I grew up in Maryland, bonded Appalachian, then moved west and stayed. I've worked in the building trades most of my life: carpenter, plumber, electrician. Also a writer all my life, a dozen books, mostly novels. I live with my high school sweetheart in the house we built in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.
The boy rides the backpack,
big silent eyes absorbing this fresh morning
when we hear brakes squeal. Yelp!
A doggy yelp. Me jogging, boy bouncing,
we find a white dog hit by a car,
blood spurting. Car gone.
We follow the dog to a front porch.
I know this house, the bedroom with curtains open
where once on a night walk I with then-newborn son
stopped among others, sidewalk passersby,
watching as a woman danced naked to a mirror.
“Somebody should tell her,” a man said.
“She knows,” a woman said.
White dog is whining, raining blood.
I knock. Door opens. A kid. “My mom’s in bed.”
TV cartoons. Loud ones. Mayhem.
“Would you wake her?”
She comes out in a see-through nightgown
looking sleepy and annoyed.
She says her dog never goes to the road.
“Yes it does,” I say. “Every day.”
She twitches my son’s nose in the backpack
and says, “Hi there, cutie,” then winks at me
while her dog is bleeding all over the carpet.
My job is done. I turn to leave.
Her kid is crying about the blood.
She shouts, “Turn that crap off!”
In the backpack my son watches, wide quiet eyes,
whatever one learns at the age of six months
of dogs and blood and sexy women.
Some day I hope he’ll explain.
Note: Shortly after the events of this poem, the woman moved out. Forty-one years later, my son has never explained.
© 2018 Joe Cottonwood
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