Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On Taking a Dog for a Bath

Having a short story out in circulation is somewhat like being at a deck or patio party of a Summer's evening, filled with risk and mosquito and the sharp tang of citronella candles burning to ward off the pesky dive bombers.  The host or hostess suggesting we all retire inside being the equivalent of the envelope with the news that the story has found a home in some journal.

Having a book in circulation is, as you've previously noted, of a piece with a colonoscopy; everyone has a look at your insides, clucks tongue, makes guttural noises of appraisal, wishes you the best of luck.  Unlike the acceptance of a short story, the news of acceptance for a book means the second round of work, those unanticipated hot and flat spots some editorial eye has found and has called to your attention .

Having a dog at a grooming service is exponentially, achingly worse, even though you understand fully that having a soothing bath and having her matted areas trimmed is intended to improve her comfort and sense of well-being.  You are immediately aware of the vast numbers of persons about you who have dogs; not only that, they have their dogs with them.  It is one thing for Sally to want to stay in her room when you go to the Y or for coffee at Peet's or La Luna Cafe; she has merely opted out of accompanying you, as she routinely opts in when you leave for a teaching gig.  The connection between person and dog is borne in on you by the absence of the dog, your utter lack of ability to visualize where she is and what she is doing.  You have in effect consigned her over to Don, who radiates a concern for his animal charges, even to the point of noticing Sally's arthritic walk.  Your sense of comfort at having consigned her to Don is similar to your having in a real sense given your entire being and consciousness over to Alex Koper over six years ago, knowing he would leave a considerably long scar on your torso, from sternum down below belly button, in his search-and-destroy patrol within your entrails.  You did not need to be reminded of the considerable bond between you and Sally, nor do you need to spend too much time thinking through the ramifications and consequences of being in such a bond.  Unless there is some anomaly, you will outlive her, which means among other things the need to embark on those five stages outlined by the late, lamented Dr. Kubler-Ross.  In the strength of connection there is the vulnerability you feel every time you are away from her, every time you have something in circulation, whether it is a manuscript, your admiration for another person, your regard for a political/social ideal, or the simple fact of loving a person, place or thing, there is the potential for anomaly that will get your sense of comfort and confidence stuck waiting on some desolate runway, as you work your way through Dr. K-R's five stages.

And yet.

What it comes down to is that a life without risk is no life, rather an existence; it offers nothing to experience, write about, or love; it is as empty as the tombs and caverns of the ancients that have been looted of their treasures, leaving the rest of us to wonder what the culture was that produced them.

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