On dogs and dog tales


I told Abbe last night that I haven’t really accepted yet that Sophie is just a part of the past.  Sooner or later I will.  It’s just what happens, even if it makes me sad that it has to happen.  But for now I’m still not quite there.  The part of me that’s here in the present still expects to find her somewhere.

This morning I started thinking about her as a character, a ghost.  I wondered what the world might look like to a ghost dog, and if maybe it would be more beautiful or at least strange and interesting to her.  She’d hate being a ghost because it would probably mean she couldn’t lick anyone.  But she might have adventures.

I wrote this a year or two ago, the opening to an uncompleted story.  I liked it — and still like it — mainly because of the way I described the dog, and the way that the whole setting seems (to me) to come into shape around that description.

The sun had fallen and the moon not yet risen when Sam Jordan emerged from the trees at the crest of a small hill, walking with a slight limp and trailing a few feet behind a sad-eyed pit bull the color of summer wheat.   Lost in thought, Sam’s head was down as he walked, but he lifted it as they cleared the trees and stepped straight into the path of a wind slipped free from the coming autumn.

And a little later, we have this:

Lucy tilted her head at him, a question: What are we doing here? Not distrustful, only curious.  Wondering what adventure was ahead, where he would lead them, what beasts or other troubles she might have to chase, or flee.

Lucy: a normal girl’s name, like Sophie.   And I knew Sam wasn’t really Sam if there wasn’t a Lucy, too.  He couldn’t be that lost…

About the author

Tom Howard

Tom Howard is the author of Fierce Pretty Things (Indiana University Press, 2019).

He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fierce Pretty Things won the 2018 Blue Light Books Fiction Prize, and his individual stories have won the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction, the Indiana Review Fiction Prize, the Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Fiction, the Carve Magazine Prose & Poetry Contest, the Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction, the Innovative Short Fiction Prize, the Willow Springs Ficiton Prize, the Rash Award in Fiction, and the Robert J. DeMott Award for Short Prose.

He lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia.

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By Tom Howard


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