The dog will not live in the house. The dog will get her own house, out in the back, beneath the mulberry, where the dirt is purpled with fruit. My father will build the house as if it’s his own, with siding, shingles, a steep-pitched roof. It will be lifted off the ground to prevent smells. Inside the house he will make a place for her bed, a cedar bed. He will make sure the walls warm or cool her. But as for the dog coming inside? Not in his house. Dogs have fleas, dogs are meant to live in the garage, or outside, and she will continue to live outside–not that she seems to mind, sweet collie of the running off and coming back–until he leaves home for six months to work in Los Angeles. When he comes back from Los Angeles, the dog will be up on the sofa, curled up between my brothers as they draw or read. He will sit down in the chair across from them, casual, glad, as if she’s always had a place on that sofa. Who is this man of the longer hair, the lost temper? And so goes one of the great mysteries of my father.
Or this: 40 years later, at 90, my father and I walk the nature trail near the Everglades. I’m worried the distance will kill him–a mile through the swamp and more–but he refuses to stop, refuses to be slowed by the bugs, the thunderheads, the incipient storm, which will flood the county in minutes, swelling the canal into the apartments, the cars. He will take note of the names posted to the plants: cocoplum, buttonbush. He will scan the water for alligators, though we won’t come up with any. When we have finished the loop, he will show me how beautifully he walks and ask to do it all over again.