Why We Go Fast/All the Dead Dogs (2008)

by Christopher Jug George


Why We Go Fast/All the Dead Dogs

It’s the morning of October 15th and things are weird. I’m isolated in a cabin on the Gold River on my birthday. Yesterday, I stopped at a grocery store to buy food. I thought about buying a birthday cake. I settled on a chocolate cupcake with white frosting. The brown and white remains sit off-balance on the table because I ate most of the base.

The chill in the air has my attention. I’m sitting in front of a screen which has captured bits of nature, the Gold River flows behind a cottonwood lens. I’ve been here several times this summer and fall. I’ve felt so alive out here, but now I’m looking at this place from a distance. So many people I know appeared in my dream last night. It’s what I envision when people say they see their life flash before their eyes.

When I arrived last night it was already dark. I could smell death when I stepped outside. Today, I found it. There is a deer carcass in the yard.  The head and neck are intact as are the front two legs. The rib cage is visible and licked clean, the rear end and hips consumed, the hind legs coldly tossed aside with no thought of symmetry by whatever devoured it. The world feels strange when you’re looking at its dead parts.

I’m watching my dog through the screen. He’s sniffing around and under the fallen leaves. Whenever I see a dog in an old photograph or a movie I think about all the dead dogs in the world. I think about their bones and how they used to run, jump, and pant. It strikes me how excited dogs always look in photographs, and I inevitably think ‘that dog is dead now.’ So are most of the happy dogs.

I saw my ex Diane the other night. She was smiling at me as she used to. I know we both get the urge to take off running together. Diane and I only knew how to go fast. We had to. It was the only way we could fit it all in before the end.

I can still hear her crying in the bathroom when we both knew it was over. Five months later I picture her face when we both realized what came next. I knew Diane would always make me cry. I cried about her yesterday because of a Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers duet I heard on the radio. It was our song. The person in the car next to me saw me wiping a tear away from my eye.

Diane loved to drive my car. She loved to drive it fast. I used to worry about her when she’d be out in the world driving my car fast.

I live twenty miles from the Gold River. If I were in my house I would feel the tension from a failed love. Even after someone leaves, it stays in the air. Our love made dings in the appliances and scratches on the floor.  A happy relationship impresses on your place, forever. This is why I spent most of the summer and fall at the Gold River. There was life here and lives I’ve never seen.

I don’t get worked up over things anymore. Why anyone would want to be around someone who doesn’t want to be around them is beyond me. I’m over emotions like that, but it’s not that simple. Those are words, just. I’ve always wanted that written on a T-shirt. Still, a semblance of that idea is one of the most important things in life to figure out. Diane and I didn’t want to be around each other anymore. I’m doing what I can to live with myself.

I’m not trying to sound fatalistic. Finding a dead deer on a morning after a dream in which my whole life flashed before my eyes with all of nature dying around me is proof enough for me.

The leaves are falling at a rapid clip and the chill in the air is all too real. I’m longing for those hot days I spent out here next to the Gold River. I keep putting on and taking off my winter hat, wandering around in the yard, looking down into the cold water. Bugs are noticeably absent, as are the birds. The squirrels are acting desperate.

I’m taking deep breaths because life is strange and I’m a romantic. It’s why the wind-spotted river looks sad in the fall. Why the sky, which wasn’t visible through the trees weeks before is breathtaking to me, why depression and joy intermingle just below my surface, why my eyes bulge, drift, and roll. It’s why I cry when I laugh sometimes.