MAN, BOY, DOG
As a boy he tortured frogs, turtles turned
upside down so their feet struggled in the air
as they dried out.
My friend was his second wife.
He told her he ran away because his father beat him,
joined the Marines, later became a policeman.
They had a dog named Rudy who slept in the kitchen
and was slapped or not fed when he stepped over a line.
Rudy would stand quivering in the doorway
to the living room, his eyes bulging, body trembling
with the effort to disappear or be approved.
My friend’s husband was retired and framed his pistol,
mounted it on the wall.
He was the kind who crushed your fingers
when he shook hands.
He grew roses.
My friend and her husband had a baby boy,
a premature baby who weighed one and a half pounds.
The husband was eager for the boy to grow up.
He said the boy was maladjusted.
He sidled away on the couch when the boy sat down.
One day in the restaurant he made the boy crawl
under the table to get to the bathroom.
Then he ate the boy’s meal.
He gave the boy an expensive bike.
He said he was surprised when the boy learned anything.
One day when the boy was thirteen, he did not come home.
They looked in the garage, he was hanging by a rope
near the garden tools, the rose food.
His head was thrust forward like Rudy, his eyes bulging.
Later, they gave away the dog.
—from Rattle #28, Winter 2007