Puppy Love 19

intro01

The twister flew across the meadow, past the row of tombstones, and I rode the tailwind.

He pulled up beside his grand-dam.

Watcha doin’ out here, grand-dog? he whimpered. Why out in the dark and lonely?

intro02

I’m remembering, baby, she sighed.

‘Membering who?

Those who came before, little one.

intro03

Before what?

Not what, baby. Who. Before you.

intro04

They sat together a moment, and Dustin joined his ma and pup.

Got a smile for your sire? Dustin asked, licking the pup’s spotted nose.

intro05

Emery sat and gazed up at the moon, with Dustin assuming guard behind his little one.

intro06

I blew through the grasses, following the memories where they led.

What was before me? asked Emery.

Before you? Dustin whimpered. I had a cat friend. Her name was Otter. 

intro07

Was she a good cat?

That she was.

And where is she now?

Don’t know, little. Not here. Maybe in the After.

intro08

How can she be in the After if she was Before? wondered Emery.

intro09

I followed the night breeze up to the moon and left the white sire and his white pup below to ponder the Big Questions. Up here, it doesn’t matter. We stop asking, because making sense ceases to matter. Let the little ones wonder! Our minds seek no more.

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Puppy Love 17

seasons01

Lucas had something I never had. He had brothers.

Gunther called, and for a moment, Lucas’s black mood lifted.

“It’s good to hear your voice, brother,” he said. “I’ve got sad news, and I’ve been wanting to talk to you?”

seasons02

“It’s Otter,” he said, his voice catching. “No, not sick. Worse? Like the worst.”

seasons03

They talked for a while. Lucas’s voice gained some strength as they shared memories of the very good cat, but when the call ended, he lifted his head and howled, more mournful than I’ve heard any of the pups howl, ever.

seasons04

I did my best to help out. There was always so much that needed to be done, and Lucas was hardly in any shape to resume his typical chipper attitude towards the housekeeping tasks.

seasons11

He thanked me. Even broken-hearted, this boy’s polite.

“It’s all right, Lukie!” I replied. “You eat! Leave the rest to me!”

seasons12

I looked into the household financial records. The saving were slowly chipping away. The amount Lucas’s mediocre paintings brought couldn’t cover the bills. There was enough for the near future, but I was thinking of the long run.

I could help with that, too, I realized, opening a Word Doc and beginning to type. “Six Pups and a Cat,” I wrote, “by Lucas Munch.”

I knew I made a great ghost writer, and I had hopes that, with any luck, this book would be a best-seller. Its profits would funnel back into the household account.

seasons14

My writing was interrupted by happy barking. Out back, Chloe and Dustin played pounce.

seasons05

I’ll pounce you! Chloe barked.

seasons06

Not if I pounce you first! yapped Dustin.

seasons07

You’re cute when you’re pouncing! Chloe said.

Oh, no, you don’t! barked Dustin. You’re not going to distract me with flattery!

seasons08

My heart jumped a happy skip. Would these two become mates?

But when the game ended, they sat, back to back, looking into the darkness.

seasons09

Poor Dustin! Otter was such a good friend to him.

“It’s OK, White Lightning,” I said. “You’ll get your spark back again.”

He only whimpered in reply.

seasons10

Dustin took the slow march to the line of graves, and Chloe followed. They cocked their heads, as if they were counting each and every headstone.

“There you are, you two!” said Lucas. “I’ve been looking for you.”

Dustin raised his head, his white tail wagging.

“You know?” said Lucas. “One thing makes it easier? It’s friends. Friends and family? You and Chloe, you’re friends already, but if you wanted, you could become family. Do you think you would like that?”

Dustin wagged his tail harder.

seasons13

“Gunther told me you could use a hug.” It was Wolfgang, who wrapped his brother in his arms and squeezed. “You’ll be OK, little brother.”

“I know,” replied Lucas. “I’ve got you?”

love03

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Puppy Love 13

puppy1413

Time shifted away from me again, and when I returned, an overgrown white dog guarded the garden gate.

It was Dustin, grown from an adorable pup into a handsome dog.

puppy1401

He looked like a schnauzer with spaniel ears.

puppy1406

He must have taken all of Bartholomew’s coaching to heart, for he’d developed a dignified manner.

puppy1407

He’d kept his predilection for water and became a fan of the daily dip, looking dignified even when doing the dog paddle.

puppy1414

I felt a debt of gratitude towards Lucas, rearing this pup so well, and beneath the debt sat the weight of guilt. What had we done in asking Lucas to give up his life for us, for our pups?

One night, I found Lucas sitting at the poolside eating breakfast for midnight snack. Was he lonely? Fulfilled?

He seemed happy enough. And we surely left him rich enough. But could this be enough? A young man wants a career, purpose, family, friends…

puppy1410

Tanvi had told me he’d wanted to be a master artist, and that was what had attracted him to the position in the first place–a place to stay while he worked on his art. His paintings remained mediocre. Nothing special–copies of work I’d done and hung about the house. He hadn’t progressed much.

puppy1415

Poor kid. He probably never had the chance to practice, with six dogs and a cat to look after. Someone would always be needing something.

puppy1412

And did he even know anyone outside of the gardener and maid?

His mom had been Tanvi’s age, and she crossed over about the time Tanvi did. We passed her spirit now and then, and she asked after her son. Don’t let him have regrets! she moaned.

Still, whenever I stopped by, he seemed happy enough, cheerful, even. His eyes sparkled more than they had when he’d been a little boy, running through the fields after grasshoppers.

puppy1408

And he surely loved Otter and the dogs. He was close with all of them, but he and Dustin seemed to share a special bond, likely because he was there when Dustin was born.

puppy1409

One afternoon,  I heard laughter from the house. When I blew through, I found the living room full of blond Lucas clones.

His brother Wolfgang sat on the couch, and with them was a girl with funny top-knot braids, a goofy Lucas smile, and twinkling blue eyes.

Caleb seemed confused by the genetic echoes. I wondered if they carried a family scent.

“Why can’t we get a dog, Dad?” she whined. “Uncle Gunther, don’t you think it would make me more responsible if I had a dog?”

puppy1402

So it was Lucas’s niece, Wolfgang’s daughter. She certainly seemed to like the dogs a lot, even if they weren’t too sure what to make of her.

“There aren’t any more dogs up for adoption,” Wolfgang said. “Lucas has them all. Every single fricking dog in the universe.”

puppy1403

“He’s cornered the market,” said Gunther.

“Can I have one of your dogs, Uncle Lucas?” she asked.

“That’s a thought, Ember. I’m not sure if the dogs would go for that?” Lucas said. “They’re kind of attached to this home? And they’re very attached to each other?”

Mochi looked at Lucas as if she wished, for once, his assertions wouldn’t end in question marks.

“But look how cute they are!” she said. “I think they like me!”

puppy1405

Uncle Gunther chuckled to himself as he took out the trash. “Six dogs and a cat. And my little brother is thinking up reasons to keep them all. That’s so Lucas.”

puppy1404

That’s so Lucas. 

I thought hard about that. He had a chance to lighten his load. Surely, re-homing with his own family, with a cute girl who loved dogs, presented a viable solution!

But maybe there was no problem.

Maybe this lifestyle was so very Lucas that it was the life he wanted. Maybe he had no regrets with things just as they were. Happy dog. Happy person.

puppy1411

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Puppy Love 11

sky03

We played in the After, chasing light butterflies, frolicking under void clouds.

When I remembered to return, I faced a giant. Little Miss Molly had become a very big dog, indeed.

puppy1201

Caleb was as smitten as ever.

puppy1202

Go on, said Mochi. Make puppies already.

Oh, Ma! said Caleb, and I thought I saw the tip of his nose blush.

puppy1203

Really, Mrs. Golde, said Little Miss Molly. I think we might, but maybe not if you were watching?

puppy1204

I called Mochi to me. Let’s romp in the fields! I suggested. Show me what you’ve found!

We left Molly and Caleb to their doggy date, while we ran through the meadows. Have you ever seen a solitary dog, racing apparently alone, across a field, ears flapping, tail circling, and the broadest grin on her face? You thought the dog was simply expressing the joy of life. But maybe the dog wasn’t really alone–maybe the dog was racing the spirits, and this wasn’t merely joy-of-life, but that greatest joy, joy-of-all, combining the now, the After, the physical, the metaphysical. Who says dogs aren’t superstitious for a reason? It’s because, more than any, they are ever aware of our presence.

sky01

When next I returned, I found Lucas bathing Molly.

“Here you go, Little Miss,” he said, “or should I call you, Little Missus! This will help with those aches and pains you’ve got. Not easy being a mommy-to-be, is it?”

puppy1205

So she was expecting! Tongue hanging out, tail drooping, feet shuffling, it looked like she was at the mercy of an uncomfortable pregnancy.

I’m OK, really I am, she said. And I had to admire her resolve.

puppy1206

It is always the light that takes me away, and the light that carries me back again.

The next time I came,  Bosko and Majora accompanied me, and we weren’t sure what to expect.

sky02

Through the fields streaked white lightning.

puppy1207

I’m not looking, Bosko said, superstitious even in the After, but I can feeling something behind me.

I think it’s a pup! I said.

Can’t be. It’s white, said Bosko. Pups are brown or black or tan.

puppy1208

Pups can be white, I said.

Not that I’ve seen, replied Bosko.

But sure enough, it was a bouncing, racing, pouncing white pup.

puppy1209

Meet Dustin, said Caleb, kissing his son.

puppy1210

And so they had just the one pup, a little white male, with a curly tail, and a wide, high brow, and playful, laughing eyes.

Majora streaked through. This pup is trouble! she said. Black cats? Nothing! Watch out for white pups!

I had to chuckle. Dustin sat and politely waited for Majora to race past. He didn’t look like trouble to me!

puppy1211

Good going, Little Miss Molly, I said. That’s quite a pup you and Caleb have.

Sure is, said Molly, if I do say so myself. He may be little now, but one day, he will be a giant!

puppy1212

He may be, at that!

I hovered beside him.

Hello, little pup, I said. You have a look about you of your great grandpa Bobie–same sweet eyes! And a little curly tail like your grandpa, Bartholomew. And look at those sweet floppy ears! Just like Papa Caleb! You are one fine pup, Dustin! Even if you are the first white lightning pup of the family!

puppy1213

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