Gilchrist: Murphy, the millionaire’s dog
Ryan Summerlin September 12, 2012
There we were last autumn, amidst the hopeless squalor of Three Peaks in Silverthorne with our Parade of Homes tickets in hand, wondering what the owner had been thinking when he commissioned this strange room. “It’s an oddly shaped bedroom,” A young woman observed. A tour patron explained, “Oh, this is not a bedroom. It’s a closet. There are 11 such closets.” A moment of silence and then one of my fellow peasants said to his wife, “My life is a pile of crap.”I don’t attend the Summit County Parade of Homes every year just to view innovation in design and architecture – although there are marvels to behold. Nope. I go to enjoy the spectacle of people ogling other people’s stuff and to eavesdrop on the things they say to one another on the tour. My notes from last fall revealed this sampling of your comments:On wine cellars: “Let’s just call wine cellars what they are – the room where Mommy goes to get drunk.”On family photos displayed by homeowners, “Oh, look, there is a picture of the wedding party. And there’s the mother of the goon.”On married couples arguing in the driveway: “Honey, I would rather watch a dog pee than walk through another house. I’m going home to see the game.”The crown jewel of last year’s tour reportedly cost around nine million to renovate to suit the unique needs of the family. A volunteer told us that the owners had splashed out an additional two million on interior design. Everyone who bought a Parade of Homes ticket wanted to see this house. Hordes of people clamored to get through the front door and cars were parked at crazy angles all over the residential streets of Three Peaks. The jewel did not disappoint. It glimmered with astonishing opulence. Every surface was gilded and shone with an exotic finish. One room was barnacled in back-lit agate that had been tenderly quarried by virgins in Knossos, and then swaddled in cashmere and shipped from Crete in its own stateroom on a luxury liner.A tour patron said, “It looks like Liberace exploded in here.”Everyone had an opinion. But everyone seemed to love the millionaire’s dog.The Labrador retriever waggled through the mobs, greeting each person with a nudge and slobber. What a great mascot for this home! The lab’s nose was coned in soil from digging in the garden and his mud-caked nails clicked on the marble floors. He was exactly the sort of dog we had at home, a good ol’ boy who didn’t mind getting dirty once in a while. Suddenly, we liked the owner of this palatial spread a little bit more. Maybe, the rich weren’t so different, after all.Meanwhile, the crowds grew and grew until the rooms became claustrophobic. A frail looking couple in their early nineties sat wearily at the owner’s table. The wife pulled a Tupperware container of cheese sandwiches from her purse. She gave her husband half of a cheese sandwich, nibbled a bit herself and then gazed down at the Lab who sat at her knee, begging. “There’s a good puppy,” she said and fed the dog half of her portion. “You shouldn’t feed him cheese,” the husband admonished, “Some dogs get the winds when they eat cheese.”The dog yawned and dragged his masculine undercarriage over the silk fabric of the designer sofa. Turning a few circles, he snagged the delicate weave with his long nails and then collapsed. He rested his head on a tasseled pillow. Snoring like a buffalo, he then began to drool. And because the old man had been correct about Labs and cheese, the sleeping dog loosed a concerto of extravagant flatulence, while the public held their noses and ran laughing from the room.”He reminds me of you, Bob.” The elderly woman said to her husband.A commotion arose. A harried young man in torn jeans and manure-streaked boots dashed in through the French doors, “Murphy! There you are Murphy. What the hell are you doing up here?””You mean that dog doesn’t live here?”The young man reached for Murphy’s collar and yanked him off the sofa, “Nah, I muck out the stables across the way. One minute the dog is there behind me. Next minute, Murphy’s slipping off to hang out with the millionaires. Well, he might spend an hour here, but he’s not one of them and chances are good he never will be. We’re both living out of my Honda Civic right now until we can afford to rent a place. C’mon, Murphy.”The elderly woman slipped her empty Tupperware container into her purse. “It’s a shame when a good dog suffers from delusions of grandeur.”Micaela Gilchrist’s novels are published by Simon & Schuster and by Scribner. She lives in Summit County. Email her at MicaelaMGilchrist@comcast.net .