Izzy was watching birds in the back yard. It seems like she dislocates her jaw to make those primitive cackling noises. She thumps the wooden blinds against the pane of glass over and again, lunging. When she looks out the window and sees the birds I think she imagines a cooked chicken, like in cartoons when cats look at birds. It’s all about food for us companion animals. I take mine from a bag. Birds are safe around me. I’m small, but Izzy better not look at me with that primordial cackling.
Yesterday master saw something on the kitchen table. It was from the mailbox. I know it was from the mailbox because it was with the thing he read out loud that was a coupon for my heart worm medication. I know lots of stuff. And I know I don’t want worms in my heart or in my butt or anywhere.
I saw him looking at that other paper and it had a picture of some flowers on it. I heard him ask his wife something about when is mother’s day, whatever that is. I’m thinking it’s not a good day because he didn’t look happy. Precious was watching him from the hallway and at first I thought she was plugged in to the moment. Then I heard the garage door start going up and Precious’ bark altered the molecular structure of my pituitary gland. The wife reads anatomy and physiology books and tells everyone who will listen what she is reading and I’m just guessing I have a pituitary gland since master and the wife and the brothers and sisters do. The whole pack has’em. She is an adult learner which sounds strange. Good gravy, Izzy wants to eat things and the wife wants to label things and master wonders when is mother’s day. Oh. I get it.
He got quiet. I imagine what he is thinking when he is quiet. I already said quiet is not good. Master told me some quiet can remind him of certain types of silence and he knows a lot about silence, of sorts. He likes this book he read that starts with something about a silence of three parts. He told me a story some time ago when he and I lived alone and it was good and it was a very bad time, and he mentioned that part of the book in his story. I can picture it just like he told me. In a time when I was not born and my parents and their parents and even their parents were not born and after that I can’t keep track but it was a long time ago. In the story it was raining.
It was quiet. And the noises were…
falling rain in the winter forest, through grey limbs and on dead leaves built up on the ground over seasons,
feet shuffling through the mounds of rocks piled beside the wheel ruts on the gravel country road,
crinkling plastic trash bags the two walkers had adorned themselves with to keep them dry,
and electricity crackling when the rain hit the big power lines that divided the forest and crossed the gravel road.
The power lines glowed with the sparks caused by the rain and the conductivity of the mist in the air.
In the story, he explained, noises didn’t mean it was not quiet. It was a quiet of types. More like a type of silence than quiet. That type of silence was loud because it was massive. He said he could see it, the silence. It was the single hours of the morning. I know those hours because they are the hours when I lay awake in the bed and watch over master as he sleeps. The gravel road was traveled by a handful of cars by day. At that hour, on that night, rain with temperatures just above icing, there would be no cars coming along. They were mindful, always, of places to hide along the side if a car passed. To be found out while walking would be bad for the two of them. So they dragged their feet through the gravel, shifted trash bags full of belongings from shoulder to shoulder, and listened to the water on the leaves and the snapping sound of electricity. They were cold, and they kept to themselves. They added their quiet to the silence.
I saw master sit heavily at the table. The wife came behind him and put her hands on his shoulders. They didn’t say anything. He reached down and picked me up and put his hands on my shoulders. I get that a lot. No one spoke, and then he got up and started loading the dishwasher. I took my post where I guard the food bowls. Brothers and sisters went in and out, Precious barked by the door. It was normal.
It was not normal to be walking down a gravel road at two in the morning wearing a trash bags and listening to rain fall. Even the animals in the adjacent woods had found what cover they could and were hunkered down for the duration. Master and Mimi had someplace they needed to get to and that was that.
Walking, because earlier that night it had been really loud and master had held his hands over his ears, and buried himself under his covers, and felt the floor and walls shaking in the small mobile home where he lived with his mother and her husband.
One of the bad ones.
Those trailer homes have walls but they don’t really. Whenever I have been in them it’s like the only thing those walls do is block my view. Otherwise it’s like one big metal box and anything inside is for everyone inside. Master had stayed home alone while his mother and the man went somewhere drinking that night. That confuses me because master and the wife and the brothers and sisters just drink in the kitchen pretty much. Maybe they had to go to the store.
Master was 12. He had an Ithaca single shot twenty-gauge he’d received at Christmas and I sure wish I was around then because he told me he used to go in the woods behind the trailer and kill rabbits and eat them. I can’t picture master eating a rabbit. Wish I’d have been there and seen that and eaten rabbits with him in those woods.
He said the shotgun and the three TV stations kept him company and kept him safe in that trailer in the woods on that gravel road late into the night. He didn’t know about odds but he had instincts like I have instincts and when he saw the lights of the returning car he got in his bed and pretended to be asleep. Waiting to see what kind of night this would be and hoping for nothing.
Calm lasted 30 minutes and then screams and broken doors and crying and begging and finally full acquiescence leading to utter silence that was louder than the rain on the metal roof. Master risked forming a small opening to allow fresh air under the blankets for breath. He was light headed and craved to breathe deeply but he stayed still. Aching muscles not stretched, itches not scratched, wishing he’d have chosen a better position.
Master has a small stuffed red dog. Cracks me up…he named it. Its name is Doggy. It’s smaller than me. One eye is missing, its little black felt tongue hangs barely be a thread, and the material is worn bare over most of its body. It stays high on a shelf in master’s closet, next to some coffee mugs the brothers and sisters made when they were little children. I’ve seen him get that little dog down and show it to one of the sisters, the one young enough to still find things like that interesting.
It was his first dog. Boring. But there is something about that dog that still affects him. So I know what he is describing when he tells me that later that night, in that trailer in the rain, when his mother crept into his room and whispered they had to go and to put some things into a trash bag to carry, master would not leave that place without finding Doggy. He was too old to have stuffed animals in the bed, but he kept Doggy with him everywhere they lived. There were many places. So Doggy was wrapped in some cloths and stuffed in a bag and they had set out to walk a long distance to the town in the rain in the loud silence.
Mimi was young then, much younger than master is now, but she was staggering and limping and holding her side, walking slowly. They made the highway in about an hour and a half. From there they could see the lights of the little town. The side of town they came from was the side they needed to reach so they soon turned up the little street lined with small houses clad with pastel aluminum siding. He said that the houses had been built with government money. They went to the first one on the left. I can really picture this part of the story better because he showed me that house once when we were up there, up north. It was empty that night. It’s where they lived before they moved to the trailer in the woods.
They found an open window in back and climbed inside. There was stuff strewn everywhere, junk and trash mainly, from when they had moved out recently. There was no power, no heat, the water was off to prevent frozen pipes. No pillows, no blankets, and they wanted to sleep. They found some carpet and carpet pad remnants from when the garage had been turned into a family room and snuggled in and among those things in their coats, cloths, and shoes and master lay awake waiting for the car he feared would come to the driveway looking for them. Doggy was allowed in the bed that night. No one would find out.
Sun hit the bare windows early and they woke stiff and tired. Hungry. They had no money until they found an old toy safe master used as a piggy bank and in it was a handful of coins. It was enough to go to the only diner in town and buy a plate of eggs. It was also a good place to go because they gave master’s mother a job there. Some friends came and led master and his mother to a back bedroom in their home and they told her they could stay as long as they liked. They were very nice people and they had lots of dogs for hunting and the man there liked to hunt and fish a lot and he took master with him. At night master found himself sneaking Doggy into the bed. Doggy is stuffed and still there is something kindred I feel but won’t admit.
It was too hot to sleep most nights because they heated with a big wood burning stove. Master said he’d put an ice cube right there on the center of his chest sometimes. But the seasons changed and for a time, it was quiet.
When is mother’s day? Master only asked the one time. He didn’t seem to care when no one answered him.
[not sure where I’m headed with these but I enjoy writing them]