“Recon” (cont.) excerpt from “Pushing the River”

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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 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.

            None of them animal doctors could ever figure out why Recon got gimpy in her font leg in the first place, let alone why she got worse and worse.  My Lady trotted her all over creation trying to get an answer; but not so very different than with me, the doctors tsk-tsked and clucked their tongues and wagged their heads and knitted their brows and sent Recon back home.  Recon just went on about her business, all the time walking a bit slower, going a bit less far from My Lady’s side, never once complaining about the pain all them docs said she was most definitely suffering.

            Ever so often my Lady would go over to wherever Recon was resting her bones, and she’d put her own forehead right against the big dog’s, stroking both her ears and whispering that she was sorry.   They’d stay that way for a time, head to head, then my Lady would dab at her eyes and get on up.

            Recon still greeted every new day, and every person that ever walked through the front door of our house, like they was a dang miracle that she could not even believe her own good fortune to encounter.  When the Tumbleweed came for dinner and never left, and Marie left the Boy back in New York to move in and lay in wait for the imminent storm, and the giant-bellied, wide-eyed child parked herself on the couch with her gummy bears and her movie star TV shows, Recon treated the whole shebang like it was just more folks to share the pure joy of being on the planet.  Of course when the Little One came back, and finally the Boy, Recon was like a mama whose babies had all returned to the nest, wagging her whole body all the day long.

            Strange, though, that for some infernal reason when the little tiny infant was brought in and added to the mix, Recon started doing something she ain’t never did before.  When nobody was looking, she would go over to the couch, grab the corner of one of them fancy pillows in her mouth, gentle-like, then hump the dang pillow for all it was worth!

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“Recon,” excerpt from novel “Pushing the River”

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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. 

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            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.

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“Sierra Arrives” (cont.), excerpt from “Pushing the River”

3320928533_b0f4f2a6fd_z            “Does he know that Uncle Steve has been dead for fifteen years?”

            “He knows.”

            “And this clown thinks it’s totally OK to send Sierra back.  With your mom. Who’s having long conversations with a dead guy.”

            “You know how this works.  She’s not a danger to herself or others.”

            “Really.  So how does he explain Sierra locking herself in the bathroom because she was so fucking scared?”

            “He’s not a bad guy, Madeline.  I’ve been talking to him for a really long time.  He’s been there with my mother for a really long time.  There’s no choice here.  He’s gotta do his job.  Once my mom calls the police and reports Sierra gone, she’s officially a runaway, and you are then harboring a runaway.  He tells me this is a Class A misdemeanor.  He tells me you could end up going to jail.  For a year.  So, you gotta take her home now or he sends the cops over to haul you off to jail.”

            “Fuck.”

            “Exactly.”

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            “So he is totally convinced that your mom is OK?  He is willing to put his ass on the line that a pregnant fifteen-year-old is gonna be safe with her?

            “Yep.  That’s pretty much it.”

            “OK, tell you what.  You get his name, and his badge number, and you tell his ass that it’s his decision, and it’s his ass.  Put me on speaker phone if you want, and I’ll tell him myself.”

            “Um, I’m pretty sure he can hear you already.  I got the other phone right here.”

            “Great.  Saves time.”

            “You gotta take her home.  Right now.”

            “Does she know all this?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Is she OK with this?  I mean…”

            “She knows there’s no choice.”

            “Well, I’m not taking her home.  I’ll tell you what — if I am ‘harboring a runaway’ and am very nearly a felon, I certainly should not be putting this kid in a car and driving her anywhere, right?  And what’s more, if Billie’s in such great shape and all fine and dandy and ready to be a mom and not scare the shit out of her daughter in the middle of the fucking night, she can figure out a way to get here and get her Sierra herself.  Let’s see her do that.  We’ll be waiting right here.”

           In a reversal of events from a half hour before, it is Madeline’s turn to tread lightly down the hallway towards the blackness of the room where Sierra lays.  She stands for a moment outside, but through the three-inch opening of the door, a little voice says from the nothingness, “It’s OK, MadMad; I’m awake.  I know…”

            “I’m sorry, Kiddo.  Are you OK?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Anything I can do?”

            “No.”

            “Nothing?”

           “It’ ll take them a while to get here.  I’m gonna try to sleep.”

            “OK.”

            “OK.”

            “Then we’ll make a plan.  You’re not leaving here unless you feel safe.”

            Madeline waits outside the door, but no answer comes.

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