G R A V Y
“Fine. How are you?”
“We thought you belonged to the storm, you know? Your dog said we were wrong… Smart dog.”
I felt Gravy sink into my opened wounds of arms. He says, “I thought you belonged to the truck.”
“I’ve come apart some, eh?”
“Yeah. Well, some of you. We’ll talk about it.” A perfectly placed heavy sigh that had come before and would come again, I was sure. “Except for Gravy I suppose.”
“Well it must be my missing parts that are so tired. I’m going back to sleep.” I hear them bringing in Gravy but I’m out. In my dreams I’m driving a snowplow. It feels like I’m upside down. The snow is covering the windshield and the side windows. I lay into the gas, the engine revs but the snow doesn’t move. “God damn it’s warm in here.” I go to roll down the window and snow covers my face.
I wake up again to Gravy smothering my hands. It’s not the comfortable kind of wet and warm. I didn’t know he was allowed in a hospital. He just sits licking my hand looking up at me, the barrel of my forearm through the sights of my eyes. He’s laying into all the missing parts that he can see. I foresee saliva soaked, and then dried bandages, being peeled and replaced.
“I signed for something. A prescription? A release? I don’t know.” He says.
“I would have signed a release.”
“Perhaps. Not this time.”
I was nearly drained of blood. I woke to the hospital’s white walls.
“I’ve never seen a man’s teeth bleed before.”
“Well doctor, they’ve been going downhill.”
“Well I’d see someone about that.”
“I think I’ve had my fill of doctors for a bit.”
“You’re going to have to do something with your dog.”
“Why? He isn’t hurt, is he? Seemed fine the other day when he was in here.”
“No, it’s because of the blood thing. They think he’s got a taste for it I guess.”
“Didn’t I lose all this to the truck?” I motion to and squirm my missing appendages.
“Not says the vet.”
“Had to be the truck. Wasn’t it real messy? I think I remember being all kinds of backwards.”
“Do you remember a Louise Arden?”
“She was in the truck with you?”
In a surprising turn of events, I had burst his bubble and he sighed a long sigh.
“I don’t know what to tell you. I thought the truck owned you and now it was dead.”
“Spit out my knobby fingers right now… so they can sign to you who owns what… with an alphabet you can understand!” I choked a little on my anger and I spat out a drop of blood in my saliva onto my chin. I could see only his icy grey irises. Gravy’s moonlit black head tweaked clockwise, his ears at noon and three. It’s just for a moment that he fixates on the blood but rests his head back straight upon his neck.
“I’m sorry.” He says.
“How are you even still alive? Doctor gown there says you ate that girl too. Well I hope she’d been face down for a while.” I turn to my chest to avoid his gaze, “Ex-spe-cie-eh. Pound puppy.”
His upper lip quivered and revealed his canines. “’Pound puppy’ has nothing to do with me! You think it was some pleasure of letting a carnal ancestor blindside my reason? My mind and body, mind you, ached with the act. I was hurt in this incident too. Her nature was a duty to honor! You weren’t going to-”
“Just sit!” He sits. “Lay down!” he pushes his fore-paws before him until his chin meets the pale hospital tile. “I don’t even know her but-“
“You ought to! You ought to have-” Raising his head up.
“You’re fixin’ for a time out!”
“Just mind your manners!”
He lowers it again. I heard him sigh one time before I fell asleep.
I woke to him sniffing at a medical jar containing packets of ointment on a counter out of sight, then a regular jar of peanut butter at the other end. He followed his sense along the floor to the garbage pale. He put his head all the way in, sneezed and let his nose lead him to the point of the light up microscope they put in your ear. He stepped up on a nearby stool to get closer. He takes a lick. “Hey!” I muster. He jumped. He didn’t know I was awake. He abruptly trots across the floor tail wagging, eyebrows sorry and shoulders attentive. “You might try and be on your best behavior. I don’t think they think very good of you right now.”
“I told them I was sorry.”
“Oh yeah? How’d they take it?”
“What words did you use?”
“I don’t think so Gravy. Why do you think we’re both locked in here?”
“Well it’s well recognized that pets assist their masters in these circumstances. They bring a peace, and the emotional bond speeds up the healing process.”
“You think that’s what’s happening right now?” His eyebrows got sad and his ears fell. “I’m sorry. I just heard them talking. I don’t think it sounds good buddy.”
“Why don’t YOU tell them?” I looked down at my left foot. Gone, and a bandage over the stitches closing my calf. Gnawed. “Just say you’ll keep me inside, ask for another chance.”
“Don’t beg.” I said.
“You wanted to die! You wouldn’t care if you were dead now! You didn’t even care she was dead! I wouldn’t have if you’d told me not to!”
“What about honoring her nature or whatever?”
He paused first, “It’s not fair. They must know.”
“I don’t know Gravy.”
He slept on a mat underneath the only window in the room, just like at the pound. The training had been really difficult. He ran off many times, pretending not to hear me. He bit me many times breaking the skin only once. But he would sit cuddled occupying any free space between us. He smiled and nudged for affection. His nature was a sitcom, or a cute European vacation. Over time he opened up to me. He talked to me about his issues; nipping, trust, subservience as he saw it. He was right and then he was right. I had wanted to die. Sometimes I remember in the days before we spoke to one another, those flaming blue eyes said ‘you ain’t seen nothin’ yet’. I’m sure someone should have talked me out of the adoption. Our relationship became so close. My insecurities began to peak his interest. He knew I hated being an authority figure. He knew it was a front. But the years of driving had in some ways negotiated our terms. Maybe I wanted to die now, he or the wounds weren’t helping. I was scared to get better. He crippled me even when I had all my limbs. He probably knew I was scared to get out of there. He was placating my asinine ego knowing full well home would be his.
A nurse came in with a choke collar, “time for a pee.” She was obviously pensive.
“Be a good boy Gravy.”
A darkened single bedroom: hollowed for only the glow of the hockey game, the sheen of his eyes and darkness. “Would it be okay if I sat with you while you watched the hockey game?” asks Gravy. It’s an honest bewilderment that stalls my answer; I pause. I’m scared, no longer angry. I’m sad to be scared. “May I please sit on the bed with you while you watch hockey?” He reiterates. His eyes stared up from his submissive sit position. The game flickered little. The dim light shown upon two eyes trying to make contact and two more eyes fixated on avoiding.
“It’s a small bed.” He changed his eyebrows. “And I don’t think they want you on my bandages.”
“I won’t lick, just sit the bed’s foot. We’ve been in tight spots before.”
A high-pitched squeak from a gurney wheel pulled his attention toward the crack of the door and the jam. I took this opportunity to watch his tail instinctively wag and my own to cower in a knot of emotions. I remember him resting his chin on my knee, asleep as we drove the vast bi-ways. The squeak and the shuffling feet ached down the hallway, and I had only the game as an alibi for my delay. It went to commercial. My heart speeds up in a succinct act with my panicking thoughts. He stared. I was out of time and resorted to his eyes. “Okay. Up.”
He slunk his upper body over the edge, one paw at a time. His crawl was serpentine. He lay on his stomach on my left side and looked at me with those blue eyes. The sad to be scared feeling welled up a tear. I don’t know how a body with so many open wounds had enough blood to keep going this fast. “What?” I asked. The tear fell.
Triangles descended encroaching the bed, falling above me. A heat encouraged my limbs to calm.
You try and teach’em that the choice isn’t there’s to make, no choice ever. I wonder if he would have stopped if I commanded.