Archive for March 31st, 2011

My Neighbor Asked Me a Question

My neighbor asked me a question several weeks ago. He descended delicately down the hill from his front yard toward where I was standing in mine.

I looked up and he started: “Is it legal to lock children outside?”

I purposefully did not hide the look of surprise on my face, but he was stubborn in maintaining a calm and serious stare as if he had just asked how my cancer treatments were going.

I thought about dogs, wondering if he was talking about dogs, and I said, “I suppose it’s legal to leave your dogs outside as long as they’re not disturbing the peace.”

He turned and started walking back up the hill, and I heard him mutter, “No, I was talking about locking the kids outside.”

These several weeks, I have been watching his back yard for his kids, and I have not seen them locked out back there. I had not devised a plan of what to do if I did see them. For sure, it was a delicate matter. It occurred to me that I had not seen his kids at all during these several weeks. That was disturbing to think about, and it was quite sad.

My friend, Brian, adopted a dog from some hillbillies far south of town. (He called them hillbillies. I did not know that the term was still in use.) He had wanted a new companion since his Golden died a few months ago. A friend of his told him about these hillbillies. It seems that they did not know about fixing their dogs or perhaps didn’t have enough money. They had dogs here and dogs everywhere, scrounging along in almost every place you could imagine on the land around their country tenement. During times when they (the hillbillies) were too poor, they would shoot some of the dogs because they couldn’t afford to feed them. Much of the time, they simply shot the puppies soon after they arrived.

Brian thought that saving at least one of these dogs would be a wonderful way to adopt a shelter dog, one that would therefore be saved from sure death. Brian’s friend arranged the adoption for him.

Brian went down to the tenement on a Tuesday. It was 10 a.m. when he got there. He had to get out of his truck slowly and carefully with his hands partly up from his sides because the man of the tenement was walking toward Brian’s truck holding a can of Budweiser in one hand and a shotgun in the other. Brian told the man that he was there for the dog and he was careful not to say another word.

The man loosened the chain on the pole and Brian brought the dog home. I met the dog yesterday. He was the most beautiful creature with black silky fur and a wonderful golden brown swimming around his eyes and snout and marking his legs and paws perfectly. The gratitude in his eyes caused that emotion when you literally feel your heart warm, and I was grateful too. The dog was skinny like a coyote, but Brian was working on that.

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Sitting Gripped and Frozen on Red Vinyl

She sat there watching the darkness blur and taint her. Uncle Tommy had been there, but he had left, and her husband had walked out in fear. Why did Uncle Tommy leave?

She heard her name, Theresa, rapidly being repeated, almost to a shouting level in intervening instances. She was called upon to give the eleven men assurance that she was conscious, not destroyed. Her mind felt words crawling to proclaim bright living, but her mouth was frozen and felt paralyzed. Her mind was desperate and locked away in a large inferno.

Fourteen cheap chairs with red vinyl backs and seats and light aluminum legs and frames, two of them empty. The fluorescent shop lights were shut down. The only light was seeping from dinky tin fixtures with 60-watt bulbs, hanging not far below the high, industrial ceiling. The fixtures caused unusual brightness and shadow on the faces of the eleven men, to the point that there were no faces but amoebas of shapes of cheeks, foreheads, tips of noses and tops of ears, with enormous hollow holes in eye sockets, all of them pointed toward her, waiting for her affirmation, waiting to find that she had not had too much, too many of Uncle Tommy’s pills.

She was sure it was wet brain, but she was no scientist. Later, she knew her soul was trashed. Later, one man told her that after hearing her talk, he was sure that she did not have wet brain, and she spoke to herself, asking herself why they would call it wet brain if it were caused by pills rather than alcohol.

The men were nuts. They continued to repeat her name in the worst chorus of melding liquid sands blaring like French Horns at the beginning of a hunt. She could not make even a slight sound. She wanted to be alone. She wanted to be locked up forever. Maybe Uncle Tommy had medicine for this. She did not have hope, but she continued to wait patiently, dreaming of a day when she might be able to speak again.

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Gold Trails Away from Wasteland

Slowly marching up,
so far into soft gold trails.
We, relieved, home safe.
You cannot trail with anchors.
Stay in your Wasteland, sour souls.


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