Monday, July 11, 2011

There, is a Part of Our Country, excerpt.

     I had just come from the orchard and was trying to feed Mashka the watch dog some peaches I found under the tree.  Mashka was licking the umbilical cords off the fresh round puppy bellies; I was barefoot and spread legged in the sand drive thinking of names for them.  Grandpa bowlegged emerged from the orchard metal bucket in hand and came to the dusty dog house by the front gate, “The bitch had too many,” he said.  “Oh, are we keeping some?” I asked.  “No, there is no one to take them. I got the chain tight, pick them up.”  “All of them?” “Yes, hurry up.” Dropping the half rotten peaches in the dust, I scooped up the six black and white puppies.  Mashka began to thrash and snarl. I hurried up and ran out of chain length, mutts cradled in my shirt.  Grandpa let her go and she sprinted at me until the chain cut her off in a choke. The day was hot.  We came over to the tap.  The tap always had ice cold water from the well below.  “Where are we taking them?”  “In the garden,” he turned the faucet, “turn it off when it fills up,” he said and shuffled off.  Squatted on the sandstone slab, I set the dogs on the ground one by one and sank my hands into the bucket.  The water near freezing made my arms tingle numb, I sat there until the bucket overflowed, dazed staring at skewed arms in the water.  “Turn off the water.” Grandpa announced from behind me.  I jerked my arms out, shut the faucet and picked up the puppies.  In his left hand he had a shovel; with his right he grabbed the squeaky handle and lifted the bucket crystal water splashing on my feet, muddying them.  We walked through the vegetable garden and into the beginning of the orchard.  There was a peach tree heavy with fruit and cicada racket in the late noon. 
     “Whatchu digging the hole for?” I asked looking into my shirt.  “For the puppies,” He exhaled shoveling.  “Isn’t Mashka going to miss them?”  “She’ll forget.” After the hole was big enough he stuck the shovel in the ground, wiped the sweat off his forehead and brought the bucket closer. “How long ‘s it take to forget?” “Put them in.” he said. I counted the puppies one more time and tried to remember their names. “Hurry up,” he said looking down.  “How do I do it?” “Just put them in.” “But the water, it’s really cold.” “Dogs don’t get cold, they have fur.”  I couldn’t decide on the order. I closed my eyes and grabbed the first.  I let him go just above the water and he blooped under round belly down.  As I was choosing the next one grandpa said, “come on, just put them all.”  I crouched over the bucket opened my shirt and let the rest flop in together.  Slowly in every direction the six puppies swam down to the bottom, the black and white one on top, legs up in the air, pooped.  “Grandpa, how long do we wait?”  He looked at the tree and picked a ripe and large peach from a branch so high up I could never reach.  He split the peach with his fingers, we shared it and I picked some green and yellow wild flowers.  He tipped the bucket into the hole, slowly with the sound of the water pouring on dirt and a few thuds the squeaky bucket handle set down.  He only used half the pile of dirt to fill the hole; I put wild flowers on top.  I asked for another peach, he reached and plucked down three.  He told me to clean my hands and go help grandma make dinner.

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