BY DAVID ERLEWINE
My dumbass nephew thought it would be cool to show my five-year-old boy a sick, maybe dying, puppy.
Now Ethan can’t or won’t stop fixating on the way the other puppies pushed their brother around, how they blocked him from feeding on their mother, how she never helped.
When I picked him up from school this afternoon, in his cubbyhole I found a picture of what appeared to be a puppy named Carlton sitting on a cloud and chewing a huge bone.
At dinner I ask if Ethan is angry that I didn’t let him bring Carlton home.
He shrugs, his little shoulders rising so high it almost looks comical. It’s an affectation he undoubtedly got from his mom, she who will not be named.
He leaves the hot dog virtually uneaten, asks if he can be excused, and then trudges up to his room.
I sit there for a few minutes, trying to see the dog the way Ethan saw him, the Darwinian aspect of it all, how he barely yipped when they nudged him away from the feed.
Maybe I’ll take Ethan back there next week, perhaps sit him down in front of the cage, just the two of us watching it all, telling him to pay close attention, telling him that as horrible as it is, this is usually the way things work.
A few minutes later, not even close to unloading the top half of the clean dishes, I find myself all but running to Ethan’s room. He’s sitting on the floor, halfheartedly playing with the Legos my brother gave him.
I squat down next to him, deciding at the last second not to sit down. “I’m sorry you couldn’t bring Carlton home.”
Ethan nods and stares at the Legos, clearly trying not to cry, another trick he got from you know who before she sat in the car too long in the garage.
I wrap him up in an awkward bear hug, his head pressing against mine. He doesn’t squeeze back but he doesn’t try to get away. Just before letting go, I squeeze really hard. When I let go, he goes back to his Legos. For a few seconds walking down to the kitchen, it almost feels like I may have yanked it all right out of him.
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David Erlewine takes many, many cues from David Brent.