Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Walking with the Dog to Dover

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Walking with the Dog to Dover

Article excerpt

The strongest of all warriors are these two-Time and Patience.


The aborigines of New Zealand are called Maoris, a Polynesian people.... Among them, it was supposed that the seat of the soul was the left eye.


Here's how you do it: You drive your Chevy, the black one you'll put everything you own into this fall when you leave for college, and with two buddies, Jimmy and Carl, you head west on the highway to that place where the macadam doglegs left for several hundred feet before it doglegs right, and near the center of those several hundred feet is where the railroad crosses, so of course that is where you maneuver the Chevy until you have its tires on the tracks, tires under-inflated so they'll settle softly onto the tracks when you continue west, now not on the highway but on the tracks that parallel the highway, Jimmy in the front seal at your right, Carl in the back seat behind him, Jimmy that likable bag of wind telling you again, then again, not to touch the steering wheel, don't even breathe heavily on it, he says likeably, his smile a mile wide, just let the car do its own steering, which if you keep your hands and your breath off the wheel it will, the under-inflated tires providing cushions to keep the Chevy on the tracks, and here you go, you and Jimmy that likable bag of wind and Carl, who is so quiet and devoid of expression he's inscrutable, here you go, heading west toward Sharon where you intend to turn around and head back east, giving your Chevy its rein, its windows rolled down, one of your arms with a hand at its end waving to whatever asks or doesn't ask to be waved at, birds and horses and cows and trees and clouds and humans who in their inferior vehicles traveling on the inferior road that runs parallel to the tracks wave back, they being probably both amazed and envious, and holy cow you haven't had this much fun since Hector was a pup, since somebody's mother, but not your own, caught a tit in the wringer of the Maytag washer. That's how you do it, all right. In five years, give or take, that's how you'll do it.

Meanwhile, the passageway under our house was evolving into nothing short of a masterpiece, partly because my father took such pains to bevel its sides, and partly because by the end of October it was almost finished. Patience. If the dog continues to place one leg over the other he will arrive in Dover. Rome wasn't built in a day, Mother told us each time we showed so much as a trace of discouragement, and though I appreciated the sentiment I really didn't give one hoot in Halifax about Rome, wherever it might be or whenever it might have been finished.

One late afternoon as we were preparing to remove some additional dirt, Father told me to fetch him the longest nail I could find, so I went directly to the nail box in the tool shed, emptied its contents on the floor and began to rummage. Our nail box was perhaps misnamed. It was not a box, but a large can, and it contained not only nails but also nuts and bolts and screws and small hinges and maybe a dead bug or two. Even so, we called it the nail box, probably because in the beginning we had intended it to be exclusively a nail box. But somehow nuts and bolts and so forth found their way into the can, so that when we needed anything smaller than a John Deere tractor we went to the nail box fully intending to find it.

I selected the largest nail and because I believed that my father was in a hurry I did not return the scattered contents to the can.

I found my father in the house waiting for me, a hammer in his right hand. I gave him the nail, which he looked at approvingly. Then together we walked to that line where the living room and the dining room joined, and there, after two or three rather non-scientific measurements, Father drove the nail into the pine floor to mark the center of that place where he intended to locate the furnace. …

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