He threw a pinch of sugar into the dregs of coffee then stirred it with a steak knife. The blade loose in the cracked black plastic handle with the faux wood-grain finish had a small depression it from where it fell on the stovetop burner. The drink was already stone cold but he wanted to make it as tolerable as possible. There was something he head to do. He just didn’t want to do it. The dog whimpered at his feet. She was in pain. What did these things always fall to him?
We had to give her back to the farmer. It hurt the father just as much if not more. Some people can get numb to something if they do it long or often enough. But not the father. You could weep about it afterwards but not while you’re doing it; just pray something else came along which usually did. Still, just the same, it never seemed to stop you from doing it.
When he was a boy, the boy’s age, he and Richie would go catch puppies or kittens and take them down to the river in burlap sacks.
What are doing with them? His mother would ask in English heavily accented with Polish.
He knew she meant the flour sacks he had stuck in his belt loops. She used them to cure the pork his father dressed and lately they had been disappearing. What are you doing with them she asked again in Polish.
Yes, mother, dear, we apprehend young newborn canines and felines and place them in these sacks and convey them to the mighty Susquehanna where they are dropped to their great rewards…
Yeah, Ma, me and Richie catch puppies and kittens and put em in these sacks then toss em in the river.
Ahh, pain the dupa, she understood what she wanted to understand. When she was listening anyway.
If she saw how the sacks were shredded and full of blood and shit she wouldn’t want them back. One time, just once, he’d love to come home up the hill and toss the sack at her, Here you go washerwoman, clean the shit and blood out of this. Just to piss her off. He never did and would.
The following morning when the father told the son the lie the boy wasn’t old enough to appreciate the compassion behind it; the hope that telling a lie, or lying often enough, might make the lie a little more acceptable or warp the truth out of shape enough to make it believable, make it the truth. Something else will come along. That’s what his father always told him. Something else will come along. He never said what exactly, good or bad, just something different will come along. The boy thought he was just hedging his bets. The next day, tomorrow, was the only thing that came along. Or would it? He thought, Why does this always happen to me?