First Draft

By Sam Bowen

for John Denver

Josh had never been one to care one way or the other about nature before, but as he gazed into the heavens, he found the millions of twinkling stars breathtaking.

“Breathtaking?” “Millions of twinkling stars?” As first lines go, I guess it’s not bad . . . for a nineteenth century romance. Hell, it was probably cliché even then. Of course, the protagonist would have to be Joshua then, and not just Josh. Okay. “Josh was never one to know the constellations, but . . .” But what? Is he going to make up a constellation? I don’t know that I like that “was never one to know.” Why not just, “Josh never knew the constellations?” Because it sounds bad, that’s why.

I shouldn’t even be starting outside. The story will work its way outside, anyway. I’m trying to do something about man’s return to nature, so it’s stupid to start with nature.

Do I even like the name Josh? It was okay at first, but now it’s starting to lose meaning. Josh. Josh. Josh. Is that even a name? And what is it saying? Joshua is Biblical, I think. I wonder what it means. And any time you use a biblical name that brings in all sorts of Christian interpretations. But Josh is okay, I guess. Just a nickname. It might even suggest that he rejects his religious background. Oh great, now it will have an anti-Christian slant. How about Darren? Too old-fashioned. Eddie. Too colloquial. Frank, Burt, Edgar, Julio, Dmitri. Oh, who am I kidding, the guy’s a Josh. I knew it from the moment I started writing. But you know you should never marry yourself to an idea like that. Remember that story you wrote about the guy named Sandy? It was a name so tied up with females that that was all anyone could think about. But I kept it. I didn’t intend on encouraging that reading, but maybe it was meant to be there. What did Vonnegut say? He just writes his works; it’s up to the English professors to interpret what everything means. Something like that, anyway.

Great, now I’m comparing myself to Kurt Vonnegut. I guarantee you that Vonnegut never wrote a sentence like, “Josh had never been one to care one way or the other about constellations before, but as he gazed into the heavens . . .” “HAD never.” Second word into the story, and I’m already passive. And “ONE to care ONE way . . .” Eight words in and I’m already repeating myself. Yeah, great first line.

I wonder if any classic first line was actually the first thing the author wrote. Did Dickens start with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?” Or did that come later?

Okay, I won’t worry about the first line yet. Second line.

. . .

. . .

Second line.

. . .

Second line.


Okay, where does the story start out? If we’re returning to nature, we have to start pretty damn far from nature, right? What’s the opposite of nature? Nurture. Ha ha. No, technology, of course. A computer lab? An office of some sort? Yeah, an office near the top of a high rise. No windows: he’s in the center of the floor. Not even any plants. Ooh, maybe some plastic trees. Yeah, create that dichotomy right off the bat. Is dichotomy the right word? Disparity? That sounds better. The phoniness of the plastic trees, but it’s still the most natural looking thing the human eye can see. I like that. Josh is at work. Working late. He’s all alone.

Josh didn’t notice the hum of the air conditioner until it stopped; then there was silence.

That’s a good first line! I just needed to not think of the problem directly. I like that. Just like remembering something. How do you remember something? By not trying to remember, of course.

So yeah, he’s working late, all alone in the office. Trying to get the . . . I don’t know, the Montague account in order. Is he a lawyer? No, something more boring. Stock broker? No, just because I find it boring doesn’t mean that readers won’t be imagining one of those people yelling “Buy! Sell!” all day long. CPA! Yeah, that’s really unglamorous. So it’s tax season, and he’s dotting all the t’s and crossing all the i’s, so to speak. No, it’s NOT tax season. If it were, he wouldn’t be alone in the office. Plus, it’s a reminder that he does this crap all year long.

He’s short. A little pudgy. Perpetual stubble. No, wait. I don’t want people thinking this is autobiographical, or something. I mean, it’s not. I’m not a CPA. I can’t even balance a checkbook. Well, nobody does that anymore anyway. Do people even have checkbooks? Whatever. And anyway, just because the climax of the story is going to be based on something that happened to me does NOT make it autobiographical.

Actually, I think that’s the very definition of autobiographical. Well what of it? “Write what you know,” right? And anyway, there will be lots of stuff that didn’t happen to me. And the protagonist’s epiphany was certainly not one I had.

Should he even have an epiphany? Nobody really does. And modern fiction doesn’t really do that stuff; it’s more open-ended. Contemporary fiction, that is. Ugh, I hate that I can’t use the term “modern” to refer to contemporary art, since that was an actual movement. How conceited is that, to use that term for what you’re doing? They had to know that something would come AFTER modernism. “Post-modernism.” How stupid of a term is that? If you think about it, that really means it comes from the future! Maybe sci-fi should be relabeled post-modernism. Yeah, from now on, H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick, they’re all post-modernists.

Ooh, maybe we should call the next big artistic movement “contemporary.” Then how will people refer to art that is currently being created? Ha!

I think I just had an epiphany. Still, I can’t use it in a story. Things that happen in real life aren’t believable in fiction. So dumb. So no epiphany. The guy just has to end up more confused than when he started; I think that’s how things work now in fiction.

Maybe it’s not even a guy. If I make Joshua a woman that will really distance himself—herself—from me. But then I’ll be writing for a woman, and that comes with its own can of worms. Men writing for women is “presumptuous.” I guess. Have I ever heard anyone make that claim, or is it just what I fear? But I would have to get all the womanly thoughts correct. Are they that different from a man’s?

So yeah, no woman. Sticking with Josh.

He looked up from his computer and noticed, once again, he was alone in the office.

It’s not going to set the world ablaze, but it’s serviceable.

His eyes were weary from staring at Excel documents . . .

Do real CPAs use Excel? I bet they don’t. It seems like there is a program that’s specific to them. What is it again? I bet Google knows.

How does Ask keeping ending up as my default search engine? Damn those Trojan viruses, or whatever it is! How many times do I have to uninstall you?

Quicken! That’s it. Okay.

His eyes were weary from staring at Quicken documents . . .

Does everybody know what Quicken is? I mean, I’d rather everyone know what I mean and have a few CPAs annoyed with my inaccuracy than have a whole host of people not know what I’m talking about by the second sentence. But I’m sure they’ll figure it out.

But Quicken sounds silly.

His eyes were weary from staring at Excel[Quicken?] documents, and the harsh fluorescents did nothing to ease the throbbing.

Nice! I wonder if there is any pizza left. No! At least half an hour more of writing, then I can eat.

I think Janice took the pizza for her lunch. I bet there is plenty of her chicken cacciatore left. Why did I ever say I liked it so much? I mean, it’s good, but not every Sunday good. I guess it’s another PB&J. I hope there’s still grape jelly.

The AC turned off promptly at eleven. Another fourteen hour day. He still had so much to do on the Montague file, but he knew from past experience that the office became sweltering not long after the AC kicked off. Besides, he was terribly hungry. He briefly wondered if there was any pizza left from last night, but then remembered that his wife had taken it for her lunch. “I bet there is plenty of her chicken cacciatore left,” he thought.

That’s a horrible idea. If Janice were to read that . . . .

I bet there is plenty of that rosemary chicken left,” he thought. He wished he had never said that he liked it so much; now he was eating it once a week.

Wait, if he has a wife, wouldn’t she have made dinner? Okay, that’s kind of sexist, but he’s got an old-fashioned job, maybe their relationship is kind of old-fashioned. Plus, what did the kids eat? Do they have kids? Of course they have kids. Two or three. Three or four? Ha! Maybe Josh doesn’t even know. No, that’s silly, and this is a serious story.

Damn, all this food talk is getting me no closer to my Man’s Return to Nature theme. Maybe I’d better go eat now, after all.

Why do they have to leave the seeds in the strawberry jelly? Don’t they have technology to remove them? They always get stuck in my teeth. Alright, where was I? Ah yes, the rosemary chicken. Nothing says “I’m sick of manmade things” like rosemary chicken. Stupid. Maybe if he nukes it. I should never start with a theme. I’ve always believed that it’s story first, and a theme, if any, comes from that. But I DO have a story, and I just figured out the theme before I got there. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this. Maybe I need magic realism or something. No, I used gimmicks in my last few stories; it’s time to set something in the real world. Maybe I should write that story about the two college buddies whose lives have gone in separate directions and who run into each other at a bar. Maybe not a bar: that’s so cliché.

No! I’ve started this story, so I’m not working on another until this one is finished. Or until I have completely thrown in the towel, and I’m not doing that less than a paragraph in.

Josh dreaded the trip home. A short hike to the subway, a long ride back to Long Island [he MUST have kids], and a bus ride to his corner. Then he would be greeted by a dark house, sleeping kids, and an annoyed wife.

But the notion of staying at work was equally repulsive. Risking pit stains on his shirt in order to crunch a few more numbers, only to have to make the trip home eventually anyway? No thanks.

He could take a taxi, of course. Then it’s either small talk with the driver or that awkward silence where they each pretended they were all alone. He didn’t know which was worse.

When the elevator dinged as it hit the ground floor, it startled Josh awake. He wasn’t even aware he had been sleeping. He must have been more tired than he thought. And it was only Wednesday. He had to stop these long nights. He waved good night to the night guard, George. Henry? Charlie? Oh, what did it matter?

Two guys meeting in a bar like that feels like it’s been done a million times. Isn’t there a Springsteen song about that? Yeah, “Glory Days.” Well, it’s not exactly that, but close enough. Maybe I could dedicate the story to Bruce like Oates did in that one creepy store to Dylan. But that’s memorable only because it makes no sense. I should dedicate this story to Bob Dylan. But then people would just assume I was doing what Oates did. No dedication, then.

He should talk to the guard. I haven’t had any dialogue yet.

“Good night—” Josh started to say the name George, but he was struck with the notion that that wasn’t the man’s name. Henry? Charlie? He had to something, as the “good night” was clearly hanging there waiting for a follow-up. “See you tomorrow,” he said dumbly.

Night, Mr. Sanders,” said the man whose name Josh wasn’t certain of. He didn’t seem to notice the hesitation.

It was a bright night, and before he turned to the left toward the subway, he could clearly see the trees in Central Park.

I’ll need to be more specific with location, of course, or New Yorkers will tear it apart. I haven’t been to New York in forever. Of course, that’s largely because I don’t like people. Well, I don’t like large groups of people.

Janice wants to go there again this winter. The winter. There’s a reason we live in California, my dear, and it’s the temperate climate. I don’t want to have to put on eight layers of clothes just to go to the corner for a coffee. Ah hell, I’d be perfectly willing to put up with that if it wasn’t for all the people. It’s a minor miracle that Central Park is still there, and it hasn’t been razed in favor of apartment buildings. Maybe the squirrels have rent control.

What does that even mean? Rent control doesn’t keep people from tearing down your building, just from raising your rent. Or is that it? What the hell do I know about what happens in New York? Maybe that trip will be good for me. Yeah, I can call it research. But that’s at least five months away, and if I wait that long to write it, I’ll have forgotten what I wanted to write about. Better to get the story out now and worry about the details later.

He felt a compulsion to make that right turn toward the trees. It probably wasn’t a good idea at this time of night, though. There were likely muggers and bums and any number of unsavory characters. Or it could be empty. Well, virtually empty; this was New York, after all. Still, if the homeless were asleep, he could walk through the relative nature of Central Park without being molested.

And if he were mugged? Well, you only live once, right?

Ugh. YOLO. Such a stupid trend. Does saying “You only live once” really take that much time? That phrase is now utterly useless. In fairness, it was always a trite phrase.

And if he were mugged? Living safely was what got him where he was today. A safe job, a solid wife, a house in the suburbs. In short, his safe life brought him boredom. Josh remembered when he was in college and he was going to be a disc jockey. He wanted a morning show so badly. He was always entertaining people with his jokes and impressions, and he had a keen ear for the absurdities in current events. He gave that dream up right around the time things started to get serious with his now wife. She was pretty in a conventional, upper-class Connecticut sort of way, which was never his type. At least, it wasn’t the type that really did it for him. But they got along well, and she came from a good family. So he had to exaggerate his passion.

It occurred to him then, his feet started walking toward Central Park as if of their own volition, that he hadn’t been passionate about anything since. It was as though his dulled interest in Jane (is there a safer name?) had lowered his bar for interest in everything else.

What was the name of that girl he was dating before Jane? Oh yeah, Roxy. Of course it was Roxy. Just as Jane was plain and safe, Roxy was foxy and dangerous.

Jane was plain and Roxy was foxy? Is that too much? No, I like it. It’s good. But a better question, is Jane too much like Janice? Is Janice going to read this, realize that, what was it—the rosemary chicken—is thinly veiled chicken cacciatore? But I don’t feel that way about Janice. Janice is not plainness, if you will pardon the slant rhyme.

Is she? No, Janice is, like Roxy, foxy. Or at least she was. An ass you could bounce a quarter off of. And really, who needs big boobs? Even at 43, Janice’s breasts are as firm and high as they ever were. Of course, crabapples don’t pull down the branches quite the way those huge Fuji do, do they?

Roxy was all curves and sex drive. Josh remembered taking her from behind in a packed night club. Nobody noticed, even as she screamed his name. He had never been so hard in his life, and he hadn’t been since. How many times did he wake up the next day with bite marks and scratches?

Is that just a male fantasy, or does that sort of thing really happen? I mean, it’s never happened to me. No, I’m sure it happens to some people.

But there was a price. Roxy had a hell of a temper. Still, the passionate arguments had always seemed worth it in exchange for her other passions. Was this true? Or was this just how Josh remembered things now? He seemed to have a dim memory of being driven crazy by her insane accusations and, yes, violent outbursts. He supposed she might be considered bipolar now. Or maybe just plain nuts.

Might be considered bipolar now? That makes is sound as if he’s relating a story from the turn of the century or something. “She had a nasty case of the vapors, or, as we now know it, bipolar disorder.” If he’s in his forties, that would have put him in college in the nineties. Bipolar was a thing in the nineties, right? Oh well.

Still, it seemed to him now that the last time he truly felt alive was the last time they fucked. He tried to imagine bringing that kind of fervor into his and Jane’s bedroom, but the idea was laughable. He might as well suggest they sleep on the roof for a change.

Okay, now see, Janice is totally willing to do fun stuff like that in the bedroom. I mean, not everything I might want, not like Roxy would, but that bitch is crazy.

Josh got to the 66th Street entrance and stopped. It looked eerie inside. He seemed to remember that there were dangerous wild animals in the park. Or was that just an urban legend, like alligators in the sewers? He considered turning around, but thought that would be silly. He’d gone this far, what could be so bad in there?

What indeed? Are there wild animals in Central Park? I mean, apart from squirrels, rats, raccoons, and stuff? Are there coyotes? That’s stupid; coyotes are a southwestern thing. Bears? Yeah, that’s right, there’s freaking grizzly bears in the middle of Manhattan. Stupid. What is Josh going to find in Central Park? I really don’t think I can continue this story without a more intimate knowledge of New York. Plus, how the hell is Josh going to go from the middle of NYC (quitter literally) to a Native American Village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon? Okay, just write.

He hadn’t been to Central Park in years, but he headed in the direction he remembered Strawberry Fields to be.

And then what?

Haven’t had dialogue in a while. But who’s he going to talk to at this time of night?

I think he needs to see that even this oasis of nature amid the sea of people just isn’t enough. But how?

But then he decided he didn’t want to see a manmade memorial to a dead singer. He walked aimlessly through the park, but there was nothing that wasn’t touched by man. Even a copse of trees was framed by the glowing lights from skyscrapers.

Suddenly Josh couldn’t breathe. His lungs would not inflate.

Oh god, this is getting melodramatic. So what’s the next step? He goes straight to LaGuardia and buys a one way ticket to Arizona? “Just write,” right? That’s what the creative writing professors would say. “Turn off your internal censor and write.” Okay, so write.

He ran to where he thought he came in, but only found himself deeper in the park. Why would a park, a reminder of nature, be populated by so many buildings and monuments and statues? It didn’t make sense. He found a park bench and shut his eyes. He pictured the Grand Canyon. The immensity of nothing but what millions of years of water created. He was at the top at first, but the others tourists annoyed him, so he moved to the basin. Just trees, rock, dirt, and a trickle of the Colorado. He looked up and there was nothing but blue sky and some wisps of clouds. There was nothing to suggest that he wasn’t the first person to ever occupy this space. He wasn’t even on a trail. He opened his eyes and realized that this wasn’t his imagination; this was a memory. He was fresh out of high school in the memory, on a camping trip with a handful of friends.

A memory? That’s what I get when I “just write?” No good. The only thing worse would be a dream. Thanks a lot, writing professors.

Okay, what then? What next . . . . .

Josh realized that he hadn’t thought of that trip in years. Right after he came home, he went away to college, and the memory was buried under the detritus of cramming, beer bongs, and casual sex.

That trip, he realized, had made him feel just as alive as sex with Roxy did. Not the entire trip, but parts of it. And the euphoria wasn’t as ethereal as the orgasms Roxy produced. It was something more substantial. Something hearty. Something, although he was no prude, purer. Cleaner.

There was that Indian village at the base of the trail, and there was a purity to that, too. Even with the ramshackle buildings, dusty, unpaved roads, and the dogs. There was something about the dogs that moved him. Something that, he thought, he would carry with him from that day forward. But what was it?

Okay, now things are moving along!

Josh noticed that his breathing was back to normal. His pulse felt slower, too. In fact, he felt calmer than he had in years. But as he looked around again, the calmness quickly dissipated. It was as though the city were sapping him of his energy. And why not? The Law of Conservation of Energy stated that energy was neither created nor destroyed, and New York was nothing if not filled with energy. It had to come from somewhere, so it made perfect sense that it sucked the very life out of its denizens.

Who doesn’t love to debate the merits of the laws of physics in relations to human life? Okay, don’t think about it too much, it’s a good analogy.

He closed his eyes again and tried to picture the different hues of beige and brown and pink that comprised the Grand Canyon. Once he had a clear image in his mind, he opened his eyes, but allowed the image to remain. It was like a double-exposed picture, the dark, mock-nature of Central Park against the much brighter, even blinding, reality of the Grand Canyon. It allowed him to walk out of the park and take a cab home without further incident.

Okay, this is really coming together now. Can I take him straight to Arizona? I mean, it’s a short story: surely I’m allowed some leeway as far as time goes. What the hell, let’s give it a try. Suck it, story about old college chums!

The hot Arizona air hit Josh in the face like a . . . [like a what? Ugh. I’ll come back to it]. He immediately felt winded and out of shape. No matter. Any physical discomfort would be more than offset by the spiritual well-being this trip would give him.

The past three weeks were excruciating. He wanted to call in sick to work the day after Central Park, but he knew that wouldn’t fly, so he put in for vacation as soon as he was able to go.

A wet towel? No, it’s a dry heat in Arizona.

It was unlike him, his boss pointed out, to give such short notice for a vacation. Was everything okay?

“Sure,” he said. “Jane’s mom is in the hospital. They think she’s going to be okay, but Jane doesn’t want to regret not going if the worst does happen.”

Josh wasn’t sure where that came from, and he didn’t know what he would say if his boss pressed him for more details, like how did Josh know she would still be in the hospital in three weeks, but he fortunately didn’t have to cross that bridge.

“Do you know how long you’ll be gone? You don’t have an end date on this request.”

Josh shrugged. “I’m not sure. I have four weeks of vacation.”

His boss grunted, and signed the request.

Josh had every intention of spending his entire four weeks there. And maybe, if he really liked it, he would stay even longer. He was sure he could find another job once he got this necessary respite from New York out of his system.

Jane was not as easy. Actually, she was completely on board until Josh explained that the trip was for just him, not a family excursion.

Obviously, the heat hit him like a wall, but that has been done about a zillion times. God, original similes are pretty hard to come up with. They’re like . . . well, they’re hard.

“It’s just something I have to do on my own,” he told her, noting how stupid it sounded, but unable to come up with a better explanation. “The City is eating me alive.”

“And your family? Are we eating you alive, too?”

“No, it’s not like that. I just need this alone time.”

It went ‘round and ‘round like that.

Like dragon’s breath? It kind of works, but this isn’t a fantasy. I can’t compare a real, nearly palpable thing to something imaginary.

Work offered the mind numbing monotony that did not use enough of his brain to mitigate the excitement he felt for the trip, and home offered only passive-aggression and an inability to communicate anything effectively. Central Park became his temporary escape. It was nowhere near what he needed, but it was relatively quiet, and if he kept his focus narrow, he could be swept up in the small quantity of nature that it offered.

Oh! “It was like walking into the exhaust of a jet engine.” It’s pretty good. Maybe I’ll go back and put it in later.

He did spend quite a bit of time and money at outdoor outfitters. He bought a backpack, hiking boots, freeze-dried food, canteens, a compass, lots of khaki clothing. He even, at the clerk’s insistence, bought a big floppy hat to keep the sun out of his face, though he couldn’t imagine wanting to do that. These excursions made the upcoming trip so real that he had to make them short, lest he burst from excitement.

Oh, this is dull. This is that exposition stuff that is so no fun. Let’s skip to the Grand Canyon, shall we?

It didn’t take long for Josh to realize that he was terribly out of shape for this. He wasn’t even at the one mile marker (it was five to the base of the Canyon) and he was tired. It was downhill, which he thought would make things easier, but he was still so worn out, and his toes hurt as they were pressed into the front of his boots. He had already been passed by so many other hikers that he had lost count. He considered turning around now. There was no telling how difficult the trip back up would be. But, he reasoned, he could go hiking for every one of the four plus weeks he was there, and he should be able to get back into some sort of shape.

He also considered making camp here, but the signs made it clear that there was no camping on the trail. Still, he wondered if he could go into the brush a bit and not be seen.

Ultimately, he decided to go on.

By the time he reached the end of the trail, Josh was in a fugue state. He hadn’t remembered passing the five mile marker, and he didn’t remember it getting dark, but there was absolutely no sign of the sun. He walked a little further and realized he was in the Indian village. It had not changed a bit, and this moment of familiarity awakened him. The village was completely empty. It wasn’t deserted, he could tell that, but its residents were all asleep. Even the dogs—the dogs which were supposed to be the key to this long forgot bit of knowledge—were all asleep somewhere, wherever the semi-stray dogs went when they slept.

And then he remembered. He remembered part of it, at any rate. The dogs, while fully domesticated, weren’t owned by any one person. They went from person to person, getting food from whomever provided it. And was there something about their coloring? Yes, that’s right. Some of them had pink stripes painted down their back. What did that mean? And what was this fact supposed to denote?

Good question. What does it mean? I remember it meant something back then. It struck me as so important back then. But what the hell was it? These dogs—dogs that were owned by nobody, but it was in their nature to seek ownership, to seek a master.

Seriously, what was it? This is the crux of the story. I mean, I guess I can have Josh run in to the dogs later. Maybe actually seeing them will help jog his—and my—memory.

He let it go for now. But he was exhausted. He found a bench in front of the post office and lay down on it. Next thing he knew, the sun was up and there was a bit of bustle in the village.

The dogs were out. Some of them, at least. He tried to approach one that was sniffing around a trash can, but the dog avoided him. Maybe they weren’t as domesticated as he remembered. No, he very specifically remembered petting several of them. Perhaps these dogs were just the less social ones. He would continue to the campsite—just a bit more hiking, if he remembered accurately.

Okay, let’s face it, the dogs provide a big epiphany moment, but it’s not the whole story. I want to show Josh actually camping.

But not yet. I have to get down the bottom of these dogs!

Once his campsite was made and he had a quick breakfast of boiled eggs, he decided to go back to the village. He had to find out what it was he was supposed to know about the dogs.

He found he was still hungry, so he went to the restaurant he remembered going to so many years ago. There were three dogs on the porch. Two of them had the pink stripes down their back. He bent down to pet them, and they gratefully received his attention. They were three mutts. One looked like some sort of terrier mix, and the other two were larger, perhaps shepherds.

“What are you trying to tell me, boys?” Josh asked. The dogs’ tails thumped on the floor of the porch, but he got no answer to his question.

He stood up and, as the sign suggested, found a table.

“What can I get you?” the waitress asked.

“A Spanish omelet and orange juice, please.”

“You got it.”

“Oh, can I ask you a question? Those pink stripes down on the dogs’ backs? What do they mean?”

“Oh, that. We vaccinate the dogs, and when we do, we paint the stipe. When the stripe is gone, we know to vaccinate them again.”

“That’s very clever,” said Josh.

She smiled wanly and walked away. What was that about? he wondered. He hoped she didn’t think he was being condescending, like “That’s very clever for a bunch of Indians.” Which was most assuredly not how he meant it. He would tip her a little extra. Of course, she might find that condescending, too.

This is not supposed to be about white-Indian relations! Where the hell did that come from?

“That’s very clever,” said Josh.

She smiled and walked away.

There. No reason for discord between these two. Still, I’d gotten the pink stripe out, but I’m still no closer to finding out what it means. Okay, so the dogs don’t belong to anyone, but still someone takes care of them. What does that mean?

It meant something when I came up with it. Something about the loneliness of these dogs must have felt. To be a pack animal, taken care of by everybody, but owned by nobody. To not have someone else. Or more to the point, to have dozens of someone elses, but no central core, no family.

That sadness they carried with them. The Grand Canyon Dogs. Lonely, well-taken care of dogs at the base of this huge expanse of a hole. It’s rife with metaphor.

Isn’t it? And was that all it was? Was it not thought out any further, just, “Hey, poor dogs.” And I get what I’m saying with this, but how do I put it into words, into this story? A I that good of a writer?

. . .

. . .

. . .

Seriously, what does that mean? Okay, just write.

. . .

Just write.

. . .

Write . . .

. . .

. . .

Eddie was settling his tab when he saw a familiar face in the mirror behind the bar: his old dorm mate Dmitri had just walked in.