Joined at the Heart · Writers Write


The dog died. I didn’t write. She was a dog. Who cares? Right? I couldn’t justify my heartache. So, I cried. We buried her in the backyard. I held my family and wiped way little girl tears. Theirs and mine. We planted lilies, but I didn’t write.

Donald Maass answered the question in his seminar. “Is there any topic that’s off-limits in contemporary fiction?” He leveled his gaze at the class and lowered his pitch. “Don’t kill a dog.” The smirk and head shaking undermined the gravity of his answer. “Mutilation of any other life form is acceptable. Just don’t let the dog die.” I couldn’t write, and when I don’t write, bad things happen.

I got sick. At first with a rash that felt like leprosy. The doctor called it pityriasis rosea. She prescribed a blister pack of oral steroids. Three days later, no more leprosy, but the poison pills weakened my immune system. I caught the flu.

Back in her office, the quick test was negative. “I’m giving you antivirals anyway. Here swallow this. Your temp is 103.” I swallowed a horse pill of Tylenol. She sent me home with Tamiflu and called me on Memorial Day. “I’ve been worried about you.” What doctor calls you at home on Memorial Day? I still didn’t write.

The rash came back. Not as virulent, but just as ugly. School let out for summer. The girls had a swim meet. I missed it with dysentery. We got a puppy. She chewed her way into my heart. I didn’t write.

Bacon said it first, “You need to work.”

“I can’t.”

“You didn’t write. It made you sick.”

“No one wants to read about a dead dog. No one cares that I washed my cellphone with the laundry on the day she died, or that every time I reach into the freezer to fill a glass with ice, I expect her to beg for a cube, or that I found her, under Coco’s violin chair, as if she were waiting for her girl to play a lullaby. It’s a non-topic.”

“You aren’t going to get better until you work on the book.”

I have to start somewhere. If it bothers you that I grieve over a dog, fuck you. It’s the only way to soothe the itch.

One thought on “Grief

  1. It is really hard to lose a famly member. Esp one who always loves and adores you no matter what happens. That love goes both ways. It hurts to let go, but you must. Go back to writing, try a short story as something to get started with. Astory about your faimly hike in the mountions might help with the grea ving. Get busy


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