[lit-ideas] Hereabouts

  • From: david ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2015 10:46:41 -0800

On his last day, I was awake at five. I came downstairs and lay on the couch.
He struggled over, groaned. The tumor on his shoulder was huge. I put my hand
down, scratched behind his ears. I tried the kind of time-filling
inconsequential words you summon while waiting for a plane, or when someone is
slow to come out of the operating theatre. “Remember when,” is how that talk
begins. “Remember when I nearly fell on the granite steps? I was helping you
round? That would have been a bad one. I should have swept the leaves.” He
relaxed, gave off a gentle snore. “You do know what a great dog you’ve been?"

Mimo came up. "Haven’t seen the dog. Did he go on holiday?”
“We quite like him, you know,” Peccorino added. “Never a bother.”
Mimo had another idea, “Maybe he was promoted?”
Appenzeller pointed out that if you re-arrange the letters in “dog,” he could
be a god. Delighted with herself, she strutted about, as if she were the first
in the world to see this. “Did he join Senior Management?”
I couldn’t bring myself to say that Mac was dead. I shook my head and stared
up at the trees. There was no light on them. The day was dull and wet. What
on earth were we all doing standing out there in the rain? They chattered on,
apparently oblivious.
“We’ve noticed the cats seem discombobulated. We tried to ask them, but
they’re pretty hopeless generally…run off the minute you approach. You just
can’t chat with a cat.” Rocky tried singing the last seven words.
I said, “I’m going inside."
They tut-tutted at Rocky.
“Wrong note altogether,” said Mimo.
“In-sens-sitive,” said Pecorino.
I smiled. It’s funny when chickens tut-tut.
It occurred to me that they too were making time-filling inconsequential
conversation. Standing in the rain was their choice; they could have been
huddling under the table. “See an absence can be at least as important as a
presence,” said Appenzeller. "It reveals things about your environment.”
“Environment,” said Cheddar. It had been a long time since she’d echoed anyone.
Rocky did her best, “An absence is the sort of thing you notice."
I finally summoned words to explain that Mac has passed on, gone to join
Wensleydale and the choir eternal. I gestured towads the fresh grave. “IHe’s
over there. You were already in bed when I brought him back from the vet. You
may have heard me digging in the dark. Well, not quite dark. Dark enough for
you to be a’bed."
“Well,” said Cheddar, “...that’s good.”
“No,” I said, “it’s not."

Mac was an artist. He would be very carful about finding the right spot, way
off in the bushes, exactly where he thought the doo would do its best work. He
was shy about his process, I would look up, survey the constellations, give
him privacy; he would be claiming terrain, often in the rain.

Anger is one among the stages of grief.
I think I may take up boxing.
There are tidy sums to be made.
I’ll get boxes at Costco.
Make a start.

David Ritchie,
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