THE MAN WHO BURIED HIS
DOGS IN THE FRONT YARD
It's a long stretch speeding down the highway from
Atlanta to New Orleans, and most everyone dozes off. But
the moon is just right, and for a moment, through the
gums and elms and oaks and dogwoods of the roadside
forest tonight, a dwelling stands alone, its perimeter
outlined with glowing colors. White lights and blue
lights and red lights and yellow. In the house lives a
man who believes with all his heart that Bosnia must
really belong to the Serbs because he heard somebody say
it on his favorite radio show. He knows for sure that a
bullfighter is a man who never loses his nerve, and to
prove it he has a picture of one of them, red cape
swirling, taped to the inside of his closet door. And he
is absolutely certain that anywhere he goes he will look
cool if he puts on his curly-haired toupee and sunglasses
and a loosened tie, like on TV.
Sure enough, while he pretends to be looking through
the sacks of marble chips and potting soil and turkey
manure and peat moss down in the Wal-Mart parking lot, a
redheaded woman in a close-fitting pink silken dress that
quivers like raspberry marshmallow Jell-O moves so close
to him that when he whispers how he'd like to show her
his house at night because it looks so pretty with all
those lights, she doesn't hesitate a minute.
She even offers to help him load the peat moss in
spite of the fact that she's wearing her best dress, but
he tells her that the last thing a man who lives around
all those trees needs is a sack of peat moss, and tosses
it back down on the pile with the others. Nobody says
that the first thing a man who lives around all those
trees needs is a look, and then a word, and then a touch.
But nobody has to say it, not now.
She cooks chili for him like Becky used to, only
hotter, and she serves it over fresh warm cornbread so
moist that as soon as he finishes the last piece he licks
his fingers. And then after the dishes are all put away
and the floor is swept clean, when he sings "Red
Roses for a Blue Lady" to her at the portable organ
he carries in from the shed, she has to wipe her eyes, it
is that moving. And when he tells her about the dogs, she
understands, even before he starts to cry.
She holds his head on her lap and tries to cheer him
up with "Onward Christian Soldiers" in a
soprano voice that makes him forget all about Hot Lips
and Shooter. Presently, when she begins to keep time with
her long, mauve fingernails on the back of his shoulder
blade, he jumps up and wipes his eyes and runs back over
to the organ. Their duet lasts a full twenty-five
minutes, because she knows every one of those verses, and
when they reach the end they keep right on going because
it's so much fun.
And as they lie together on his turquoise waterbed
coverlet looking out into the roadside forest from his
bedroom window, they see a Greyhound bus speeding by,
fast as the wind.