Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Peter Pan Syndrome

Peter Jackson was my grandmother's dog. She was standing on the back porch looking in through the screen door. She was a german shepherd-something mix, with german shepherd markings, but shorter ears and a stocky chest. My grandma used to have a handyman named Peter Jackson working on the farm, and when Peter-Jackson-the-dog's mom had puppies, he named them all after himself. Most of the people who adopted Peter Jackson's brothers and sisters changed their names, but not Peter Jackson. She lives out in the barn and she doesn't like being inside, so she looks a little dusty. But right now, she just looked hungry and patient. I looked out the door at her food bowl. It was empty.

"Mom! Peter Jackson's food bowl is empty!"

"Honey, I'm right here. Don't shout. If it's empty, go fill it."

I had never filled Peter Jackson's food bowl before, and I had to think about where the food was kept. Peter Jackson saw me pick up the huge stainless steel bowl, and moved over to stand by a rubbermaid garbage can, with a plastic lid snapped on tight. I popped the lid off and the smell of fried corn hit me in the face.

Peter Jackson ate half the bowl before stopping. She burped and licked her lips, then licked my hand, then sat down and started chewing on her belley to scratch an itch. I put more food in her bowl and made sure to snap the lid back on good and tight.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Paragraphs in the style of Wally Lamb

It was so easy to drive home quickly, now that the corners had become familiar. The pebbles and sand washed into the road by the recent rains had been kicked back to the shoulders by the passing cars. My car gripped the road easily, only one hand on the wheel, the crunch of asphalt reaching my ears through the open windows. It smelled like autumn. A scent I was more than ready for after the agonizing, endless bake oven of a summer.

Then the dog came. Appeared out of nowhere. Black lab, I think, it was hard to tell, doing forty as I was. All I saw was a flash of black, easily spotted against the tan and brown foliage, sprinting towards my car. And then the barking: "wow, wow, wow, wow." Over and over, and I was racing down the county road, had started accelerating past the tiny cemetery, and here was this dog. Flashing up, barking, excited to be outside, to be alive, and chasing cars. Its favourite thing. I had seen my share of roadkill, roaring along the county roads, but never been the cause of it! I wondered, should I brake, should I accelerate, or stop the car, get out and give the dog a good shake, shouting at it, at the extreme stupidity it displayed.

Have you ever seen that movie, the one with John Travolta? Where he's babysitting Uma Thurman, what's it called, Pulp Fiction, that's it. And Uma Thurman overdoses on illegal drugs, and John Travolta has to stab her in the heart with a syringe full of adrenaline to start her heart pumping again? That's how I felt. Like someone had stuck a syringe into my arteries and mainlined 10 cc's of adrenaline straight to my heart.

And then--it was over. I was past the dog. I could see it in the rearview mirror: whole, and dancing around in the middle of the damn road, barking and jumping. Pleased with itself that it'd barked me away. I was cursing the thing under my breath, shaking from the sudden rush of emotions, more pissed off than relieved I'd missed it.

I made a mental note: From now on, Lem, keep your eyes open when you're racing down this part of the road.