“Papers don’t help a dog point.” “What do you pay for a nice pretty girl like this? I’m talking about a broke dog. A genuine pointer. Whoa broke.” “Why would you have a dog like this?” Pop asked. “I won her fair in a card game.” “Well, that sounds about right.” “She can point. I’ve seen it myself. She’s stylish.” Pop shook his head. He looked at the filthy dog. Then without looking at Jeremy he said, “We have room for one more in the pens, right?” “We’re full, sir,” Jeremy said. It was two, even three to a cage. It was like Pop lost count just walking out to the yard. He and his mother had come to the Sugar Tree farm ten years ago, when Jeremy was six, because Pop had begun losing everything. First Grandma to diabetes, and then, slowly, his memory. “I don’t think—” Pop began. “It’s worth your while,” Fitz said. “Now—for real—what would a dog like this cost you?” “It would settle us up if what you’re saying is true, and then some. I do want a litter. She ain’t fixed, is she?” “No, sir.” Fitz smiled. “She’s perfect as she is. Her name is Winnie. Don’t go changing her name. She’ll heel, but only if you use her name proper.”
innie smelled like an old knee brace. She didn’t heel worth a damn, didn’t come. Didn’t mind anything Jeremy asked her to do.
She licked his face when told to sit. Man, she was dirty. Where in God’s name had she been? He bathed her over at the hose in the backyard. He started with the ears and worked back to her tail and down to her paws, and she shivered the whole time, scared as hell. If his mother were there, she’d already know what to do to keep Winnie out of trouble with Pop. She used to let Jeremy sneak the dogs in the house to take hot baths, and she spoiled them with snacks of bacon and grease. When Pop really started losing it, he called from the hardware store saying someone stole his truck. Mom drove up and walked him around downtown until they found his truck, and made him feel as if someone really had taken it. They weren’t to embarrass him in his old age, was Mom’s message. She kept the family in balance. Careful not to cut the dog’s skin, Jeremy sliced out burrs snarled in her fur. She was white except for a black and brown mask and some dark freckles on her back. She was brand new, and he wanted to keep her. He leashed her. “Winnie,” he commanded. “Sit.” She rolled over and tried to dry off in the grass. W W W. M E M P H I S . E D U
“Get up and sit down now.” She kept on in the grass. “Winnie?” Might as well be asking her to make breakfast. “That’s your name,” he said. “Isn’t it, girl?” He wrapped a towel around her, lifted her to her feet, held her, and talked quietly to her. After a while he led her by the leash to the chain link pens. The two females, Bessie and Sarah, barked when he brought her close, and she tried to hide behind his legs. No use moving her in with that jealous lot. He nudged her forward, and the other dogs gathered at the gates to sniff her. Second from the end was old Ripley, an orange and white setter, nine years old, and gentle. She nuzzled up to Ripley through a space between the wires. Ripley could work. Rearrange the dogs and pair her with Ripley, and it might just happen peaceful and quiet.
t lunch he told Pop about Winnie and her new friend Ripley. He left out that Winnie didn’t know her name and was feral as a turkey buzzard. She was sweet, yes, but she did not have the formal training Fitz claimed she did. This Jeremy kept to himself. “We got to take your girl for a hunt tomorrow morning,” Pop all but shouted over the TV. “Yes, sir.” “Why don’t you bring the other one along if they’re getting on so good? There aren’t any bookings tomorrow, so we can rustle up some wild quail in the east coveys near the river.” “What if Winnie ain’t much of a pointer?” “She’ll point.” “But what if she won’t? Could we keep her as an inside dog?” He might as well be asking if he could grow his hair out and vote Democrat. “Fitz says she works with style.” “The man’s been known to stretch the truth, sir.” Pop didn’t look away from the TV. “Sounds like I’m a fool and Fitz is a liar.” Jeremy shuddered at challenging Pop. “I didn’t say that, Pop...” Pop stared at the TV. “Tell you one thing about Fitz you may not know.” “Yes, sir.” “He never run out on his wife and little boy.” He pounded his fist on the table. “Man stuck.” He looked hard at Jeremy, but then FA L L 2 014
University of Memphis Fall Magazine