Maybe It Wasn’t A Golden Retriever
I was barely old enough to drive when Mom got sick in Sarasota
on our first vacation after she divorced Dad.
I drove a thousand miles home
in our white Chevy Impala convertible with red seats,
straight through, no motel, with Mom slumped against the passenger-side door
and my younger sisters and brother in the back seat
with the top up the whole way.
During the night a blond streak crossed in front of the headlights,
and I felt the two bumps under the tires on my side, the driver’s side.
I slowed down to pull over but Mom, her voice dark
and guttural, said, “Keep driving.”
I did. But back there was the golden retriever
who was barking at the white and red convertible
playing the chase game it was bound to lose some day
whose face was turned toward the on-coming headlights,
and now it was lying on the road, maybe beside the road, dead,
I hoped, dead instantly I hoped,
not quivering in a ditch waiting
for its owner to wake up the next morning
and wonder where that danged dog was.
Maybe it wasn’t a golden retriever. Maybe I was remembering
the dog I got when I was in third grade.
I fell asleep in the back seat of our car
on the way home from Granny and Grandpa’s one Sunday night,
holding the puppy, my first pet, him asleep too,
my arm over his fat belly,
my face next to his body
that smelled like a baby.
Dad didn’t think we should sleep with our pets
and hooked his leash to the clothesline at night.
One morning, the puppy was gone.
“Stolen,” Dad said.
Mom said nothing.
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