Thursday

Mar. 11, 2010

Retriever

by Faith Shearin

My father, in middle age, falls in love with a dog.
He who kicked dogs in anger when I was a child,
who liked his comb always on the same shelf,
who drank martinis to make his mind quiet.

He who worked and worked—his shirts
wrapped in plastic, his heart ironed
like a collar. He who—like so many men—
loved his children but thought the money

he made for them was more important
than the rough tweed of his presence.
The love of my father's later years is
a Golden Retriever—more red

than yellow—a nervous dog who knows
his work clothes from his casual ones,
can read his creased face, who waits for
him at the front door—her paws crossed

like a child's arms. She doesn't berate him
for being late, doesn't need new shoes
or college. There is no pressure to raise her
right, which is why she chews the furniture,

pees on rugs, barks at strangers who
cross the lawn. She is his responsible soul
broken free. She is the children he couldn't
come home to made young again.

She is like my mother but never angry,
always devoted. He cooks for his dog—
my father who raised us in restaurants—
and takes her on business trips like

a wife. Sometimes, sitting beside her
in the hair-filled fan he drives to make
her more comfortable, my father's dog
turns her head to one side as if

thinking and, in this pose, more than
one of us has mistaken her for a person.
We would be jealous if she didn't make
him so happy—he who never took

more than one trip on his expensive
sailboat, whose Mercedes was wrecked
by a valet. My mother saw him behind
the counter of a now-fallen fast food

restaurant when she was nineteen.
They kissed beside a river where fish
no longer swim. My father who was
always serious has fallen in love with

a dog. What can I do but be happy for him?

"Retriever" by Faith Shearin, from The Owl Question. © Utah State University Press, 2002. Reprinted with permission (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Christopher Rice, (books by this author) born in Berkeley, California (1978). He's the son of poet Stan Rice and runaway best-selling Interview with the Vampire author Anne Rice. Before his 30th birthday, Christopher Rice himself had written four New York Times best-selling novels.

His first, A Density of Souls (2000) — about four New Orleans teenage friends, one of whom discovers he's gay — he wrote at the age of 22, at the bedside of his mother, who'd fallen into a diabetic coma. His other novels, all thrillers with people discovering deep dark secrets, are Snow Garden (2001), Light Before Day (2005), and Blind Fall (2008). His newest book comes out this April; it's called The Moonlit Earth (2010).

It's the birthday of children's book author Ezra Jack Keats, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn (1916), who won the 1963 Caldecott Medal for his book The Snowy Day.

His book The Snowy Day won widespread acclaim for its beautiful illustrations, lyrical language, and (at the time) bold multiculturalism. It's about an African-American child named Peter who goes out exploring his New York neighborhood after the first snowfall of the season. Keats wrote several more award-winning books through out the 1960s, which featured his protagonist Peter growing up: Whistle for Willie (1964) Peter's Chair (1967), A Letter to Amy (1968), and Goggles! (1969). Many of his books have been made into films.

It's the birthday of writer Douglas Adams, (books by this author) born in Cambridge, England (1952), best known for his five-book "trilogy" The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a series of comic science fiction novels that sold more than 15 million copies, was translated into more than 30 languages, and inspired a cult-like following.

The idea for the first book came to Adams when he was backpacking through Europe at the age of 19, lying drunk in a field with his tour book called the Hitch-hiker's Guide to Europe, and lamenting the fact that he couldn't communicate with Austrians. He said it occurred to him right then that somebody ought to write a hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy.

He worked odd jobs for years, writing things on the side and having them rejected for publication, and was about to give up all hope of being a writer when in 1978 BBC radio accepted an outline of his hitchhiker story for a radio comedy. It's about an Englishman named Arthur Dent and his alien friend, Ford Prefect, who hitch a ride from Earth on a passing starship before the planet is destroyed by a band of bureaucratic aliens. He wrote 12 episodes for the radio series, which was a big hit, and soon afterward a publisher asked him to write it up as a book.

He said, "Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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