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  • Literal

    She is literal. And she is seven. She is literally seven. The dog is our neighbor’s. He is not ours, he is our friend’s, our great friend’s great dog, Miley, who is old. He is old and deaf and last week was not breathing well. This has happened before. He has to be tranquilized, his tongue turns blue, and he looks at the people in the tolerant sweet-dog way, casts no blame. Miley faces whatever will come without desperation, but with his sides sucking in around his ribs, his lungs struggling. The girl loves the dog. She literally loves the dog, but this time Miley is going to die. We talk and talk; she cries and cries. She doesn’t understand why loving something purely will not save it. I have never understood this either. No guidance to offer. Night comes. We are at home. I decide to light a candle. The candle looks stupid on the kitchen counter next to a tea mug, papers with spelling words from the first grade, toast crumbs I have not wiped up. I try to find a lighter, which I hold and examine, angered by its inelegance, its plastic. The girl does not understand. I tell her the candle is a sign of love, to show we are thinking of our friend the dog. The light is to help Miley find his way. I light the candle. She blows it out. “Well, I don’t want him to find his way tonight,” she says.

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