15 February 2008

The Event Reconstructed (Part I)

It happened sometime in summer. Well, it might have been late spring or early fall, but the weather was warm, there was grass, and it was green. It couldn't have been in winter, certainly not anytime around Christmas. Unless there had been some kind of crazily intense chinook. But we didn't get chinooks in Iron Springs, at least I don't think we did. Did we? Maybe. No, it must have been summer, late spring or early fall.

It's amazing now that I'm trying to remember this how hazy it's all become. The one thing that's totally beyond uncertainty is the creeping grasping spider hand. I can still see it clearly when I close my eyes. Although I don't know anymore if it belonged to her or to him.

I said before that Dick's fall was largely a matter of the layout of the house. (I speak of Dick's fall and not Anika's because her proper place always had been and I guess always would be at rock bottom, where all falls end.) More specifically, Dick's fall was largely a matter of the contiguity of his room to Anika's. You entered the Scholten house and immediately to your left were the family and dining rooms. In front of you was a hall. Just down the hall to the right was the master bedroom. At the far end of the hall was a bathroom. You turned left and there was the kitchen. You turned right and there were two bedrooms. These were Dick and Anika's. The remaining sisters all had their rooms downstairs.

The paterfamilias and his dam daily rose at five, so they both tended to retire no later than ten. Moreover, neither ever had problems falling asleep, and undoubtedly neither ever suffered the sort of unquiet dreams that would scare you awake in the middle of the night to the sensation of your flesh crawling for no visible reason. The kids usually were allowed to sleep until six and sometimes seven. While they tended to be herded off to bed at the same time as their parents, they--being kids, and therefore less susceptible to the siren of weariness--would usually find things to do in their bedrooms. I know all this of course not because I'm some omniscient narrator, but because I had the run of the house, and the only room from which I was barred--the master--was the only room I never wanted to enter. Usually I slept in Dick's room. (My second favorite place was Willy's.) Dick had an old brown button-back swivel chair that I had basically claimed as my own, and usually whenever he was in his room, doing homework at his desk, reading, listening to the radio, or sleeping, I was blissed out in my chair. I seem to remember it being located at the back of the room, near the dresser and the closet, a few feet from the foot of Dick's bed.

Anyway, quite often it seemed to me, Anika would sneak into Dick's room at night, quiet as a rat, and the two would hang out on his bed, read magazines or books, listen to a barely audible radio, talk. Well, Anika took care of most of the talking. Dick was a reticent boy, and, with a martyr's patience, seemed to prefer listening. By the time I entered the picture, the two had been doing this forever. That things could utterly change in one single summer night, one single night in late spring or early fall, one brown Christmas--it hardly seems possible. But I wouldn't be here talking about it if it didn't actually happen now would I?

21 January 2008

Chapter 13: Red's House

The odor of corruption is thickening. Red's been dead for almost sixteen hours now and there's only two places in the house that I can go where the smell can't reach me--and I hate both of them.

The first is the furnace area in the basement where Red had set up his grow op.

It's not the neatly organized trays of "magic" mushrooms that I mind. At least their smell is not particularly offensive, although I find them rather discomfiting to look at. It's hard to say what it is about them. It's not quite the alien smoothness of their flesh. It's not quite their phallic shape--although they do look precisely like hard-ons--the really raging hard-ons of eighteen year old drunken frat boys on Viagra. No, it's more like their aggressiveness. They look mean. And indeed, having seen Red on them I don't know how many times, I'd have to say that their meanness is not just in the eye of this easily scared beholder. Red would always tell his friends that the mushrooms are not mere fungi but alien intelligences disguised in fungal form. I half believed him to be right. But if they contain or embody an alien intelligence, it's the intelligence of an alien bully. Red would take pride in his wrestling matches with the mushrooms, but why pick a fight with a bully if you don't have to? Especially if you don't quite know what that bully is capable of doing to you--in the short run, and in the long run. No, when it comes to the mushrooms I just avert my eyes. Besides, they're high up on a table so it's hard for me to see them anyway.

What repulses me most about the furnace-room-cum-grow-op is the smell of the pot. It's a small op, mind you. Red was not out to make money. He really was in it for the spiritual gambling of the actual drug taking. Anyway he had about eight to ten big planters, each with one huge, obscenely thriving plant. Pot's a different kind of disguised alien intelligence, to be sure. But the strains Red was so keen on hybridizing were all bullies in their own way too. Even in mere close proximity, I can feel them aggressing. I don't know. It's not even that they want to beat me up. It's more like they're constantly trying to push me into doing something that I shouldn't. It's all very serpent-in-the-garden-tempting-to-forbidden knowledge... Just what kind of knowledge the drug promises to provide if you ingest it, I can't say. From the contact high I'd get every goddamn day these last six months as Red smoked himself crazy, I'd have to explain it as a kind of knowledge of consciousness. That's poorly expressed. What I mean is that it felt like I was becoming too conscious of my own existence. The fright was that maybe we earthly animals half-sleepwalk through our lives for a reason... and that if we were truly to wake up, the sheer completeness of the self-reflection would be annihilating. Is that crazy? Give me a break. I'm a dog beside myself trapped in a house with a corpse. I'm trying my best to keep it together.

The other place that the odor of Red's corruption hasn't thoroughly penetrated is his bedroom upstairs. Well, it's kind of a misnomer to call it a bedroom. There was no bed in it. No dresser either. The only furniture-like thing was Red's hammock, which hung in the middle of the room. Red had apparently slept in a hammock for the last ten years of his life. Probably one of the reasons why his wife left him last year. (In their old house, apparently, she slept in a bed upstairs and he in a hammock in the basement.) It's not the hammock that bugs me, though. It's the creepy stringed instrument hanging on the wall. Red apparently picked the thing up at his favorite "metaphysical" bookstore. The owner had had two of them. She said they belonged to a real Mongolian shaman. (Are there fake ones?) Anyway, she told Red the instrument had chosen him. (The other instrument had apparently chosen her.) Sounds kinda like a scam, yeah? Well, Red didn't think so. And once again, I half believed he was right. That instrument gives off a very strange vibe. It could be the darkness of the wood. Or the two frayed catgut strings. I don't think I heard Red pluck them more than two or three times--and each time he did so with a childish tentativeness. He was scared of it, and wasn't ashamed to say so. Yet he hung it in his room, in the place where he slept. Sometimes I think for the whole time I lived with him, he was begging the universe to find some way to snuff him out. In the end, he couldn't wait for the universe anymore. But that's an event too fresh of a story to really dwell on.

I'd give anything to be back on the Scholten farm. There were a thousand places to hide from the things you didn't want to see or smell or deal with and there were a thousand places to hide to do the things you didn't want others to see you do. Not only around the farm, but in the family house too. In the end Dick's downfall may have been a simple consequence of the house's labyrinthine layout. I guess now is the time I should be making my way to the telling of the big event.

15 January 2008

Chapter 12: Wavering/Resolution

Between the sentence previous and this one here, how much time has passed?

For the past I don't know how many hours I have been barking, crying, howling my throat into raw ribbons. Is there seriously no one among the bipedal orders outside that has heard me? No one even remotely curious as to why that normally civil and impeccably behaved dog is going crazy in the house with the jeep parked in the drive out front and the blinds of the living room window drawn? Not a sensitive soul in the whole surrounding neighborhood who can feel the subtle ripples of energy released through a violent death?

At this stage of desperation, the thought of continuing this history repulses me. The dog who inscribed the previous entry, let alone the dog who conceived and began the process, doesn't live here anymore. I know, I know. Who else am I but that dog? Maybe I just don't want to be reminded that I am tied to this I, this dogsbody, and this situation, with no current possibility of flight. Once upon a time, I wanted nothing more than to wake up from a night's sleep, or a morning, afternoon, or evening nap and KNOW that I was the continuation of the self who laid down and closed his eyes--that I was he, that his projects were mine, that his promise was my fulfillment. Now I know that such sameness of self is predicated on the absence of violent and frightening events. Because after violence and fright, your I is always othered. You go into the event as clay and you come out a kiln-dried urn containing the ashes of who you'll never be again.

So I guess I realize now that there's always something missed in reading a completed work. Seen from the point of view of its genesis, a book is a work of multiple authorship, written at varying speeds, under shifting conditions, and for utterly different purposes. It seems the real factor in finishing something that "one" has begun is the capriciousness of the "other" who finishes it.

Anyway, there's probably two reasons why for now I'll continue. The first is that for the time being I have no heart left for barking for help. It just makes me bitter, and in my bitterness I imagine there are people around who know about my situation and who could help but who really just love to see me suffer. Of course, rationally, I know there are no such people, but bitterness is not guided by rationality or the reality principle.

The second reason is that in my pointless question to the deafness of my circumstances--why won't they come for me?--I remembered something that brought me back to a happy period of my life. It was when I lived with Dick in Edmonton during his college--well, university--days. He lived in a house with four other guys--his friend Brian from Lethbridge, two guys from Edmonton and one from Calgary. The guy from Calgary, Kenneth Brandsma, was a tall skinny dork preformed for a life in business and politics who undoubtedly went on to become a father of ten and a lobbyist for a TASER company or some such insignificant, but widely destructive fate. The Edmontonians were a couple of brothers, Richard and Frank Huisman.

God was up to His old tricks putting the Huisman family together. Frank and Richard never should have been brothers, because, really, when it came right down it, they were born spiritual enemies, like me and Oliver. In fact Richard really should have been Kenneth's brother, not just because, positively speaking, the two were so alike in taste and in their instinct for vengeful conformity, but also because, negatively speaking, he (Rich) was so unlike Frank. Richard and Kenneth would always be double-teaming Frank, calling him crazy and cynical. The truth is they just didn't know what to make of what he did or said. Or maybe the truth is he made them feel ashamed and naturally of less cosmic importance. But I loved Frank. I probably loved him more than Dick by then, because by then Dick had become really twisted and self-hating.

Anyway, in the second year of this group's four year residence together, Frank picked up the guitar that he used to play when he was a kid and began to write songs. At first I was afraid, and I would slink ignobly upstairs, looking behind me as I climbed, whenever Frank began. But after a while the music began pulling me down. At some point I realized that there was no malice in it whatsoever. Frank's voice was sweet, if somewhat monotonous and lacking in expression. He should have taken voice lessons. But his songs were surprisingly solid, craft-wise, from the very start. The song that just flashed into my brain a moment ago was called "Visitation." I'm certain I remember it word for word.


It was the early start of spring
I hadn't seen a soul in months
Laid up in bed so long
Deadened with disgust

Then they came for me
Unshriven as I was
Just as I was
As I had always been
Low and small and mean and
In bed with my own sin...

They came in an old school bus
Like on a field trip to the zoo
I was their cornered badger
My razor teeth on show

When they came for me
There was nothing I could do
Nothing I could say
To make them go away
To make them discontinue
Scrutinizing my decay...

With a fiendish pleasure
They taped antlers to my head
They put me in a pale blue dress
And they painted my lips red

When they came for me
Such promises they made
That I could hardly wait
That I began to drool
The money and the car and the girl and the job
And the cleansing of my soul...

They told me that they'd return
Just in time for my birthday
I tossed out all of my porn
And I threw my drugs away

So when they came for me
I would be just like new
I would be so pure
They'd take me in for sure
I would feel no shame no more
In having been their whore...

Now I look for them everywhere
In the street and on TV
But there's no-one coming clean
On what was done to me

Oh they came for me
I know it was no dream
I know they did
They know they did too
I know that there's no use to it
But I just can't let it go, let it go, let it go...

Of course, shorn of their music the lyrics lose most of their power. You'll just have to take my word for it. It was priceless--the looks on his friends' faces whenever he would sing this song. Even Dick, who should have understood it, seemed to think it senseless. Richard always would say that Frank shouldn't reveal so much of his dark side. Frank would smile and shrug. I knew he was withholding the truth. I knew that he wasn't revealing anything about himself. He was clean and, if not pure, he was good. He had a dog's spirit. No, his songs were not about him, at least not as he was then, when I knew him. By that time, they had already become about his friends, probably especially about Dick, with whom he sympathized but at the same time always kept a certain distance from. No, Frank just put his songs in the first person to save his friends from having to confront the horrible trashheap of their own lives.

07 December 2007

Chapter 11: Attempt at a Description of Her in Prose

For a time it seemed like Dick was the only one in the world that Anika loved. Was this because he was the only one that could love her in return? For really, there was nobody else. All the way up through her teens she seemed to inspire immediate loathing in everyone she ever met: her sisters, her parents, her teachers, the other kids at school, their parents, the pastor and congregation of the Maranatha Christian Reformed Church they attended in Lethbridge.

I heard tell that once when she was in the first grade, and therefore naught but seven or eight years old, her teacher--Mrs. Stelpstra--had Anika come to the front of the class, turn, pull down her pants and receive four smacks of a long wooden ruler on her naked bottom. The infraction that prompted this? After being refused leave to go to the washroom, Anika had gone anyway, because she did not want to wet herself. You think this would have inspired a sense of solidarity in her classmates. Instead it set off a wave of snickering. Everyone there, perhaps even Anika herself, somehow thought the humiliation deserving.

Even as I write this, I can't help but feel the same way. The only thing I can say in my defense is you just had to have met her.

The main thing, I think, was that she seemed, well, perpetually dirty. It wasn't just that she didn't bathe regularly or that she wore the same clothes all the time or that, because of those two habits, the smell of the farm clung to her like an incubus. The dirtiness she exuded seemed to have its origin in her soul. It's a terrible thing to think and worse even to say, I know. But I could not shake the notion that if she wasn't the incarnation of a demon she was the reincarnation of a rat. For starters, it was a combination of her hair and skin. Her hair was dun-colored, dry and stringy, and kept perpetually short and straight. It looked as if she'd be bald by the time she turned thirty. As if this didn't set her off enough from her flaxen haired sisters and brother, she also didn't share their fair skin. Hers was a strange dusky shade that, again, gave one the impression of ground-in dirt.

In general, then, her difference from Dick and the rest of the family just could not not be noted. Like many others, no doubt, I wondered occasionally if she might not be the product of an unsanctified union. The only problem is that certain features of her face--her nose, her cheekbones, the set of her eyes--plainly bespoke that she was her father's daughter. No, as much as both parents would have it otherwise, she was theirs. And they held that against her too--for in her very being she seem to express some truth about them that they'd not have paraded so freely about.

03 December 2007

Chapter 10: Retraction

I must apologize for the poem. I really don't know what possessed me to try to relate my first words about Anika in verse. I haven't hazarded poetry for years, and it shows. It's an example of the lowest kind of poetry--boring prose chopped up into "free" verse. Besides that, the thing fails to convey even a single image. I really feel awful. I can't fathom what possessed me. I have seen possessed humans before and never thought it could happen to me. But what's done is done. There is no taking it back. The only way forward is through a swamp of shame.

28 November 2007

Chapter 9: Anika

Anika, Anika
Sin or death
The darkness of Dick's life,
The fire that froze him,
The ruin he always longed for

Your sisters called you Ann,
Because they hated you.
Your mother called you Ann,
Because she hated you.
Your father never called you anything at all.

But Dick called you Ka,
Because it meant soul.
And he called it love--
The thing you showed him--
The hunger and the surety of loss.

25 November 2007

Chapter 8: Three of Four Sisters

Ah. As I was saying, Dick had four sisters. Three were older than him.

First came Petra and Susan. When I was born, Dick was sixteen and Petra and Susan already had almost a full decade on him. They weren't twins--Petra was a year older--but I find it impossible to think of either on her own. Together, they have being, but separately they fade into ghostly impalpability. Physically speaking, both took after their mother. Which is to say both were big strapping Dutch girls that were not much to look at. It wasn't that they were ugly, or even butch. I don't think either were frustrated dykes. Both had faces that when you looked closely enough turned out to be equipped with moderately pretty features. It was precisely that you had to look closely enough. Otherwise what appeared framed under their cropped blond heads of hair were irremediably fuzzy visages.

If Father and Mother Scholten hoped that Petra would be the rock upon which the transplanted-Scholtens-of-the-plains would continue on into the next generation, this hope would ultimately prove thwarted. Last I heard Petra didn't marry until she was forty and the one boychild she saw into the world turned out severely autistic. Susan never did marry. She seemed always to be dating but for some reason I can't help thinking that wherever she is in the world today she carries her hymen with her intact.

I don't know. Maybe it was just their square bodies and small droopy breasts. Even I tended to avoid their legs to hump and I was always rather indiscriminate. Undoubtedly, I've just outed myself as a sexist. Perhaps what I long for most in my hypothetical reader is that one withering glance that will justly dismiss me as irrelevant forever.

But I hope no too cruel words will spill out of me for Willy, the youngest, Dick's baby sister, Wilhemina. She was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, otherwise known as Brittle Bone Disease. By the time I left the farm, two years after I was born, when I was fourteen, Willy had undergone at least four hip operations. Pins inserted, pins removed, pins replaced. She seemed almost always to be on crutches or else in a wheelchair. Scholten Sr. doted on her. He always looked at her in a way that suggested he was personally responsible for her condition. As if God crippled her to punish him for some unspecified and unspeakable sin. Or maybe he felt guilty simply because she was so utterly isolated in her pain. In any case, Willy seemed the only child that could bring out the parent in the hardened old farmer.

Dick was a good brother to her. He instinctively knew when to help Willy and when to let her help herself. He showed no guilt around her because he felt none and had none. Not about her. It wasn't that he was trying, but he was just always around whenever she needed him. And he strangely shared her passion for entertainment gossip. I'd often lie at their feet in the evenings as they watched Mary Hart report Hollywood's latest marriage or latest divorce. As for Petra and Susan, Dick had a kind and decorous respect for them that never deepened into anything more than mild interest in their lives and persons. As far as I could tell this did not bother either of them at all. In the end it seemed everyone in the family paired off: Petra with Susan, Willy with Scholten Sr., Mrs. Scholten with God,...

and Dick with Anika.

21 November 2007

Chapter 7: Etiquette is etiquette

I must say I do not like pooping indoors.

The last time it happened I was still at the farm. I was young: not yet seven, not yet a man. After the family dinner, Dick's oldest sister Petra fed me the fat she'd shaved off her pork chop and by the wee hours of the morning it had already worked its way through the many miles of my digestive system. Dick refused to respond to my muted petitions. So I went in the kitchen. Then I slunk back to Dick's room and onto the bed. A short time later I hear Scholten Sr. roar. He bursts into the room, yelling after me, scaring the shit (no pun intended) out of Dick. I scramble out the door between his bowl-legs and he comes chasing after me. Finally, he gets me cornered on the living room couch. I'm shaking for fear of my life and he lays into me with a hard open hand. On my face, the side of my head, my exposed flank. Grabs me then by my neck-scruff, takes me to the kitchen and puts my nose into the still soft coils to teach me a lesson.

I'll never understand why people do that. I guess they must think it's some kind of punishment to make a dog smell or taste his own shit. I guess they don't realize the sheer amount of information packed in and radiating out of it. To us, it's quite the opposite of revolting. It's irresistible. Indeed it's much like writing. It gives us a strong indication of where we are in life, where we've come from and where we're going.

Anyway, the beating sufficed to instill me with a strong sense of etiquette. Later that evening, Scholten Sr. came round and made motions that he forgave me. Can you imagine? I had never cared much for him before that event. His small leathery brown face and hard glassy eyes didn't give out a lot of love to latch onto. After that, though, I hated him. The hate would grow further as I became more aware of the depths to which he had adversely affected his son.

But right now all that is secondary. It's Saturday afternoon and nobody has come. Red is still dead, and I haven't been outside since last evening. I will go downstairs, in the furnace-room where Red set up his grow-op. Perhaps the plants will be able to read my shit and come to understand what I think of them. Or maybe in their primary perceptiveness they already know.

18 November 2007

Chapter 6: Theodore, Oliver and Eliza

Will this story have a reader? I know I presume a lot in presuming a reader. But in all times and places hacks have found their willing victims to take in their hackneyed constructions. Ergo the possibility must be there. I guess if all else fails I can count on God. If God didn't exist, bad writers would have to invent Him. Poor God: His omniscience dooms Him to be a captive audience to everything that happens, to deeds and stories and lives that aren't worth the energy or the ink or the blood that underwrites them. This Infinite Passivity of the Deity, this Infinite Capacity for Suffering, is this not the terrible price God must pay to be God?

But if I had a reader, perhaps she or he would be wondering why, in this epic prose poem of my life, I have focused predominantly upon a figure that is not my own self, and, moreover, that is not even of my own species. This is not just because I expect that if I had a reader, she or he would be human (dogs being infinitely more discriminating in their readerly tastes and far more averse to obvious juvenalia) and therefore I needs talk about humans so as to better maintain her or his interest. It should go without saying that the story of any one being is always and already the story of other beings, and that in narrating my own life I must inevitably tell some part of the lives of others. And for a house dog like myself, this means that my life has been to a large extent composed of the lives of other humans.

Obviously, however, I did have my own adventures in those earliest days, that had no reference, or only oblique reference, to Dick. If a farm is a big place for a human being, it's a sevenfold multiverse for a dog, that most curious of creatures. (I don't know where the idea arose that cats were the curious ones... how can something so lazy standoffish and selfabsorbed be considered curious?) Besides the cats, the cattle, the pigs, the horses, the chickens, the geese, the spiders, the grasshoppers, the ants, the migrant birds, and all my other animal cousins, there were at least six to eight other dogs that were permanent residents besides Bessie and me.

Three were my age.

There was my friend Theodore. The humans called him Daniel, if not because of the biblical overtones, then because it rhymed with Spaniel. We were preformed to be friends. Nothing ever came between us, not one single scrap of the most delicious leftovers. Usually we did what I wanted, and usually he would follow my lead. But I never sadistically abused his devotion and he never masochistically abased himself to please me. I saw that happen between Dick and one of his friends and it was something I rather would have not seen.

Then there was Oliver. I guess if I had to admit to a racial bias--a difficult thing, as I aspire to be as open-minded as possible--it would be against smooth fox terriers. Maybe it was just my experience with Oliver, who was the first of the kind I ever met. As much as I was certain Theo and I were preformed to be friends, I was sure God intended Oliver and I to be mortal and spiritual enemies. The horrible irony--that again God must have contrived for some purpose totally obscure to me--was that Oliver's human name was Reggie. It was especially rough whenever Dick would call Oliver over and pet him and say tender things to him with my name. And Oliver would just mildly look over at me and smile that cold smile of his. I was bigger than him, but he was quicker ... and smarter. A thing that took me six months to learn he could learn in a day. The worst thing was that whenever he boasted about his abilities or his accomplishments, or whenever he mocked me for my physical or mental awkwardness, he always did it with a kind of unflappable mildness that made it very difficult to respond to without making oneself look touchy or reactive and resentful. But all those things I could deal with. What I couldn't deal with was the claim he had on the heart of my first love.

That was Eliza. I can't say what she was for sure. Sometimes I look back on her as a cross between truth and beauty. The best I can say is that she had retriever in her. Her coat was thick gold and rust. The smell of it has stayed with me all my days. The Scholtens called her Mischa. I thought it almost as beautiful as her real name. The happiest memory of my earliest years is of the summer day in the tall grass behind the house when Eliza and I exchanged kisses and vowed to each other that one day we would be married. The saddest memory of that same time is of the summer day behind the chicken coop when I encountered her sharing the same kiss and making the same vow with my mortal and spiritual enemy...

17 November 2007

Chapter 5: Etymology of Spirit

So. As I was saying, Dick named me Spirit. His parents thought it was a cute name. In some vague way, it perhaps even appealed to their rustic religiosity--an essentially pure strain of Dutch Calvinism. Dick was happy, perhaps even a bit proud, to let them think that way. The truth is, though, he purloined my name from the title of a song of a band that Dick's parents would have judged morally abhorrent and would have severely punished him for secretly listening to. I refer to the band Nirvana and the song "Smells like Teen Spirit." To parade the esoteric truth of my name even more, Dick would often call me Teeny. I guess between Spirit and Teeny Dick's parents thought he was covering both my personality and my appearance--for I was the runt of Bessie's otherwise all-girl litter.

The elder Scholtens would never have imagined Dick capable of such duplicity. They could hardly be blamed for this. In appearance Dick was a child of light. Summer bleached his hair platinum, while winter transmuted it to gold. Likewise with the seasons his wiry body oscillated between alabaster and bronze. More than this, he was polite, conscientious, and reasonably hard-working--both on the farm and at the Christian school he attended in Lethbridge. Perhaps the more he felt he had something to hide, the more he tried to merge with the image of moral purity he felt his parents projected onto him. He didn't entirely imagine this parental expectation. Despite the fact that it was the "90s," and that Dick was by no means the "first-born" (he was the second youngest), his parents really did expect him to take over the farm. Even when he was 16, his age the year that I was born, it went without saying in the family that if he did go away to college, it would be to study agricultural science, after which he would return and take over operations.

Maybe such an expectation seems crude or backwards. Probably in some sense it is. Dick himself would later rant about how his parents were stuck in the past. But that very notion presumes that "the times" move forward in a uniform way, that when things change in one place they automatically change everywhere. A dog's eye-view, however, does not show the present as one thing that people either accept or resist. It sees the present as a collision of all kinds of different times: a little piece of the Calvinist past existing alongside some as yet-unnamed and unrecognized future. Maybe beneath this chaos of time-fragments there is an underlying order. Nobody would argue with the possibility, because nobody would argue that things are precisely what they seem. And who knows? Maybe beneath the possible deeper order is an even deeper possible chaos and so on and so forth until the dizziness of the regress between chaos and order makes you puke.

On the other hand, if it's so obvious that nothing's ever what it seems, than why did almost everyone accept Dick's shining seeming for real? There was one who didn't: Anika. Ann. Annie. Ka. But then, as far as I'm concerned, it was her who split him in two in the first place.

13 November 2007

Chapter 4: It's too late to cry

I can sense Red looming uncertainly over his corpse. It's giving me the creeps. I don't think he quite realizes yet that he's dead. I can see (you have no idea the things dogs can see) that something in him is trying to tell him, trying to help him let go. It's a memory. Involuntarily it's misted up into his consciousness; he has no idea why. It's of a concert he attended as a boy when his parents took him to England. Red's father Jim made his living as a honky-tonk piano player. For the most part Jim had pissed away his gift of music, but he never lost his exquisite taste in it. Jim could not believe their great good fortune when he heard the incomparable Lonnie Johnson had come to play. And Lonnie played, no longer with the fretboard pyrotechnics of his youth, but with a voice that had mellowed into a sweet greatness, "soulful to the bone," that had nothing to prove and nothing to justify.

Chapter 3: Names and Pedigree

I was born 105 years ago on the Scholten farm in Iron Springs, Alberta (Canada, North America, Earth, etc.). That would have been in about 1992. My mom's name was Bessie. By one of those rarest of coincidences, Bessie was also her human name. Everyone's heard of it happening before, but I've never personally known anydog else that it's happened to, nor has any of the dogs I've known known it to have happened to any of their acquaintances. It was Dick Scholten who somehow named her with her real name. He named me too. He was my first master, really the only one I've ever had or considered as such--out of sheer love. (A dog's love is about the purest form of love there is. It's like sunshine: pure and powerful and streaming and practically endless.) Anyway, in those earliest mythic days I thought he'd keep me with him forever. But here am I now, a hundred years later and fourteen thousand miles away, keeping watch over a corpse.

Racially speaking, I'm a black lab. Bessie was what you'd call a purebred and so was Jake. I never thought of Jake as my dad, and not just because he lived on the farm across the highway. This may be strange for humans, but while every dog recognizes his mother, we don't really recognize the concept of fatherhood. At best, we have the sketchy category of "sire." But even that's antiquated dog-ese. Basically nowadays every other dog is either your mother or your friend or your enemy and after awhile even your mother just becomes your friend or your enemy.

There were six of us in our litter, me and my five sisters. That was the second miraculous coincidence: there were six kids in the Scholten clan too, Dick and his five sisters. I guess it was out of some kind of identification that Dick picked me out and kept me. One of my sisters ended up on the neighbor's farm with Jake. They called her Lady, but I always thought she was kind of a bitch. The other four were given away and never to be seen again. So basically while I lived on the farm, it was just me and my mom.

Dick named me Spirit, but my real name was Reggie. I don't know why I put that last statement in the past tense. I guess from time to time I still identify myself with the name. Usually though I feel beyond the reach of proper names--dog or human--altogether. I'm anyone or no-one. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

11 November 2007

Chapter 2: Decision

The morning's getting on, and I've barked myself hoarse. I have to be careful because the water in my dish is running low. Granted, I could probably nudge the toilet lid up if I tried hard enough.

Someone will come eventually. Red had friends, some good for him, some plain wrong. Both sets were always dropping by. And there's his kids, the twins, Sally and Zach. They're going to be right fucked up when they find out. I hope they're not the ones who are going to find him like this.

I thought to stave off the howling crazies I'd write my story. This may sound strange to a human reader. But yes, dogs can write. In fact, dogs are the ordained scribes of the universe. The original writers. The only writers. There is no piece of writing that has not first been written by a dog. Human writing is simply the transcriptions of things originally put down by dogs. Obviously we don't write with pens, paper or keyboards. We just inscribe our thoughts directly into reality. These thoughts then assemble themselves in libraries on the inner planes. Human writers frequent these repositories in their dreams, leaf through the selections, and then imperfectly transcribe what they've read when they wake up. Every dog knows this.

Another thing: every dog grows up with the pressure of writing something. If you don't write something, you don't get transmoleculerized to a dogstar when you die. Or if you do--because one of your friends has written you into his story--you wind up in some shitty sector of the afterlife service industry. Not the happiest fate. Like most of the dogs I know, I've spent my life postponing this moment. I know and have used all the excuses: I need more life experience, haven't yet sniffed enough butts, just need to go for a walk first to clear my thoughts... But really, I'm 105 years old. Time is running out. The time that takes for time to run out is the time to write your ticket to the dogstar.

Undoubtedly, the only human who'd transcribe this is himself a hack or amateur. But I'm no picky beggar. Besides, there's the extra motivation of absenting myself from the presence of that corpse over there.

So here goes.

08 November 2007

Black Dog Barking: Chapter 1

Why is it whenever a person walking past sees me in the window barking they always seems to assume I'm barking at them, and not for them? Just now two girls went by, a blond and a brunette. They saw me. They heard me. They even blew me kisses. But did they come up to the window? Did they stop and think that maybe I wasn't barking at them, and that maybe I wasn't even barking at that cheeky rabbit on the neighbor's dewy lawn, but that maybe there was an emergency in here, that I needed their help? If only someone would come up to the window and look in, look past me, they'd see what was wrong. They'd see the dead man on the floor. They'd see Red. He was my ... well, I can't really call him my master. He looked after me. Fed me. Took me for walks. Played with me. Talked to me. Kept me company. He was a good man. He died a few hours ago. It must have been at four or five in the morning. I don't want to say how. I know, but right now I can't say. I just wish someone would come. I need to get out of here. I need to chase that rabbit down and rip him to pieces.