Sunday, November 10, 2013

Conversations with Arrow

So Arrow and I go for a walk every day. It’s good for both of us—reduces both of our broad mid-drifts and gives us both some fresh air. For my part, there is lots of deep breathing.  And not just because I’m walking fast either.

It’s because the alternative involves shouting at the dog and I don’t want to do that.

No. That’s not true. I do. But it won’t help.

Well, that’s not true either.

It will help me.

But it won’t help Arrow.  

So instead I have conversations with him in which I get to be the reasonable human being who wants one thing and one thing only: To walk side by side with my dog. Quiet companions who are contented to enjoy the dance of sun and shadows on a lonely stretch of road, listen to the skitters in the surrounding woods,  and watch  the occasional turtle easing its way across the road one silent, unhurried step after another.

What I get instead is to be the helium balloon bouncing along at the other end of the lead while Arrow half-jogs, nose to the ground, tail wagging madly as he—in his mind—pursues whatever creature who was foolish enough to leave a trail. This is when the conversation takes place.  

I throw on the brakes. “Arrow? Where are you supposed to be?”

Pauses. Glances around. Glances back at the empty spot beside me. “Uhhh. There.”

“Okay. Then WHY aren't you there?”

“Because here is rabbits. And squirrels. And---“sniffs air—“Rottweiler.”

“You can smell them from here too.”

“Yes. Can. From here.”

I remind myself that I’m talking to a simplistic creature and point to the space he’s supposed to be filling. “I mean there.”

“No. Can’t.”

“Why not?”

Pauses. Seems to weigh the consequences of honesty. Shrugs (yes. Dogs do so shrug). “You talk too much.”

“I do not! And I wouldn’t talk at all if you’d just walk beside me. And what’s that all got to do with smelling anyway?”

“Can’t listen and smell. Too much.”

“So don’t smell. You can do that later.”

“Smelling better. Is rabbits. And squirrels. And (sniffs the air) Rottweiler.”

“You know, I don’t ask much out of you. Just a simple, peaceful walk with my friend.”

“I like walks.”

“I know you do.”

“You good friend.”

Moved beyond words for a second, I finally manage a “Thanks Arrow.”

“Yes. Walk more now? Friend?’

“Sure, buddy. Just walk at my side for a while, okay?”

“Kay. Quiet though.”


And we go a couple of dozen steps more and—once again—he has wandered ahead of me and is beginning to pull. His head is down, his tail is wagging. And I am once again the thing at the other end of the lead full of hot air.


Looks back at me, surprised and, if I’m not mistaken, mildly annoyed. “Yes?’

I’m out of civil words. I point to the lead and to the empty space at my side. He follows my gestures. 

Frowns. Puzzled. “What?”

“You’re doing it again.”

His look of puzzlement clears. “Oh! Here. Not there.”


“Is better here.”

“It’s not better there.”

“Right. Is better here.”

“I mean. It’s better there—I point at the spot at my side—than where you are.”

“No. Better here. Rabbit here. And squirrel.” Sniffs air. “And—

“I know. I know! Rottweiler.”

“No, Deer.” 

“Fine. Please Arrow. Walk here—I mean—there.”

“Only if you stop talking.”

“I wasn’t talking.”

“You talking right now.”

“That’s because you’re not—here.”

“Am here. Right here.”

“This is here too, damn it!”

Arrows ears perk, he tilts his head, and looks genuinely surprised. “That is here too?” It’s like I’ve just shown him a magic trick.


“I like here. I will walk here.” And he quietly returns to my side.

“Thank you.”

“Here is good. Can smell rabbits here.”

“And squirrels?”

“Shshsh. No talking.”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Final Days

The semester came to a strange end--with me tagging along with Jeremiah on his last day at his own campus and then driving me to mine for a final in a Critical Literature class. (By the way, any time the 23 year old whose job it is to deliver you somewhere on time tells you that he "knows a short cut" you have to acknowledge that your day took a wrong turn somewhere. And, yes, I meant every word of that pun).  I walked in to my final quite late and was braced for the professor (a favorite) to tell me that she was sorry, but rules were rules. Instead she waved off my explanation with a chuckle and handed me the test to take. Jeremiah and I had an uneventful drive home, talking about all things small and large. I must repeat myself here: He has grown into a fine man and not only am I proud of him, I genuinely like him as a human being.  

Jeremiah graduated on Saturday. Though he rejected the idea of receiving his diploma publicly, he did celebrate with a group of fellow graduates and friends and didn't get home until after two am. As I understand it, he had a fantastic day (swimming, eating, and going to see the new Star Trek). We plan to celebrate as a family after pay day and he's happy with the idea of having yet another party.

However, as those of you who follow me on Facebook know, we lost a dear long-time member of the family on Sunday morning. I have mentioned Oscar here more than once over the last seven or eight years and by now I think you all know that:

Oscar liked bubbles, 

Puppies (the blur is Zippo, a visiting puppy),



And snuggles.  

But his favorite thing in the whole world was his boy. Nothing even approached his devotion to him.

Oscar will always be with us in spirit and in memory, I am sure of this.

 Oscar's devotion to his boy and his courage when it really mattered were why I chose to include him as one of the three "co-stars" of The Way of things. (a children's story chronicled on this blog a couple of years ago). Oscar was the Hound. It was surprisingly easy to imagine him as a "castle guard" of sorts because the dog we knew would most certainly have done exactly what the Hound did.
The Hound was deceptively fast—his cavernous jaws closing around every attacker, crushing them and moving to the next. He battled in the shadows, baying in fury and pain as he struck and was struck. His red-gold coat glowed in the dim light as though he was on fire.

Though the story will probably always remain too personal a tale for the rest of the world to truly appreciate (I really think you have to know the real dogs), it does illustrate (metaphorically of course) the hugeness of each dog's impact on our lives and how we see them. Oscar was portrayed as brave and loyal because he was both. But more than that, he never missed an opportunity to express his feelings for us. 

We should all leave such a legacy behind.


Friday, May 03, 2013

Coming Soon . . .

The END of the semester!

Sometimes I have to make priority decisions and one of them was to give blogging a brief break while I focused on my studies.

Bits and pieces of news:

1)  Oldest Son is about to graduate from college. He may finally move out and stop eating all my food. I will miss him. You will hear about this. Stock tip: Buy shares in tissue companies. It's going to be a big month for them.

2) Other sons are all brilliant. You already knew that.

3) Gary remains handsome and smart. And remarkably patient. He is not allowed to get sick again this year. Ever really.

3) I've subbed "FUM". You may have read the excerpt here. If you didn't and want to, let me know and I'll send it to you. Publishers prefer not to find bits and pieces of work they're considering publishing online. More on this as it develops. Prepare for teeth gnashing and wailing as the rejections roll in. Stock tip: Buy shares in ear plug companies.

4) I expect to have Souvenir out by early June. Some things have changed--the addition of a story and the decision not to include another.

5) I hate Spanish. Not the people. The language. Well, not that exactly either--it's really lovely. I hate ME speaking it and trying to keep up with a professor from Spain who doesn't understand that some ears (brains?) are slower than others. This is likely to be the first B on my report card since returning to college.

6)  When I go looking for an MFA program (in the fall of 2015?) I'm going to have to find one that's genre friendly. More on that later.

7) Faulkner rocks. If you haven't read anything by him then do so. There will be a test.