Halloween Fiction in a Flash: Big Dogs Drag Things

If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m a big fan of the 100-word flash fiction model. It creates a structure that imposes discipline, as does the sonnet. There are rules. My process is to keep a tight leash on my sentences but not self-edit much in the draft phase. The fun comes when I do a word count and have to start paring down, replacing, refining.

There is an effort to collect 100-word stories on this site, 100 Word Story.

I got started with Loren Eaton’s Advent Ghosts. This Halloween story, “Big Dogs Drag Things,” is for my friend Eric Douglas. I like what Eric says, “(T)his particular brand of flash fiction is telling a complete story in 100 words. Not more. Not less. It can be a lot of fun. And it can also be challenging. Sometimes what is most important is what is left unsaid.”

I hope you enjoy my story, based on the real life reporting of my friend Rick Wilson about his Great Pyrenees dog, Arpad. Arpad is a legend in my house. I’m living life now with my first-ever large breed dog. So far, no body parts have come home. But I know they could.

I’ll leave the rest unsaid.

Photo courtesy of Rick Wilson

Photo courtesy of Rick Wilson

Big Dogs Drag Things Home

Big dogs drag things home. An enormous thunking and I pull back the curtain. It’s a bloody leg. Hair, bone, skin. A hoof. Must have been a deer. I don’t know where she found it or why she thinks I want it. The scent? A late-night walk in the woods. I could see everything in the natural light.

The drain is clogged again. The tub is stained. I get out, brush my teeth, look at them. Look at my face. She licks my ankle, gazing up, patient. I unlock the large breed iron crate I tell everyone is for her.

The Privilege of Being Human

This week I was severely in need of a reminder that true happiness is not the asbsence of suffering, but the opportunity to reduce suffering in the world.  My personal belief system is from the Christian tradition, and when I find overlap between my story and interpretations of the human condition from other faiths and philosophies I am always centered by it. 

Salvation, enlightenment, all of the work associated with getting oneself to whatever that point is can sometimes seem like a crushingly difficult process.  Then there are moments of relief, when the weight of the world goes away and only the simplicity of life shows through the murk. 

I hope you enjoy this writing from The Goat Rope.  I connected with the idea that being human, in all of its complications and hardships and beauty, is a privilege we would do well to fully appreciate even in hard times.

(I’m also glad to have the heads up that a love of red wine will keep me from ever attaining certain levels of Buddhist progression….good to know before I get to far down the path to Enlightenment.)

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Too optimistic to be happy by Rick Wilson

According to Buddhist tradition, being born as a human is a rare privilege. Other states of being may be more or less pleasant but the human state is said to be the only one in which one can attain enlightenment. It is even rarer and more fortunate to be a human and be exposed however briefly to the Buddha and his teaching.

By those standards, I guess I’m pretty lucky. Due to a traveling grandfather who died before I was born, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know about Buddha or at least recognize his image, thanks to a statue and a prayer wheel he brought back from China in the 1920s. Learning about Buddhist teachings came later, partially through my study of martial arts.

For the record, I’m not a card-carrying Buddhist but more like a Buddhist sympathizer. Seated meditation drives me nuts and I’m way too fond of wine to sign on to the Fifth Precept. But I’ve been struck over and over again by the practicality of some Buddhist teachings to working for social justice–and not going crazy in the process.

Here’s one to start with: life is suffering. Some people seem to have this magical idea that if only this or that could be made to happen or stopped from happening then everything would be just peachy. If the desired state does not come about, they can make themselves pretty miserable. Paradoxically, they are too optimistic–in the sense of thinking everything can be fixed–to be happy.

Buddhism isn’t pessimistic but it is realistic. Things aren’t all bad all the time but living and suffering are intertwined. Such a view is entirely compatible with happiness, strange as that may seem. We can do things to increase or decrease the amount of suffering in the world but not eliminate it. That insight makes me grateful for little victories and for all the things that aren’t terrible at any given moment.

Here’s a suggestion: try to make it a practice to notice it when you don’t have a toothache.

Art image credit: Garden Fountains