“Give me permission to take the dog on top of the gazebo, Maman,” the son wept, akimbo, with whiskey soup in his heart. “He is in no shape for the future. His now is dust.”

“And,” inquired Maman, “what are your intentions with him on top of the gazebo?”

“To lift him up, in my arms, and to hurl him to the ground. Listen to him wheeze. Watch him, our sedentary hound, lounge, against his nature, in pain. If I were situated as he, I would expect you to do to me what I am asking you to let me do to him now.”

“And,” inquired Maman, “what if he just breaks some bones? What if he lays there, broken, still wheezing, suffering more than before you so heroically hurled him from the gazebo?”

“I will put my boot on his throat until it snaps.”

“And,” inquired Maman, “who will bury him? My shoveling shoulder is in no condition for a burial. And you, son, look at your knees. They are weak with drink. Can you stand long enough to shovel? Are your hands sturdy enough for the job?”

“I’ll have you know that they are. I’ll have you know that my shoveling prowess is emboldened by drink. Just wait, Maman. When you die, I will draw deep from bottles and I will shovel madly—day and night if necessary. But tell me, Maman, how deep will you have me dig? Twice as deep as I’ll dig for this dog? Where I will call on no one, not one man with a shovel to help me along, either. Where the mounting soil on your casket will throng a sense of pride into you that life and an open atmosphere has never allowed you to possess, with any sense of freedom, in me.”

“And,” inquired Maman, “As I lay dead—dead as you’ll have this dog, if I allow it to die—what will you be left with? Buried, as I’ll be, what shoveling will you have to pine for? You will be as dead as I—as this dog—shovel-lorn, shaking and jaundiced from the very poison that encouraged this madness.”

“A madness, you will note, Maman, that has drawn us into the lengthiest intercourse we have had since this dog divided us. Recall another day. A dogless day—not of the future, but the twelve-years past. I had no wine. The matter of the shovel, though creeping nigh, had yet been breached. And where were we? Exercising pleasantries about the passage of the common time between us. This house, that gazebo, they were ours, and we stained the continuum in them. Near them. But then there was barking, Maman. Howling. And how horrible it was. How could I close my ears to such noise without a steady go at the snifters? And could your voice not be cut out in the course of such things? How could it get to me?”

“And,” inquired Maman, “who begged for that beast? Who begged to introduce that animal into our peace—to cut the bond of our stain on the continuum? You demanded a triad. But we could never fuse, could we? And where three could not fuse into one, two, all ready bonded, were torn—where they, now apart, were tormented by the incessant howling of an alien entity introduced into an environment that it was never meant to join.”

“Then let me splatter my mistake at the foot of the gazebo! Let me silence the howling! What will I have to drown out when it stops? Where you and I will be as we were twelve-years past! Bonded! Where I can be clean!”

“And,” inquired Maman, “will these twelve-years past not stain the present? Will they not have stained our future? Will those twelve-years not weigh as heavily on us as the earth you will shovel on my corpse?”

“Then forget the shoveling, Maman. But don’t let us forget our bond. And don’t let us forget our division. Come with me. Come with that dog, to the roof of the gazebo. We’ll link our hands with the paws of that poor, wheezing animal. And, as three, with the purpose of one—never achieved in the twelve-years past—we’ll leap. We’ll leap. And finally, splattered at the foot of the gazebo, the howling will cease.”

“And,” inquired Maman, “what if we don’t splatter? What if we just twitch at the foot of the gazebo?”

“Then we will twitch as one. We’ll twitch, and we’ll howl.”

“And,” inquired Maman, “what will become of our stain?”

“Its form, Maman, will take its shape.”

Maman nodded in the affirmative. The three of them took to the gazebo’s top, their hands and paws linked. There was a step backward, preceding a rush forward, but where the dog and the son went over the edge, Maman withdrew her hands and watched them splatter.

She came off of the gazebo, and while her shoveling shoulders ached, she went into the shed to collect her spade.


Chris Dire is a neophyte, so far as words are concerned, though on a fluke, at least a decade ago, he had a few of his words printed in a journal at The Community College of Aurora, and maybe a year later, in The Copper Nickel, a publication put out by The University of Colorado at Denver.