Daily Archives: August 22, 2011

AFTER

BY Q LINDSEY BARRETT

After placing the squirming puppy in his Maggie’s arms on her third birthday, taking turns with his wife Jenna, singing Have You Never Been Mellow on the floor next to the pup’s milkcrate bed to soothe her those long first nights, giving up on the fifth night when he removed Sadie from his little girl’s bed and returned her to her nest of worn bath towels, placing heavier books on the makeshift lid, only to discover his Magpie sleeping on the kitchen floor next to her pup’s crate in the morning, tiny hand grasping furry paw through the plastic grid; after rising at 5:30 every morning for five years before his shift at the free clinic Jenna opened after her Johns Hopkins residency, rising to walk Sadie along the brownstone-lined streets of Park Slope, unhooking the leash when they were deep into Prospect Park, teaching her to come instantly at his whistle; after Sadie taught Maggie to swim, dog paddling at the quarry pool near his family’s cabin upstate and he taught Sadie to let the rabbits run rather than chase them, rather than hunt them; after the summer of ‘77 when they left Brooklyn right before the blackout, and focused on his transistor radio, on stories of looting and violence at home, his inattention let Sadie get tangled in old barbed wire down by the quarry, Maggie sobbing by his side as her pup whimpered, him carrying forty pounds of morning companion, Mags tucked in Jenna’s lap, his own tears came with one hand on the wheel of his aging Pinto, one on Sadie’s silky cocker fur, tangled and blood-matted; after he and Maggie and Jenna danced for joy when Sadie’s wounds were only superficial and their clinic was spared; after Sadie helped Jenna train for her first marathon, running through the streets of Brooklyn every evening when she returned from her shift at the clinic; after romping through the field next to their summer place, the field full of wildflowers, the summer their sixth together, Sadie turned, leaped, sunk her teeth into Maggie’s face, Sadie leaping again as his child fell screaming, Sadie tearing away Maggie’s left cheek, exposing the bone, Sadie again and again attacking; after he kicked and kicked and gathered his little girl in his arms, holding her so very still, holding her face together with his hands, his wife grim behind the wheel; after stitches and stitches and stitches and tears, when his Magpie was silent, sedated, Todd Berkley dragged the now-placid Sadie to the trees behind the cabin and shot her. Twice.

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Q Lindsey Barrett lives, writes, works in the Pacific Northwest and offers as evidence an impressive collection of damp fleece outwear.