Welcome to the ceaseless torture of adulthood! We're glad you made it!
home | index by time | index by subject
previous let the piper lead the way next 

little hollow dog
april 16, 2001
the farmhouse where I grew up

He lived in there.

He lived in the little room with the window boarded shut, the one I was never allowed to go into. A dark, square room that smelled of horse hair plaster, off from the parlor in the big farmhouse where the potbelly woodstove squatted.

I knew for a fact there were eerie deer legs in that room. I'd wait until people were out of the house, then I'd open the door just six inches or so. A honey-hued beam of sunlight would light up those legs with their pointed hooves. They extended from a maple board carved with oak leaves and acorns, which leaned against the base of an old wine-colored velvet couch. The legs curled upward in supplication. A severely rusted double-barreled shotgun with a pockmarked stock rested on their wrists.

Beyond was a jumble of dusty objects that melted together in the room's dusk. If I opened the door slightly wider, a few things would take shape: Disjointed pieces of stovepipe scattered across the floor. The illustration of a white pup peering into the bell of a Victrola atop a stack of brittle records. The couch's ferny pattern, its middle sagging deep as a bathtub. Cabbage roses on a big curl of paper peeling off the wall. At the far end, a bearskin coat slumped against a milky blue door.

One evening I walked right into that room to visit the people living there. A slablike husband in a 1940s suit. A wasp-waisted wife in a flowery dress, perched on the precipice of the sofa's cushion. They had a brittle, clipped way of chatting, and the wife kept holding her pinky out when she lifted her teacup. I gave them a narrow-eyed stare.

To be honest, I was nervous about their dog. He was a friendly little terrier, but he had no hind legs. In fact, his body abruptly ended mid-waist. He frisked around the room, dragging his midriff. It made tinny clanking sounds. I stepped around behind. His body was hollow as a stovepipe. You could look right up through that dog and out his eyes.

Yet he was a contented little dog. There seemed to be a life lesson in there somewhere. I puzzled over that.

The next morning, I told my brother:

"There's a hollow dog in that room. But he's happy."

Photo: our farmhouse
previous let the piper lead the way next
index by time let the piper lead the way index by subject
marel trout let the piper lead the way the ceaseless torture of adulthood let the piper lead the way you are here