It does occur to me that Elbow’s house is the only house on this earth I can walk in and feel at home, even without her being there. There is the better part of three hundred pounds of canine in the house waiting for me; Frank the Frenetic Border Collie, Theo the ancient Lab/Newfoundland Mix, and Lucy, the large Great Pyrenees. Lucy alone tips the scales at one hundred ten pounds but she is a gentle giant, at least to family, and somewhere along the line she took me in, and the others did as well. It does not occur to me to be afraid of these animals. Almost always, when I go among the human, I plan a way out, an escape route out of the building, away from what may happen, but with dogs I rest easily. Elbow will return shortly, they tell me, because they are relaxed I know she is down at the barn with the horses.
Elbow is singing to the horses when I make my way down to the paddock, and we laugh at this, she and I. There is much for us to discuss this night, because we are both writers, and we’re writing about the same subject, even though we didn’t know it until this very moment. She from a nonfiction approach, and myself from pure fiction but she has the burden of research, and I have the burden of making what I say make more sense than what she is saying, because fiction has to be believable, and the truth rarely is.
Writers deal with multiple personality disorder as a form of vocation. It’s not that you do not have the talent to be a writer, I told someone once, a very long time ago, it’s you aren’t crazy enough. You do not have to be insane to be a writer, but being so does help you get past the point where you believe you can make a living writing, and someone out there gives a damn about what you write.
There are discussions you can have with writers that cannot be had anywhere else on earth at any price. When you sit around for an hour or so and discuss the personality traits of people who do not exist, as if they do exist, and you discuss people who do not exist as if they might be listening, or someone might overhear the conversation, and neither of you are doing heroin or some other drug, not even tequila, then you better be a writer.
The decision to kill someone who doesn’t exist, and who isn’t going to ever exist outside a computer file, when it is taken to the point you have someone telling you it’s not a good idea to kill this person because for the moral implications, but for the greater good, you ought to have them killed, and then, after all of that, the method of murder is discussed as if it were something we’ve all practiced, you better be a writer, or a mobster.
“Why?” he asked.
“Why?” she replied.
“Why must someone die?” He asked. “Is it a stupid question, or do you think me stupid for asking?”
“No, not at all” she said, wondering why he was being so defensive.
“Then why must someone die?”
“For contrast, so that the others might appreciate life” she said.
You likely have not seen “The Hours” so you do not see that scene in your mind as I do, but that isn’t it. Life and death are not always a contrast, as the movie eventually gets around to telling us, much later. Nicole Kidman won an Oscar for her work in that film, as Virginia Woolf, and there were a lot of people who wondered why.
I’ve been trying to explain that to you now for over six hundred words.
When I get home I get snuffled for petting the other dogs, and The Three inspect me with intent. I hold still for it, and let them do what they do, because they are who they are, and after the fact, we go outside to pee on the same tree. We are who we are, after all.
It’s a Full Moon, so the night sky is bright, but because it is also overcast, it’s like someone has a florescent light dying overhead. It doesn’t flicker but it also doesn’t give much light, but enough. The white sandy soil of this region shows up like Summer snow in the moonlight, and the dogs disappear into the woods. They are no more than one hundred feet away yet they cannot be seen. An average dog can over this space in less than two seconds so did you ever wonder why deer and other prey animals are so damn jumpy? Two, three, or more canines come after you out of the woods and several thoughts are going to go through your head all at once, but you better be putting those thoughts into motion or you are going to discover Darwin is more than a bumper sticker. Pack hunting is the most frightening thing I have ever seen dogs do, and it is also one of the most beautiful. The symmetry, the dance of Death, the pure action with purpose, the act itself, with so many of one mind coming together for a common purpose, you have to admire that, even if it scares the straight fuck out of you to see it twenty feet away from where you’re standing.
Lucas explodes from the woods with Sam behind him, and I let them both into the house. Bert is still out there, still padding the perimeter of the yard, still on patrol, and he will not come in until he makes the circuit of the two acres we call home. I sit in the yard and wait. Bert slowly appears, a shadow among shadows that break away from the others, oh hi thanks for waiting for me, kisses for my dad, Bert gives me. Pettings for a dog I will lose this year, or the next, but far too soon.
Do you understand Bert? Do you understand why he goes into the woods and walks the fenceline past midnight, alone and unseen? Do you understand what drives him? I’m not asking you to explain it, because you cannot, not in words, because there are things words cannot explain, fully.
It’s why I write, and why Elbow writes, and why writers write. Midnight on the fenceline under a full moon and a cloudy sky among those who hunt unseen.