97. Barry

Bart, for example, who was never associated with great tragedy but with awkward steadfastness, Bart, who would never be associated with a memorable wedding, watched his father quickly taken by cancer. His father had stayed active for as long as possible and made sure that every morning and every night Barry, a lab mix he’d found late in life, was fed. And then Bart’s father died.

The day after his father died, which was the day of the funeral, Bart walked into his father’s house and saw Barry standing on his haunches in the doorway of the kitchen with a peculiar seriousness on his yellow face and in his large black eyes. Barry’s tail swished back and forth behind him. He watched Bart with unnerving and concentrated expectation. But what was Barry expecting?

The sun shone brightly in the room. The light through the kitchen windows had a certain white slowness, a cold angularity that slanted onto Barry’s tail as it swept back and forth across the linoleum, raising a gold dust of hair and motes into the air.

Bart stood watching this amazing confluence of light and movement and time. Bart for all his steadfastness suddenly understood what the light and Barry were telling him. It wasn’t a revelation. It wasn’t a stroke of religious validity or, as they say in literary circles, an epiphany. It was nine o-clock in the morning and someone needed to feed Barry and Barry was probably very hungry. No one had fed Barry the night before, at least Bart hadn’t remembered doing so in yesterday’s confusion.

And so, from then on, for Bart, Death became an image. Death became a dog sitting at the door to a bright room. The light is white. It breaks through the windows at an angle. In this light and in this room a dog wags its tail, waiting to be fed.

Sometimes when Bart came home from work, Barry would be waiting at the door, wagging his tail, and Bart would think of his father and smile.