Into the Mud
Then there was that day you slipped in the mud.
Or at least I think you slipped. That’s what you told me, but every time I try to get the stain out of my pant leg where you rubbed against me when I stood by you after, (as if bleach will do anything more to khaki than burn a hole after 21 attempts at eradicating a dirty memory), I rewind, run the clip again, watch it from an angle I might have missed. Maybe if I observed from a nearby tree, or from above, or from behind instead of from a turned head three feet in front of you on that narrow path, which is how I saw it first—you, holding that white Pomeranian under your right, brown, body-builder’s arm (“They’re great little dogs,” you said, though all I saw before that day was a skittish ball that didn’t at all resemble a canine, maybe a puffy something I would use with shower gel in the morning, but not the creature you said you “adored,” the one you carried like a trophy, so long as it didn’t wiggle too much).
This is how I saw it because, after all, I suppose, I didn’t see it all. By the time I turned my head, you had already hit the ground, and the only reason I knew was I heard the abbreviated thwarmpth of object meeting mud, mud a few inches deep.
You fell on the arm that held the dog, she, unhurt, saved by your mighty elbow and the white t-shirt now sacrificed for her sake. And you, your hair already claimed by grime, rolled onto your back,
lifted the dog—your dog—between two great hands, raised her towards the sun and laughed, “I am your redeemer! Come, now. Be baptized!”
You lowered her, pinned her to your filthy chest, dipped your free hand in the shallow beside you, curled your fingers into a chalice, brought it to the dog, dumped the stuff on her and massaged it into her hair.
You took more and scrubbed it over her face, her snout, her ears, against the natural fall of that fair fur on her back, and she cried, not the cry of any dog I have ever heard, but the cry of all things that live and die.
The next time you laughed, she slipped through your slimy fingers and was gone.
“Hey!” you yelled.
“Come back! Come back!”
Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
July 12, 2011