While you were on vacation, Hoosier died. I borrowed your shovel to dig her a hole. It’s behind the house, a couple feet deep, and long enough to cradle her body. I dug it so that it’s halfway under my property and halfway under yours. Hoosier’s head is on your side, and her tail is on mine. I did this on purpose, because you mentioned that you might get a pool this summer and fence off your property. In case that happens, I just wanted to make sure that Hoosier could still get over there to sniff around your garden and hunt for any steak bones you throw into the mulch.
You asked me to call you, while you were gone, if your daughter had boys over or if there were any cars I didn’t recognize parked outside your house. While I was burying my dog, she was out on the patio with a boy from her class, but I didn’t want to bother you because I was able to keep an eye on them all afternoon. They stayed right where I could see them, drinking iced lemonade and watching me dig. The boy behaved. He never tried to take your daughter’s hand or whisper in her ear or pull her inside the house. He was interested in what I was doing, and asking your daughter questions about Hoosier. I heard her telling him stories about when she was a puppy. Do you remember how worried your daughter used to get, when, as a little girl, she saw Hoosier, walking out in the snowdrifts without a coat? She couldn’t understand that dogs have fur, and don’t need coats. She yelled at me everyday that winter until we went to the store together and bought Hoosier a dark blue jacket with brass buttons. She wore it into her grave.
As a neighbor, I will be honest with you and tell you that the boy did kiss your daughter. But it was only a couple of times when he thought I wasn’t looking. I promise you don’t need to worry. These kisses were short and shy, and all four hands stayed were they should have.
He had a guitar, too, propped up against the patio table. He played on it every once in a while, and although he was good, your daughter wouldn’t fall for it. She didn’t swoon. She didn’t melt, or break down at the knees. Instead she teased him, and put her fingers over the strings to mess him up. Your daughter is too smart for tricks, and too clever for young boys who can sing, and drive, and have their own money.
I covered up Hoosier before I arranged her in the hole. She’s wrapped in an old flour sack. Before I filled in the hole I called over to your daughter. I asked her if there was anything she’d like to say on behalf of the dog. She and Hoosier grew up together, after all. She came over to the mound, and the boy followed behind her. I could tell that she was sad, that there were things that she wanted to say. But she wouldn’t in front of the boy. What would he think of her, speaking over a dead animal? She stood tall, unaffected by Hoosier, lumpy in a sack. And so when she bent down, grabbed a handful of dirt, and simply said, I’ll miss you, Hoosier, I understood. She dropped a bit of dirt into the grave and then wiped her hands on the boy, smiling. He played sad chords on his guitar, not for Hoosier’s benefit, but in an attempt to show your daughter how sensitive and caring he was. I understood this, too.
I’m sorry that I didn’t call you to tell you that your daughter had a boy at the house. But you would have been so proud at how she handled herself. She won’t give him anything that she doesn’t want to. And he won’t ask, either. I trust him. Your daughter has him on a hook, and he’s completely smitten with her. I remember the feeling. Summertime was always about sodas, and movies, and late nights, and the girls. A head-pounding, heart-wrenching amount of them. So many girls that they’d knock around in my head, trip me up, and confuse me so bad that I couldn’t tell who I trusted most anymore, the person I was falling in love with or my own goddamn mother.
Andrew Haynes is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa. He is currently located in Southern Indiana. This is his first publication.