Friday, December 27, 2013

Puppy Snot and Pallet Smites

I have no reason to shop around. I know where everything is. I know how much it will cost to buy it. The prices of the items I buy do not have wild fluctuations. I need food for me and food for The Three. I also need dog treats because Lucas has informed me that we are out. I wasn’t going to buy more but he stands in front of the treat jar and sneezes. I taught him to sneeze for a treat and now he sneezes away like it’s hay fever season but there are no treats. I feel bad for Lucas, really, because this is his one claim to dog trick fame. So I have to buy dog food and dog treats.

If there is anything worse than Christmas when it is here it is the Ghost Of Christmas that lingers for the week after the actual holiday. People returning things they bought or were given are worse than people who buy things. I want to get into the store and I want to get back out. I don’t want to interact with anyone except the cashier and I don’t care that you were given a gift you don’t want and cannot return because you didn’t buy it at this store. Don’t yell at the cashier. She didn’t sell you that item and she can’t give any money for it. That’s the customer service, in a manner of speaking. I know the lines are long there but that isn’t my problem. Don’t break in front of ten people because you can’t locate a receipt for the gift and you aren’t sure if it was even bought in this store.

It frightens me to be inside of a retail store in December. Sooner or later, shooters are going to migrate from schools to retail stores and there are going to be more people trampled to death than shot to death.  It’s coming. I only hope that it’s that week I don’t have to buy dog food.

There are two kinds of people on this earth and there doesn’t seem to be a third. Someone will ask me what kind of dog I have because anyone buying fifty pounds of kibble isn’t using it to shore up his double wide, I would hope.
Random Stranger of the First Kind: What kind of dog do you have?
Me: Rescues.
Random Stranger of the First Kind: That’s cool, I got my dog from a shelter too!

And then we have..
Random Stranger of the Second Kind: What kind of dog do you have?
Me: Rescues.
Random Stranger of the Second Kind: Like the kind that digs people out of snow? Wow! I knew a guy whose dog could sniff out shotgun shells if he dropped while he was huntin’.

I’m behind a guy who is just about to pop the guy who broke into the line to bitch about a refund. I am slightly excited and at the same time slightly annoyed and more than a little tense. There are ten people in line. Odds are, seven of them are packing, and at least one of them is nuts. That’s an average. This might be one of those above average days for red necks who have just about had enough of this kind of shit.

At this moment someone drops a pallet onto the concrete floor and I nearly shrieked. Holy Mother of God was that necessary? Did you have to drop that damn thing twenty feet like that? The guy on the fork life sees about a hundred pair of eyes looking at him and not a single look of gratitude is to be found. Anyone holding it in so they could use the bathroom at home might be thinking homicide at this point. Hell, it does occur to me if the wrong-return guy starts blasting away, we could throw the fifty pound bag of mutt food and fork lift guy at him.

I smile at this thought. People back away from me.

I manage to get out alive and without have a falling pallet killing me. Can you imagine it?
 What happened to Mike Firesmith?
 Pallet Smite.
Damn, I knew it would come to that someday.

But then there’s always the parking lot where someone almost backs into someone else and horns blow, shouts are exchanged and I wonder if anyone has ever fled a shooting in a store only to get gunned down in crossfire near a handicap space? Surely, with a parking lot the size of some third world countries we can all have our own zip code out here, can’t we? I mean surely parking one car width further away isn’t going to cause you to like, you know, exercise?

The farther I get from town the more sane I feel. Traffic starts getting lighter once I get past the last subdivision. By the time I get to Hickory Head I haven’t seen another car in a few minutes and I can actually go without seeing another person for hours. The dogs see the fifty pound bag of food and rejoice. Lucas thinks the treats are something to sneeze at. This amuses me and I smile at this thought. The mutts mob me. I am home.

Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas wrote: "Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: 'It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.' 'But that was not the same snow,' I say. 'Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely white-ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards.'"

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Other End Of The Pen



Before you can become a writer you have to know how to read. That sounds like a fairly simple idea but I’m not talking about writing in that you can spell most three letter words and I’m not talking about reading in that you can tell what’s on the dollar menu at a local fast food joint, either. When I speak of reading I am talking about reading something that someone has wrote that had come from the soul itself and when I am talking about writing, well, it’s the same thing but on the other end of the pen.

This isn’t about seeing Mark run or look, Janet, look at Spot.

Back when that was considered reading for many first graders I zipped through that stuff like a hot sword through butter in Death Valley. Mark, Janet, and Spot were a few light years behind as to where I was heading with my reading and rightfully so. The only glitch in my education was my writing. No, not the ability to form sentences and paragraphs but penmanship was the issue at hand, no pun intended. In the 1960’s how well your writing looked meant everything. Beautiful writing was formed with beautiful letters written with a graceful hand. My handwriting looked like an epileptic had tried to write during a seizure while he was being attacked by an electric eel during an earthquake.

It was actually a good thing in the long run because of all the beautiful writing there was to be found in the public school systems there were damn few good writers. They were trained to write a certain way, to admire the way that certain people wrote, mostly dead white guys, and everything else that was going to be written had to live up to those standards. There sure as hell wasn’t going to be anything new. But by being condemned by that system I learned, eventually, to operate outside of it.

I’m here to tell you a few things. First off, one of the things I want to tell you is that I have read more than most people I know and I know a lot of people who read. I know good writing when I see it and I know bad writing when I find it on the surface of a page or the screen of a computer. This isn’t some form a magic but rather it comes from a lot of experience in the field of reading. But that isn’t enough. To truly know a writer a person has to be a writer. Before I started writing I really loved some really great books. After I started writing some of those books took on a much greater meaning. The Lord of the Rings as seen through the eyes of someone who reads is an awesome thing. That same book reviewed by someone who writes…well!

Mostly, it is a question of perseverance. Once upon a time a writer could eat through reams of paper and still not have a usable sentence in the whole mess, but now text is as cheap and easy as your power bill can stand it. This does cheapen the experience somewhat and it does make things far too easy but you work with the tools you are given. There isn’t an excuse now to give up on what you started. You can rework it until you get carpel tunnel if you want and not waste a single page of paper.

I’ve had people sent me essays or pieces of writing and I’ve yet to tell someone to give up and go away, even though what they really need to do is give up and go away. These are the people who like reading and like the idea they too could be read one day, but they have no soul for writing. They do not have the spirit within that guides. And they give up and go away as soon as things get difficult. Things are going to get a lot harder before they get any easier. Writing is hard work. Writing is hard. Writing is work. Those are the facts of the craft.

It’s actually harder to convince people they have talent. Why, Mike, if I have talent, then why does my writing resemble a bucket of spaghetti hit by a log truck on a wet dirt road near a hog farm? Because when you start out writing, and for years after you start out writing, most of what you do is going to look a lot like that. Not all of what you do is going to be bad but you’re getting into a field where things never happen by accident. Even the worst batter can hit a ball every once in a while but no one writes well but through practice and sweat and a lot of dark and stormy night type writing.

Do you think the first time you had sex you actually did your partner some sort of good? It could be you did if that person had never experienced anything else, and hopefully that was the way it happened, but even if you thought you were terrible or you thought your partner was terrible, was the passion there? Did you want more? Did you feel like you were getting into something that you just had to do more of and getting better at it was something that made you feel great and warm and special?

If writing doesn’t do something like that for you then you aren’t a writer. Sorry. But if the act of writing, the act of creation, the very act of sitting down and bringing forth from your own soul something that can make other people laugh, cry, piss them off, make them think, make them stop thinking, or whatever it is your trying to do, if that act isn’t akin to orgasm for you then you’re much better off looking for prostitution than love making.

Anyone can find someone to get naked with in a crowded bar on a Saturday night and anyone can sit down in front of a keyboard and pound away at that, too. But to find something within yourself that is special and holy that you want to share in a very intimate way…that’s writing.

You may never get published or get rich or be famous. But you can write well.

Really. You can.

Take Care,

Mike

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Dream Of Snakes

I never dream about the first house we lived in back in my hometown. Mostly, I never dream about anything that has happened in my past from that period of time. As far as my dream factory goes the first twelve years of my life never happened at all. That says very much about how I feel. I consider my dreams to be precursors to writing, such as what you see before you, and they provide fuel for fiction, too.
The dream last night began at the first house I bought in Donalsonville, nearly fifteen years ago, but it morphed into a dream that showed the house I live in now, in Hickory Head, and that house back in Donalsonville. It was an odd thing, really, because I stepped out of the back door I have now into the laundry room back in D’ville, yet it was also part of the screened in porch I have now. Bert was there, young and strong and running amok, Lucas was there in his current state, as were Lilith and Sam. I’ve never dreamed of all four of them together at one time.

So the dogs are gone, off running in the back yard, and the room is the screened in porch yet it is also the laundry room. It’s a mismatched dreamscape and I love how my mind did this. There’s clutter in the room and it’s not the clutter I own. I like this, too, the way my mind will fill in the blank areas of a dreamscape and make them seem more real. There are old wooden chairs that are stacked together. There are hand tools gathering dust. There is a hammer and a wood chisel. Also very real is the three feet long Canebreak Rattlesnake that is lying still on a work table. I back away from it very quickly, totally surprised that it is here. I have to keep the dogs away from it, this is my very first thought, but just as I am looking for the dogs, to see where they all might be, there is a very large Eastern King Snake, and it attacks the rattlesnake and they roll over onto the floor. I go outside to block the dog door and make sure the mutts cannot get into the area where the snakes are. It might take a while for the King Snake to finish off the rattlesnake.

When I go back into the house an ex-girlfriend of mine is there, sitting on the sofa and she is speaking to a blonde woman I have never met. There are sometimes strangers in dreams that are familiar to me within the dream but not when I awaken, but this is someone unknown to me. I tell the two women about the snakes and they want to see the snakes. When we get to the room the King Snake is gone and the rattlesnake is still on the floor, very much alive. Once again I leave to go find the dogs and once again I am back in the living room where the two women are right where they were when we all left.
My ex was a very healthy conscious person so I am shocked and dismayed to see her smoking a cigarette. The blonde lites up too and when I ask them to stop smoking in the house my ex tells me, “I always smoked I just was able to hide it from you” and suddenly I am back in the room where the snake was. Now there is a Grey Rat Snake where the rattlesnake was and it has a lump in it as if it has just eaten a meal. Rat snakes do not eat rattlesnakes but I want to believe it has just eaten the rattlesnake. I still cannot find the dogs.
When I go back to the living room I tell the people there, and there are several people there, a snake has gotten into the house and some of them run for the door while others help me look. My ex and the blonde both are indifferent to the people and the snake and continue to sit and talk, and smoke.

I go up a small stairway and the snake is right there by my foot and I lash out at it, trying to keep it from striking. The snake is able to dodge my foot, coil it’s neck and sink its fangs into my leg.

I wake up with Lucas snoring at my side.

Take Care,

Mike 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Storm in June

The slightly Twilight Zone-esque - Leave it to Beaver neighborhood where I grew up did have some admirable traits to it. There were women in our neighborhood who were like second mothers to all of the kids in general and to me in particular, and I liked that. When we were children the moms were those people who could make things better and dads were those people who could fix anything and together they were the arbiters of all that was right and wrong and good and evil, and this was how the world was supposed to be.

As we grew older the alliances we had with our own parents faded and those with other parents failed even more quickly. Those people who were supposed to guide us into adulthood were now standing in the way of all that we were ready and eager to experiment with and we began to deceive them as to who we were and what we were doing, just as they had done when they were all young and half naked.

There were a couple of moms I stayed close with, until my late teens, and then I was gone from the neighborhood where I grew up. It’s not like there was a good-bye or anything like that but rather a gradual understanding that one day I would not be there. These were women who still saw in me a lot of youth and they were right to see it, too. The single flaw and the very best in all of motherhood is the same thing and that is once a mom always a mom, and a child adrift cannot be ignored. Even if the child is old enough to be a man, but still trapped in the emotional turmoil of being a teen, it matters not.

The Summer after I graduated from High School was one of unprecedented freedom for me. Each school year since the first grade on had ended in terrible, choking, overwhelming disappointment and graduating meant it was finally over. There was no next year to worry about. There was only some job to get, some girl to get, some drugs to get, more beer to drink, and there was no future to worry about ever again.

Whatever else might be said, someone who is eighteen years old isn’t a child. I had terrible social skills, a complete inability to function around real adults, and I had an impressive drinking problem, but a child I was not. Hormones raged inside of me along with the overpowering feeling that I was an alien living among a species incapable, and unwilling, to communicate with me. Outings with people who were supposed to be friends or lovers came to abrupt halts as if there was a time limit on how long I could pretend or perhaps the mask would slowly dissolve. I was an obstacle for everyone to avoid and even I made effort to do just that. But I still sought out human contact and I didn’t care how I made it.

I had no idea when the plan was conceived or even if it was at all something that had a conception, but I knew what I was doing, in as much as I knew what I was doing would work, or maybe it was that it could work, and with aforethought of the consequences of my actions I set the plan in motion.


Having nothing means losing nothing. There is a certain freedom in being an outcast that few ever feel. No one thinks about the actions of the invisible, the despised, the forgotten shadow of society whose life seems to have ended well before it began. But I suggested to someone a beach trip might be a good thing and then I lined up some really good pot for the trip.  I made sure there were so many people going there wouldn’t be enough room in the car for extra baggage, like me. It took some long range planning and thought, really, but I also had to make sure that one of the guys who was on that weekend trip planned it well enough in advance that his sister felt like she could slip under the radar that same weekend. She was secretly dating an older man, and to make things more dicey for her this was during a time where interracial dating might mean execution. It never occurred to any of us, and it wouldn’t occur to any of us, that a girl from a nice family who was secretly dating outside her own might just be living life a little larger than the rest of us. The alcohol and pills that we took for thrills were dangerous and we knew it, but each time this girl slipped out of her bedroom window at night she was taking her life in her hands. Ever else we might have known about life we never experienced this sort of danger or for that matter, that sort of love. She and her brother covered for one another so he could slip away and smoke pot and she could just slip away. He never realized he was complicit in what she was really doing and he would have freaked out had he known. Or maybe he knew too, and never let on. So many people live lives that are not their own they tend to be blind to how many others are doing the same thing.
And then there was their father. He was the stereotypical right- out- of- central- casting everything you had ever suspected or been told redneck. Men like this was how the South earned the reputation it has today. He was a heavy machinery operator, a la Flinstone, carried a steel lunchbox, hated blacks, smoked two packs a day, drank after five every day, and twice a year went down to flats to fish for two weeks.


All of these events I had known about beforehand. It was easy to connect the dots for the rest to fall into place, so incredibly easy, and suddenly I found myself sitting in my car, and everything, everything I had so carefully planned, had worked beautifully.  

The only thing that I didn’t plan, couldn’t have planned, and would have if I could have planned, was the weather. The night in question the heavens opened up and the rain fell as if the clouds had been breached and nothing stood between earth and deluge but the lightning. I parked my car a half a mile away in the parking lot of a store and walked to her house.

I was going make up a story about running out of gas but as I knocked on the door the power went off so there was no need to worry about the gas pumps working. What I had planned was, of course, impossible and improbable and unthinkable, but I had a crush on a friend’s mother. There was no way I could have ever expressed it verbally and would have been too frozen in fear to act upon it, but this was my way to steal a few moments with her, and believe it or not, that was all I expected.

She was expecting a night alone with her little white rat dog, a good book, and a bottle of wine. I arrived in time for her second or third glass, and I was already chemically enhanced to the point of having my equilibrium interrupted. She let me in and told me to take my clothes off while she found something for me to wear and my mind raced far ahead of reality. Honestly, neither one of us knew it but these were the closing moments of a lot of realties as we knew it.

She was still in mom mode, still worried I would catch my death of cold, still fussing over me being out in such weather, but she was also still a little drunk. I was wearing a pair of her son’s cut offs, an oversized tee shirt and an aura of fearful excitement.  She toweled my hair dry and I could feel her body brush against me. As she complained about me needing a haircut I took the towel away from her, touched her hands, and she backed away from me. I feel like I had tried to grasp a hummingbird made of smoke.

The power was off, the rain was falling like the end of the world, lightning was being slung about, the thunder was incredible, and there we sat at the kitchen table, she with a glass of wine and me with this surreal feeling that somehow something might happen or I had just ruined that chance, both feeling were lodged in me at the same time. She got up and got me a glass of Pepsi and I got up and got her husband’s bottle of Black Jack out of the cabinet and poured a drink worthy of a man about to make a leap of faith or make a fool of himself.

To a man of eighteen a woman who is forty years old is somewhere between a goddess and a relic. She scolded me harshly for presuming to drink right in front of her like that, and I remember the exact words I spoke, as if they were lines from a famous movie, spoken by an actor, “Living slow is dying slow, Donna.”  And I had no idea if it sounded as cool when it got to Donna as when it left my mouth but I seriously doubted it. I had never called her by her first name before. Kids always, always, always, addressed adults by the honorific “Mr or Mrs” but  never by their first names. It was the first time in my life I had done that. Had I reached over and touched her breast I don’t think it would have felt more surreal.

Had she gotten upset about that, told me to leave, slapped me, threatened to call my parents, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all. I had actually counted on it. I was losing my mind just sitting across the table from her. It was so very unreal. The lights were out because of the storm and there was only a small battery operated lantern on the table. The flashes of vivid and intense lightning lit the room up just like everything was normal for microsecond and then the two of us were back in a world neither of us knew how to navigate.

I was sitting with my back to the refrigerator and I was fairly certain she had gotten up to slap me silly but she opened the refrigerator door instead and took out a bottle of wine. She sat down across from me and poured her glass half full which was optimistic as hell, in my opinion. I hadn’t slept with a girl yet that hadn’t been drinking. But then again, I was particularly inept in the art of seduction. I could have counted my lovers to that point in time on one hand and still had enough left over to hitchhike and give a peace sign. The lightning flashed hard, brightly, and the room was lit up for a second in that white leave it to Beaver way that everything on earth was white. The lantern dimmed and I wondered what would happened if it died.  Donna got up and fumbled around and found a candle and a holder and had I been really aware of what was going on I would have noticed she was nervous and that could only mean she was thinking about the same thing I was thinking about. The candle light made the shadows in the room seemed like spectators crowded around the table each of them wondering where all of this was going to end.
“This isn’t your first drink, Mike,” and when she said this I knew she had already known about my drinking.
“When was your first time, Donna?” I asked and I marveled at the innuendo I had managed.
Donna, and by this time I was actually beginning to think of her as Donna, as female, wholly, and as someone with a first name, looked down at her wine glass and licked her lips. She looked up again and I saw now her hair was longer than most moms kept theirs. The candlelight made her look younger to me and more human.
“I, uh, I stole a bottle of cooking sherry one night, from my mama’s cupboard,” Donna giggled, “and my sister and I tried to drink it. It was horrible, but we got tickled with the idea of drinking.” Donna looked up and smiled at me and this was the first time I saw her as that girl. The storm crept in and lit the room up with a bluish hue that made us both jump just before the thunder shook the house.
“How old were you?” I asked.
“Twenty…” Donna began.
“Twenty!” and at this I had to laugh.
“I grew up in a very prim and proper house, Mike.” Donna seemed slightly embarrassed and I wondered if she was embarrassed that she had told me or the fact that she was so...unseasoned at that age. “Don’t laugh, I wasn’t allowed to date until I was in college.”
“You went to college?” I hadn’t known that about her.
“Women went to college to find men looking for wives, back then.” Donna took a sip of her wine and then suddenly tossed back the entire glass. “I was supposed to wait until we were married, I didn’t, and we both had to quit school when I got pregnant.” This all came rushing out of her like the rain falling outside.
I was stunned. Without knowing what else to do I drank. I took a long pull from the glass and felt the bourbon burn its way down into by body.
“What are you reading?” I blurted this out without any reasonable hope of keeping the conversation alive.
“It’s a romance novel,” Donna said, “girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl finds boy again, and they all live happily ever after.” Donna paused for a second and smiled.  “It’s a bodice ripper.”
“A what?” I had no idea what she was talking about.
“It’s a girl thing.” Donna said and she rolled her eyes. We both drank at the same time but we kept eye contact. She looked away first and blushed for reasons I couldn’t have suspected.
“I wasn’t expecting company. I must look awful,” Donna said suddenly, awkwardly, and it occurred to me much later in life that this was a softball thrown slowly and right over the plate.
“I think you’re beautiful,” I said and I did mean it but I blurted this out like a piece of gum falling out of my mouth during English class.
“You are drunk,” Donna said but she laughed and shifted around in her chair. Her robe slipped open a bit and my heart began to pound in my chest. I found myself wondering if she was wearing anything at all under that robe or if she was naked and just a shoulder shrug away from being nude.
The lights flickered, went out, and then came back on again. The moment had died, I feared, and for a second the kitchen was a kitchen, the candle a candle, and the hum of the refrigerator the dead single note song of our lives being preserved at a constant temperature. Donna got up without a word and cut the lights off again. Her movement was slow, deliberate, and sinuous. She sat down, poured her wine glass half way full again and smiled.
“What are you doing here, Mike?” she asked softly and I felt as if all off the life and breath in me was being squeezed out. This was not a question a mom was asking a child but rather a woman asking a man. I wanted to retreat, to return to being a child again, to back away from this brink where I stood for even as everything that I had schemed and planned and plotted was now here before me I was suddenly terrified. But the terror of the moment was overshadowed by desire. Here was a real woman not some half-dressed teen who had never been laid in a real bed. The alcohol drowned the fear and the blood rushing through my veins felt like red hot magna from a volcano about to explode.
I willed my legs into motion and I stood up. It was no more than two, maybe three steps to the other side of the table but it seemed an eternity. An air raid siren in my mind began to wail and I knew that in those two, maybe three steps, life would change in so many ways that I could not begin to count them. Donna turned her head, looked up and me, waited, waited, and I bent down and kissed her. Her hand reached around the back of  my neck and it felt like all the lightning in the storm had suddenly been released into that one moment. The sensation of that woman’s hand on my neck has never left me, to this day.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's Three AM; Do you know where your Manson Family is???

Maybe it was a sound. Maybe it was something that moved where nothing should be. Maybe it was nothing where something should be. But I was up and moving before I was awake and that caused a few things to happen all at once.

If she isn’t anything else, Lilith is pit. The intensity stored in those dog’s souls won’t let them ever be good paperweights when something is happening. Engage the Borg! Lilith is up and off the bed at the first sign that something is wrong; light and springy, Lilith launches herself onto the floor and even though she hasn’t a clue as to what’s happening, my girl is ready.

Lucas? Eh, not so much. He raises his head and looks at me. I’m pinned by over a hundred pounds of still sleepy mutt. Were there something going on, surely he would have gotten the memo. Sam stumbles across the room, blind and lost. I’ve got one set of eyes and one set of ears on the floor and other than that, I got nothing.


Bert was a hammer. Nothing happened without his express written approval and he couldn’t write. What he could do was vocalize his disapproval with a voice that sounded like it was coming out of a much larger beast, let’s say, a cave bear.  It was a war cry. It was an announcement of intent. Whatever you thought was going to happen, if you came up on our property, that bark signaled a change in plans. When Bert dropped that hammer down the world was a different place. Instead of that hammer I have a little girl dog who looks confused, an old man who has just stumbled into the bookshelf and a Loki Lump that hasn’t bothered to stand up yet. I turn on the light and everyone yawns, in unison.

I push Lucas off the bed and he barely is able to catch his balance before he falls.

Meanwhile, remember that I woke up suddenly? The Manson Family is waiting outside the door, allowing us plenty of time to get on our feet and prepare to repel boarders. Lilith is standing at the bedroom door, my only real defense at this time. Not to make light of an eighteen month old Pibbilated Princess, mind you, but if a man owns the better part of two hundred and fifty pounds of tame wolf he ought to expect for at least fifty pounds of defense out of it, shouldn’t he?

Susan Atkins sends me a text wanting to know if they have time to go get a bite to eat before we’re ready. By all means, take your time.


Lucas sneezes and looks at me in hopes that I’m going back to sleep. Sooner would be better than later. Sam puts a paw on the bed and whines. Okay, let’s have a group hug before we start thinking about why we are all awake at three in the damn morning. Lilith, is still at the bedroom room but she’s sitting now, back to the darkness, wondering if I’m getting up, staying down, is there food to be had, are the dogs going out, but none of these are security related questions, are they?

Squeaky is braiding hair and humming to herself to stay busy, by all means, we still have all the time in the world, don’t we?

Maybe my training program to weed out aggression in the animals has gone a wee bit too far, do you think? But then again, what exactly am I asking for here? Did I, or did I not hear something? I have to push Sam to one side before I can stand up and Lucas comes over to help, which means I have most of the mass of dog between me and the door, very good, but they’re jockeying for position for petting, not protection. Lilith joins us and bitey face breaks out.  I put my palm on my face and it seems a good thing.

Why am I up? Why propelled me into a sitting position at this time of night? I bet you’re all wondering why I called you here together.

Sadie has to go to the bathroom. This will turn ugly.

I turn the light off and realize that the dogs are more of a problem in the dark than they are a solution. No one has gone into the living  room to see if there are several crazed killers on the porch, and it’s not that I really think there might be, but I shouldn’t be the first set of feet out there. With the lights out I can see out better than someone could see in. The dogs think they’re going out so they head for the back door and no one even so much as glances at the front door.

Uh, Mike, do you think they might not be reacting because there isn’t anything for them to react to in the first place?

That thought gives me real pause because there I was nearly sure there was a reason for me to be standing naked in the living room staring off into the night. I didn’t pick the shotgun up, so if I am going to fault the dogs for not barking, what the hell was I going to do if Tex was out there? Oh, I was right, you’ve come to murder me, might I take a moment to arm myself properly? Oh, thank you, you are too kind, would you also allow me to change the shot to double ought? That would be splendid! I shall be right back and I shan’t keep you waiting the more.

Of course, the sight of a nude fifty-three year old man bumbling around the living room just might stop someone in their tracks. Do you really want to be in the same room with this guy? Perhaps not.

I let the dogs out and then wait for their return. The stars are out and they are beautiful. The dogs return and we go back to bed, my heart rate slowly returning to normal, somewhat. The moment has passed. We are all safe. Lucas snores in the night but I still wonder what in the hell that was all about.

Take Care,

Mike 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Camera Bag For Christmas

The last thing I bought was a tank of gas on Wednesday. It’s Saturday now and the madness that has gripped some people still race through their veins. They must shop. It’s Christmas. The clock is ticking. They have to shop. The hopes and dreams of their loved ones depend on their sacrifice in the name of the Almighty Dollar. There are retail chains whose very lifeblood flows through the next four weeks of shopping. The country as a whole is either living or dying depending on the Shopping Season.

For Christmas at my mother’s house we draw names. Everyone buys and everyone receives one gift. Traditionally, it is something funny and fun. No one gets or gives anything that costs more than twenty-five dollars. Stunning isn’t it? What can you buy with that?

The high point of the gift giving at my mother’s house is the “Camera Bag Exchange”. Many years ago my father gave me a camera and went on a short soliloquy as to why a company would sell a camera but not supply a bag for it. My younger sister remembered this and so the next year she gave me a camera bag; it was a paper bag with “Camera Bag” written on it. It went over very well indeed. So the next year I bought one of those toy cameras for a few bucks and gave it back to her. She countered the next year with the bag and a camera given away with a magazine subscription. The next year I returned the bag to her with a very, very, very, cheap digital camera that held one photo.

This has gone on now for seven years and neither of us have put more than ten dollars a year into it.

Not only is this the high point of Christmas for my younger sister and myself, but everyone else is waiting to see who has it this year and who is getting what with it this year. It’s exciting for this sort of thing to happen because it’s pure fun. There are no moving parts. There is no warranty. Batteries not included. Just something she and I will do and we will remember it long after the other gifts have all been forgotten.

So, here’s the thing, and it’s really the only thing, are you trying to buy this sort of moment? If you put enough wrapping paper in a dumpster somewhere will someone you love be a better person for it? What’s the price on a family being together and being happy? Does there have to be some credit card company out there hitting their magic number on purchases before you and yours can rest easy?

It’s my turn this year to get the bag. It is the only gift I expect to receive that I am truly looking forward to getting. My older sister asked me yesterday, “Who has the bag?” and I told her I would have to check. I think we’ll conspire to keep it a secret and make people guess. That would be fun, too.

You could get a bag like that for free, you know. And furthermore, you couldn’t sell it on ebay for a dollar. Yet for the last seven years the “Bag Exchange” has been something we all have really enjoyed. It’s simple and it is funny.

Is your Christmas going to be like this?


Who told you it couldn’t be?


Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, November 17, 2013

State of Lucas




Lucas seems to have padded his way down the road to recovery without so much as looking back. The first few days were bad because his nose was still bleeding, he was still recovering from being anesthetized but most of all I think Lucas was in a state of shock from being away from home. The closest thing we humans can experience to compare to this is alien abduction. Lucas was in a strange place with nothing familiar there and they cut off part of his face. For four days he had to wonder where he was, where I was, and how long this was going to go on.

When I went to get Lucas he was still very stoned. They wanted to keep him one more day but all things medical looked good and Lucas was dying. He wasn’t eating, drinking, peeing or pooping. Lucas was shutting down. Whatever was happening to him wasn’t home and he didn’t want to live without it. I told work I was going to go get my dog and that was what I did.

The whole way back I had to keep Lucas out of my lap. As long as I kept on hand on his head Lucas seemed fine. But he had to have that contact. It wasn’t until we started down the driveway to the house he acted like he really knew where he was.

That was a week ago, Thursday. This Wednesday we are going to have the vet come here to take his stitches out. Lucas as recovered entirely from the Alien Abduction thing. Well, almost. He likes to sleep on top of me more than he used to and he has to lose weight anyway. He wants his nose close to my face when we sleep and I don’t mind, really.

That’s what’s missing from a lot of people’s lives these days, I think. We’ve created a world where connections are made with keyboards but not with faces. Lucas is scarred up pretty bad but I just want to be close to that face. I will admit it freely; I suffered terribly without him here with me. I love my mutts. I wonder how people go about their day to day lives without someone to love there.

When a close friend of mine told me I couldn’t save Lucas that I should let him live out his time in comfort until the pain became too great, I saw the practical wisdom in this thinking. But it lacked love. Love means being able to see past practicality and seeing a way to get things done doe someone because love demands it, love compels you do take that leap, love propels you through the arena of wisdom and logic and dollars and sense and love lifts you above it all so that nothing else matters to you.

Right now I face harder financial times that I ever dreamed possible but I cannot say that I care. My close friend came over and asked me how I was going to manage this and I asked her if she still thought she was right. The math was on her side but now she wavered; now she sat and saw before her the evidence at hand that there was something out there which defied her calculator and honestly I think it daunted her sense of being.

Could you? Would you? Have you? Would you do it again?

I feel more whole for the decision I made. I feel as if there was a trade I did not know I was making has been made, and I got the better end of the deal, by far. Now, I wonder if my friend had also at one time in her life had also made that decision and now saw that part of her soul had been traded away. I cannot say what she got in that bargain but I do know I want none of it.

Love. Lucas was going to allow himself to fade away and die without it. Some would have let him die for the lack of it. We’re all going to go in the end. Love is the only way to live. Anything less and you’re cowering in fear of the loss of something you are too afraid to lose to have.

Love,

Mike

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Margins of Victory



One of the first things someone told me about the surgery is that they had to get all of the cancerous cells. Not just a lot of them, but all of them, and there had to be a “clear margin” around the part they cut out of healthy cells which would mean all the cancer would be contained within.

One of the more depression and damning pieces of information that was in the original pathology report was “Margins are not evident” which meant they would have to cut deeper and wider to make sure the operation was a success.

That was the thing, really. There wasn’t any other. Either/or. No middle ground.

This was the text my local vet, who I think is a saint, sent me this morning: (italics mine)

“Got another fax this morning that is a referral summary. It says that we will receive the history pass tomorrow. I guess They sent it to me early by mistake. It says that the wide margins were achieved. It says in this case long-term survival is a strong possibility. They want to do a repeat CT scan in 3 to 4 months. Great news! See you on the 20th.”

I stared at the message for about five minutes. The UF vet called me and told me there is only a ten percent chance of reoccurrence. This was as good as we could have hoped for and more than I thought we would get.

Lucas will live. I get to keep my dog.

More on another day. I am going to spend some time with my dogs right now.

Thank you, thank you ever so much, everyone, for caring about us,

Mike

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran’s Day 2013




When I joined the Army had many preconceived notions as to what it would be like to speak with veterans of the war in Viet Nam.  Of course, once I actually spent some time with these men it was much more different than I thought it would be on several levels. The image I had been fed all my life of the strung out and jittery dead- end soldiers who lived with deep regret over that war was soon replaced with the reality of professional and dedicated men who went to do what they were ordered to do and did it as well as they could.

Some of what I heard might never be told because I am certain they did not want it to be repeated. Some people might not understand. There was a lot of fire and a lot of darkness and there were very long days and even longer nights. It was one of the longest and most futile wars we, as a country, visited upon our military men and women.

The last American general who truly understood the concept of war was Sherman. When the War Of Northern Aggression was declared against the Confederacy it was Sherman who warned Lincoln that the war would be a long war and it would take a standing army of at least nine hundred thousand men to win it. Lincoln’s military advisors laughed at Sherman and he was exiled away from the war. When it became clear those who thought the war would be over with few causalities and in a couple of months were terribly, horribly, wrong, Sherman was brought back.  The war dragged out for over four years. In the end, Sherman marched through Georgia and created a sixty mile wide path of death, destruction, and depravation.  Those who opposed him were killed. Those who submitted to him were beholding to him for their very lives.

This was, and it still is, the very essence of how to conquer a people using force.

In World War Two, Patton understood this very well but there were now rules in affect that would limit the amount of destruction that might be created. It was even worse in Korea and it was downright terrible in Nam. Our recent military actions in the Middle East were very little but American foreign policy with no thought into consequence and action without regard to cost.

To Lincoln, Sherman, Patton, and the men and women in uniform, war was personal. It was worn like a second skin. The heroics of our military personnel are clearly visible from a level that transcends ordinary human endeavor.  The scared blood that ran through the veins of the first man to fire a musket at the British pumps through the hearts of those who fight, kill, and die in Afghanistan. The blood was spilled in the jungles. And it has never been this blood that has failed us and it never will fail us.

The leaders who misuse our military and those who misunderstand history will be revealed in the future as stumbling, ignorant politicians whose inactions or actions led to death and desecration of those who serve.

This day, of all days, let us remember that those in sit in Washington do not reflect the values held by those who fight in uniform. Honor, courage, duty, and commitment to liberty are what these people think their lives are worth trading for.

Remember, on this day, and every day you are able to walk as a free person, that those who believe this, those who live it, and those you owe for it.

They are your true leaders for they have shown the way since that first musket was fired and they will lead until the last shot echoes into eternity.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hocus! Pocus! The Tallokas!






I went to visit with friends last night and they feted me with a really good supper, a great wine, and a birthday cake. I was gone from the house for nearly six hours and I was slightly more than a little worried about Lucas while I was gone. On the upside, Lucas has shown signs of total emotional recovery. He’s his old self again, or at least 90% of it, and he’s beginning to push Sam back a bit. Sam’s insurrection is fading. He is no longer convinced that the top dog can be picked off easily now. Lillith is also showing signs that she might have taken advantage of Lucas’ weakness and he’s swatting at her with his paws. Everyone seems to realize Lucas’ mouth isn’t one hundred percent yet. The downside is that Thursday and Friday nights Lucas bled a lot out of his nose. The doctors warned me this would happen and Lucas bled all the way home from the hospital and I’ve washed his blanket and my sheets every day since he got back.

I am happy to report this morning that all was well when I returned last night. I needed to let go a little and see what would happen and everything was perfect when I returned from the party. The L Hounds, Lillith and Lucas, stormed up on the porch when I got home, snarling at one another playfully, and when I let them in Lucas reared up on his hind legs to greet me as he did before all this happened. I call that the Loki Leap. His energy level is returning in a big way and I can only hope his stitches heal before he starts running around playing with Lillith as hard as they do.

Last night I had a nightmare where there was an orange bolt of energy in the kitchen. It extended from the floor to the ceiling and made a crackling and popping noise. I woke up and could still see the light of it and still hear it but I realized the dogs hadn’t moved. The general rule of thumb in this house is this; if the dogs aren’t reacting it isn’t real. I waited for the smoke alarm to jick off and it didn’t. I couldn’t smell any smoke. The orange lightning bolt creature was the product of imagination and I went back to sleep fairly easily.

When we got up this morning not only was there no traces of our electric fiend but there was also no trace of blood. Lucas has totally stopped bleeding! I was told if he played too hard this would raise his blood pressure and make the bleeding worse but after six hours with Lillith the play seemed to help more than it hurt. I have always thought that sick people and dogs needed to exercise. There is very little convalescence in sloth.

So, here we are, five days after the operation and things look good. Lucas seems to be nearly normal emotionally and his body is healing. We get the pathology report back Tuesday and find out if this is over or if this is really over.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 9th, 1970




On November the 9th, 1970, I took a walk with a friend and we talked about what getting older meant. Mark was a year younger than I and we had both been waiting for this day for a while, even though we weren’t real sure what it all meant. We thought we had some sort of idea. I had finally turned ten years old. I had reached double digits in age. Mark and I thought that was one of the coolest things ever.

My life was lived on a timer. Because I was never a good student I was constantly on what my parents called “restriction” and that day they had decided to let me out of the house for an hour. I had an hour to talk about ten years. I remember the phase of the moon in the daylight being a half moon and I remember it was a clear and cold day.

Mark and I talked about the fact that we had memories that dug five years down into the past. Five years! That was half a lifetime. There was a difference between being a kid that was five and being a kid that was ten. We were so much older and knew so much more than those kids that were just starting out. And I was ten!

We walked around our neighborhood and I didn’t realize the next birthday I would be living somewhere else, in another house, in our hometown of Blakely Georgia. My parents would be divorced; something that was alien to us all. Mark and I wouldn’t be friends anymore. We were already drifting apart. His parents, in a response to desegregation, had sent him to a private school. This would be one of the last times he and I would walk this neighborhood in its present form and in less than five years it would be changed forever and it would keep changing.

The open field that we had walked that day is now a city park with a baseball field and all the trappings that go with it. There is a paved road on the other side that we once knew as a footpath through the woods. The dirt road that bordered the field is also paved. The City Pool, where we spent entire summers trying to grow gills is gone, totally destroyed, broken up and buried on site. The house where I once lived, right next to the pool, has been painted a garish yellow color. As we walked that day and imagined the future we never thought it would look the way that it does. Hell, the next year was something we couldn’t have anticipated and we didn’t.

I had no idea that in less than five more years I would start drinking and smoking. I would start smoking pot in four more years. The future was moving in fast and immediate. My father had given up on me two years earlier and in less than a year my mother would be gone. The family would be split up; my sisters would go live with my mother and I with my father, but we would all leave the house we grew up in. We would leave the place where Spud and Cookie was buried. We would take Spike and Smut with us when we went and they would both be dead in less than five years.

Mark and I agreed to try to remember as much as we could from that day. I am nearly certain I couldn’t go back to that spot and find where he had stood. Far too much has changed. There are more houses there now. There is more pavement. People lack the sense of village that we held back then when the whole neighborhood was community property and we kids wandered everywhere at will. Dogs were never on a leash. It was safe to play in the streets and there were no roads we couldn’t take our bikes. But the world was changing. I had turned ten years old.

We talked about what it would be like in another ten and that frightened us a bit. Ten years was a lifetime. How could we cope with being adults in ten years when we were so terribly far away from it at ten? We took a step back from the future because in South Georgia, children were taught that age meant maturity and until you reached a number you hadn’t reached another level of being. Adults were infallible and we sure as hell didn’t feel infallible. It was a false dichotomy that kept any of us from being truly prepared for life. Everything would be okay once you reached eighteen. Your ticket would be punched. You would receive wisdom. You would be transformed by magic. You would be an adult.

Birthdays were already meaning less to us and to our parents. The little kids got birthday presents and parties and we older kids were slowly but surely getting fewer toys and more clothes for birthdays. Gone were those gatherings where there would be ten children brought together and there would be screaming and yelling and a very good time as we all got jacked up on frosting and Kool-Aid. Mark and I talked about the good old days where we were much younger and much more free. There were beginning to be some stern warnings against acting like kids these days.

My time was up so I headed back home. There was a fire burning in the trash barrel in back of mark’s home and I remember smelling the acrid smoke on that day. Everyone burned their trash or at least part of it and we would be the last generation to do so. The sun began to go down and I knew I was late getting back. The wind was colder that day and I decided to run home. Adults never ran just for the hell of it and  wondered if any of them every stopped to think when it was the last time they ran, just for the hell of it, across the yard and just ran for the hell of it, because they could.


Take Care,

Mike

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Deep Breath

In just over twenty-four hours things have settled down considerably here in Hickory Head. Sam, for reasons that escape me completely, was aggressive as hell towards Lucas when he got back. But Lucas diminished is still more than a match for the elderly Sam. My biggest fear was Lucas would rip his stiches out and oh, yeah, kill Sam. Sam’s playbook has just one thing written on every line of his ways-to-react scenarios; aggression.

For those of you with anger issues please take notice that Sam was abused, horribly and systematically abused, when he was a little puppy. Now, twelve years later he still reacts the same way to anything that is different and new. If you find yourself being able to think back at your own life and see this in yourself…


Lillith has resumed the role of Little Angel and Pibble Princess. She tags along behind Lucas and doesn’t rush the door anymore. I’m going to take Lucas and put him in the truck as soon as he’s a little stronger and then we’ll get to train Miss Lillith on how not to react when the Loki Mutt isn’t around. I cannot have her going off the deep end when her Lucas is being moved around for whatever reason, even though I sure do hope that is over for a while. A very, very, long while.


While at the hospital one of the students who were looking after Lucas sat me down and discussed his weight with me. Lucas, at this very moment, tops in at nearly one hundred and twenty pounds, minus what he lost in the last few days, which seems to be three or four pounds. The veterinarian suggested to me that Lucas get down to, are you ready for this, seventy-five pounds. That’s right, Lucas has to lose forty –five pounds. I knew he was chubby but I didn’t think he was that bad off. It was more than a little embarrassing when the surgeon brought it up again later. They told me to give him half a can of wet food a day until he reaches his target weight.

Mostly, Lucas has slept since he’s been back. Yesterday he walked around very slowly with his head down and he kind of shuffled around when he went out. He would follow me but he didn’t go off on his own and I didn’t want him to either. But today he bounded out of the back door and looked around as if he was looking for a trespasser or a squirrel or something to chase. His energy level is still very low but there is a spring in the step of the Loki Mutt once again. His spirits are lifting on an hourly basis. I have my dog back.

Sam has spent today in retreat. He won’t go out with Lucas and I do not understand this because Lucas hasn’t acted with aggression towards Sam. When Lucas and Lillith has gone out Sam has hung back and not gone, and then waited until they were out for a few minutes before he went to the door. I am not sure at all what to make of this except it is very weird.

Lillith is in heaven. I have never seen a dog miss another like she missed Lucas and he seems to delight in being near her.

Tuesday we will get the pathology report back in and if the margins are good we’re reduced to fighting Lucas’ weight problem. I can take a deep breath.

Take Care,

Mike

A Gallon of Gas, A Bottle Of Water, and a Heart So True.

In every medical endeavor involving any species there are people who are there to herd the monies in the right direction. The cost of Lucas’ operation was going to be high. I went and got a first opinion from a vet I wound up not liking and that was expensive, too. But this isn’t about money or how much things cost. This is about the people within a system where there is money being exchanged. This is about small job and large hearts. This is about the journey not the destination.

A couple weeks ago, on my girlfriend’s birthday we went to a very nice restaurant. It was going to be our last night out for a very long time, we were sure of that, and it would certainly be our last night out at this level. At that point we only knew that I was going to take a pretty good hit in the check book but we decided to go out and for one night forget about what was to come.

The waiter’s name was Russ. He came and went with a sense of fluidity that only people who know people can accomplish. We seemed to realize this was a bittersweet night for us and he also knew his job. He knew the menu. He knew the wine and how to serve it. Russ was like a good friend who was hosting a party at his house and we were good friends he wanted to take care of in his house. We had a gift certificate that covered most of the bill but I left him a tip he’ll remember. Russ didn’t cook the food or make the wine, but he made the experience a little more special but being who he needed to be.

The woman who was explaining the finances at the Small Animal Hospital was named Bianca. She sat down with me and explained what it might cost and how I might be able to finance it all. She was very young, I thought, and while she was speaking to me about money Lucas was taken away from me, lead away through a door, and suddenly it was all very real. My dog was gone. I might never see him again.

But Bianca guided me through what was and what was going to be. I asked her about the tattoo on her wrist. ‘Without Fear” in Italian was written there in ink, never to be removed or to fade. I cannot say that seeing that made my mind up. I can tell you that inspiration is found in small and unlooked for places. Kindness and compassion are contagious. A young woman with a tattoo told me that in the end, I would be gutted financially. Realism is her job. How she delivered the news was another story altogether. This was more about Lucas than money to me and somehow, even though this is how Bianca makes her living, I felt like she wanted Lucas to live.

Someone sent me five dollars. They also sent me an apology for not sending more. After all, considering all things, what on earth could five dollars do for Lucas and myself? It’s a gallon of gas and a bottle of water. But I needed a gallon of gas and a bottle of water. More than that, I needed, desperately needed, to know that people cared. I had no idea how much I needed that until strangers, online and in person, began to show me they cared.

Does one hundred dollars mean someone cares more than five? No. In a sense, the person giving me five dollars is giving me more of what they can than someone handing me a hundred. The idea of caring about a dog that someone will never see in person is not alien to me. I care about Popeye and Violet. Ranger and Pepper, Houdini and Karma. These are all dogs I will never meet but in my own way, I love.

It never occurred to me so many people would love Lucas. I am awed. I am daunted. I am brought to a level of humanity I did not think existed in so many people. I have written thank you notes to everyone who has sent me anything. I got this back:


“The world is a funny place. Me I appreciate your writing and more importantly your love of your friends. Cheers mate! I wish I could do more and I wish Lucas the best. I know he has an awesome friend in you.”

I’ve gotten more mail like this than you can know.


Russ, Bianca, and the people who send five dollars aren’t going to change anything in a material sense. But they will change hearts. Compassion only comes in the large size. There are no small loves. There isn’t an act of kindness that is unnoticeable. None of this, not one cent, not one word, not one prayer, and not one smile will ever be forgotten.  Ever. Never.

I am in debt. I am deeply in debt. No, as I have told you, this isn’t about money, no, not at all. This is about being given love and empathy and kindness and being held up emotionally by people who I never knew I had touched with my writing.

I owe now. And in some way, each and every day of my life, every moment and every chance to give back, even if it is not to these people, I will offer myself to those who I can help.


Ultimately, this is the One Great Truth in all of this; Compassion. Love. Humanity. You don’t need money. You need to care. You need a heart. You need to reach out and no matter how small it may seem from your end, from over here, where it is needed, it is mighty.

I am so very much going to write down everyone’s name who has helped me. And in some way, in the name of those people, I am going to spread the goodness forever.

Lucas is alive. So many people have made this possible and have made my state of mind in this time steady and true.

This is a debt I will spend the rest of my life repaying and nothing could make me happier.

Take Care,

Mike

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lucas is Home.

The people at the University of Florida Small Animal hospital in Gainesville Florida are made entirely of the awesome. One of their students, a man named Sergio, called me two or three times a day while Lucas was with them and his updates were incredible. That said, it was still a long drive down there again. I got off at lunch today and started the two hour trip down to get Lucas.

Would he be awake, hysterical to see me, stoned, wounded, or what? A million questions wandered through my mind. Sergio told me Lucas was having problems urinating. What if those problems were permanent? What if Lucas took some damage while he was under and didn’t remember me? What if…?

The Small Animal Hospital is a very nice place. In and out people with dogs came and when while I waited and the dogs all came over to see me. Okay, I stood in the doorway, or close to it, like a Wal-Mart greeter for canines, “Hi welcome to the hospital would you like to be petted?” Most dogs will walk towards me when they see me. It’s a body language thing, I think, and I always smell like happy dogs.

There was no way for me to be ready for how Lucas was going to look. Everyone has always told me he was a handsome dog and I have always thought he was by far the most photogenic animal I have ever shared my life with but when they brought him to me I nearly cried. There is a large scar running down the center of his muzzle. The right side of his face is more or less caved in and his lip doesn’t totally cover his bottom teeth anymore because his top teeth aren’t there to hold it out. His nose looks pinched because of this. 





He walked up to me and licked me on my face and I held him.

My dog. I have my dog. My dog.

Sergio had to repeat most of what he said because I couldn’t stop looking at Lucas’ face. Oh damn. But the stitches come out in two weeks. He has three different kinds of meds. There’s still some blood coming out of his nose. And we do not know if they got it all yet. The surgeon came in and told me that most of his face will look more normal as it heals. “Did you get all the cancer and can he function?” Yes. “Thank you!” and that is all that needs to be said, really.

On the way home Lucas wanted to sit in my lap but settled for having his head on my hand or my knee. He wouldn’t be still unless we were touching in some way. One hundred and thirty-one miles to go and then I will have Lucas home again.

It’s an odd thing, time is. Two hours doesn’t seem like a very long time but when you have an injured dog you are dying to get home and the traffic is bad it all seems so hellish. I was afraid to speed, afraid to slow down, I was afraid he’s start bleeding, I was afraid he would stop breathing, and if I could just get him home…

Home. Why is it we think things will be better if we can just get home? Lucas is far better off in a hospital than he is here, isn’t he? But no. He stopped drinking and wouldn’t pee on a leash for Sergio, saint that the man is. Lucas wanted to go home, to Lillith, and to the place he knows every tree. He kept his head down and didn’t look up until we got to the driveway then he sat up and looked at me as if he was asking if finally, please, could I just go home?

Lillith raked the door with her paws and yelped. Lucas went to the door and stood there and waited for me to open it. The two were reunited, nose to nose, lick to lick, pack to pack. We went out in the yard and Lucas drank from the water bucket, peed three times, had two bowel movements and drank again. Home. Lucas was home. Lucas is home.



Lucas is home. He’s snoring softly on the floor as I write this. I haven’t been this lucid in weeks. I feel alive. I feel wonderful. I feel like…I’m home, too. There is still work to be done on Lucas, minor stuff, check-up stuff, but that will wait for another day. I have tomorrow off. Lucas and I are going to sleep late and then we’re going to go in the backyard and his little sister is going through some training. But Lucas is home. Home is where the mutt is.

Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lucas: An Update



I got a call late yesterday and Lucas won’t come home today. Friday seems to be the day of choice right now and not all the problems are medical, I fear. Lucas is bleeding but not bad. He has some issues in not urinating when they walk him and they might have to put in a catheter. He’s never peed before on a leash so I understand that part. Lucas, I fear, just wants to go home. They say Friday. That’s a long time away for us all. The depression has got to be getting to him because it’s getting to the rest of us.

Sam is immune to missing most people and dogs except one woman and me, but he isn’t the same right now. Sam is more needy than ever even though he is getting more attention. Lillith came unglued when I took Lucas from her and she isn’t doing well at all. She seems to think if she acts up enough Lucas will return to make her behave. I’m constantly having to tell her to get down from pawing at the windows and doors. Lillith wants to go looking for Lucas and if I don’t get him back soon I’m afraid she might.

This is as good as it will get until we get Lucas back home. I feel tired all the time and I can’t write anymore. I can’t stand the idea of Lucas thinking he’s been abandoned or he’s being punished or whatever he’s thinking right now. He’s alone in a strange place with people he doesn’t know and no one is telling him the things he’s always been told. No matter how good they treat him there is no way he feels loved like he feels at home.

The people of this world have been good to me and Lucas, very good, much better than I could have ever hoped or dreamed and I am incredible grateful for each and every person who has contacted me in various ways during this time. The one bright spot in all of this is how people are responding to Lucas the Lumpy and I am truly appreciative.

But I just want my dog back at home with his pack right now.

Take Care,

Mike

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Loki Cut.

On the way down to Gainesville I kept wondering what I would do if they told me they would have to take off half of his face to save him and it would cost a billion dollars. Lucas acted nervous the whole way down. The departure had once again gone badly; Lillith damn near tore the back door down when I put Sam and herself out, and she realized I was taking Lucas. The love between those two is an unusually strong thing. I cannot say that I have witnessed anything like it before.

The way was long. The flash drive was loaded with classical music and very intentionally I had picked songs that were over ten minutes in length a piece. One hour could pass with just four or five tracks played out and the drive was over in just over two hours.

The UF small animal hospital is a great place. Everyone there seemed focused and friendly and they knew who Lucas was before he got there. Lucas didn’t like the place and liked even less the odd and rangy looking mutt that took a shot at him. But Lucas didn’t react at all he just backed up a bit and sneered at the mutt. For as little outside socialization he has had with strange dogs Lucas does very well.

It would seem that Lucas is now pushing close to one hundred and eighteen pounds and the vets I saw told me this was going to be a problem if I didn’t do something about it soon. To have cancer doctors talk diet with me was sobering. I really have to get some weight off that dog and soon. They took him in to be CT scanned and X-rayed so I went to see my old friend Tom.

I’ve never been to Tom’s farm, or met his border collie, Houdini, or his wife, and it was a great place to go to wait out the testing. Life in rural Florida is something most people miss because of the tourist traps and all, and most people do not realize that most of Florida is still a very simple and good place. It is disappearing very quickly though. The big Oaks are all being killed for strip malls and that is a terrible thing. Tom told me I would do the right thing and in this, I knew that whatever I did most people would agree with so it’s not like there would be a lot of people second guessing me. Except me.

At three...There was a room full of people at the meeting and the surgeon brought out a dog skull to better show me where the cuts would be made and how. There was a computer there with the CT scan on it and they walked me through where the tumor was and what it would take to remove it. They had a file full of computer photos that showed a dog that had been through the same type of surgery.

“How long will Lucas live if everything goes as well as it can?”

A dog that size might live four or five more years anyway. Who knows? Six would be the high end of it.

“What are the chances of reoccurrence?”

Low, if the surgery goes well but we really won’t know until it’s over and done with”

“And if the surgery fails?”

“There are other options but at that point it’s not good at all.

“So I try it and it could fail and I would still lose Lucas?”

Yes.

“What happens if I do nothing?”

The tumor grows at the rate it has been until it begins to kill him. Three to six months.

“Where are you from, doc?”

A little town outside London.

“You have many snakes there?”

No, we don’t what we have are quite pathetic, actually

“A year or so ago, Lucas charged a Cottonmouth and for his trouble he got bit. But that’s Lucas. All that mattered to him was to protect me and everyone else from the snake so in he charged like an idiot.”

Uh, okay.

“We go in. If it works it works. Lucas will die as he has lived. Let’s do it. “

Lucas goes under tomorrow. It’s going to cost more money than I can hope to gather up but I do not care.

I am going to save Lucas.  I do not care what it costs.

He would do it for me.


Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Have Decided To Fight



The smart thing to do is not fight. That is true. That was true when Hitler invaded Poland. It was stupid for them to fight back because they could not win. It was stupid for the men at the Alamo to fight because they were certainly going to lose. In the Battle of Midway, there was no reason for the American forces to think, to wish, to dream, they might even so much as dent the mighty Japanese navy.

Save what you have for what you have left.  Live to fight another day. Don’t let this thing take over your life. Prioritize. Put it all into perspective. Don’t do anything stupid when there is so little to gain.

I have listened to the advice of those who love and care about me. I honor their wisdom. I appreciate that they see this from the outside looking in and they are not attached to this issue as I am, and they might be a bit more reasonable about this than I.

But I have decided to fight.

I do not care if I lose.

I’m taking Lucas to the University of Florida in Gainesville on the 4th of November. I am starting over and getting a second option from the best vet school I know of. My appointment is at 9:30am and by lunch I will know if I have a fighting chance.

I just had a conversation with one of my oldest friends and she told me I cannot let this consume everything I have to save Lucas. I told her that if I thought I could save Lucas I would spend everything I owned, sell everything I had, and I would never look back.

I cannot do anything less. I cannot. I cannot bear doing anything but all I can. I have to do this because if I do not it will define who I am in the light that money was more important than Lucas and that I something I cannot bear.

You can only do as much as you can bear and the idea of giving up in the name of money is something I can not bear and I will not bear it.

I am going to fight this with everything I can put on the table and then if I can get someone to loan me some more money I’ll do that and if I have to do something else I will do that too.

This is how I fight for those I love and for those who love me.

This is how I will define who I am.

Let Lucas die in the name of simple expediency and go get another dog?

I will meet the Japanese navy at Midway.

See you on the beach.

Take Care,

Mike