by Jeffrey Murrell

Chapter 3
The Dog

The oars grew heavier to hoist back and forth,
as it seemed the water got thicker,
though the dense tree line grew thinner
and yielded occasional dark archways
like scraggly-framed little water caves.
He steered the boat over to the side,
it now seeming so much bigger,
drew in the oars, stepped back to the motor,
now a useless, deadweight hunk of metal.
The clamps a bit rusty, though not hard to get off,
he heaved it up and dumped it
in the water with a big cur-PLUNK!
The boat much lighter to maneuver,
he again lifted the oars out to the water
and swung them back and forth,
surveying the new options opening up to him
along the water's jagged green sides.
Dark clouds started to form a grey cottony shroud
over the sun that had tortured him so long.
Soon it would start pouring some more.
The cypress canopies could provide some shelter
from the rain when it decided to come.
Oars breaking into the water, he slid the boat under
one of the tree line's openings on the water
to emerge within a water-floored forest,
the oars not dipping too far before touching bottom,
and the trees standing far, far apart,
a brackish brown maze to confuse,
to tire, to loose
this boy out with his gun.
Plattering overhead--the rain had begun,
occasional drops breaking the water into rings,
not gold like those he stole earlier,
but causing pain, too, and just as plain.
Tap! Tap! on his head;
Tap! Tap! in the boat,
Tap! Tap! Tap! came the rain.
And where could he go? What could he do?
What if water filled up the boat?
What if he had to wander that endless moat?
Where would he go? What to do?
Bark! Bark! in his ears;
Bark! Bark! through the swamp,
Bark! Bark! Bark! cried a dog
far off from somewhere amidst the trees,
from somewhere he was someone's best friend.
With food? With shelter? With hope?
But then it stopped.
"Come on, dowg! You better bawrk,
or I'll shoot'choo dead!"
He dipped the oars frantically more
in the direction of the barking's ghost,
through tangled Spanish moss,
where fat, hairy nutria wallowed like hogs
with long rat tails, beaver hides and front teeth
like pumpkin-orange swords unsheathed,
scurrying fast out of sight,
once invaders, now practically natives,
"Cum'on, dawg! Where y'at!?"
Bark! Bark! Bark! once more,
ringing in his ears, slowly fading away.
North! No east! No, northeast a ways
some more through the trees!
Plop, cur-plunk, the oars,
plop, cur-plunk around cypress knees,
plop, cur-plunk! Tap! Tap! Tap!
Tap-tap-tap! even more!
Tap! Tap! on his head,
water in the boat,
rings in the water even more,
even in the boat as he swung the oars
in the direction of the haunting barks,
with lightened load, the motor gone--
a replaceable throw-out like everything else
in the life of this boy with the gun.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Cur-plunk! Cur-plunk!
in the life of this boy and his gun!
Bark! Bark! Bark!
again came the dog,
clearer now through thinner trees,
drawing nearer and nearer it seemed.
Bark! Bark! Bark!
A wide opening in the trees
which drew him out into a large lagoon,
a watery hollow in the forest
where, on a dry mound did rest
a tiny little cabin along the woods' edge,
raised up on stilts, a long dock before it
of rickety old planks and moorings.
And on its rusty tin roof, a small pipe leaked smoke
as the rain suddenly came to a halt.
Bark! Bark! Bark!
There was the dog,
in the camp's little yard
tied to a rope on a post
around which the dog walked rings in the dirt,
rings of lonely canine hurt,
limping around on its rope.
He drew the boat up along the sliver of ground,
dragged it up and into the trees
turning it upside-down;
carefully up to the camp he sneaked
up on the porch where he'd see
the dog on its line making circles
on three feet--two up front with the left rear
only a knobby stump dressed with bloody rags;
but a nice little dog all the same,
short tan coat, bright eyes, perky ears
not barking anymore,
just wagging his tail, happy with hope
that maybe this person was no one to fear.
Maybe this one was no one to fear.