Charlie Brice Reads
Ohhhhhh Jeeeeesus, I’d yell,
and Zorba would redefine desire,
reconfigure yearning, reconceptualize predation,
and lose it in the way only a 95 pound
white German Shepherd who thought
that Jesus was a squirrel could.
After “sit,” “come,” “stay,” and “down,”
I’d taught him that the true vicar of Christ
on this earth was a squirrel.
Interrupting his wails and squeals at the door,
his psalms of religious fervor, I’d imitate
a southern Baptist preacher. “Do you believe?”
I’d ask. “Do you accept Jesus as your personal savior?”
“Yes!” he’d bark, “Hallelujah,” he’d cry.
When his zeal reached launch-strength
I’d let fly the door. He’d scream down our porch
like a Comanche in those old racist westerns,
or like fat Auntie Ursal when she caught me
spying on her flesh-folds during her bath.
Imagine a young squirrel
as this white toothy blur blasts
across the yard; a vision of massive jaws
closing on its soft, crunchable, body.
Imagine the shrill realization
of being food. Even before terror,
the squirrel brain transmits scram,
guides it to the nearest tree
where safety hides in tall branches.
Their parents, who know this game,
wait until the last second,
then bolt up a sycamore
leaving Zorba to dance,
a squealing sparring partner,
roping-a-dope for Jesus.
He’d stand guard, like a soldier
on Mount Olivet waiting to drive
his sword home, although the Z man
would never vinegar a wound.
At night, when raccoons and skunks
made it too dangerous to let him
run untethered into our yard,
I might yell “Oh Jesus” anyway,
to test the verisimilitude of his faith.
The Zorbster would run panicked circles
round our living room, screaming
and moaning, dog language for,
there must be some way out of this house
without relying on these human nitwits
to open a door. Clearly he was hoping
for a miracle, the parting of the walls,
the dissolving of the windows, or visions
of many Jesuses dashing around the house,
on top of the bed, under the bed, in the bathroom,
caught in the sink, ready to sacrifice themselves
on the altar of his ferocious delight.
But there were no miracles for Zorba,
whose happiest moments were
with us, wherever we were.
Last week his great legs finally failed.
His decline was swift. He still sought Jesus,
but a viewing reduced him to a mournful howl,
front paws painfully raising his kingly chest,
then back down. He could do no more.
His execution was scheduled
for 3:30 in the afternoon.
At 9 that morning he made it
20 feet down our walkway.
“We can’t do this today,” I told my wife
who, always more connected to reality,
shook her head.
At noon he soiled himself in our front yard,
his sphincters deadened by his diseased spine.
His desire to please puddled in shame,
he turned away from us, the lake, and life.
I held him when the doctor started the injection.
He took it sitting up, too regal to lie down.
I told him how much I loved him,
and what a good dog he had been.
He’d catch Jesus now, I said.
I told him this and patted his soft white fur
until he no longer felt my desperate touch