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From behind the open window I stood that morning in my house looking across the lawn and the garden to the trees of the backwoods. The air in front of me felt light and thin and very swift. The winter had long since past its time and so with it the cold air lost its sting and in its place was the warmth of the early spring. The winds ran along side the house and through the wide backyard forming waves of grass that rippled white in the sunlight. Between the grasses, a garden snake watched as leaves and petals and fluffy white seeds wafted into the air. They rolled and twirled then looped around each other and went higher until for a moment the breeze faded and the leaves fell to the ground and were still. Below these gusts of wind were mounds of dirt scattered across the yard and besides them holes that were dry and cracked. One of these holes had a curtain of grass. It was the den of the garden snake.
That morning circling above the den was raven. It was black and large and looked down at the snake as it glided through the air. When the snake looked back up the raven slanted its body down and brought in its wings, and when the raven fell upon the snake it bore a hole to the creature’s head. It flew back up into the air and left with an empty beak and open claws.
I turned away from the window. I looked around. From where I was the room seemed mostly empty. The walls around me were white and the tiles yellow with stains of dirt brown. The walls were bare except for a large picture and a mirror next to it, and the floor. The tiles below them were also split and broken. Nearby lay a collar stained dull red and two spread out plastic bowls, one with water and one with clumps of mashed food. Mush and water leaked out through its cracks and over its brim, and they ran along the tile grout and mixed into a heavy slop. This had flowed to the other side of the room and soaked into a mattress. It too was bare and white, and on it laid a small creature.
I walked over and knelt against the bed, my back to the wall. The creature wore a faded coat of brown and patches of white, and in some spots hair had fallen off onto the bed. It’s head laid still but its mouth was open wide and it breathed heavily. Many times it choked but then it coughed and jerked into a curve and made the sheets red. Then it’s body spread out like before but that didn’t last long because it heaved and coughed all over again and because the life given to him was not good enough. This time he choked but it was interrupted by a knock on the door. The knob made a clicking noise and the door creaked open. Footsteps came onto the tiles and as they grew louder bumping sounds were made against the floor behind it. I looked through the corner of my eye. I saw a white coat drabbed over a pair of black pants and brown shoes. Besides me stood a metal case. The veterinarian was here.
“You were waiting long?”
“Not that long.”



“How long?”
“Not long enough.”
The veterinarian flicked the lock open and spread out his case. After looking at it for sometime he spoke again.
“If you need more time just say.”
“Why do you even care? We’ve been through this before.”
“I’m asking for your sake.”
I looked back at the mattress. “One week.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.”
“No, I don’t.”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s done with drugs.”
“Won’t you give him them anyway?” I pet the creature on the bed.
“That would only hurt. He’s taken too much.”
“So?”
“So I don’t think he can live another day,” said the veterinarian. “He needs an overdose.”
I looked at the mattress and something dropped inside of me. It was starting to get dark.
“You’re lying.”
“You haven’t figure out by now I don’t?”
“What do you mean?”
“Look at your dog.”
But I didn’t have to. I already knew.
“Fine.”
Neither of us spoke but we stared at the creature on the mattress.
The veterinarian bent his knees and lowered himself on the ground. He grasped the dog’s leg. I knew that I could stop him but in the end it wouldn’t do anything. So I watched, and with the slip of a needle under the skin and a push on the plunger God’s secret lay before me. I had seen it many times before. I ignored it.
“Is he feeling good?”
“Can’t you tell?” said the veterinarian. Something broke inside of me. “He isn’t alive.”
“So?”
“So your dog is dead.”
I looked at the broken frames on the ground.
I stood up and placed my hands in my pocket. I walked to the picture on the side of the wall. In the photo my dog lay on a long sandy beach by an ocean without waves. His fur was clean and combed and had no sand, and his head lay in the arms of my wife with his eyes staring up at her. She had a long white top and skirt and her peachy skin was coated in dry light sand. She smiled under the shade of her bonnet and brown hair, and looked down back at my dog. His body was curled around my boy and girl and his chest tilted up so that he was upside down. They too were dirty and heavy with wet sand. Their hands were wrapped into either side of his coat, and their heads pressed by cheek or chin on his clean fur. His fleece of gold was not wet or matted by sand and with the air through it and the sun on it he was white in the sunlight as he lay besides my family.
But then I took my left hand out from my pocket. I looked at the pale white line on one of my fingers. I saw the untouched vein it had to my heart. And then I looked at my dog.
I turned to the mirror beside the bed and saw myself.
Poor, poor little orphan. And this was the price of playing stopgap for so long. This was the bottom of the grave. This is what you get for loving too much. You went from one person to another when something bad happened to them. Then you loved again. And you always knew the cost but that didn’t matter. There were always more to love and be loved by. But now there are none, and you’re alone in a grave. Thank God for memories, anyway. Your life was good for a time. It wasn’t bad. The leavings and the deaths almost never hurt to stay. They weren’t awfully troubling until the last. Until He got them all. Leave God! No don’t, maybe I still have one left. Maybe my dog is alive. Maybe I can live with him. No, the vet killed him. I saw the drug. Yes, but what if it didn’t work? Mistakes can happen. But the vet said he was dead. Wait, is the body warm? No, its cold. But he can’t be dead. There’s no reason for him to be dead. Don’t be a fool. He needs a blanket, that’s all. But he’s still cold. He could be hypotensive. Anyone could mess up on that. Or maybe he’s just having a bad time. He hasn’t been feeling good for months. He’s fine, I tell you. There’s no reason for him to be dead. Afterward we’d forget about the whole thing and go to the beach. But he needs to be alive for that. And he is alive. He can’t be dead. Why should he be? There’s no reason for him to be dead. But what if he is dead? Hey, how about that? What do I do if he is dead? Wait. He’s dead.
“I know there’s nothing to say, but-”
“No. There is nothing to say.”
The veterinarian looked at the photos on the ground. “This was only thing to do.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay. Thank God he’s not in pain.”
“God.”
“Yes, Him.”
What kind of God would let these things happen at all?” I didn’t want to look at the room so I turned towards the window. But it was dark now, and all I saw was myself.
“I don’t know.”
“In that case you haven’t helped me at all.”
“But-”
“You should go now,” I got a bag of food from under the bed and rolled down its top.
“What are you doing?”
“Packing.”
“Why?”
I reached under the bed next to where the food was. I took out a small brown knapsack. I placed the food inside. “That’s not a problem is it?”
“I’m asking for your sake.”

“You don’t need to worry about me.” I reached for the red-stained collar.
“Why shouldn’t I?”

“I can handle myself.”
“You know that’s not true.”
“I can handle myself.”
“I’m not sure you can. But I know leaving won’t help. You might find it too hard to come back.”
I looked at the knapsack. Then I turned to the window.
“Maybe, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the only choice I have,” I continued to stare at the window. I couldn’t look at him or say anything more. I knew he was right and that I would never be able to come back. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, and even children are happy for one another when they make the right choices and build off of it. They suffer but then let it become part of themselves and accept it because they have faith that in the end everything will somehow work out fine. You need to believe in a better and higher and wiser being for that though. For those of us who don’t things are different. These are the things people don’t talk about and better do without. All the while they just hold a smile to us but we know that’s not how they feel. We suffer and so we have to turn our backs to it and for a while that’s good but that doesn’t mean it disappears. It just comes back and back and back again. From day to week to month to year, the reality follows us at turns and places beyond our eye, and as it grows it reminds us of the truth and tries to make us accept it. But we can’t. This is our only choice.
It might have been better to not question these things. But the best that we can do now is try to live the way we did before.
I grabbed the leash and put on the knapsack. I opened the door and the veterinarian said something but I could no longer hear him. I walked in the dark to the driveway. I was going back to the beach.


The End





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