Junk Yard Dog
by Christine Adams Beckett
The shrill telephone startled her from
An unconscious afternoon of laundry folding.
“Your dog is down on Berkeley,
Headed for Valley Road,”
The frantic woman said.
“We can’t stop him.”
She found him lumbering
Crookedly like the stray dogs
She had seen on the islands.
From a distance, one could imagine
The mange, the dirt,
The fleas and conjunctivitis
As he violently choked down
A piece of tin foil, malleable and discolored
Like a dog who had not been fed
$35 a bag kibble with warmed chicken stock
Just that morning.
His sideways stride, even and experienced,
His evasive agility suggested
He never lost his freedom.
It was always there, a feral nature
Residing just under the fur,
Exposed with a mere scratch of the skin
Where the screen that used to plug the hole in the fence
Exposed some bloodied flesh.
Why be dragged back to a
Suffocating life of down-filled, fleece-lined dog beds,
Warm peanut butter on a toddler’s inviting fingers,
And crackling fires that warmed his haunches
Where the fur grew too thin for
New Jersey winters?
She may look like a suburban mother
Who warms chicken stock to
Moisten his kibble.
She is also a captor, a jailor
Who pursues him with a terrified need,
A disconsolate feeling of loss
Much like that of experiencing
A child shuffle off her lap, refusing the breast,
Or the preschooler’s shrug of the shoulders
Upon her departure to the classroom
WIth no hint of separation anxiety.
It suggests the same rejection, isolation
As the teenager who finally realizes
He prefers an evening amongst his peers,
A lover who has been unable to
Break through the wall of a solitary existence.
The suggestion of death, the dog’s,
Startles her to look to love.
She kneels and purrs, holds out a treat
To lure him back with kindness.
A stare down ensues
A last dash to the upturned garbage can.
She sits on the frozen ground, her knees to her eye sockets
Not having to rise at 6 AM for that first
Pit stop in the front yard.
Conjures the freedom of having a morning uninterrupted by
The prerequisite walk around the park.
A weekend away without a dog sitter,
A bittersweet thought on her angry mind.
Angrier still, until a familiar wet nose
Jars her from her fantasy
Of days without others to care for
With a warm lick to the cheek.
She clicks the leash to the collar
If the tongue sought to comfort
Or to find sadistic pleasure in
The saltiness of her tears.