Being bits of wisdom gleaned from daily walks with my dog, Coffee. He left for stars unknown in 2010.
Regrets, I’ve had a fluke
Sometimes a thought comes into your head from out of nowhere. It’s morning. You’re walking along with the dog, and for no apparent reason you start thinking about money.
Not the money you have. You don’t have any money, remember? And that’s what you’re suddenly thinking about: the money you don’t have. You didn’t start out on your walk thinking about money you don’t have, but there it is. You don’t have it. It’s taken over your mind.
Why? Most likely because something out there in the innocent morning light panhandled its way into your subconscious. Maybe it was the sight of the three Cadillac Escalades—aggregate cost: $270,000—parked in three different driveways up the hill.
Once a stray thought gets inside your subconscious it has the run of the place. It goes shrieking down the dusty neural pathways of yesteryear, flinging open cupboard doors where for decades you’ve carelessly stuffed junk you’ll never use.
But today’s stray thought about money faded out so abruptly. When you get back from your walk you realize you are humming a tune lost in the oblongata for decades.
Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl
Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl…
When last you accessed the Duke of Earl sectors on the intra-cranial hard drive the calendar read 1962. You can’t remember where you put your screwdriver last night, but you can recall the words to a song you haven’t heard in fifty years. Fifty years from now, when you’re 114, it will suddenly dawn on you that you put the screwdriver in the mitten box in the closet.
For laughs and for science and get the ding dong song out of your head, you decide to back track your walk to pinpoint what has summoned the Duke from his landfill.
Let’s see: You went up the hill, past the Cadillacs: Wasn’t there a slight whimpering sound? Yes, and it came from you. Around the corner and down the hill past the six-year-olds waiting for the school bus. One of the them pets Coffee and asks “Is your dog going to die next week?”
Past the house with the crazed yapping mongrel that attacked Coffee one night and bit you on the leg. (Speaking of dogs that might need to check out next week.)
Around the corner and up the hill, past the kid who tells you every time you see him “My mother thinks your dog is funny.”
Within sight of home, Coffee crosses the road to a patch of lawn and selects a jobsite. You don your plastic newspaper sleeve, feeling not unlike a proctologist pulling on rubber gloves and dreaming of his Escalade out back by the ambulances.
You approach the target warily. You want a clean grab to avoid exposure to a Deadly Sudden Upward Waft (DSUW).
But something has gone awry. Like when a shortstop reaches for the ball but lifts his eye too early. He fumbles the rock and it goes into the books as a big fat stinking error. Let the scorebook note that in attempting the delicate maneuver of pulling the sleeve inside out with the contents safely inside, you lifted your eyes too early.
Sometimes student pilots do this when they are learning to land. As soon as they feel their wheels touch down and realize they are still alive, many tend to mentally let go. You’ve seen photos of upside down planes just off a runway, the result of a pilot going “Whew” just a tad early.
As Buley, the retired airline captain says, “You fly the plane until it stops. Then, if you’re still alive, you can get out and brag about it.”
The key rule in the Game of Dog is nearly word-for-word the rule for piloting an aircraft. Don’t stop flying the plastic newspaper sleeve until it is tied off with a gigantic knot, and it’s in the garbage can in the garage and the top is securely fastened.
Instead, you relaxed. You took for granted the skill and attention to detail required to earn a gold newspaper sleeve. Out there in the steamy bewilderness, a big E has lighted up life’s invisible scoreboard. A fluke, to be sure, but you are still staggered to near horizontalness by a DSUW.
Five minutes later at home, scrubbing your hands bloody with a potato brush, you find yourself singing “Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl.. ” and you wonder about cause and effect.
A man commits a fluke error and his mind, normally a stainless steel trap, is blown open like a cheap safe, and knocks the rhyming dictionary off a shelf. The next thing you know, the avatar of Gene Chandler pokes his head out of the splintered cupboard containing the elephant groove yard.
“Did someone say Duke?”
And just like that, you are playing his song. Forever. And ever.
Oh, oh, nothing can stop me, now,
Cause I’m The Duke of Earllllllllllllllllllllllllllll.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013, all rights reserved.