Today we checked the far fields.
The man came out the door at dawn, snapping his overalls and humming. I was waiting. He patted my head, whistled, and off we went, together.
The old blue Ford made a lot of noise but the man twisted again and again until it went. I sat beside him, of course, and we looked at the fields and other cars as we passed. He told me things and I listened. The deep creases on his weathered face crinkle up when he smiles at me, which he did many times. Twice he sang. I saw cats fighting in a ditch but did not bark. The man smiled at me again and patted me. The sun was bright in the blue spring sky.
It is good to ride with the man.
Yesterday, we cleared out the back of the barn. The cats hide their young there and I chased the old ginger tom with the torn ears. The queens moved the young while I did this. The man worked. I worked. Sun shone down through the upper barn door.
The hay in the back smells musty but good. Rats live there. I killed three. The man smiled and patted me. I did not eat the rats; I left them. The queens will eat the rats. I do not need to eat the rats. I eat what the man gives me at the door.
We worked all morning in the barn. He whistled and sang. I barked at the rats.
When the sun is on top, the man goes back in the door to eat. I wait at the door. When he is done, he comes out with good things for me in the pan. I am waiting. He puts the pan down. I eat while he watches. He pats me and tells me the words. “Good boy, good King.” Those are good words.
It is good when the man says the words. I wait for the words.
Today, after the eating, we drive out to the pond where the cows are. There are birds on the pond but I do not bark. Frogs live in the mud. I did bite one but it wriggled away. The man works with the cows. I work with the cows. I follow the man and help him work the cows. Cows are slow and need much prodding at the ankles. They had no young with them; I do not prod when they have young with them.
The man whistles, I come. I am always listening for the whistles. I help the man work. We work until the sun is low. I take the cows back while the man drives the truck. I can do this alone; the man knows I can do this alone. He says the words, pats me and twists the truck to go.
I take the cows home as sun sets. The cows are lowing to one another. They do not speak to me. I make sure the cows go home correctly. Cows are slow but need less prodding when they are going home.
We go home.
The man is waiting at the barn. He tells the words to me. “Good boy, good King.” I bring the cows and he milks them. They stop lowing and let the man work. I help the man work. We work the cows until the sun is gone, then we pen them. He fills the troughs. It is all done well and correctly. The cows are penned and milked and fed.
We walk back to the house. The man goes in the door. I lay down to wait. I wait at the door. Through the door, I can smell the food smells that the woman makes. I do not bark. I wait. I drink water from the dish. The sun is down; it is night. Crickets sing in the grass and I smell the rabbits but I do not bark. I am waiting at the door for the man.
The man comes out the door with good things in the pan. He puts the pan down and I eat. While he watches me eat, he sits and makes the music with the harmonica. He holds it to his mouth and his blue eyes are laughing. I finish the food and lick the pan but I do not chew it. The man nods to me.
I come to the man and sit beside him while he makes the music. He puts his hand on me and I close my eyes. I listen to the man’s music with my eyes shut. Far off, I hear the owls. Nearby, I smell the rabbits but I do not move. I am with the man and the man is with me. It is good to be with the man, listening to the sounds.
Later, the man goes back in and I lay down beside door. I am quiet, listening. Finally, I sleep. I dream of the man, he is saying the words and touching me.
Now it is summer and I am waiting at the door. The man has gone in for the eating because the sun is up high. It is very hot. The dish is empty; there is no water. I am waiting for the man. He patted my head when he went in and said the words. I am waiting.
The man comes out the door but he does not have the pan. He pats my head and says the words. “Good boy, good King.” I am hungry but I am glad to hear the words. It is all right that there is no pan, I can wait. I go with the man to the truck. I sit on the seat beside him and he twists it until it goes.
We go to the fields. We work in the fields. I work with the man in the fields until the sun is low. We drive home and walk to the barn. We milk the cows; we feed the cows. I kill a sleek fat rat. The man smiles at me. We pen up the cows and it is all done correctly. We walk home, together, while the sun sets. The man hums a song as we walk. I listen.
We get back to the house and the man goes in the door. I lay down to wait. Through the door, I smell the good smells that the woman makes and I do not bark. I wait. The water dish is dry and empty. I am thirsty but I can wait. The sun goes and night comes. I wait. I wait but the man does not come out the door. The night sounds start and I smell the rabbits but I lay still, waiting.
I am waiting for the man.
The summer moon rises up high. Finally the woman comes to the door with the pan. She looks at me. Her eyes have no smile. She dumps the things in the pan to the ground. I eat the good things but it was not done correctly. I will not chew the pan and she can put the pan down, but the woman does not seem to know this.
The woman does not say the words. She fills the water dish with water. I drink the water. I look at the woman but she does not say the words. I look in the door but I cannot see the man. I lay down beside the door to wait.
I wait. I listen to sounds in the grass and finally sleep. I am waiting for the man. I dream we are riding in the truck together and he is singing like the night birds. At dawn, the man will come out the door and we will work. We will work together. We will work together all summer long. We have always worked together; we work together well.
Now it is winter and I am waiting at the door. The sun is up but the man has not come out the door. My water dish is empty and I am hungry, but I can wait. I am waiting for the man. I am cold but it is all right. I tuck my feet and tail under. Waiting is cold work, it is the only working that keeps you warm. I wait. I hear the cows lowing in the pen. I need to work them but I cannot work them without the man. I wait for the man; I wait beside the door.
The man does not come.
When the sun is up on top, a strange man drives up in a truck. I stand and bark. The strange man gets out with a strange dog. I bark. He comes closer and I see that he is not a strange man, he is the man who lives down the road and the dog is his dog. I bark. This dog touches his nose to mine and wags his tail. He smells peaceful. He is a good dog. I stop barking.
His man calls to him. They walk to the barn, together. I watch them from beside the door where I wait. They are disappearing over the ridge towards the barn. I look at the door but the man does not come out.
I follow the other man and his dog.
They go to the barn and unpen the cows. They milk them, I follow behind and watch. It is not done well or correctly. They do not fill the trough. The cows low and kick at the man’s dog. When they are done, they take the cows to the near field but it is not done correctly. The cows are slow and the man’s dog does not prod them. He walks beside the man, not working well. His man does not notice that he does not work well. His man pats him as they walk together.
I follow behind and watch them work the cows. There is a hurting in my chest when the man touches his dog. I want to work the cows, to show them how to do it correctly, but he is not my man. This man has his own dog and they do not do the work correctly. I cannot interfere. I watch. This is my work and I cannot do it, I am watching the other do my work. I lay down to watch. I do not chase the rabbit when it goes by; I am watching the other dog work with his man.
When the sun is low, they take the cows home. It is not done correctly. The cows are not orderly and they are slow but the dog does not prod them at the ankles. I watch and follow.
Back at the barn, they milk and feed the cows but it is not done well. The cows are lowing and pushing against the man but the dog does nothing. They finish and pen the cows but they are still lowing. The man and his dog do not notice and walk toward the house. I follow behind.
They get into their truck and the man must have twisted it because the truck went. The dog sat in the back of the truck and not beside his man. I watch them leave and then go to the door. The night is nearly here. It is cold.
I wait at the door but no one comes. The dish is empty. The man has not come to the door today. He did not come to the door yesterday. I lay down beside the door to wait. I am waiting for the man.
I put my head on my paws and close my eyes, waiting. It is night and the crickets are singing in the grass. I hear the far off owls hooting in the trees. The door opens but I know it is the woman by her smell. I do not open my eyes. She dumps out the pan and goes back in the door. I wait.
The man does not come. Finally, I sleep. I dream of the man. We are working the cows and we are doing it all correctly. The man is singing as we work. I am listening to the man’s singing. He reaches out to touch me but, just before his hand reaches me, I wake up.
It is morning. The sun is up and the man has not come.
I stand up and look at the food the woman left last night. The cats have taken bits and I eat some of what they left. I do not eat all of it. I drink water from the dish until it is empty. I look at the door but the man is not there. I lay down beside the door to wait.
I wait. I am waiting for the man. I close my eyes.
It has been many days since the man has come out the door. It is winter and waiting is cold work, but I don’t mind. I wait for the man. The sun rises and sets as I wait beside the door.
Sometimes the man from down the road drives up with his dog and they walk to the barn but I do not follow. I know it will not be done correctly; there is no need to follow. I cannot interfere. I am waiting beside the door. I am waiting for the man so that we can do our work. Together, we do the work well. I wait.
The man does not come.
The woman brings the pan and dumps the food beside the dish. Sometimes I eat it. Sometimes I watch the cats slink up and eat it, watching me from the sides of their green eyes. I do not bark. It is good that the cats eat the food; it is better than when the rats eat the food. The cats will eat the rats when they catch them.
Last night, I saw the old ginger tom kill and eat a rat bigger than he was. I did not bark. The killing was done well and the eating was good. I watched, my head on my paws as I lay beside the door. The ginger tom’s eyes shone in the dark where he lay chewing the rat. When he was done, I closed my eyes. I am waiting.
I wait for the man.
The man does not come. Days come and nights go and still the man does not come out the door.
I go to the man’s truck and smell it. It has a dusty winter smell and the stink is under it in a puddle. Mice have made a nest in the grass underneath one wheel. No one has twisted it to make it go. Only the man can twist this truck, only the man can make it move. Only the man and I can do our work, together we work the fields and the cows well. We do everything correctly.
Without the man, I cannot do the work. Without the man, there are no words.
I am waiting for the words. “Good boy, good King.” I am waiting for the man to come out the door and say the words to me. I am waiting for the touch of the man. There is a hurting in my chest when I remember the words that the man tells to me. I lay down beside the door to wait.
The man does not come.
The bowl is full and the cats walk openly to eat the food. I do not lift my head. I watch them eat without barking. It does not matter that they eat the food. They will do their work and kill the rats. They will birth their young again in the spring and all of them will kill the rats. I do not bark at the cats, I wait beside the door. I wait for the man. It has been a long time but I know the man will come out the door if I will wait. I wait.
I wait for the man.
The rain comes and some of it is like ice. I huddle under the eaves beside the door. I tuck my tail under to keep warm. My fur is wet. Some of the food the woman left last night washes away with the pellets of hard rain. I am cold. Waiting is cold work. The cold rain stops and the dim sun finally goes behind overcast skies. I lay down in a dry patch beside the door. I smell the snakes coming out in the darkness. I do not bark. Winter is quiet and cold; waiting is much harder work in the winter. The hurting in my chest is bigger now; there is a pounding in my blood. I close my eyes.
The man does not come.
Perhaps the man will not ever come out the door again. Perhaps the man has forgotten me. Is that possible?
My chest blooms out suddenly with the pounding. My body jerks. It is a wet hurt that warms me, and I whine but now I am no longer cold. I am waiting for the man and I am not cold. The world is silent, even the small sounds and smells of winter are gone. My eyes are shut. I am waiting and I am warm.
The place where the snake bit me when I was a puppy no longer hurts. I remember very well how the man cared for me when that happened, how he fed me from his hand and sang to me. He said the words over and over. “Good boy, good puppy, good King.” I got better listening to the words and feeling the man’s touch on my fur.
I am warm and my snakebite is gone. I am waiting for the man.
I open my eyes and it is no longer winter, the buds are in the trees and the grass is green with seed. Birds sing. Rabbits run and the sun is overhead in the clear blue sky. I am warm and peaceful, beside the door where I wait.
The man comes out the door, snapping his overalls and humming. I am waiting. His face is young, there are no wrinkles, no creases, and his blue eyes are laughing. I jump up, my hind legs bouncing like a puppy’s. I bark once, in greeting. He tells the words. “Good boy, good King.”
He pats my head, whistles, and off we go, together.
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