Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

Charley

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."