He lived a simple life, sleeping most of the day and doing the same at night. His well-worn pillow, crammed into the bottom of the black wire pet carrier, was a retreat from the noise and confusion of his new home. A home full of squeals from four little girls and sideways glances from a surly black and white cat who, judging from her demeanor, had begrudgingly decided to let him live. There was another dog who lived in the house as well. A large sandy coated hound of some sort who was easily excited and falsely vigilant with intruders. He knew her name to be Judy because that is what everyone shouted at her whenever the garbage was toppled or her long tail knocked a drink off a table. The cat said that Judy’s first act of unintentional defiance was crapping in the brown leather dress shoe of the human that the small ones called “Daddy”.
Of course, that was a story from a cat which is always to be taken with a grain of salt.
Judy was outside his cage at that very moment. Making desperate pleads with him to wake up. Nudging the door and whimpering. The Daddy was calling out. Concerned but not quite upset.
“Jasper. Jasper. Wake up Jasper.”
Jasper heard the words like an echo down a hallway. A disembodied voice calling him back to a world he had started to leave behind. Light entering the edge of his still open eyes shone upon a shrinking universe. The forms huddled outside of his cage were shadows flitting at the corners of his eyes. Blurry figures. Like trying to see someone through steamy shower glass. He wanted to answer. He felt the urge to meet the calls but his body would not respond.
The sounds faded and he slipped into the darkness. This wasn’t his first trip but he didn’t know if it might be the last.
A week before, he had gotten excited when the Daddy had unexpectedly appeared through the front door. Never mind the fact that the Daddy had exited the house two minutes prior for the sole purpose of checking the mail. Put aside the fact that it was a Saturday and no one had actually left the property at all. In Jasper’s dog mind, the Daddy had returned. None of the details mattered. The Daddy was back and anyone coming back was exciting. Adrenaline rushed through Japser’s veins and made his hair tingle just behind his ears in the spot that he liked to be rubbed. The euphoria was too much for his elderly stomach. Jasper froze in a wave of nausea and puked up the lunch he had just eaten into a rusty red pile of Purina. He lay down to rest and fell asleep. Or passed out. A minor darkness.
Half an hour later he woke to the smell of something delicious nearby. Snacks! How fortunate that the Daddy had not seen the vomit and thrown it away like he did all the other times.
This darkness was different. Deeper. More confining. He sank into the warm comfort of the nothingness while flashes of his short seven or eight years memory played in his mind. The home he shared with his first family. A father, a mother, two girls, and a rambunctious boy. He remembered laying in the sink in the bathroom while his Mother dried her hair with a magic contraption that created a wonderful stream of hot air that made his curly white hair ripple in the flow.
He thought of the house he was living in now and the baby bird in the backyard. He had been released into the backyard to pee. Somehow despite poor vision, a lack of teeth, and a general smallness; he had managed to track the bird to a small space under an old dog house. For a moment, instinct seized his sensibilities and forced his congested heart into service. Oxygen soaked into his inefficient lungs. He launched blindly at his prey and sank his one decent tooth into the baby bird’s vulnerable neck. He knew it was wrong but something in him cried out for murder. To show his power. To prove he wasn’t the feeble eyed, tendered footed Jasper. He was a conqueror. A warrior. The world was survival of the fittest and very rarely was that him. This memory made him feel large.
He thought of cheese snacks that he got every night and the little white pill hidden in the center. The powdery substance was bitter but the creamy goodness of the Kraft single was worth it. So savory and delicious. Even now, his dying mouth watered slightly at the thought; just as Pavlov hypothesized that it might.
Sound returned. Jasper’s ears became keen to the world around him. The humans were talking.
“What is it Judy? What’s wrong with Jasper? Uh oh. Hey honey… I think Jasper is dead.”
“Jasper. I think he died.”
“You always think he died.”
“This time I think he really did. Judy thinks so too.”
He heard more of the humans press closer around the cage. Peering at his lifeless body. The oldest female, the one called Mommy with the colorful hair, leaned in close to the cage and asked, “What should we do? Oh God. He is dead isn’t he?”
The small humans ran into the room. “Mommy, mommy, what is wrong with Jasper? Daddy what is wrong?”
“I think he is dead.”
The smallest of the group declared, somewhat inappropriately, “Boom! Jasper’s dead.” And she ran out of the room.
The Mommy was worried. “What are we going to do?”
“Dig a hole in the backyard I guess. What else is there?”
The Daddy left for the kitchen to get a ceremonial shovel and the customary garbage bag.
Jasper held tightly to those last words. A hole. In the backyard. A spark fired in his brain. Suddenly the darkness he thought was warm began to feel cold. A loneliness crept into his soul and he fought against the fading of the light. Fear. He swam towards the voices. Panic. He kicked against the currents. Desperation. Think of cheese. Think of killing birds in the backyard. This is not the end. Do not go gently into that good night.
Slowly he felt the tingle returning to his paws. He felt the rise and fall of a breathing chest and the irregular thump of an old dog’s heart. His eyes flittered and wiped away the milky glaze of death. He had returned and, just like the Daddy returning from the mailbox, he was excited. Jasper rose from the depths of the afterlife with a renewed vigor. An urge to spin circles and yip loudly like small dogs are prone to do. He was alive and excited! Resurrected! Full to the brim or hope and adrenaline and… nausea.
He danced in a circle and then vomited a small yellowish pile of stomach acid at Daddy’s feet.
“Never mind. He was just asleep.” The Daddy walked to the kitchen for yet another paper towel. “Welcome back buddy”, he said as he scooped the warm goo into a trash can, ruining what was sure to be a decent midnight snack.
If you enjoy stories about certain death that is overcome by the power of life, this post is for you. Happy Easter. I don’t think Jasper is any sort of savior but his name does start with a “J” and he has visited the realm beyond. If only he could talk.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.