Friday, September 18, 2015

September 15, 2015

Spade strikes ground.

The ground begrudgingly accepts the spade and the sudden jarring stop is the gatekeeper saying, "only so far… and no further".

The minuscule split in the ground stokes a worry in the man on the other end of the shovel.  "This might take a while."  He looks to the dying light in the evening sky.  Anxiety wells up in him but it's a well worn emotion and he knows its power to motivate as well as to sap.  He stokes his determination; "This hole must be dug." He repositions.

Spade strikes ground.

Much the same effect is present but the earth's maw slightly widens and lengthens.  The man is calling forth an insatiable beast.  Leverage is no avail for the roots of the grass and the trees and the bushes live here and wish to keep right on living here but the work is begun and it must be finished.  

A void is required; ALL will be removed; gain via subtraction.

Spade strikes ground.

The man had never really stopped to observe it, but had seen it much of late; all mammals age similarly.  Dogs go grey.  Dogs get stiff.  Dogs grow old.  Dogs die.  

The dog in question was a tiny thing as dogs go, but a credit to his breed.  He was loved by his humans who kept him for 13 long years and tended to him the way a beloved pet ought to be tended to.  He aged from precocious learner, to faithful servant, to constant companion (as constant as the humans' circumstances would allow).  

The natural white of the bands of fur, striking against the black and brindle background, had begun to blur past the sharp distinctions of his youth.  His eyesight was affected, his joints not as spry, and his owners detected a lethargy creeping beneath the will to follow.  Entirely before the humans could even begin to wrestle with these changes and their implications the veterinarian was heard to mutter the label "geriatric" in his presence.  It was a powerful word: it could forgive much.  But the humans thought, he's still our dog, we can still see that spark, we still have time.  

Listen to me: we never have time.

The end was not totally unexpected; at least not as ends can sometimes be.  The waves of shock that shook awake the reckonings of the humans had been jarring at first in their implications: my dog is finite, and now were becoming jarring in their increasing rapidity: wave after wave, the dog is ever more infirm.  

The dog is getting old.  We're all getting old, though.

The end … is nearer than it's ever been before… Oh, THANKS Captain Obvious!

The end … might… be… never mind, he's fine, it's not worth saying.    

Oh my… he's having a LOT of trouble moving… the end might be near.

The man had not been present at the dog's last trip to the veterinarian.  No one knew it would be the last trip.  Similar fears had arisen recently and dark hours had passed; why not again?  There was hope the dog was still the dog; the dog was always the dog.  But the man could not help but notice new symptoms; troubling symptoms, and the man did what the man does, he turned to the Internet for answers because likely wrong answers seemed somehow more comforting (probably not the right word) than only questions.  Neurological damage.  

The vet concurred, "neurological damage". 

The call came.  The time has come.  Do you want to be here.  No.  I could do no good.  I could do no good.

The dog was a Boston Terrier in life, or, if you prefer, the "American Gentleman", or, my favorite, "Ol' Screw-tale Bulldog".  His was a thoroughly American breed, but the man determined that his handling, under these circumstances, would be anything but American in nature.  The humans decided he could not simply be left to be discarded, nor would he be cremated to ease the handling of his remains (probably too fresh was the loss to even think of the venomous word, remains).  He would be handled with love and respect, as the man saw it.  There was one last act of ownership, of service to a long-time companion.  And so:

Spade strikes ground. 

There was something strange about the tiny cardboard coffin.  The elegant penmanship drawn upon to scrawl in felt-tip pen across the top in flowery letters flanked by angels wings the name "Bentley", was well-appreciated by the man.  Not anonymous.  Not just another.  But something troubled the man since seeing the arrangements made by caring veterinarian and staff.  The coffin, narrow at the feet, angled to wide hip, narrowing to shoulders and neck and finally making room for head; was human-shaped; as coffins are.  Curious.

The man's boy, curious of the process, wanted to see Bentley one more time.  "Here he is… he's in this box."  

"Can we see him, I want to see what he looks like."

"No", says the woman.  "No.  Let's not.  I want to remember him as he was."  Explanation accepted, curiosity diverted, child ushered away.

The child is his father's son.  The man wants to see as well.  He lifts the lid but does not see dog, instead a form in a black plastic bag.  Through plastic bag the man can feel the form of his old beloved friend.  Skinny now.  He can feel the ribs he petted so many times.  He gently traces the form of the body, petting through plastic barrier.  Curiosity and need met, he closes the box.

Spade strikes ground.  

(The man is aware that the sound is telling.  It can only be the rhythmic sound of digging.  Recognizable by all.)

Spade strikes ground.

Hole dug, the tiny cardboard coffin is laid within.  The three: grieving man, grieving woman and curious child, begin to shovel back on clumps of dirt.  The dirt bangs against the cardboard top as if banging against a drum.  It is entropy's own drumbeat.

The pounding shakes loose in the man the sense of loss that anxious activity had covered, and with it come tears, the vanguard of a legion of such.  

Moreover, the drumming shakes loose a thought.  A thought the man can't marshall whenever he looks in the mirror and sees the greying streaks of hair on his temple.  A thought when he wonders, where did my little boy go; whence was he replaced by this little man?  The man thinks: I am a mammal.    

Spade strikes ground.

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