‘Tony’ by Gloria Christie

Brownie only had three legs. He belonged to Aunt Avis, Mom’s older sister. I never knew why he lived with us, but he stayed for several years. I did know why Brownie had three legs. He lost one of them by getting too close to a machine with gnashing horizontal teeth attached to Dad’s tractor, a machine that cut the purple flowered, sweet-smelling crop alfalfa, and cut Brownie’s leg off. That is why you never get close to the tractor.

Then Aunt Frances, another Mom sister, said a neighbor had puppies; and after a suitable amount of begging, my parents said we could have a dog. I picked one of the squirming bundles of puppy pleasures and named him Tony. Dad said he belonged to all of us, my two sisters, too. Of course, I knew he was my dog…knew as in a feeling that washed down from my shoulders and settled deeply behind my stomach.

We returned Brownie, and I turned to my dog. The splash of brown and white across the upper portion of Tony’s body told us what we already knew – he was a collie with German shepherd coloring. After I saw Timmy grooming Lassie on TV, I decided to brush Tony’s long, sleek hair. By then, my dog was a year old.

The daylight hurt my eyes and the sidewalk’s concrete bit into my little knobby knees, but I was determined. The trees gave us shade then took it away, the dust fluffed into bursts as the invisible wind shifted past us. Ours was a working dairy farm in rural eastern Kansas and filled with all sorts of adventures for an ultra-curious me on other days.

I still associate the day I groomed Tony with malted milk filled to the top of a glass and carried carefully in my sticky six-year-old hands from the kitchen to the outside. As I brushed Tony, I found something that little girls didn’t have, a penis! What pleasant surprise that was, Tony made different, but mostly the same.

I brushed until his coat shone in blue-black glints. My dog was every bit as magnificent as Lassie, and she had her own TV show! My mother thought otherwise, since I used her good hair brush. And no one wanted to make Mom mad; her anger was thunderous. I didn’t understand why she would care though; their hair was almost the same color.

Tony lived with us for maybe five years. Dad wouldn’t let us have animals in the house, so ours was an outdoors dog. One morning, I went out and called for Tony. He didn’t come. Dad said that he was gone, a cougar might have got him, but I called for my dog all day. Night came, but Tony did not.

Living on a farm teaches a person about the stages of life and the harsh edges of death. Tony would have come back to me if he could, so I knew he was dead. I cried without sound. It would upset the sisters the grownups said, and they couldn’t understand. So grief bit at my heart, and loneliness weighed down my throat. Tears leaked across my cheeks; I dashed my hand at them, angry at myself for crying. And yet they still come.

Copyright by Gloria Christie, November 19, 2015. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

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