Puppy Love

Puppy Love
by Richard Schiffman

The kid had been badgering them forever, but things were clearly spinning from bad to worse when he said that he would settle for a duck, or make that fifteen, which is how many quackers you would have to buy to get the deal he’d seen advertised on the internet. Suddenly a dog didn’t sound like such a bad idea– although the old issues remained: dogs shed on sofas, harbor ticks and fleas, need to be toilet-trained and fed and walked and washed. You can’t take dogs with you to Cancun. Boys may solemnly swear that they will take care of them, but they won’t. And even if they do, boys go off to college saddling geriatric parents with arthritic animals that are aging seven times faster than they are. All excellent reasons not to get a dog.

But with this duck business, reason had clearly taken off on a busman’s holiday. So the mother hatched an emergency plan, also dug up on the internet, where an agency for seeing-eye dogs was offering a black lab puppy for free (they’d even board it when you went away). But you could only keep the dog a year before you returned it ripe for its life of selfless service. Which is just fine for selfless doggies. But kids are another story. For them, to part with a year old pup is something like dying. So the runt shot back, “No way, Jose.” And that was that, until the next day, when he’d had a chance to think it over. Better a puppy for a year, he decided, than no dog forever. A rational decision in an otherwise irrational world.

Which– come to think of it– is what happened before the kid was born. God told his soul: “I’ll give you lots of stuff– the earth, the sky, a self and others, mother, sister, lover, brother. But here’s the catch– you’ll have to give it all back when I say so.” You bet the soul balked, stomped off in a rain of tears, pouted half the night, composed righteous screeds on the injustice of it all.

The soul was right, of course— even God knew that. Way back when somebody had offered the Creator the very same deal. “You can have your universe,” the Emptiness allowed. “But some day we are going to take it all back.” “Who are you to take it back?” the Lord thundered at the void. No one answered. No one answered God forever.Naturally it drove Him crazy.

“I’ll take your screwy deal,” He roared. And the rest– as they say– is history.


Richard Schiffman is an environmental reporter, poet and author of two biographies based in New York City. His poems have appeared on the BBC and on NPR as well as in the Alaska Quarterly, the New Ohio Review, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, Writer’s Almanac, This American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily and other publications. His first poetry collection What the Dust Doesn’t Know was published in 2017 by Salmon Poetry.

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