Brown dog is dying, but I cannot cry. Not when I dial the emergency number of the animal hospital. I cannot cry when I carry him to the truck, or lay him gently onto the soft, blue blanket under harsh florescence. The hospital is silent, except for the respectful footfalls of Julie, the young vet who has recently moved to the island from Boston. She is beautific, the high blush of rose in her cheeks,  chestnut eyes and a dark luxurious mane, like I always imagine angels of death should be. I cannot cry when she hands me a form to fill out; my Visa card number, the logistics of cremation and choice of urn. I choose the ‘traveling container’, a cardboard box that will be sent to me in four weeks, while below, on the floor, the sedative is kicking in. His eyes begin to twirl, as if he is tracking sheep. The oddest thoughts, as I sit on the cool linoleum, hand stroking his face, watching, just watching those eyes twirl like marbles on a string. How will she get his body into the back room? I ponder the mystery of weight and mass, a dead dog on the runway, awaiting final clearance for the Milky Way. I cannot cry. Not even when she gently shaves his rear paw, inserts a small blue clamp that holds the death-bringing fluid. ‘Twenty seconds’, Vet Julie promises. ‘Not much longer. Have you ever seen an amimal euthanized?’ I nod, stroke his snout, stare into those eyes, those twirling brown marbles tracking rabbits, watching those doggie Super 8s of sticks and stones arcing into constant summer meadows, whitecaps dancing, endless retrievals and bottomless kibble bowls. I cannot cry. I watch his belly, the labored breathing of tonight, his hoarse, mournful barking, a long life a sudden tumble into a crisis chasm, shaking me from my selfish lethargy to finally pull the trigger. Kill my dog. No other words for  it. Say it out loud. I cannot cry. TIme stops. ‘He’s gone’. I say. Julie nods, and reaches for a stethoscope. So peaceful. Holy doggie full of grace.
An old Hall and Oates song jitters over the airwaves: He’s gone, he’s gone, gonna take the devil to replace him.
Out in the parking lot I call you. You told me to, afterwards. It’s after midnight. I cannot guess if I’ve also woken your roomie. You have your own problems. Today they hooked you up to an ankle radio, a GPS tracker to make it easier the ghouls in Punishment Central to torture you.  There’s another device that sits on your bedside table, a telephonic Breathilizer with an evil sounding growl that sounds like the house is burning down. Wooh, wooh, wooh. Your housemates are gonna love you. Everytime you wander out of range of it’s hypercybernetic pea-brain, it goes off, wooh, wooh, wooh, like an insecure child watching its Mommy leave the daycare. Parole, we remind ourselves, is heaping punishment after punishment, a punitive pigpile that makes so little sense that nobody can quite adjust, friend or foe alike, the reality lens of which parolee they’re exactly talking about. Five, maybe six years ago, you ran afoul of your psychochemical hobgoblins, those inner bartenders that make the call when to shut off the tab. You went to jail, for a little while, just a controlled time-out, thank you very much. Then the system took a left turn, over-reacted to R’s mittimus white-out imbroglio with the swift vengence of a McCarthy hearing, and you went to Framingham. Judge Agostini cloaked himself in Solomonic colors, felt like the 2 to 4 sentence was a fair deal, even when the DA was bridling for the max. Five to seven?  Seven to ten? For a piece of paper and a few daubs of correction fluid? We talk about this constantly. Wait a minute. Women actually escaped, and got less time. Women actually drove drunk and killed, and got less time. You weren’t in jail for alcohol addiction? Nobody should be, but you really weren’t. Not this time, maybe once, but not at Framingham. And certainly not now, on parole. Yet for the next who-knows-how-many months, the Drunkerator will signal it’s claxton urgency; you’ll have to puff into a tube and recite the Gettysburg Address for the little black box beside your bed. Arrrggg…we wail and rant and talk each other down from such a monstrously meaningless collective lapse.
Perhaps…we console each other. Line up all the many perhaps that have shaped your protracted and exhausting lifelong battle to be heard and understood. Just like a much younger Pippin. A little sister that grew up bracketed between older, distracted siblings and alcoholic dysfunctional parents. Like Joni Mitchell, our greatest musical denominator, sang: Still I sent out my prayer–wondering who was there to hear…I said “send me somebody, who’s strong and somewhat sincere”…caught in my struggle for higher achievement—and my search for love that don’t seem to exist.
After midnight, the moon inflates to a nibbled grapefruit. He was such a good boy, I tell you on the phone. I carried him inside, he peed in my arms. Poor old guy. How old? Sixteen, seventeen. Too old for a dog. But he knew. He was trying to tell me for awhile, but I just couldn’t do it.
You were waiting for a sign, for the right moment. You say  in a soft, dreamy voice. It’s okay. He’s happy now. Now, go home and get some sleep.
I can’t help but smile, despite just being an accessory before the fact for murdering my dog. You’re coming to see me tomorrow.
You will travel to me by bus and train and  shank’s mare. I will wait at the bus station, picking daisies and practicing zen, drinking in the hopeful onset of brief joy. We will meet in Hyannis, a middling Cape Cod city where the invisible homeless fidget with grocery carts full of precious portage a block away from the Kennedy Compound. We will take a room, a knotty pine flop at the Cascade Motor Lodge, which has a naked-cherub fountain, caters to year-round down-and-outers and traffic-glazed drivebys too late to get a . A hundred a night, and the shower will be cold the next morning, after you are gone, because of this insane mandate of parole that forbids husbands and wives to sleep together. But we will vow to enjoy, and not be bullied by agitation. We will spend the day on the beach, slapping away greenheads and fighting by cell phone a Battle Royale with the sleazy auctioneer ‘liquidating’ my dead father’s artwork. We will stroll on the sand, the clay flats, skip flatties, pause on the stony strand that gazes across Cape Cod Bay to Sandy Neck. It is a lazy July pastorale. You, the brave sensualist, are barefoot, me, the conservative pragmatist, in rubber diver booties. Just a normal couple in loving embrace, except that we have to travel half a state to kiss and hold hands. And you wear a plastic detonator that will explode, sending you back to prison, if I cannot deliver you to Boston before 10 pm. We will share a horse blanket, bodies basting, happily spilling organic potato chips and tabouli rollups. I will swim in the teawater broth; you cannot, because of the GPS tracker strapped to your ankle. Ever the intrepid expediters, we will search for plastic bag to encase the box so you can escape the heat; I will end up misting your skin with cool salt water from a spray bottle. I will admire your face tilted towards the sky’s cloudless glint as I spritz, the brined drops dripping from your sunglasses, your hair, your thighs, the lightly pinked arabesque of your spine. After laughing over the comical theatrics of assembling a plastic vaccum cleaner I bought at K-Mart for your sober house garret’s filthy carpet, we will drive back to the Cascade, and try not to do the math. Three fucks at thirty three bucks. We will muss the sheets like newlyweds (which we are technically, if this enforced separation of our sweetly persistant romance is any measure). Then at seven thirty will drive you back to Boston, and you will read to me the entire way, from a paperback copy of Kitchen Confidential. We will admire again how well we travel together. How well we do everything together. Except love, which we do magnificently.
After midnight, my dog is freshly dead. Yeah. You say back, a languid whisper. Goodnight, baby. I love you.
Goodnight, I echo. I love you.
Later, the next day, over the next few days, I realize I am joyously overwhelmed. Brown Dog has won the race, and I’ve been selfish, wanting him to not leave me because I am always in a low grade state of separation anxiety over us. But fuck that. I’m so happy for him. Joy doesn’t keep score. I know he’s scampering strong-limbed over those endless summer beaches, barking his head off, driving tourists mad with that obnoxious full-throated howl. He’s frisky again, with a pup’s unfettered exuberance for the first time in, jeez, decades. Why do we do we cling to what cannot last forever?  Love is a rose, I guess.
The next morning, you send an email I cannot add to, or speak after it is said, a quickly jotted, but powerfully wise poetic eulogy for Brown Dog:
a soft blanket

a bony loyalist

a co-pilot to the Big House

an unreliable alarm clock

your friend when the first woman went all critical

your friend still when the new woman distracted you

and took you away

hours on the phone

days in America

He is with his brother now.

He thinks you are the best for everything you did




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