS & BEAR (in the sidebar) for a chance to win.
I am offering a $20. GC, either Amazon or B&N, whichever the winner prefers. Just a suggestion….if you enter the giveaway, please consider purchasing WHISKERS & BEAR. Thank you.
Read an excerpt:
I climbed up onto the tractor, a Kubota 4630, with a six-foot bucket on the front. It was a powerful machine, and we’d put it through the hoops more than a few times. What I mean is that my wife Mikki and I had dug a lot of graves.
I tied an old cloth diaper around my forehead and draped the end of it over the top of my bald head. There wasn’t much better than a cotton cloth for keeping sweat out of your eyes, or the sun from burning your head. I turned the key and revved the engine. After letting it idle a moment, I lifted the bucket and drove toward the south side of the property where Mikki was waiting for me. She’d already gotten a few blankets and a clean sheet. For this one, she’d brought a pillow, too.
I reached up and wiped my eyes. I was getting damn tired of burying things.
An old white pickup crept down the gravel driveway, coming to a stop near the fence.
A neighbor leaned out and hollered. “What’s goin’ on?”
I wished he’d have kept going.
“Nothin’,” I said, but not loud enough for him to hear.
The door opened, and he stepped out and walked over to the fence, using his right hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he peered over the top rail.
“What are you doin’?”
I could see there was no getting away from it. I muttered my answer a few times so my voice wouldn’t crack when I yelled.
“Diggin’ a grave,” I hollered back.
“A grave? Which one died?”
Which one? That’s what it had come to for most of the neighbors and relatives and friends. Which one died. As if it didn’t matter. As if having forty-five animals made it easier to deal with when one of them died.
He came in through the side gate and headed in my direction. He walked slowly, which gave me time to compose myself. It’s never easy to bury a friend, but this one…this one was special.
Mikki walked over to me. “He’s just trying to help.”
I don’t need his help, I thought, but the fact of the matter was I could probably use it.
It hadn’t rained in weeks, and the damn Texas ground was as hard as concrete. Even if the tractor did cut through, it could only go so deep; we’d have hand work to do at the bottom.
Our neighbor was about twenty feet away. He took off his hat and swiped at his forehead. It was a scorcher today and had been for a month or so.
“Who was it?” he asked.
I couldn’t say, but I managed to gesture toward Mikki. She lifted the corner of the blanket so he could see.
“Oh shit!” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“Thanks,” I said.
He unbuttoned his shirt and grabbed a shovel I had leaning against a small oak tree. “Might as well get this done.”
I nodded again. He was right, of course, but I was in no hurry to put another friend in the ground. I cranked the engine up a little higher, shoved the tractor into low gear, and positioned the bucket for the first scoop of dirt. The bucket hit the ground with a metallic thud. It didn’t do much more than break the surface.
“Whew!” the neighbor said. “Going to be a long day.”
“That’s for sure.”
“How long have they been with you?” he asked.
They. I thought about what he said. I would have laughed if not for the circumstances. Everyone referred to the two of them as one. They or them. Bear and Whiskers. Whiskers and Bear. It was a cold day in July if anyone mentioned one without the other.
I handed him my bottle of water; he looked thirsty.
“They’ve been with us a long time. A damn long time.”
Excerpt from Whiskers and Bear by Giacomo Giammatteo. Copyright © 2017 by Giacomo Giammatteo. Reproduced with permission from Giacomo Giammatteo. All rights reserved.