It’s taken me near on my entire one hundred years to learn a thing or two about the creature known as a human being. One of the things that has always been a perplexity to me is the whole notion of keeping animals inside the house and giving them the name of “pets.” Both the Boy and the Little one went off to elementary at a school that was supposed to be special in science; and somehow that meant that every year they studied, and then brought home, some infernal thing or other to add to the general household menagerie. First year, the science project was a teeny little guppy fish swimming around inside of a sawed-off plastic coke bottle. Next thing you know that one teeny fish was swimming around with a whole passel of even teenier little ones, so small you had to look real close to even see them and make sure they was real. That’s how the Boy ended up raising guppies for a time, ‘cept it turns out they ain’t nothing to do for the “raising” save wait a bit for some more teeny ones to show up in the coke bottle and then scoop them up and take them on over to the local pet store.
Next year it was meal worms. Two maggot-y looking things came home from the school in an old peanut butter jar that was half full of oatmeal. They was just about the same color as the oatmeal too, and would stay buried way deep down except for once or twice a day when the Boy and the Little One would shake the jar around just a tad til they could see them bugs wiggling and waggling, and the kiddies would be all excited. Course how long do you suppose anyone can stay excited about a couple of maggots even if they got a fancy name, and the answer is not very gosh darn long. Soon enough, the kiddies more or less forgot about them, and my Lady tried to remember to check in on them once in a while just to see if they had died yet and she could throw them and their oatmeal home on out. Well, one day, sure enough she did check and was surprised and amazed to find that they wasn’t any meal worms at all, nor their carcasses, but two big, dark beetles. Course this led to all kinds of hoopla and whoop-de-doo until it dawned on somebody to consider what the heck do you do with two bugs in a jar of oatmeal. Everyone was still pondering on this when the bugs up and died because they had come to the end of their time.
The last year of the science project was the year everyone was most excited about, the kiddies talked about it for years, from the time they started at the school as kindy-gardeners until they finished up after the fifth grade. Hermit crabs.
Maybe I just can’t wrap my head around anything that doesn’t have warmth running through it, but somehow the hermit crab struck me as the most useless of all the so-called pets. Scritch scratch scritch scratch all the night long. And if you ask me he smelled funny. Day after day the Boy would take the hermit crab out and hold him in the palm of his hand, and the Little One would hold her breath and wait for the creature to do something magical and wondrous, but the scoundrel would just sit there, and they put it on back in its home after a time, trying hard to act like they wasn’t disappointed. One day they got the idea to put the crab down on the floor, and lo and behold, the creature skedaddled across the carpet like it had been shot from a cannon. The kiddies whooped and hollered and had their friends come over to witness the miraculous spectacle. Well, it seemed no more than a blink of an eye that the crab up and died, and I swear he did it out of pure spite. I never trusted him.
Of course there was a whole bunch of cats and dogs around here, too. I never paid them much heed, until this last one that came into the house as a little rescued puppy named Recon. The husband was ancient history, the kiddies was about to scatter, and all the other animals had died off by then. I knew my Lady needed company, and she needed it bad.
Creatures that’s been in pain much of they lives can go one way or the other, and that includes humans, and that includes pain of all kinds. They either take on an everlasting meanness, living all the time like a coiled-up snake, just waiting for the next chance to strike out, aiming to hit hard. Or they go the other direction entirely, taking on their own sense of life’s troubles and hardness, and doing they best to be in the world in such a way as to ease the path for others. That was Recon.
6 Replies to ““Recon,” excerpt from novel “Pushing the River””
You’re really having fun with this.
Not sure if that means you approve (i.e., like it) or not!
I still miss my hermit crab
Christmas is coming!
I never met a hermit crab I liked. Guppies, on the other hand, well the males have enough color and flair to grab one’s attention. But you become ambivalent when you see how they behave. You just have to cheer for their drab female counterparts and hope that the ratio is at least 3:1 to keep it level.
But in this case, the steady canine is really the boon companion. Timely, it seems.
“For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter
You become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there
Wrapped up in a trap of your very own chain of sorrow”
– John Prine
Always great to cite John Prine.