(picture from It's Nature)
FLYING THE DOG
The street is filled with men. A powerful gust and the men’s toupees are winging their way over schools, convenience stores and parking spaces reserved for the management of the hydro plant. Twenty head-sized fields of stiff hairs are borne aloft in the arms of the wind, small sections cut from the jet black shag rug on the floor and walls of the groovy rec room in the basement of the men’s imaginations. They have taken flight, have risen high above bending rivers and 50% sold condominium developments. The men imagine that the coarse fibres of these flattened crows are wispy and believable, like angel feathers or the memory of their first kiss during the bunny hop at Annie Fineberg’s Bat Mitzah. They believe that these swart and wiry nests have the bittersweet softness of sparrows, sparrows that have flown from the immense sweet mouth of God as He whispers lullabies in Aramaic to the balding faithful, half asleep in the light of late night television, running hopeful fingers through their imaginary hairs as the pool filter gurgles.
And today in this strong wind, I am flying my dog. The leash is long and Henry is high above me. His barks, like the shriek of seagulls, fall down from the sky, scuff my shoes then rattle over the curb and into the sewer. Henry stops to sniff a sparrow, lifts a leg over a cloud. He who is a poodle and does not appear on radar.
Once while we were walking by the airport, he entered the flightpath of an incoming jet. It was a British Airways DC-9 on its way from Heathrow and he would not let go. The flight attendants shouted through the oval windows, gestured with tiny rectangular ham sandwiches, advised the pilot to drop fuel. But Henry had tasted wingtips and the luggage of diplomats, and he would not relent. I called “Here Henry. Good dog Henry. Come to Daddy, Henry,” but Henry was eating cartons of duty-free cigarettes and the wrappers of complimentary in-flight peanuts, he was drinking ice-filled tumblers of tomato-juice and packages of wet-wipes. He was watching “Lethal Weapon II” while listening to the Popular Hits of Today channel on a headset chewed from its plastic bag. Finally Henry ate the entire plane, leaving only the bitter rubbery wheels, the black box, and the passengers and crew who he spat through the stage door of a failing Andrew Lloyd Webber production. Both passengers and crew skidded onto centre stage, a huddling and exuberant spitball. Emergency vehicles were called. Passengers and crew broke into song. Next day, the reviews were favourable, and I was asked to produce a revival of “Phantom,” which I did using lyrics transcribed from the black box. “A Flying Dog has Bitten our Fuselage” was the hit of the show and I was happy, felt as if I were flying in the empyrean blue like Henry.
And so I have spoken of happiness. Soon I will speak of sorrow, a dry, irritating sorrow like an oyster stuck in grains of sand. It wasn’t that my parking space at the hydro plant had been ceded to management. It wasn’t that my heart had been sold at a garage sale for much less than it was worth, indeed for less than those salad servers that were a gift from my mother. Ok, so my heart wasn’t in perfect condition, and perhaps it was out of style for it had a couple chambers that’d been macrame’d decades ago by my mom. The doctors had told her that I needed a new heart but Mrs. Kline, they said, we’ve none to give him. My mom sat down in right there in the doctor’s office and began her macrame magic. She didn’t stop though the sun sank and the night creatures crawled from bed, had a quick coffee and got to work: pawing stacks of newspapers waiting for delivery, trying on toupees overturned and blown far away from the heads that were their home.
No, it is not my own sorrow of which I speak, nor the sorrow of my dog Henry. Indeed what creature, whether man, woman, or beast could feel sorrow floating high above the ground, its doggy flesh feeling like clouds gathered around its pulsing heart, its cloud-white bones.
Henry and I were walking down Serious Street, had just got to the corner of Annubis, when we encountered sorrow. Sorrow in a wide brim hat. Sorrow spouting off again about gerontology through its gap-toothed smile.
What made me sad was that I felt like I had left the building of my body, my soul flying high above me the way my dog flies high above the tarmac.
* * *
What does one do with old work that, though promising, is from a different time and place than you're at now? Does it deserve to be realized and sent out into the world? Stored in your own box of old work archives? The above story beginning is one of many pieces that I began but never finished. I could finish it, however, it feels like I've got many more pressing new ideas to work on. I wonder if I've got to be a better writer since then? Have my initial concepts more depth, or complexity, or subtlety to them? Do old pieces have a kind of youthful energy to them that my newer pieces don't? Do I have to connect with the pieces in the same way? Could I just finish them from some distance? Hmm...