You Are Welcome Here

After breakfast, after Alice drove off to school—after apple season when I had no more work in the trees—I’d trudge up the hill, and at the head of the neighbors’ driveway call the dog, try to get him to come to me. After a while he might appear on the porch and look at me, balefully, as if I were some tramp who better not get any closer. “Come on, Delite,” I’d say, but he wouldn’t come. It was the late nights, the drunken rages, that got to him, put him off. Sometimes I’d bring a toy, a twist of rawhide or a ball. He was a retriever, but he wouldn’t retrieve. You could throw a steak across the yard, and he wouldn’t run after it, not when I was looking. After a while it would get to me. He was like some woman—some Alice—I couldn’t make forgive me. “OK, dammit,” I’d shout. “Be like that. See if I damn care.”

I’d report this to Alice, around three-thirty when she drove the car up the drive, coming slowly, barely moving, a car at a creep, as if she couldn’t bear to come home, as if the car itself was tired, worn down, and hardly capable of locomotion—I’d be waiting, hanging around the yard on sentry duty. There’d be an interval then. Instead of getting right out she’d sit in the car and take up her knitting, which was something new. Her knitting—a foamy substance, linen suds, exuviating out of her fists like a white protoplasm. She’d sit in the car knitting while I careened around the yard hacking at trees with my ax or shaking my fist at the cows. The cows moaning, cow love calls, sad-faced desolate women, only one thing on their mind. One pass or another I’d intersect with Alice, snag the window, lean in, and say, “The damn dog has been brainwashed. He doesn’t know us anymore.”

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