When I returned to work, a coworker attempted empathy by telling me how he felt when his dog died. I shitchu not.
He raised the dog from a puppy, from a writhing trash bag tossed in a river, 14 years. A cancer in its bones, evidently; lumps and lumps beneath the fur, wouldn’t even put him down when it got so bad it couldn’t walk. He’d carry the dog outside so it could do its business, but it couldn’t hardly stand either, so it’d just piss and shit all over itself, and then he’d clean it up and lay with it until it finally passed away. I guess this took weeks.
I told him the day my mother died I went looking for my buddy Joe. Joe could throw a punch. His dad taught him how to throw a punch, and he taught him right. His dad taught him the way to throw a punch is to only throw a punch when there’s nothing else handy, when there’s nothing else left. Save your fists, his dad taught him. Better a broken stool or pool cue than a broken fist. But that day, I wanted Joe to break his fists against me.
I asked him if that’s how he felt when his dog died. If he went looking for his buddy Joe.
Christopher Newgent lives as a technical writer in Indianapolis with his wife and their cat. He likes to ride his bicycle; he thinks Queen is okay. His work has appeared in Freight Stories, Everyday Genius, Poetry East, and other journals. You can follow his life and writing at http://theidiom.net.