The idea appeared one day during the late summer of 1990. We lived on Martha’s Vineyard then, in a house Bernie had built by hand, in the Tisbury woods. We had been dogless for a while after our collie Boo died. Dogless, I thought, was a good idea. I had been going to Ragdale, an art colony near Chicago, for month-long residencies.
Recently, my career had taken a leap forward. After years of querying editors with ideas for articles and getting far more rejections than acceptances, the phone rang one morning and I was hired for a job I hadn’t even asked for. Frances Lear wanted me to write an article on incest for her magazine, Lear’s. “Interview everyone,” she said. Within the week, I was traveling all over the country.
All winter and spring I travelled, interviewing victims, abusers, judges, lawyers and therapists. I loved it. Loved the work, loved Lear’s, loved my editors and loved Frances who had given me the job.
Over Memorial Day, without warning, everything stopped.
No one from the magazine called me for a week. Then a month. TWO months…
Maybe I’d lost the job. Maybe they’d found a writer they liked more. Maybe Frances had changed her mind. I’d been so stupid to be excited. Idiot.
Maybe, if I didn’t call to ask what was up, no one would remember to tell me I was fired. Then, maybe, I wouldn’t have to find out what I’d done wrong.
I watched The Weather Channel, cooked lentils, vacuumed.
An ad appeared in the local paper for a littler of Brittany puppies. I went to look. Just look. Until I knew about my job, I was not getting a dog.
The puppies were out on the lawn, 8 week old mewling, yipping blobs that sprawled over each other. I couldn’t tell them apart. They were all frenetic, fast and loud.
Warmth on my foot made me look down. There, asleep on my instep, was my dog.
Painting of Harpo by Bernard Fierro, oil on wood.