Monday, May 31, 2010

The customer grips a foaming bud draft.

The guy on the other side of the bar, what's his name, he asks me.

Turning and swiping the bar rag across polished wood, I glance toward the end. I know who he is asking me about.

You want his name?

I see him on the train sometimes, bud draft tells me.

Well, I can introduce you.

But, then I might see him more, and I would have to say hi or whatever, he tells me.

Yup. You might see him, I agree.


He looks at his friends. He looks at me.

You know, if you do nothing, nothing will happen, I say.

What does this have to do with Lily? Nothing. I just happen to be thinking about her before and after I was interrupted by one bud draft's awkward unwillingness to be social either right then, or ever again on the train.

Today was a really tough day. Some hours were good, but mostly I was stuck in my head with thoughts that made me so frustrated and upset that I sat in the woods with the dogs and said, guys, I got a problem. Then I sat there and cried while Lily and Hershey panted, paws on either side of a tennis ball. Bandit was affectionate and sat next to me with his head turned back to look at me. The pose makes his tongue flop to the side and his eyes widen, then he leans against me for comfort.

Thank you doggies.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

She's sprawled out on the floor where the stone is cool after a 90-degree day. Lily's breath comes in shallow little puffs as she sleeps, which is nothing like the wild anxious yelping dog that sees a car and lunges with eager jaws. It's like a giant toy getting away from her.

She is like a delicate web of filaments and wire sturdy against a heavy wind but easily snapped by the slap of a hand, and crumbled to nothing if she collides with a car.

I tell myself to picture a beautiful dog without blood and broken bones. How close are the cars when they pass? A couple feet?

She sat still and just barked with energy a couple times today as a few cars escaped her. I guess something is getting through to her with my insistence that she sit and stay and hold it and I bunch up her fur in my fists.

Lots of praise and petting when she is a good girl. You rotten car chaser!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lily has been here five months since the dreary December morning when she jumped into the truck stinking like bile and mud.

Now she wrestles with Bandit, walks a wide circle around Hershey's growl, and nudges and prods Ozzy like a bird perched on the rim of mom's nest. As soon as he can get away, the pug checks the floor for cat food crumbs and the treat wedged behind a rusted baseboard.

Tonight we sat outside at a restaurant and bar and Jerry drank a margarita as the landscape lights popped on. The moon crept through tree limbs with foggy light dusting our tabletop.

I forgot to buy wine on the way here, I said.

Should have gone when I said, Jerry tells me.

But when I got home I just wanted to get the dogs out for exercise.

Lily and I down the road and back. Ozzy out to snort around and pee on my roses. Hershey grabbing for the tennis ball and chomping my thumb.

Out in the woods with my fist yanked against my ribs I curl over the pain burning my fingers. I look at the strips of blood filling snag marks in two fingers and a thumb.

Later as Jerry's ice settles in his margarita glass and someone across the patio laughs, I tap against the ripe blueberry colors setting under my thumb nail.

Could I buy a bottle of wine, I ask the waiter? I would like to have a glass here, but I would like to bring the bottle home.

He nods.

Jerry's second margarita is as shimmering and pretty as the first. Bats flap against the moon as its pale, rounding face slips higher among the tree limbs.

How much should we leave for a tip, I overhear a girl ask. From the table's overloaded appearance with stacks if discarded dishes, baskets emptied of appetizers, and drink glasses drained with sliced lime curled into the bottom, I have to guess they owe their waiter some thanks.

Four dollars, her boyfriend tells her, snapping his phone shut as he finishes with his tip calculator.

Jerry leans forward, fingers around his glass, with a comment brewing.

Did you have a question about the wine, a different waiter asks.

I was hoping to buy a glass, but also take the bottle home.

Oh. OK.

He leaves and heads toward the bartender.

The warm air is dressed with scents of things in bloom. Peonies, wild daisies, tea roses, and a fading honeysuckle linger. Woven into the breeze are suggestions of flowers propped on stems bending downward with sunset. Jerry's motorcycle sits in the corner with the handlebars twisted to the side. Minutes ago his speaker shook with David Alan Coe.

Hi. You had a question about wine?

Yes, I say to a third new face.

I was hoping to buy a bottle.

Well, I would have to pour at least 5 ounces, he said. (I think) I could do that and record it.

That's exactly what I want! Please, pour me a glass!

Jerry adds: That's what we were hoping to do. Could you pour her a glass and we'll take the bottle home.

Sure, the waiter said.

I would like the Merlot, I say.

A minute later Jerry is looking over my shoulder. He tells me that the waiter is climbing the bar. He is climbing it and reaching for the wine.

Then he pops up next to the table and pours.

Why was that so hard!

All the way home I look at the leaves and rocks and river's reflection wondering, where does all the light go? Where does it go after my eyes are done with it?

At home with the dogs fed and laundry going, Lily comes to sit under the computer desk where she often sleeps to my clacking keys.

I remember a trip to New York state sitting outside a general store/gas stop/ ice cream shoppe where I saw a man and a child in a pick up truck. The man's posture was a body carrying a cement brick of sorrow on his shoulders. His head was bent and dipped down where he covered his face behind a hand. His child sat beside him.

What do you think is wrong, I asked Jerry.

Only one thing could do that. A woman, he said.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Like a shaken bed sheet the landscape takes her with its ripples from within reach to distances unbelievably far away. Lily is a bounding set of ears zigzagging through dips and valleys, then a speck, then gone. Then I am standing in the woods with Hershey yelping and pleading with me to throw her ball.


Bandit follows like a brick on the end of his leash. Lily!

Back home I shove Hershey inside along with the brick and run back out to yell helplessly for Lily.

I find her tennis ball all covered in spit where she dropped it.


I have to go find her! Following me to the driveway Jerry says, I have my keys.

What, I yell. I get in my truck and as I head up the road Jerry is standing with his keys in his hand.

I have no luck.

I run back into the woods where Jerry is riding the quad and looking looking looking at trees and stones and leaves and fallen branches, but no Lily.

I just can't drive Route 34, I tell him. I don't want to see her dead on the ground.

I'll go, he tells me.

No! What if she recognizes the truck and runs to you? Then she is definitely dead.

Don't you think that's a little unreasonable?


He leaves. I wander in the field behind my house and cross over a tree trunk that crashed down a couple years ago. I pass a huge stone leaning into the hillside. I could crawl beneath it like a ten, but I look at the smooth dirt underneath and wonder what sleeps there.


Old stonewalls and a shallow with smoothed stones that fills with water in the spring. A hillside where someone once plowed and harvested, but only a sea of ferns splits the soil today. It tickles my knees. Field grasses and sticks are a spongy net grabbing my shoes. Panic is getting bigger like the shadow of something looming. Lily!

I stand desperately on an outcropping of stone and whistle as long as I can hold the note. I turn my head and watch for movement. Lily!

Where does she go?

I move along an overgrown path where tractors must have dragged bundled hay and supplies and I reach another rise and another panorama filled with tangled growth.

I start home.

Ahead of me in the cage of limbs from the big fallen tree I see Lily's ears. She approaches gently and stays in the branches like she is hiding.

I go closer and she folds up in the tall grass. Did she get hit and is she hurt?

No. I think she sensed my distress and just plunked down and looked up at me.

With her red collar in my right hand I run home with her and wonder why she is wet, and where she had gone.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What do my dreams have to do with Lily? I am on the phone interviewing a teenager about some ambiguous thing that my dream won't reveal. Dreams. Sometimes you get sound or you'll see something, but most of it is just a guess like fitting puzzle pieces that maybe didn't come from the same box.

I finish my interview and a moment later I realize I am incarcerated. I asked the girl something wrong, I guess.

The color changes to hues of blue and violet purple or a deep blood red. A roommate. I sense she is a comfort rather than a danger, but she quickly tells me, stay here! She is across the hall and I see a crowd of women in jump suits pushing into a doorway. A writhing figure is prone and struggling. They all crowd until I can't see. I slip from my cell and approach but it's as if the bottom suddenly slips away and a wave hits me.

I rush back to my nice anonymous corner. Should I help? Is it stupid and none of my business? Is someone being hurt? Do I hate myself for looking away. My roommate comes back. Nothing has happened, has it?

I wake up and look for Lily.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The dogs swirled around my knees, noses all pointed toward my hands as I passed out treats piece-by-piece and dog-by-dog. Lily’s big sweeping tail knocks over salt shakers pens candles bills the pepper a tv remote and sunglasses from their spots on the coffee table and Jerry groans.
It’s all on tape and I watch the little hand-held video recorder bounce from Ozzy to Hershey to Bandit to Lily to Ozzy…I watch my fingers and rings and a bracelet enter the screen with a treat pinched in fingers that Lily bites and nibbles. My fingers, I mean.
I zoom down as Ozzy turns his snorting little pushed-in face toward me. I catch his stubby face, short legs, and curly tail and watch again as fingers enter the camera’s view and a treat disappears into his funny little mouth.
The video is two months old at least and since then things have become better and worse. Lily’s muscles and flesh have filled in and her energy is high. Bandit and Hershey are now alternately annoyed at her for bouncing around. Bandit sometimes plays with her, feet spread wide and tail going furiously as they wrestle, neither being aggressive, just twisting around with each other. Hershey, our once docile and whimpering chocolate lab has taken these opportunities to charge Lily with an angry growl, fur tufted on her spine.
She is ganging up on Lily. Ozzy snorts and looks for a sunny spot to rest and stay out of the way as a combined tumbleweed of more than 210 pounds of dog rumbles around in the basement until I go over and pinch Hershey’s ear.
Do I get angry at her? Do I praise her for leaving them alone? Maybe I just go outside…a little more…a little more….almost far enough not to care about it for a few minutes.

When I got home Monday Jerry was getting back from a walk in the woods with the dogs. Ahhh. I jogged alone all by myself without any company.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Moods have their own tides and undertow. My limbs are heavy. They're heavy. Heavier than happy and heavier than absentminded. My limbs are filled with weight from work and home and Lily and work and Lily and home and the clogged sink and the mortgage work home Lily dirty dishes.

Well, Jerry did the dishes yesterday, so the weight that starts with a wrinkle in my forehead is a few forks lighter.

I flop next to Jerry on the couch and squish into him.

What are you doing, he asks. Mumbling from his shoulder I say, I don't know.

Why are you crying? We're sitting here relaxing, he said.

I am procrastinating, I tell him.

Every spare moment is a drop of time when I might fix my life job home mood happiness and make it all better. Instead I wipe my cheeks and look at the clock thinking, I am going to end up in bed late again and the laundry isn't done and Lily's fur is stuck to everything.

Lily lunges at cars, which is another little weight that gets heavier throughout the day as I picture the many ways she can get hurt when a neighbor speeds by. A diesel trash truck whips down the road late Monday and I know he is trying to finish his day. He doesn't care or think about people or animals or anything but how soon he can finish. I yell SLOW DOWN because Lily is yanking at her leash and I am scrambling for the curb and angry that I have to worry about jogging on my own road. What does he care about my safety or Lily's? He stops and backs up his truck and the engine noise gets louder and louder.

He yells out that he was doing the speed limit. I ask him if he knows the speed limit. I ask: why do you think of us last? I start to ask something else but he is still saying something. The truck is too loud. I lean back and let him see me stare at the company name and number on his truck. We look at each other for a second. Maybe that's good enough. Maybe not.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

As if reading emails were a solution to things I would rather not think about and somehow worth the mundane "pass this along and in ten days" promises that promptly lose my attention, I read every rotten pointless word. Words that have no voice and no thought and here I am ripping through them like treasures because I don't want to think about the morning. Or the afternoon. Or anything.

I want a place to hide. Once for almost 10 months I hid in my bedroom at my parents' house and managed to avoid life until I could no longer avoid myself. Washing away grime -- who would bother showering for a day of nothing and night of nothing and nothing for conversation or company? -- I went rummaging in my mother's closet until I found a skirt and a blouse and I drove off toward the one temp agency that stuck in my mind. I had been picturing it for weeks. Dragging myself in the temp's door I sat down, scribbled the letters of my name in a weird row one after the other. It looked sort of familiar. I handed back the clipboard and accepted the first position the woman described. Was is shoveling manure pouring coffee changing bed pans hosing out the stalls stamping logos on some company's envelopes? I don't know what she said. Start Tuesday, 9 am. So I went home, returned my mother's clothes and went back to my room until Tuesday.

I feel like I am still there. Lily is great but it's really hard. So much attention. So much time. So much to squeeze between work and meetings and work again and the weekend and assignments and who the hell is stuffing so much laundry in the basket? Do 10 people suddenly live here? Tired, stressed, I sit on the couch and lean on Jerry and pass out.

My day starts with Lily overexcited and jumping and I throw a hand out and tug down on her collar. Down! It's 6:50 am and I scurry to the bathroom. Do I get in bed for 10 more minutes? Or do I admit that it's 10 minutes of nagging. You have to go to work you have to get Lily's food ready the cats are hungry Ozzy is snorting and his eyes bug because his food bowl is empty empty empty. GET UP.

I hear a driver's door slam on Jerry's work van. I flop out of bed. With tennis balls sneakers and fingers crossed I hop into the woods with Lily and Hershey. Each chomps her own tennis ball and in turns I pick them up all slick and foaming with saliva and toss them again and again and shuffle around in woods with the trees and leaves filling in.

Without a ball or stick to keep Lily's attention focused she could hear something and run off. Twice in five months a neighbor has brought her home. What a nice dog, they say. She got right in my car! Thank you.

At work in the corner away from phones and people and noise and talking talking talking in a billion directions about a billion things I try to write something and either finish or fall asleep. Up. Coffee. What am I doing? Look at everyone working and happy and some are laughing and no one looks stressed or pressured and I better get out of here by 5 to rush home and rush into the woods again and rush to my meeting later.

Maybe other people and other dogs have their routines concocted into something manageable. How nice. Really. For them.

I get home and take her for a jog. She has begun to lunge and nip at passing cars. Hmmm. Back home with the tennis balls again and now a leash for Bandit, I open the door. One ball into Lily's snapping teeth, and another to Hershey and they run in possessive little circles eyeing each other and waiting for a chance to drop their ball for me. Ozzy snorts off in whatever direction smells best and his black ears flap. Bandit yanks me along on his leash.

What a day. I hope I don't fall on my ass and end up at my meeting with dirt smears and scratches.

Lily dreams. Her feet eyes lips and nostrils twitch.

Stress eases for the day and I listen to the laundry churn around. Jerry changes TV channels upstairs. I breath for a second and check the corners. In the shadows wrapped inside blackness like a cloak, my friend Stress naps. He will leave me alone until about midnight when little reminders in the back of my head burst like popcorn: you're going to be tired go to bed who cares about your book finish your wine and go to bed.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Perfumed with sugar, the air outside a bakery is sticky like frosting. Each deep breath at the diner carries the day's orders of bacon and eggs that stick to clothing like stains.
A quick trip around my house to hunt for the rake smells like dog shit that is so intense it feels like someone yelling.

No words today, but at least Lily has started adding her part to the outdoor pen, rather than the basement floor. Thanks girly.