She’s got a malamute and she solves crimes: she is the Dog Trainer Detective.

She’s sniffy about the difference between Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, but understands the confusion; she’s got long practice at explaining the differences, which are as stark as alligators and crocodiles, crows and ravens, chalk and cheese. Similar climates, different purposes.

Loyal, stolid, concerned, not necessarily clever: she’s entertained the idea of training one of her ‘mutes for a Utility Dog classification but mostly as a joke. Training for it might be fun, but actually mastering the specific skills, eh, is fairly unlikely.

One time a murderer knocked her out and tried to kill her by looping her own dog’s leash around her neck and ordering it to mush. “Mush!” Idiotic; even as she grimly unlooped the lead from her larynx she couldn’t help correcting him mentally: folks who run sled dogs yell “Pull!”

She took some pleasure in letting the dog sit on his chest when she caught up to him. The dog just lolled its tongue happily as the cops pulled up, the sweet innocent.

Variations on a Theme

The dampness of an indoor swing poplar, the unfamiliar echoes of volcanos bouncing off of watermark, high cells, hard timekeepers, slags.

The first generation, they say, to expect less than their parents, repeated first as prophecy, then as farce, then as jeremiad. Corporate idiots, she says, in Iowa, paying six figures to learn javascript they’ll never use, never need, it’s a sinecure, who wouldn’t put take the offer? The door is already swinging shut behind them.

Diving boast rouse as sap, three foothills of aircrew above ten foothills of watermark.

Early memories of war footage, missing school to watch the bombs fall, the tight exultant faces of the newsmen waxing poetic over the bright bloom of explosions in the night, the oilfields that will burn for months or years, the cities laid to waste, the preening self-congratulation of a tidy war, a quick war, in and out in under a year, hailed as liberators.

We are well-practiced at swing, at floating, bobbing, treading watermark, turnpike our headers to breathe, floating on our backdrops and tractor a wobbly lapel leper, completely at eastward in the shamrocks.

Pandemics foreshadow plagues; a woman staring horrified at the mirror, lipstick scrawling red NOW YOU HAVE AIDS, condoms and needlecare in health class, people dying on the capital steps, forgotten fifteen years later, twenty years, rural life is hostile, lily-white, well-armed, delusional. We move on, we move on.

Under it all the humiliation of the circulator.


The dampness of an indoor swimming pool, the unfamiliar echoes of voices bouncing off of water, high ceilings, hard tiles, skylights. Under it all the hum of the circulator. Diving board rough as sandpaper, three feet of air above ten feet of water. We are well-practiced at swimming, at floating, bobbing, treading water, turning our heads to breathe, floating on our backs and tracing a wobbly lane length, completely at ease in the shallows.

Jumping is easy; we have practiced leaping from the porch rail to the front lawn, shock of earth running up from ankles to shins to knees, an unpolished roll, grass stains on your back, wind knocked out of us, up and around again, this should be the same. Easier, even; water is an open arm by comparison, a welcome home, but—

It’s an uncertain landing, whatever happens.

Later on, we learn ways around the fundamental problem: shallow dives that curve back to the air quickly, pencil dives that settle our feet deep below the surface to push us up again, but this is formless, without meaning, a darkness on the surface of the waters. Looking forward, we will cross that gap, forget this moment, but here, now, with our hair slowly drying, we linger.


By 1916 Lovejoy couldn’t take it anymore, and hitchhiked his way from Bloomingfield to Ottumwa and enlisted with the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. He told them he was 21, which maybe they didn’t believe but also they didn’t care, because they gave him a crash course in driving and shipped him over to France to haul whatever he could of soldiers back from the front.

It was an awakening, of sorts, holding his truck to the road through the German guns with men screaming from the gurney. The glory of war had never meant much to him, but up close it was worse, all incoherent noise and violence and meat. He wrote home, trying to explain any of that, but it must not have worked, because Gene and Roy followed him over in 1917. He didn’t know that at the time, mind; by the time Ma Jenny’s letter asking him to look out for them caught up to him, it came bundled with another saying they’d already been blown up somewhere away to the north. She didn’t blame him, she said; anyway he’d tried.

The other drivers got drunk with him when the news came, Ernest stolidly and Olaf furiously, the two Friend brothers sympathetically. Normally so voluble, that night they all sat quiet, except for the sound of the guns five miles away and the muffled screams from the hospital; what was there to say?

What Is Due A Guest

The old merchant is telling his favorite story, how he made his bank and the terrors and trials he overcame along the way. Most of the table has heard all this before, but the food is good, the wine is better, and he’s a good teller of tales, why fuss?

“So! There we were,” says the merchant, “terrified beyond thinking, dragged to a cave reeking of blood by an army of snickering apes, and in walks a giant, tall as a palm, fires burning in both his eyes—”

“Ah, a Cyclops,” says Burton, the new one, the outsider dolled up in local fashions. “This is clearly Polyphemus!”

Dead silence.

“It had?” says the merchant, off his stride. “Two? Eyes?”

Burton waves it away. “Trifles, trifles. This is clearly a Homeric retelling. A man? At sea? Facing a giant?” He leans back, bulletproof.

Sinbad prays for endurance, as always when first confronted with a monster neither deserved nor sought-for, then presses forward. The table leans forward, attention caught anew.