by Lester L Weil
The old man sat on the porch of the old farm house, shaded by an immense oak. Across the pasture, he could see the veterinarian’s pickup as it pulled out of the driveway. Silence closed in around the vet’s departure. He missed the old dog already.
In his mind, he pictured the dog. Not the ancient, crippled dog he had held in his arms while the vet’s shot put an end to misery. But Jason as when he was young. Jason with the golden fleece. Running through the fields, raising birds and chasing them as they flew. And what would he had done if he had ever caught up with one?
The man remembered the day a baby chick strayed from the brood hen who wandered the barnyard. Jason came up to him, opened wide, and out of the dog’s mouth popped the found baby chick. How Jason had loved babies. He would hover on the periphery whenever there was a new baby goat, whining quietly, frustrated that the momma would not let him near.
Images of Jason moved through his mind. Jason, sitting on the passenger seat, nose out the window. Sleeping in front of the wood stove in the evenings. Ranging ahead as the man walked the small farm. Greeting the pickup at the gate on those rare occasions he did not get to go along.
Memories kept coming, turning to his family. His kids were gone. The boy dead somewhere in Viet Nam, the girl to the east coast—a Christmas card every year—the memories of their youth tainted by recollections of a sour marriage and divorce.
For a full quarter of his life, the dog had been his constant companion and best friend. And during the last five years, they had grown old together. The dog becoming increasingly gimpy with the years, while the cancer ate away at the man’s insides, turning a youthful fifty-five year old into an old man.
Several years before, he had prepared for this time, buying the drugs that would let him end his life when the pain got too bad. That time had finally come. The dog had been in pain, barely able to get around, and if the old man held on much longer, he would be reduced to going to a hospital to die. He took the pills and washed them down with a last beer.
He sat and watched the sun disappear behind the hills to the west. The afternoon was warm and pleasant as the final silence settled closer around an old man, sitting on a porch, with a dog lying by his side.
Published in Doorknobs and Bodypaint 1997
Lester L Weil
Lester L Weil, an ex-professional bassoonist, ex-professor, ex-custom furniture builder, ex-house builder. He is retired in Arizona near the Mexico border.