On Highway 29, spring rain is finally yielding to
summer sun. My mother and I are out for a drive. Her
ten-year-old cocker spaniel, Charley, sits on my lap,
stares out the window, looks back at me. I lift my
hand to his head and smooth his golden fur. I tell him
he is a good boy. My mother smiles and says
when he isn’t being naughty. He turns again to look
at me as if unsure of all the times he fetched for me
the frisbee or sticks from the summer lake and I feel
him memorizing the contour of my face. At home,
my mother lifts the flyswatter. He is used to the daily
harsh words that accompany a quick electric hit.
He flinches in a home where everything sounds like
bad dog. I would like to hold him in my arms,
his large dark eyes glad I’ve come-jumping barking
squeaking- when he sees me. He sure loves you,
my mother says, and sets the flyswatter beside her
on a kitchen chair. And this is how I remember love.
The slap across the face, the broom across the back
like a web knocked clean from the porch, how
she threw her shame at me and could not bring herself
to mother. Such unhappiness snaps and growls and
swats, but children are loyal as dogs and run home
to love, believers that they are.
Jackie McManus is the author of the poetry book, The Earthmover's Daughter. She has been published in The Gorge Literary Review, Voicecatcher, Barstow & Grand, Twig, Thimble Literary Magazine and The Green Light Literary Journal. She is currently at work on her next chapbook titled Related To Loon.
"My mother was a darling person but tempermental with her beloved dog, Charley. I think she belonged to the group of people who would say "If you had told me this would be my life, I would have told you you were crazy." and that helps to explain her unhappiness raising seven children-who adored her."