encyclopedia of the second hand: dog


    You are in the garage, the morning of your life, how old

are you about five and you are racing around in a circle  on

the  concrete floor on your tricycle with two  friends  also

racing  around  on  their  tricycles  and  the  concrete  is

circling around furiously  and the thing is you are  Indians

circling  the covered wagons so you are pedalling  furiously

so that if you relax the pedal by the force of your previous

pedalling  will lift your leg up and make it go  around  and

that is a wierd feeling the shift from a thing you will to a

thing in which you are willed, even though they are the same

thing  in  terms of what somebody on the outside  sees  when

your  leg  is rapidly lifted up and gone  around  with  like

that.  What  it is like it is like ghosts are doing  it,  or

like your leg is a ghost, because it is like after you  have

already  died and the things that happen aren't things  that

you tell your body to do. Eddy screams and Scott screams and

you  scream but not any of you the way a scream  would  come

out  if  it was a pain scream someone hitting  you  or  some

sharp corner you'd run into or falling off your tricycle and

scraping your knee, these  are war whoops that come out of a

certain rhythm stop and start from deep in your throat  like

the  way when you drink milk real fast glug stop glug  stop. 

To  go with being an Indian you went and drew lines on  your

face with Mom's lipstick. The lipstick feels grainy on  your

skin, and the red of it is also on your hands and shirt. One

of  you  darts in and rams Kofax.  Kofax is  your  dog,  the

beagle, and Kofax is the covered wagons, and Kofax  responds

to this furious activity by leaping and biting and  yelping. 

The  yelps echo hollowly in the space of the  garage.  Kofax

runs  around  in  a circle, frantic, her body  all  one  big

wiggle of white and black spots, trying to break through and

find a place to hide.

    This is the pain that you provoke and see.  It is also a

game,  because  pain doesn't have to be serious, it  can  be

part  of a game, this is something you know and aren't  dumb

about. The pain is a gritty limit inside you and also inside

Kofax  as  if you were both strung on one chord  one  fierce

electric  wave two walkers on a tightrope in a  rhythm  each

connected to the other's footfall and caught balance.  There

is  someone  or something in pain, not self,  and  there  is

being  part of a pain, this is something you know and  right

now  you  don't have to explain it although  later  you  get

asked why did you do that by Mom or by Dad and what are  you

going to say you don't have words to put after that question

and  then the asking keeps on it keeps on running you  until

you  are  I  don't know why and  howling  gulping  for  air.  

So  these are the two perspectives on pain, except that  the

latter  is perspectivally somewhat ruined as the  pain  gets

greater and self is swallowed up in it. There's no distance,

then,  which  is what self has to have  for  a  perspective. 

Although there are always intervals of relief in most  pain,

most  pain is whole so that you can say that it is  pain  of

this or that or pain about this or that but the wholeness of

pain  is  discrete, it touches you or crushes you  and  then

analgesically  vanishes,  so  you feel it  again  and  again

coincident with each emergence of it from what it is  harder

and harder to feel as not it.                              


    Kofax  is a fat beagle, been here from before  you  were

here,  and  the way she is there are nipples on  her  belly,

little reddish crests, which there are also nipples on  you,

your chest, strange interruptions of the way the rest of the

skin  is.   The hair stops and the belly is  leatherish  and

pink.  Her fur is closely matted, it never gets real  thick. 

She  has black spots or maybe white spots - the  colors  are

pretty  evenly distributed over her body so what spots  what

is a question. Her eyes are brown and watery and little eye-

liquid bits form in the corners of them, yellowish  brownish

things which you pick out carefully, holding the dog  still,

and then crunch between your thumb and your index finger and

mash up a little more and stare at it until it is gone, wipe

it  on your shirt. Her muzzle is white with a black spot  on

the  end,  and then there is her nose, which  is  black  and

resilient  and  not like the smooth black rubber nose  on  a

stuffed  dog which you can squeeze.  The way her nose  looks

is  interesting  when you compare it to the  way  your  nose

comes  out, the dog nose is made of some  different  seeming

material  to the rest of the face which you don't have  with

the nose but on your face it is the lips, which are like the

nipples,  lips are different from other parts of  the  skin,

reddish, differently pored, a little puckered and rubbery to

the  touch.  Now since you pet Kofax you have a pretty  good

idea  of  the  incongruity of surfaces to  the  hand  -  for

instance,  the pads of the feet feeling like those pads  Mom

uses  to clean pans with, or the silky feel of the ears,  or

the stiffness of the tail, or the naked feeling to the belly

and  the  nipples.  When you play blind  with  Jane  Scott's

sister you felt her lips, your eyes are closed although  you

cheat a little bit by unsqueezing the eyes a little bit  and

seeing  through  the quavering eyelashes your hands  on  her

lips and down your hands on her neck and down your hands  on

her  nipples and down your hands on her belly  button.   You

turn the beagle over, exposing the belly, and you stroke it.

You rub it rapidly, and the dog frantically waves its  legs,

trying to right itself, this is a thing animals do, you roll

a beetle for instance over on its back and it waves its legs

around too but the waving around is thinner and more frantic

like its going to die and you poke it with a piece of straw. 

You  put  your fingers around Kofax's neck,  which  is  thin

enough that you can almost encircle it.  And with that  hold

on  her you vigorously shake her head.  Her front legs  come

up  and dig at your hand, trying to get it to  release  her.

The  movement  of her muzzle is impeded by your  hand  being

there  on  the neck.  And then your other  hand  comes  into

play, like a dive bomber.  Your hand is dive bombing, it  is

a plane.  Bam it comes in for a crash and goes up again  and

bam it comes in again.   

    Kofax  has short ears, and they flop.  They don't  stand

up, like a rabbit's ears.  But you can do that.  So you hold

her  ears up. On the other side of the ear the skin  becomes

bare  and pinkish, and it goes down into her head where  the

there is wax. Sometimes Dad or Dita has to put drops from an

eyedropper  into the dog's ears, and then Kofax wimpers  and

has  to be held still. In there is where the drums and  such

work,  which you know more of when it is about your own  ear

because  Mom  and Mrs. Farragut have told you.   Don't  they

told  you  put anything thinner than a thumb  in  your  ear. 

Like don't stick a pencil in there or a pin, or it will  pop

something.  You  imagine  it will be like when  you  blow  a

bubble  gum  bubble  and it bursts.  There will  be  a  pink

shapeless  mess in your ear. Then you'll be deaf and  you'll

have  to  blubber.  You lean down and very  gently  blow  in

Kofax's  exposed ear and Kofax squirms. You hold her to  you

and she wrestles her head around and bites you. 

    Already  your  arm  is  streaked  with  reddish   lines,

scarified  from  Kofax's  nails.   The  bite  leaves  little

triangular  pinkish  places.  You get  furious  for  just  a

second,  your face clouds up with wanting to hurt  the  dog.

Bad,  you say slapping her nose clumsily, hand going up  and

coming  down approximately on the nose area, Kofax  blinking

twisting  her  head  back. Bad, like  you  are  supposed  to

discipline  a dog, hitting her on the nose, like Dad with  a

rolled up newspaper.  Don't kick her don't you ever kick her

again Dad says.

    Since she is turned upside down and you are   straddling

her  the dive bomber hand has free play, no other planes  in

the sky.  She is squirming around on the wooden floor trying

to escape from enemy fire.  You pull her tail a little  bit,

not  a  lot.   You don't want to hurt her only  there  is  a

certain submissive pain you want to feel in her you want  to

feel in you.  But you say when Mom asks why or Dad asks  why

you didn't want to hurt her and they say if you didn't  want

to hurt her why did you pull her tail and you can't  express

the  degree of hurt which you wanted and the hurt  that  you

didn't want. If you pulled her tail too much she would whine

or  yelp or bite.  As you tussle with her she makes  a  high

wimpering sound. Sometimes you try to pitch your voice in  a

high  register   and  whine  in  imitation  of  Kofax,   and

sometimes  when  you do this she will make a  whining  sound

with  you.   Or you pitch your voice even further.   A  very

high pitch is supposed to effect dogs, who have better  ears

than  we do. Dita says don't do that, it hurts  their  ears,

but  Dita isn't here, she is in her room, the  door's  shut. 

There  are a lot of funny things about a dog, like how  they

like  to  bend around and lick their assholes and  how  they

stop  and  lean  over turds and sniff it like  it  had  just

plopped  there from the moon even if it is old and dried  up

and  how  every year for us counts seven  or  something  for

them.   Dog  years  aren't real, they are kind  of  a  joke. 

Although  you don't get the joke.  By dog years Kofax is  as

old  as  Mom.  Dita says Kofax is just a puppy,  her  puppy. 

That's Dita. Anyway, you put your voice as high as  possible

to  make  it like a dog whistle, which when you blow  on  it

makes  a sound, supposedly, that you can't hear.  This is  a

paradox.   You blow hard on a whistle and it doesn't make  a

sound, which means that it is working and making a sound  or

that it isn't working and it really isn't making a sound.

     You  can almost make your voice rise up to such a  high

pitched  shriek that you can't hear it.  Inside your  throat

there  is  a  shudder  in the vocal  chords,  like  you  are

gargling  a  bee buzz buzz a bumble bee  shaking  a  flower. 

When you do this Kofax will look up at you and cock her head

to  one  side.  There will be a shift in her  face,  in  her

eyes,  the pupil in the eye is more liquidy and less  a  dot

and  it  will  change  just a little,  a  look  of  beggarly


     Sometimes  when  you are grinning about  something  the

tight pull of the way the grin stays on your lips  surprises

you.  It almost hurts.  You don't grin now, exactly, but the

same  grin-tight  feeling happens inside you  when  you  see

Kofax  look up at you like that, and you think of what  else

you can do to her.

    When you play with Kofax the aim is to torment her on  a

very  low level, the way tickling is a torment.   When  your

cousin  Tom tickles you he passes just beyond the  limit  of

acceptibility,  he  will  begin to  look  grimly  determined

straddling  you, his knees on your chest, his hands  flying,

the  fingers  wiggling almost like he can't stop  them.   He

says he is the mad doctor and finally you are out of breath,

you  are wheezing, and you gather up what breath you can  to

shout  for Mom. Tom is Dita's age, Mom says a boy  that  age

should know better, that Aunt Mabel should control him, that

he's  not  too bright you know. You are about at  that  same

point  where you can't stand it with Kofax except it is  the

dog  who can't stand it. Kofax will snap at you if you  keep

it up, she'll growl and sometimes that is frightening, maybe

she'll  bite you hard and you'll have to get rabie shots  in

your stomach.  The dive bomber comes in and now it is a hand

clamped around Kofax's muzzle, which makes the dog buck  her

head backwards.  Your hand is a rodeo rider on a bronco.


     Then you let Kofax go, suddenly.  She scrambles to  her

feet in a scribble of nails on the floor and then she  jumps

on  you.  A paw comes up and swipes a scratch on  your  lip.

Then  you  rush  to the kitchen door. Go get  him,  you  go,

putting a lot of pull and urgency in your voice, like it was

tensile  as a leash, a thing to pull the dog with,  you  can

feel  it a texture on your tongue a string.   Kofax  follows

you.  In  a rush Kofax goes out the door  making  a  belling

sound, her fat body swaying on the rapid little movement  of

her  legs. The grin-tight feeling vanishes. She runs  almost

to the end of the driveway barking, and then it dawns on her

there isn't anybody to bark at and her barks peter out  into

puffs and snorts. Kofax is fat and has terrible breath which

she  sometimes snorts out, she makes a funny  sighing  sound

and then you smell it, it smells like the bottom part of the

stuff stuffed in the garbage can.


    Finally  Mom  says  the  dog  is  getting  too  old  and

unmanageable.  It has a temper, it bit Scott, who you didn't

like  anyway, you think who wouldn't bite him if  you  could

get  away  with it. Dita cries and says no, it is  her  dog. 

Mom  points  out that when they leave it out  there  in  the

garage  it  howls and it has scratched up the  door  to  the

kitchen. Also it is unlearning toilet training. Dita  blames

you.  Maybe Dad says you are too young to have a dog around. 

Or maybe Kofax is getting cranky in her old age.   Sometimes

he  tells Dita it is better to put the dog to sleep than  to

let  the situation get out of hand. Dad hates the  situation

getting  out of hand, when it happens at the  table  between

you and Dita he'll get up and leave, he'll sit in the car in

the  driveway and drink, he always hides a bottle of  scotch

in the car under the seat, and then his eyes get a stainless

steel  glint to them, as if they were as blind  as  cutlery. 

Mom  hates it when Jack does that, when Jack just  sits  out

there,  what does he think the Eberts think? At the  busstop

the  next day Dita knocks you down with her  math  textbook. 

Most  of the kids standing around are bigger than  you,  you

are  the  only one on this stop going  to  the  kindergarten

which  is next to the school.  She takes a big swing at  you

and  hits you on the shoulder and you fall down in the  snow

and  shriek not because it hurt you but as a  precaution  so

that  Dita won't do something else thinking that this  thing

didn't  hurt  you.  The math book flies  away,  loosed  from

Dita's  grasp  by the force of her swing, and  her  homework

falls out of it into the snow too. The snow will melt little

water spots on the ruled sheets, it will make the  pencilled

numbers  wavery.  She  stands  over  you,  her  plaid  skirt

flapping in the breeze. Baby she says.