Yancey swishes down the dirt road, feet aflutter. The dog has always half hopped, and now that she wears little rubber booties, after two nasty bouts of bacterial infection in her paw pads, her dance-like movements are even more noticeable. This morning she set off on the trail of the wild turkey, who made a hasty exit into the bushes at the sound of the front door opening. I’ve lived here for twenty-four years. Yancey has been with me for the last thirteen. Two years ago she had Lyme disease, but she got good treatment and bounced back. Still, from the way she gets up in the morning, I know her days are numbered. No doubt she’s inspired to rise by the thought of the field that contains more possibilities than any doggy dream. In the field can be found voles, snakes, skunks, possum, raccoons. Just to say their names makes one hiss automatically. Onomatopoeia of the field!
My daughter Ginger and her wife, Stephanie, who goes by the name Étienne, want to take the dog away from me. It’s because I’ve tripped or fallen a couple of times, and once had to wear a soft cast. And because I spend so much time and money having her cared for. They’re distressed that if I can’t get a tick off her on the first pull, I drive her to the vet. I’ve explained that the vet does not charge me for this, but that seems to be the least of the problem. It’s that I’m in the car too often and that my life is “centered around the dog.” God help me if they ever find out Yancey and I sometimes split a microwaved chicken burrito for dinner. I wash it down with a glass of white wine, Yancey with a small bowl of milk.
Don’t worry: I do have a topic of conversation other than the dog.
I’m going to tell you something funny—if anyone thinks anything about the IRS might be even remotely funny. It’s that they sent someone to the house to look at the room I use for writing poetry. They did not believe, from the photographs my accountant sent, that the door was really on hinges and that the room had no other use. We weren’t lying. The room—which used to be the little sewing room of the lady we bought the house from, which I used for storage before I decided I didn’t need anything that was stored there and gave it all away—contains my desk, with a typewriter and the usual things that one has on one’s desk, such as a bowl of paper clips and a jar of pens. There’s a kilim with excessive knotted fringe that’s faded horribly in the sunlight. There are bookshelves filled with poetry, essays, criticism, et cetera. The broken fax machine sits on a little stool that also holds the orchid from what used to be the big greenhouse in town, until the owner’s wife left him and he moved away to Tampa. Ginger maintains that I overwater it. The low light and the cold will kill it. And it isn’t helped by Yancey pouncing on it, mistaking it, with her blurred vision, for her favorite toy, which is a squeaking Ed Grimley doll.