Lickers

George Singleton

The man said he found his dog on the front porch one November, right
before Thanksgiving. He said it was the truth, and that if he wanted
to tell lies he’d’ve said Christmas, or Easter, or one
of the other healing holidays. It caught me off guard, certainly,
understand. While he went into a description of his dog’s
capabilities I stood there sockless at my front door trying to capture
“healing holidays.” Ash Wednesday maybe? Independence
Day probably made people feel better, especially recent immigrants.
What about Valentine’s Day? Me, I always felt ultimately worthless
and destroyed on Valentine’s Day—not healed in any human
conception. I couldn’t pay attention right off. The dog appeared
to be part shepherd, part beagle, part Lab. Nothing special. She
had long black and brown hair, flopped ears, legs a little too short
for her body. The dog made decent eye contact, panted, and let her
fat tongue loll out long to one side or the other.

“If you’d like to see some snapshots, I got them. And
official documentation,” the man said. “I have witnesses
and phone numbers.”

This was a Saturday morning. I’d
lived in Gruel for a good year, trying to fit in. No one seemed
anxious to make my acquaintance. The woman I bought bread from down
at Gruel Bakery one time said, “You should try my special
bread with Jesus crust,” and two locals trying to perform
trick shots down at Roughhouse Billiards once said “Thanks”
when I picked up their errant cue ball. But that was about it.

“I got a picture of a guy who says he zipped his pants up
funny on his testicles. Oh, it cut him to pieces. Personally I think
he had something else happen to him, like maybe he tried to cross
a bob-wire fence one night drunk and cut himself something awful.
But that’s neither here or otherwise. What matters is I got
a picture of his things sliced, and a other of good old Pam licking
the sore, and then a other of it healed.” He lowered his head
and said quietly, “I don’t show that picture to the
women, by the way.”

The man had an old-fashioned army knapsack with him that he pulled
off his right shoulder. His hair stood wild from his head, wiry
and funny gray. He dug in and started pulling out three-by-fives.
I said, “Your dog’s named Pam? Pam?”

“This is Pam. Say hey, Pam.”

Pam sat down and stuck out her right paw. I waved and looked out
in the front yard to see if some kind of hidden camera posse stood
nearby, like on one of those TV shows. I bent down and shook Pam’s
paw. “Good dog. Sorry I don’t have any kind of sore,”
I said.

“Here’s a picture of a boil, Before and After,”
the man said. He handed me Polaroids of a giant neck pimple, and
then of smooth skin.

I didn’t say, “Anyone could take a picture of a giant
dermatological abrasion, and then another of someone else’s
smooth skin.” I said, “Huh. How about that.”

“Here’s some more.” He handed over photographs
of cuts, scrapes, possible leprosy, oozing sores of one variety
or another. Then he had the supposed cured areas in vivid color.
He said, “Five dollars. You can’t beat that. Try going
down to a doctor in Forty-Five. It’s thirty-five dollars just
to walk into the door. And then you got drugs, salves, and ointments
to pay for later. Try going to the Graywood Memorial Emergency Room.
You ever noticed how if you turn GREM around it comes out GERM?
There’s a reason for that.”

He wore a T-shirt that read “Miracles Happen,” but no
picture of Jesus underneath the statement. I sat down on my steps
to pet the dog. I said, “What do you do, travel from town
to town, healing people with Pam here? That’s kind of cool.
Someone should make a documentary.”

“It don’t matter none my name,” the man said out
of nowhere. He stood stiff, and had a look on him mostly captured
by confederate soldiers posed brave and defiant. “Let’s
just say my name’s Seth. If I were a real doctor I’d
have me a Seth-a-scope, you know what I’m talking?”

I didn’t. If I were a doctor named Seth I’d probably
try to pick up women by saying, “You want a little of the
Seth-a-scope?” like an idiot, poking my groin back and forth.

I stuck out my hand and said, “I’m Curt.” It’s
the first time I’d had the opportunity to introduce myself
since moving to Gruel, I thought. “I’m Curt.”
My parents might as well have named me Angry, or Shorttempered.

Seth shook my hand and Pam the healing dog stuck out her paw, all
reflexes.

“You trying to tell me, Curt, that you ain’t got a bruise,
some joint pain, a blister, skin rash? Pam the Healing Dog can fix
it all. Hey, I tell you what—you look honest enough—I
can have her lick your needs, and then I’ll come back the
next day for the five dollars. I’ll come back tomorrow. All’s
I’m asking is that you be honest with me.”

Please understand that I’m not a sick man, physically or mentally,
but for some reason I thought about this: What if I had some bad
and persistent hemorrhoids? Would this Seth fellow allow his dog
to lick a man’s butt? I said, “Not a twinge, as far
as I’m concerned. Hell, I’ll give you five dollars if
you’re hurting for money, man.”

Seth said, “I got pictures of Pam’s work on sprained
ankles. Tendonitis. This one old boy over in Forty-Five had a nervous
tick she licked away, though it can’t be documented very well
on photographic paper. I needed to get me one them cameras with
a fast shutter speed, so maybe the Before picture would come out
a blur what from the tic. Pam will lick away about anything, except
hemorrhoids. I draw the line there. I won’t let her lick some
stranger’s ass, excuse my language.”

Can he read minds? I thought. “Okay. Now that you mention
it. I was just trying you out, seeing how persistent you were. A
long time ago I was a distance runner. This was maybe twenty-five
years ago. Right into my freshman year in college. Anyway, I ran
and ran, and I’m starting to think that the cartilage in my
knees is pretty much worn away. Especially on wet fall days, my
knees ache and throb.”

“I’ve seen it before,” Seth said. Pam the dog
pricked up her ears. “Roll up your pants leg, son. Ready yourself
for a miracle.”

• •

I have to admit that Pam’s healing session was more than pleasant.
Not that I’ve ever spent money on a massage therapist of any
kind, but I imagined that my experience with the dog was similar
in a “non-deep tissue” kind of way. That dog licked
and licked for a good hour. Seth walked around my front yard smoking
cigarettes. I petted Pam’s head and said things like, “You
a good girl, aren’t you?” Every once in a while she
pulled back her lips and kneaded my knees for fleas in that way
that only dogs can maneuver.

I said to Seth, “How can y’all live off five bucks a
session? There’s no way.”

He said, “Well, it’s five bucks for fifteen minutes,
officially. I guess I should’ve mentioned that. Technically,
you owe twenty dollars. But it’s up to you. So far, Pam ain’t
had to take no more than fifteen minutes to heal a wound, you know.”

I kind of felt the way I did when I first said, “Oh, hell,
yeah—go ahead and give me some cable TV,” not knowing
that every little religious station added on at Charter Communication’s
whim would cost me more monthly. I said, “Yeah, you probably
should’ve said something about that.”

“But it don’t matter. It’s up to you. Tomorrow
I’ll come by, and you’ll be honest, and you’ll
tell me whether or not your knees feel better. And then you’ll
either pay me what Pam deserves, or you won’t.”

I stood up and rolled my pants leg down. I looked at the dog and
said “Thanks.” To Seth I said, “It’s been
a known fact for years that a dog licking an open wound makes it
heal quicker. I mean, when I was growing up and had a scab, my dog
Dooley would lick it.”

Seth lit another cigarette. He looked out toward the Gruel skyline,
which meant the backsides of four one-story brick buildings. “That’s
true, Curt. But I’ve had Pam’s salivary glands tested,
and I have documentation right here,” he patted his wallet,
“that states her spit—for some unknown reason—contains
higher levels of stearic acid, sodium borate, allantoin, and methyl
paraben. The doctor up at Duke who conducted all the tests said
Pam has a way of secreting acetaminophen that he’d never seen
before. Oh, this dog’s a medical mystery.”

I’m no idiot. I understood that it didn’t take much
for a man like Seth to memorize the ingredients of any burn cream,
plus an extra strength headache powder. I thought to myself, in
a way that’s my job, in a way. I said, “Well. Whatever.
I’d like to talk to that Duke boy. He might’ve gone
to too many basketball games.”

“Here you go,” Seth said. “Goddamn it. It’s
true. Most people I run into haven’t even heard of medical
research, man. I’m glad to talk to someone who’s been
around. What’re you doing in Gruel, of all places.”

I didn’t go into how my wife left me for another man—a
high school guidance fucking counselor she worked with
up in Greenville where she taught, at the same place, social studies
to tenth graders who couldn’t pass the class in seventh, eighth,
or ninth. I didn’t say how I threw a goddamn dart hoping to
hit Montana or Maine, that I’d made a promise to myself to
go wherever it landed, and how the stupid thing landed only fifty
miles south. I didn’t say how there weren’t many places
in America where you could buy an antebellum house in need of slight
repair for ten thousand dollars. I didn’t say, “Fuck,
if my dart had landed in the Bermuda Triangle I would’ve moved
there.” I said to Seth, “I could live anywhere. I work
as a freelance indexer.”

Pam sniffed my crotch. I tried not to view this as a sign.

“A freelance indexer. That has something to do with fingers?”

“Nope. Well, I guess in a way it does. Somebody writes a book
with a lot of notes. A lot of citations. It’s my job to read
the book, and then have everything in alphabetical order at the
back of the book. You’ve seen what I’m talking about.
I do mostly biographies. Publishers call me up and send me manuscripts,
and I filter everything out. You’ve seen it before. At the
backs of books.”

I didn’t go into where I’d made major contributions:
books by or about Kissinger, Nixon, Bush, Reagan, Lucifer, and Satan.

“The backs of books. And now you’re here.”

I said, “With a dog licking my knees.”

Seth looked left and right, pulled on his cigarette twice, and exhaled.
He said, “Bubba, this ain’t much of a town. What do
you do in a town like this? What can I do for my dog here?”

I looked across the way. I lived on Old Old Greenville Road, in
a Victorian house that—sure, the ceilings fell down throughout,
and the roof looked like some giant sat on it; the gutters hung
like weird incisors; the floor sagged in a way that made it impossible
to walk from den to dining room—but otherwise it seemed a
perfect place to freelance indices. I said, “I don’t
know. Here I am. But by god I don’t have a sore on my leg.”

“Well.”

Pam the dog cocked her head. I thought about doing a couple deep
knee bends, but didn’t. I knew that I would perform such things
the next morning. I said, “It’s been good meeting you,
Seth. Pam.”

Seth said, “Uh-huh,” and looked at me like I was out
of my mind. Index Freelancer, you know. He said, “Tomorrow,
Bubba. Tomorrow’s Sunday.” And then he gave me a look
that might’ve said I’ll kill you if you don’t
come up with the money. Or maybe he gave me a look of you and me
could drink some beer together.

Sometimes I get those looks confused. I do know that my knees didn’t
have a hair on either one of them, if that matters, after Pam got
done.

• •

I perform my job the old-fashioned way:
I keep a notebook open, I read, and I take notes with a pencil.
Normally I place twenty-six little tabs at the tops of the pages,
A through Z. As I read, I place asterisks in the margins, and go
back to my notebook to jot down what I’ve found.

Let’s pretend that I’m indexing a biography of, I don’t
know, Pavlov. I might have to turn to the Esses under “Salivation”
and write pages 1, 2, 4, 6-120, 124-400, and so on. Under “Temper
tantrum” I might only have to place “—with dog,
98;” “—with wife, 360,” or whatever. It’s
a meticulous job that I never mind, but one that a spouse might
find both all-encompassing and anally retentive. As a matter of
fact, if my ex-wife indexed my biography she’d probably have
pages one-to-the-end marked for “obsessive compulsive behavior.”
I don’t care.

Since I had moved to Gruel my job as a freelance indexer was more
or less at a standstill. I wouldn’t call it a self-imposed
hiatus, seeing as the publishing houses teamed together and quit
sending me work. Evidently I had gone too far three successive books
in a row from three separate presses—one on George Wallace,
one on Jesse Helms, and another involving the 1994 Republican “Contract
with America.” Each one had pretty much the same appendix
that began with the letter “I.” Under “Idiotic
behavior” I listed every page of each book. The same went
for “Idiotic thought.” Then I listed my own name under
“Rational thought.”

Hell, who knew that someone actually read those indices back at
the publishing house? I’d never had a copy editor chosen for
my own work. As far as I was concerned, I was the copy editor, in
a way. But then some newly graduated do-gooder from Smith or Sarah
Lawrence or Vassar who got a job somewhere between intern and courier
decided to take a look at my work, told on me, and so on. I think
she’s probably senior editor now, at age twenty-three.

But I’m not pouting. You’d think that, seeing as Marissa
left me soon thereafter and I moved to a town named after the worst
breakfast ever invented that I’d’ve gone to cutting
myself, or holding my hands too close to a flame (bad-indexer, bad-bad-indexer)
in such a way that would give Pam the Healing Dog a challenge. I
didn’t.

I woke up the next day at 4:00 A.M. as normal, and did my routine.
In the old days I got out the book at hand and got to work. I know
I’ve always told myself that I’d never be like my father,
but I woke up two hours before dawn, got to work, and prided myself
on being finished for the day before The Today Show finished.
Then I could take a nap, watch the noon news, maybe practice horseshoes,
most likely play about four thousand games of solitaire, wait for
Marissa to get home from her job as a teacher of at-risk teens,
listen to her stories about some nineteen-yearold tenth grader confused
at there being a Washington, D.C. and an entire state with the same
name, prepare supper for us, then go to bed. This occurred in Raleigh,
Charlotte, Greensboro, Charleston, and Savannah. Let me make it
clear that I could work anywhere, so we always moved only because
my wife either “had” to move, or “had a better
offer.” I don’t want to start rumors, but I have a funny
feeling now that she got “asked” to leave some of those
jobs, that maybe she belittled students and colleagues alike. Who
knows.

So I got up at four, and walked around the kitchen, drinking coffee,
putting everything in alphabetical order. I don’t want to
come off as some kind of seer, but I could feel someone standing
on my front porch, so I went out there and turned on the outside
lights to find Seth, and Pam the dog. I opened the door and said,
“What did y’all do, sleep in my front yard?”

“How’re those knees feeling, friend?” Seth asked.
He wore the same thing as the day before. “Do you a couple
deep knee bends right now and tell me you don’t feel better.
I’m serious. If you can honestly say you don’t, I’m
on my way. If you do, then it’s twenty dollars.”

I said, “Now I can see how you make a living. If you’re
waking people up at four in the morning and working till midnight,
that makes sense.” Pam sat down and wagged her tail, sweeping
a couple leaves and a ton of dust around.

I did the calisthenics, and sure enough I didn’t feel the
tendonitis/ arthritis/effects of being thirty pounds overweight
that I normally felt. My ligaments didn’t feel as though they
stretched to the bursting point, is what I’m saying. “Come
on in,” I said, like a fool.

Seth and Pam ambled into the empty den—or probably the “parlor”—
and stood five feet into my house. I went upstairs to find my wallet.
When I came back down Seth said, “They’s a bunch of
gurus living out at the old Gruel Inn. Did you know that? Pam and
me went by there hoping to do some healing, and this one yoga fellow
bent way over and licked the back side of his own leg. It’s
people like that might put us out of business.”

I handed over one of those new twenty dollar bills that look more
like French money than American. I said, “I pretty much keep
to myself,” but didn’t go into the whole I-might’ve-gone-crazy-for-a-little-while
explanation.

Seth said, “We appreciate it.” He bent down to Pam and
said, “Dog food for a month, baby!” and showed her the
money. Then he walked backwards to the door and opened it. He said,
“You don’t know how much this means. Hey, tell your
friends about Pam the Healing Lick Dog.”

I said, “I will,” and didn’t go into an explanation
about how I knew no one in Gruel outside of the woman with the Jesus
crust bread. I said, “Good luck to you and yours,” for
some reason.

On the porch Seth said, “You know, on our way up here—on
our way through your yard—I thought I saw some kind of snake
hole you might want to be aware of. It’s right out here.”

He pointed. I wasn’t afraid of snakes, but I’d overheard
some people at Roughhouse Billiards talk about how there seemed
to be a preponderance of snakes that infiltrated town lately. I
said, “Where?” and followed him out in the yard.

I might’ve made it five or six steps barefoot before I felt
what ended up being broken glass and tacks in the soles of my feet.
I yelled out a couple damn-it-to-hells and made it back to the steps
on my heels. Because, again, the porch lights were on and I could
see the blood flowing from the balls of my feet, from in between
my toes, et cetera. I said, “Ow-ow-ow.”

“Uh-oh,” Seth said. “Hey, Pam, get to work on
this old boy’s sores.”

The dog approached me on cue.

• •

Of course I knew that Seth spread broken
Coke bottles and tacks in my front yard and lured me out there to
step on them early morning barefoot. And I didn’t hold it
against him! He’d probably seen me go out every morning without
shoes to pick up my newspapers—the paperboy drove a step van
and delivered the local Forty-Five Platter, The State,
and The Greenville News in three long swoops as he drove
by in a way that made me walk from gravel driveway to edge of property
to retrieve all of them. I figured that I’d only been cased,
just like in crime drama movies.

We sat down in the kitchen and Seth said, “That coffee smells
good.”

I said, “You can have some for twenty dollars a cup, peckerhead,”
like that. Maybe I wasn’t as amused as I pretended.

Pam the dog licked and licked my bare feet in a way that reminded
me of my honeymoon, in a way that reminded me of a woman I’d
worked with on an early biography of Rasputin. Seth said, “You
look like the kind of man who might hold some bourbon around the
house. You got any bourbon around the house? I like bourbon in my
coffee.”

I didn’t say “Here we go” aloud, I don’t
think, but I thought it. If I were indexing this scene for a book
I’d’ve written “here we go” under “Bourbon
request.” “Yeah, there’s some bourbon in the cabinet
over there. By the way, I’m not paying you five bucks a quarter-hour
for this. I’m on to you, man.” I looked at the dog lapping
my soles. “I’m on to you, too, Fido,” I said.

Seth retrieved a quart of Old Crow and sat down across from me.
He got back up, found two jelly jars, and placed them down on the
table. “To be honest, it’s not good for you to drink
while Pam’s at work. Drinking thins the blood. It’s
the same with tattoos, you know. My dog can’t lick and lick
if the blood’s going to keep spewing.”

I looked over at Seth and noticed how one eye wandered off funny.
I’d known people with this affliction before, men and women
who tired, or got drunk, and then that one eye rolled around loose.
I said, “Are you all right, buddy?”

“I’m you,” he said. “I don’t know
anything about your personal life, but I’m betting that we’re
one and the same, if you know what I mean.”

I looked down at Pam and said, “Hey, that kind of tickles.”

“Don’t think that I’ve always wandered around
with a dog licking sores. I’ve not always been this way.”

I nodded. I waited for him to tell me how he once worked on Wall
Street, or as a lawyer, maybe a lobbyist. I said, “Go on.”

“You ain’t from around here, are you?”

I said, “No sir. I’m not.” Come on, I thought,
tell me how you used to be a real doctor.

“People from around here will tell you about how I coached
high school football. That’s what I did until I couldn’t
take it no more. And maybe I wasn’t the best coach in the
world, but by golly I could tape an ankle. I could put a halfback
back out onto the playing field with a broke foot and he wouldn’t
even know. He wouldn’t feel the pain. I could talk a broken
ankle into feeling like it only got a slight sprain, you know what
I mean?” Seth took from his jelly jar bourbon. The sun rose
outside. A dog licked my feet nonstop.

I said, “Huh. That’s weird.”

“I taught history, and driver’s ed, and P. E. And I
coached football down in Gig. Then I found Pam. Then I got fired
for beating a kid on the sidelines during a game, and some parents
didn’t like that. It was only the placekicker.”

What else could I say but, “Everybody’s gotten politically
correct about those kinds of things.”

My knees felt invigorated. My feet immediately felt better. Seth
said, “I’m telling you. I was out of there on a rail.
A placekicker! That boy couldn’t kick his sister’s butt,
much less a football through goalposts.”

I drank and felt good. Not that I’m proud to admit it, but
sometimes in the old days I got up at four in the morning and poured
booze while doing my index work. I’m pretty sure it shows
in that one biography I did on Truman Capote. There were things
under “Q” that didn’t need to be there.

“Do you know what it’s like to pull off a perfect end
sweep?” Seth said. “Do you know what it feels like to
pull off a flea-flicker when the defense has no idea it’s
about to happen?”

I said, “No sir.”

“You ain’t much of a athlete, are you? No offense, but
you have no clue what I’m talking, do you?”

I said, “Yes I do. Fucker. I do. I’d go outside and
challenge you in one-on-one basketball, or a game of horseshoes,
if my feet weren’t all screwed up from your little game.”

“You got any cards? While we’re here we might as well
play some poker.” Seth threw down the twenty dollar bill I’d
given him earlier.

I had cards right there in the kitchen drawer, next to the couple
spoons, couple knives, couple forks. I said, “No.”

“You don’t seem to be the kind of man who can take it,”
Seth said. “I’ve known men like you.”

His demeanor certainly had changed since the afternoon before, of
course. And I thought about saying, “Hey, buddy, I don’t
know where you come off giving me life lessons, seeing as you travel
around with a licking dog.” But I didn’t. I said, “I’ve
taken more than you could imagine.”

“You got any dice? Hey, let’s play rock-paper-scissors-dynamite!”
Pam the dog kept licking. “Hey, you want to see a picture
I got of a woman who lost her eye, and how Pam licked it back into
seeing? This might be the scariest thing ever.”

The dog withdrew from my bleeding feet. She hacked a couple of times.
And then she got up, wobbled away from us, fell over, and died.

• •

Seth said, “If Jesus had a dog hanging around
him those stigmata wouldn’t even be mentioned. We wouldn’t
even have no religion if a dog like Pam were around at the time.”

We stood there in my kitchen with a big dead pet. What could I do?
I never got trained to deal with such a situation. I said, “Jesus.”

“I ain’t got no land to bury her. Do you mind putting
her in your backyard? I ain’t got no land to bury her, outside
of the old football field back in Gig. Right on the fifty-yard line.
That would be kind of funny. And fitting.”

I said, “Let’s just put her down here in my backyard.
I would be honored to have Pam in my yard.” I’ll admit
now that I didn’t mean it whatsoever, but Seth seemed to want
to hear such.

I creaked around on my swollen and defective feet, sidestepping
the dog. Pam’s tongue stuck out funny and her open brown eyes
clouded over minute by minute. I said, “Well. There’s
a shovel outside. We can find a couple sticks of wood for a cross,
if you want. Hotdamn.” I got the bottle of bourbon and brought
it back to the table.

“You’re walking better,” Seth said. “The
least you could do is give me twenty more dollars for your feet.”

I looked at him as if he were insane. What did he mean? This big
dead dog lay or lied or laid out in my kitchen. “I’m
sorry, man. I’m sorry that you lost your job as a high school
coach. But this ain’t my problem. I have enough problems right
now.”

Seth knelt down to his dog and petted it. He said, “Pam, Pam,
Pam,” and I have to say that I almost cried right there and
then.

I said, “This is sad, man.”

“I don’t even know you,” he said, crying. “I
don’t even know who you are, Curt. And here I am crying in
front of you.” His hair flowed around like an old sea anemone.
“That’s my dog,” he said, pointing.

Pam almost looked like she only slept. The dog didn’t move,
of course.

“Come on,” I said. In my mind I thought about how I
could index such a scene—Seth crying, Seth in disbelief, Seth
weeping—all in alphabetical order.

“What do I do now? What do I do now?” Seth asked.

I circled the dog a couple of times, and then approached Seth. “I’m
not so sure I can lift her up what with my feet all mangled.”

Seth said, “Do you have any good liquor? I don’t
like this stuff. You got any smooth liquor?”

I heard “Licker,” more than anything else. I didn’t
say it, though. That’s what kind of got me in trouble with
Marissa—saying what came into my mind at inopportune moments.
Somebody should write a book about it—I could do the index.
I said, “This is all I got,” and pointed toward my bottle
of what, by the way, I considered great bourbon.

Seth pointed at my legs, halfway down. He said, “Well, come
on.”

We grabbed Pam. I took the shoulders and Seth took her haunches.
He walked backwards out of the house, and down the steps, and into
the backyard. We set her down at the foot of a wild fig. I said,
“Figs are supposed to be recuperative,” just like that.
Recuperative! I hadn’t used the word in my entire life, even
in indexing.

“Well,” Seth said. He looked over at an old shed on
the back of the property, an eight-by-sixteen tongue-and-groove
structure I’d not even figured out what to do with. Up to
this point I only kept a shovel and a rake inside. “Hey, there’s
another house there.”

I said, “If I ever get a riding lawnmower that’ll be
its resting place.”

Seth said, “I ain’t got a place to live.”

I walked over and got the shovel from inside. When I opened the
swinging door, though, I envisioned Seth inside, sitting there atop
an empty and upside down drywall bucket. I foresaw myself going
to pick him up at night, walking with him to Roughhouse Billiards.
We’d get inside and wait out the trick shot players, then
spend hours trying not to knock the eight-ball in at wrong moments.
Whenever I bent over hurting he’d say, “We sure could
use a little bit of Pam right now.”

I said, “Here’s the shovel.”

He didn’t scoop earth daintily. I tried not to think of what
a healing dog couldn’t do with the rest of us treading ground
in an uncertain manner.

Seth said, “Good dog. Good dog. I’m sorry. Good dog.”

On his way off my property—and I don’t know how to convince
anyone that I knew how he’d never come back—he let out
a low howl. He turned his head to the rising sun and let one loose,
not unlike what a bloodhound emits when a fire engine’s siren’s
far, far away. I hobbled my way back inside. Later that day I turned
on one of those business channels and stared at what happened with
the major indexes, elsewhere.

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