Fat Dog

by Michael Adams

We called him Fat Dog. His real name was Harvey. No one outside the family knew his real name. Uncle Wallace had named him after one of his army buddies, but, according to Uncle Wallace, he started calling him Fat Dog after he observed the effects of Fat Dog’s first meal.

Uncle Wallace claimed Fat Dog was a Golden Retriever, but everyone who saw him said there was something else in him. Something else that made him so big and fat. He had the head and body shape of a Golden Retriever, and his long fur was golden all right, but Fat Dog was the size of a St. Bernard and he had this softness about him. There wasn’t a lean muscle in his body. His mouth was always open as if smiling and when he walked he sashayed his butt back and forth. This sashaying, as Uncle Wallace called it, got worse if he were excited to see someone, which was everyone, if someone had brought him food, which he always presumed, or if he were about to engage in his favorite thing–rearing up on his hind legs and with all the force of his weight channeled to his huge front paws, knocking a human being to the ground. Fat Dog was a bully. Bullying was Fat Dog’s game.

There wasn’t anyone in our rather large family that Fat Dog hadn’t “floored,” as Uncle Wallace used to chortle. “Uh, oh,” Uncle Wallace would say. “You’ve been floored.” Only the unsuspecting thought that that happy, smiling face and that sashaying hip coming at him was just the demeanor of a sweet dog. After they had been floored once, they realized that all that swaggering and sashaying was just Fat Dog loading up. Loading up his weight.

Fat Dog came into my life the day of Uncle Wallace’s funeral. It was actually the funeral for Uncle Wallace and his only son James, my cousin, both killed in a car wreck on the way to Corpus Christi to fish. He’d asked me to dog sit. It was the first time I had stayed away from home. I was twelve and three-quarters. Fat Dog was almost eight.

In some ways, Uncle Wallace was an embarrassment to the family. Living in a small farming community, everybody knew everything and everybody knew about Fat Dog. Even those who had never been inside Uncle Wallace’s house had an idea what it looked like. You see, the rumor was that Fat Dog ran things at Uncle Wallace’s.

This was true to some extent. Fat Dog went where he wanted to go and when he wanted to go, and he slept where he wanted to, usually in the middle of Uncle Wallace’s bed or on the couch, especially during the early afternoon, or on the back porch where he liked to cool his fat belly on the cement. For the most part, Uncle Wallace had given up keeping Fat Dog’s coat brushed, so one could always find a few burrs or twigs, or spots of goo here and there. Every now and then Fat Dog would hop into the river to bathe, but Fat Dog wasn’t a great swimmer, and his tendency to sink was about the only fearful moment in his life.

For a few hours after Uncle Wallace’s death, the immediate family, pondered over who would get what of Uncle Wallace’s, especially since his only child and logical heir was dead as well, but there was one thing everyone hoped that Uncle Wallace hadn’t left them–Fat Dog. “That Dog,” as Mom called him. It was in fact a question more alarming than anything that might be contained within the will. Who will have to take care of Fat Dog? Everyone in the family, my mother, who was uncle Wallace’s youngest of three sisters, and my Uncles, George and Ed, her brothers, had all made it clear that Fat Dog was not their responsibility. At that point I was not in the picture.

And then Fat Dog did something that shaped my life forever. James, Uncle Wallace’s son, was, to me, the guardian spirit of an older brother. Although he was 9 years older and lived two farms away, we saw each other weekly, fishing, hunting, swinging on grape vines, running trotlines, digging up worms, throwing rocks at snakes and spiders, even birds, and most of all, just walking the river. James had given me my first pocket knife, a two-blader with imitation ivory handle. He taught me how to lie still in the eastern meadow, trying to get the vultures to begin their ritualistic circling.

James had been married only a few weeks before his death. He had promised that he wouldn’t let marriage “change his life,” which meant I would remain in it. His bride, with the wonderfully suggestive name of Sylvia Rose, was beautiful and exotic–exotic because she came from a farm way north in the county and she was the only female I had ever seen with truly black hair. Blue-black and long, and, bangs right above her black eyebrows and alert black eyes. The family wondered why she would go for someone like James. It couldn’t have been his money since he didn’t yet have any land of his own, and he wasn’t the best-looking available young man, surely. Mother, I remember, pointed out that it could have been love, something so simple, but for some reason the rest of the family thought that unlikely. One thing for certain, she brought changes in James’ life. James built a wooden privacy fence to enclose them a back yard and it wasn’t long before, especially on Sunday afternoons, they began riding their matching Harley Davidson’s around the country roads.

Sylvia Rose, Evenin’ Rose James called her, was always kind to me. She had only been around the family for two weeks, but she tried real hard to fit in, washing the dishes after a family gathering, the first to volunteer, the last to stay behind and clean up. She willingly and dutifully remained in the kitchen after dinner while all the men took their places in the den, there among the deer heads and family photographs. She was even planning to help Mom make cakes for the upcoming church social. But then the wreck.

It was while everyone else was at the grave side that it happened. Sylvia had told everyone that she just couldn’t make it to the grave. She had always had an aversion to graveyards. Mom told me to stay home to take care of her. I knew she meant to keep an eye of Fat Dog. Keep an eye on “That” she emphasized.

I don’t remember exactly how we got back into the bedroom, but there we were. It smelled of James and fresh boot wax. Sylvia had taken down her black hair and was dressed only in black slip and stockings. Her eyes were red and wet from crying. After all these years I can still feel the presence of carnality inside me. It was intense. It was my first.

She asked me to lie down beside her. And I did. Then she wanted me to hug her. From behind. She pushed herself way into me and took my hand and pulled it onto her stomach. She rubbed it very gently. I became intoxicated, totally in her power.

It wasn’t long before she pulled my hand up to her breasts and massaged herself with my hand. And then she brushed her blue-black hair out of the way, and turned, and began kissing me softly, here and there. The scent, the slight taste of salt, the flesh, I had been entranced. I was hers. There was nothing I could do. Sudden and heavy thoughts of James came and went, beyond my will. I knew I was in the midst of sin. And in heaven.

And then, just as we were about to slip into evil, sending me forever into internal and psychological hell, the door burst open. There was Fat Dog. From his point of view, there were two human beings on his bed. And they looked like they were ready to play. They were just asking to be floored.

He hit us so hard that my head whiplashed into Sylvia’s before she flipped backwards and off the bed. Her thigh slapped into the corner of the night stand. She limped around the rest of the day. She told Mom that she had walked into the back of the kitchen table. Mother asked me if Fat Dog had behaved, and I told her he most certainly had. And there it was. Fat Dog was in my life.

Sylvia Rose went back to her family that very evening. Her abrupt departure startled everyone. Some thought it rude.

That meant that someone would have to watch Uncle Wallace’s house and his dog. I volunteered. Mom thought it was thoughtful of me. I volunteered, I would understand years later, because I had no choice. Many, many years from then, I would realize, as we all realize, that there were events in our lives that had they gone differently, we would have become a different person. I didn’t realize it then, but Fat Dog had saved my life. A very fat dog had become part of who I was to become.

“Absolutely not,” Mom said. Dad agreed. “He’s just too unruly, son, he would have our entire house torn up in a minute. You’ve seen Uncle Wallace’s. It’s just the price Fat Dog has to pay for his owner not getting him under control. The pound will find a good home for him.” “You know that’s not true, Dad. You know they will have to kill him.” “Now, son,” Mom reached out and touched me. She always did this when I was distressed. “Don’t be so dramatic. No one’s going to kill Fat Dog. It’s . . . .”

“But if no one will take him, they will kill him, and no one will take him and . . . .” And then. And then I did it. I told my first unforgivable, shameful lie ” . . . besides, I promised Uncle Wallace I’d take care of Fat Dog in case anything happened to him. I PROMISED! I PROMISED ON THE BIBLE!”

It was an elaborate story. I made it all up as I went along. Uncle Wallace and I were out running the trotlines one night. Fat Dog was on the side of the bank sniffing the air. Uncle Wallace turned to me and told me that he had something very important to ask me, one of the most important things he had ever discussed with anyone and he wouldn’t be discussing it with anyone except for the fact that I was now old enough to be trusted with such adult matters and do such manly things like swear on the Bible that I would take care of his dog if something happened to him.

I don’t know to this day if my mother and father suspected I was lying. They certainly didn’t let on. Mom’s only response was “Well, you’re just a boy and Wallace shouldn’t have been asking you such things.” Dad said “It might be a lesson in life, Son. Some promises you just can’t keep.”

Since lying didn’t work, I went into, quite instinctively, my next gear–temper tantrum. I can’t remember exactly what I did and said. It was all dramatic. I do remember that amidst all the throwing things, and yelling and stomping and waving, I said something about God, Jesus, the Bible, and family loyalty, and violation of a promise somehow entangled with the survival of my very soul. I slammed the door and walked out into the south pasture where I was determined to stay the night. I had taken Fat Dog with me, but he wasn’t accustomed to staying outdoors, so he found his way back to Uncle Wallace’s front porch. Mom had pinned a note on the screen door. “We’ll talk more tomorrow. Love, Mom.”

Perhaps it was Mom’s weakness for sentimental displays like mine, perhaps it was out of respect for her brother, but the next morning I got the agreement. Fat Dog would get a week’s tryout. If he were not perfectly behaved, perfectly obedient, perfectly controllable and, most important if he had not learned to stop flooring people, then he would have to go. It was her one and only offer. I took it with great glee. And then she added the unreachable condition–Fat Dog had to live outside.

Fat Dog failed the test only thirty minutes after sunset. He stood at the door to the front porch and howled. A huge, forlorn howl that sent shivers over my sister’s skin–or so she claimed. Dad whipped him with a belt and came back in, but soon Fat Dog was back at it. Then Dad took him to the barn and tied him up. The barn became a huge megaphone out of which came the most forlorn of howls, “like the voice of some underground god” my sister said. She had been studying Greek mythology. And like an angry god, Fat Dog would not let up. And Dad would not let me go to him. He had to “howl himself out,” Dad, said. I knew Dad had underestimated Fat Dog. Hour after hour he kept at it. It was somewhere after midnight that Dad told me to go shut him up or he was taking him away first thing in the morning. That night I slept in the barn with Fat Dog. Every few minutes I bribed him with pieces from Mom’s coffee cake I had stolen from the kitchen counter.

After three days and nights of training and sleeping in the barn with Fat Dog, my eyes became dark and encircled. I was losing weight and sleep. Good thing it was summer, Mom had said. Fat Dog had learned only one thing. How to offer his paw to shake. Of course, he expected an immediate treat, a piece of the beef jerky I kept stashed high in the hay loft.

It was about day four that Mother said we’d have a one-night experiment. Fat Dog could stay on the front porch, but he could not get on the old couch that she kept covered with Mexican blankets. “This is absolutely the last chance.”

Fat Dog did well until about an hour into his sleep. And then it began. Something he had not done in the barn, perhaps because outside he remained alert for sounds all night. He began to snore. It began as a kind of guttural groan, but then it rose—and rose–and rose. And then it transformed into the most discordant explosion of snorting and wheezing, sequenceless and rambunctious. And then a sudden crescendo that would literally make you jump. My sister, Anna was her real name but we called her Sister, shouted “Shut that dog up!” Mom came out and warned me that it was “barn time” if he kept it up. A little later it was barn-time for me and Fat Dog.

The next day Dad issued the last ultimatum–one more day. That night I laid out blankets and pillows, and several of Fat Dog’s favorite toys–deflated inner tube, gnawed soft ball, what remained of one of Uncle Wallace’s boots. Fat Dog had been given several balls, but he didn’t go for them. He didn’t go for anything. Fetch was something humans were supposed to do for him.

I lectured Fat Dog that night. I had decided I would sleep by him and the moment he began snoring I’d slap him awake. It would be hard on me, but small sacrifice for someone who had sworn on the Holy Bible that he would take care of this misunderstood creature.

I don’t know if Fat Dog snored that night. I was so exhausted that I fell into a deep sleep–only to be awakened by an explosion. My heart beating, I shot up from the couch. The evidence was before me. The entire screen door was missing. It had been floored. Fat Dog was wandering out in the yard, taking a pee.

The mistake I had made was putting the latch on the door. Otherwise Fat Dog could have pushed himself on outside. But Fat Dog didn’t have any patience for latches. Dad stood within the hollow space and stared into the yard. “That’s it,” he said.

I spent the rest of the night trying to figure out how I could change their minds. Other lies came to me. For some reason the one that kept returning was that Uncle Wallace and I had actually cut our wrists and become blood brothers the night we swore on the Holy Bible.

Years later I would see that Fat Dog lived under the guidance of Sirius, the dog star, who must have helped him in his life. To think that he needed help from something so mortal as I.

Fat Dog, Dad said, had no one to blame but himself. He had created his own destiny. Life was not always easy. Some stranger was due to arrive in a few days to pick up Fat Dog. I was to prepare myself. And then Mom’s two spinster sisters, Aunt Patty and Aunt Patsy, arrived. Dad called them Cow Patty and Cow Pie. He referred to them both as the Cow Pies. He had long hated them both.

Mother always defended them in her polite kind of way, but she didn’t care much for them either. Uncle Wallace had stopped seeing them years ago. Dad said that it was a good thing they were out of the country when it happened because Wallace would have been furious if they actually insulted him by attending his funeral.

Uncle Wallace’s problem with them was the same as Dad’s. They had inherited, from a distant aunt, a large farm around Taylor. Very black, rich soil. They had become very prosperous. And in Uncle Wallace’s words “too damn good for the real world.”

Dad knew very well that they thought their young sister had married poor and unwisely. They were not very subtle women. Before Mom and Dad’s marriage, they offered Mom some river-bottom land if only she would reconsider and think seriously about an alternative, like the Gilbert’s son who had been Dad’s rival.

The worst insult came years later when the Cow Patties offered Dad the same river-bottom land, if he and Mom would move to it, leaving behind the “shackiness.” It came with a large, white house.

Uncle Wallace told me that Dad was so angry that he rewired a quarter mile of fence that day. He worked late into the night.

They weren’t twins, but they looked alike. And they each wore glasses framed with pointed wings. They were tall and skinny, and they sat on the couch like two Siamese cats. Their knees were always firmly pressed together. They wore new black dresses, all the way from New York, and their hair was neatly shaped and fixed–by a male beautician down in Austin. After, at Mom’s instruction, Sister and I shook their hands, we stood behind Mom’s rocker. Dad was under the house working on the plumbing. He yelled hello up at them.

The day the Cow Patties arrived, I had pretty much resigned myself to Fat Dog’s departure. I had considered running away with him, but I exercised a rare moment of common sense–a common sense that put me in fatiguing sadness. Now I know I was fretting over nothing. Sirius wouldn’t let Fat Dog down.

The sisters had come in from Houston. They were sorry they couldn’t make the funeral but they were on cruise in Greece. They brought Mom a cluster of purple glass gapes with a real wooden stem. Nothing for Dad.

Sister didn’t know how they got onto the conversation, but somehow it got onto Fat Dog. Aunt Patty said that that dog should be taken out and shot–he wasn’t good for anything except eating up money. Only a fool would keep such a dog. And most certainly he couldn’t stay with us. What a laughing stock that would make us.

That was it. Fat Dog was now safe for the rest of his life. Mom’s sisters had thrown down the gauntlet and Dad had picked it up. Fat Dog now became a matter of principle, a symbol of some kind. Through Fat Dog he would defy them. And perhaps they would never return to visit as long as Fat Dog was there. And just in case Dad had any second-thoughts, Fat Dog went right to work.

It was during a small break in the conversation. The two sisters had set their glasses on the coffee table so that they could read the guest names at Uncle Wallace and James’s funeral. Then they moved into the kitchen for a moment so that Mom could show them the scrapbook that Uncle Wallace had kept–old pictures of their parents. While they were gone, Fat Dog struck.

We’re not sure how he got into the house. Most likely, the front door didn’t close all the way. It didn’t matter. When the Cow Patties returned they found their purses ripped, their glasses and frames gnawed into bits and scraps.

That was the last straw. That just proved their point. Mom apologized. She said we were just keeping the dog until we could find a good home. Patty said they would never find a good home for such a beast. Best of all, they couldn’t stay the night. They would have to immediately drive back to Houston. All that remained to help them see was a pair of wrong-prescription sun glasses Patty kept in the car. They would need to get back home before the sun set. And Patsy made it clear. They would never return to our house as long as that beast was there. That’s all Dad needed to hear. Fat Dog had found himself a home.

Dad was still firm with me and he had his conditions and he made it clear I would have to work on getting Fat Dog under control. He would talk to the vet about his snoring. But Fat Dog was mine. Mom said the first order of business was a sure-fire diet.

Fat Dog came into Uncle Wallace’s life on a Sunday evening, just after sunset. Uncle Wallace was on his tractor, plowing up the summer stubble, when he saw a car stop along the side of the old farm-to-market road 272, just past the Maxdell bridge. It was rarely used these days. The car slowed down. A back door opened up. Someone pitched something out, the door shut, and the car sped away. That something was Fat Dog.

Uncle Wallace finished the last six rows and then went over to see what they had thrown out. And there he was. A small puppy, barely a few weeks old. He was whining, Uncle Wallace told us, and sniffing the air as if searching.

Uncle Wallace named him after a man called Harvey he knew in the war. Harvey’s family bred and sold dogs. Harvey was crazy about dogs. He and Uncle Wallace went through “ever-loving, bloody hell” in France. Harvey didn’t die in the war. He caught some virus on the ship on the way back and died. But all he talked about was his dogs. How much he was looking forward to getting back and seeing them. Uncle Wallace had always been a bit sentimental, even more so than Mom. Perhaps the abandoned dog triggered the memory of his dying friend and led him to christen him and keep him.

The first story we ever heard about Fat Dog, and heard repeated many times afterwards, began the very night Uncle Wallace took Fat Dog home. It always made Sister cry. For the next month, every single night, after his evening meal, Fat Dog, or Harvey as he was called in those days, walked out of Uncle Wallace’s yard and across the field and under the fence and he lay down exactly in the spot where he had been tossed. And there he slept all night. A couple of times Uncle Wallace stayed with him a while and tried to coax him back with food, but there Harvey needed to stay and there he would stay. His hard head showing even in those puppy days. He repeated his odyssey night after night, without exception. It would be many months before Fat Dog gave up.

I told Sylvia that story. She said something like “Oh that’s so touching,” and she reached out and touched me. We were sitting on the couch together. The house was silent except for the ticking of Uncle Wallace’s grandfather clock. She took my hand and held it. Then she placed both her hands around mine and held it on her knees. I could feel the stockings against my skin. As she spoke softly she rubbed my hand back and forth over her knees and ever so slightly up her thigh, in a kind of sorrowful, rhythm. At one point her knees opened slightly and she kept rocking. Streaks of black mascara dropped down from the outside corner of each eye.

When Fat Dog died, four years later, I got a card from Sylvia. She had written “I know how special he was to you. Be strong, Love you, Sylvia.” It was a mystery how she found out. The envelope was marked Boulder, Colorado. I know she must think of us from time to time. I’m sure I’m as much a part of her memory as she is of mine.

To Mom’s delight and Dad’s relief, Fat Dog finally realized that compromise of a small sort was required if he were to find any peace from the shouts and slaps. In a very general sense, he was under control. He no longer took food off the dinner table, ate shoes, stuck his head up Mom’s skirts, dragged her panties out into the living room floor for desert. I kept him clean and brushed and beside me always. For some reason even his snoring got better. Or else we all became accustomed to it. We knew we were a poor family. Dad’s pride became our own.

But the one thing Fat Dog couldn’t seem to get the hang of was why human beings didn’t like to be floored. He wouldn’t mind if they tried it with him. It was just part of what it meant to be alive. To floor people was his insatiable desire. When anyone came to our house and approached the door, whoever was closest headed for the leash.

During that fall, Fat Dog and I made the headlines of The Florence Gazette. I had taken him to the junior high football game. It was a lovely fall day. There were only 100 students in our junior high, so there were barely enough for a football team. Eighteen, counting the coach’s son who was below the minimum weight requirement. Kempner’s junior high was not much larger. They had only fourteen players. There had even been talk about returning to 6-man football.

The game had barely started and I knew right away that Fat Dog knew that this was his kind of game. He stood at the fence, near the gate. His eyes surveillant and eager.

I had agreed to meet Tracy Lowry, one of the three cheerleaders. We had talked about dogs at school and she wanted to meet Fat Dog. She had seen him from a distance, but she wanted to meet him. Her parents would not let her have a dog. Fat Dog, I learned, was proving more valuable as the months went by. Tracy was beautiful, frail, almost waif like. With her skinny legs, it was a wonder that she could jump at all. But she had spring and pep and an eagerness about her that lured me. She was taking a break from her cheering to talk with me. Her hair was wild with the wind. Her face was flush with the six cartwheels she had just performed. I was watching her brush off some grass from her knees when the leash went out of my hand. Fat Dog was off.

He knocked down several people on his way to the open gate, and, suddenly, like an apparition, there he was–on the playing field of life.

The first boy he pushed over was the offensive end. Then he went for the quarterback. A guard and tackle tried to shoo him away, but both ended up flat on their backs. One was knocked out of breath so badly, he lay there as if dead. One of the officials waved a flag at Fat Dog, for what earthly reason to this day I do not know, but Fat Dog thought it was part of the sport, and off the official went running, but when Fat Dog was playing his game, nobody got away. Down went the official, face down. For a moment Fat Dog stood with front paws on top of him, his eyes full of spirit, searching for his next victim.

I eventually got to Fat Dog. I pretended to hit him hard, and I shouted “bad boy” several times, but he knew that that was part of my game.

As I led him away, I looked back. There they lay scattered, like dead and wounded soldiers on a battlefield, and there we went, off the field and into infamy and onto the front page of The Florence Gazette: Fat Dog Defeats Entire Team. Fat Dog and I posed outside the stadium for the photograph. Fat Dog seemed to be smiling, slobbering actually, his eyes were shut as if laughing. I, skinny, in sleeveless muscle shirt, stood smiling proudly. “Goofy” my sister called it.

It’s funny now, but I only remember in my later days how Mom reacted. Dad said that he had warned me about something like that and that I could never take him to a public place again. Mom chuckled. Then Sister. Then Dad. Then I joined in. It was as if Mom’s giggle and laugh negated what Dad had just said. The very next weekend we were all at a county picnic and Dad said not a word. Mom had whispered to me to make sure I held the leash tight.

Mom was on her death bed about ten years later. Fat Dog was long gone. Sister was on one side of the bed, I was on the other. Dad was over in the corner, slunk in, with his legs straight out. He was taking it all very hard. All day he had been going to his room and shutting the door.

Mom smiled up at us that night. And out of the blue she said. “Remember that crazy Fat Dog? Remember what he did on that football field?”

It was Sister’s time to chuckle first, then mine. It took a while, but Dad joined in. I’ve always wondered if the memory just appeared to Mom or whether she deliberately recalled it in order to cheer us up. “We’ve had some good times,” she said. “Don’t be so sad. Jesus is waiting for me. I’m not scared.” She asked Sister to read her a psalm from the Bible. I cannot remember which one.

Fat Dog died four years after he first came into our house. He’d been suffering from cancer for about three months. It had been a rainy night. Stormy, with fierce winds and hard rain. Fat Dog had spent most of the evening by the front door, as he had been doing lately.

He now had his own way to get out the back door–a huge dog door I had built. Mom said I might as well just leave the door open all the time. We don’t know what time during the night he went out. Mom thought she heard him stirring and walking through the house in the blue of morning.

I can still remember the smell of the frying bacon. Mom was wiggling my toes. “Fat Dog’s gone out and hadn’t come back,” she said.

Sister and Dad were already up. Dad was reading the paper. Sister was in her pink curlers.

I went outside and called for him. I felt a silence coming back. I put on my goulashes and walked down to the river. Mother said she had already checked the barn. When I got back, Dad suggested it–that we all get in the pickup and go looking for him. I noted at the time that it was an unusual suggestion coming from Dad, but I didn’t know why.

The pickup smelled of wet hay and grease. There in the bed was a rusted seat from a long-ago abandoned tractor and some old rope. Sister and I stood in the back with our arms pressed into the top of the cab. We stood side by side, our eyes searching up ahead. When Dad turned onto the old dirt road, I think I knew it. I knew where he was. Fat Dog had gone back to the very spot where he had been abandoned years ago—in order to die.

Dad made us wait in the truck. Mom stood on the ground with her door open, her chin resting on the bottom of the window. There was Fat Dog ahead of us–a lump along the side of the road. Dad waved his hand over the body. Then he shouted at me–to pull out the old blanket he kept behind the seat and bring it to him. I remember very little, except squinting so hard that I could barely see. I knew that it was important that I didn’t display too much emotion. I was not like my sister. Dad didn’t ask me to help him lift Fat Dog, but I could see he was straining. Rigor mortis had already set in. He was stiff. And heavy. All his alive fatness had seemed to settle. One on each side, we carried him back to the pickup. At one point, Dad stumbled and I had to pull the body closer. I felt his stiff neck bend toward the ground. Dad scooted Fat Dog’s body up below the cab window. Sister was now sitting inside the cab with Mom. Her crying was lightly rocking the truck. I chose, the now man I was, to ride in the back with Fat Dog. As Dad started the engine, a quick memory of Sylvia of the black hair darted in and out and vanished. Inwardly. I let the wind soothe me. I kept my boot toe just at the edge of the blanket.

Texas Short Stories 2, Browder Springs Books