and Brown-eyed Suzie
By Joe Hesch
I sat on the back steps, the
afternoon sun on my face and a six-pack sitting beside me, keeping me company
in the afternoon chill. It was the first day of Spring and my fancy had turned,
as it always had, to thoughtless love.
Not my thoughtlessness, though. I had
plenty of thoughts. Probably one for each swallow of beer and the beer wasn’t
helping drown them, as if it ever really does.
According to the TV weather guy, the
Sun was about to come back across the Equator from its Winter place. So I
started thinking of Her again.
Okay, I was thoughtless, but that was
years ago and she never really understood how I felt.
“I never knew,” she said the day I
told her. It was in a tone that carried with it a sense of lost possibilities.
No, lost probabilities. She’d already left her longtime fiancÚ and moved on to
someone she said opened her up to a new life that most certainly wouldn’t
All those years, I played the
honorable soldier, and now the resigned swain. So I swallowed that bitter pill,
washing it down with plenty of beer.
But every year around this time she
would walk that sinuous walk of hers back into my consciousness. I always said
it was because the sap was running, but I didn’t necessarily mean in the maple
trees. I’d hear a song, almost any song, and form some sort of connection
between its lyrics and us. Even though there never was or would be a Capital
The only Us that existed in my life
was me and my Border Collie, Suzie. Okay, I’ll admit to naming Suzie with just
enough of my Spring obsession’s name to make myself miserable, but she looked
like a Suzie, so that’s who she was.
“Suzie, you fluff-butt, stop digging
over there,” I called to the flagging tail flying over a spray of moist soil
where I planted the flowers that She liked. Of course, a dog, even a PhD.-level
intellect like a Border Collie, is not going to respond to a simple imperative
sentence beyond its name and one or two-word command.
Suzie gave up digging just long
enough to turn her head toward me, her red-brown eyes regarding me with
what I construed as affection and indifference. The same I observed in
You-Know-Who the last time we spoke. That’s what Spring will do to me.
I drained another bottle, slid it
into its cardboard berth and withdrew its neighbor, popped its top and glugged
down about a third of its mind-fogging elixir.
“Hey, Fluff, c’mon over here like a
good girl. Leave those flowers alone,” I called again, this time with a bit
more beer-muscled edge. Again, a turn and that look, the reflex reminder of Her
I’ve imagined those eyes many nights
as I was lying in bed. I’d see them in the dark, on the ceiling, with mine
closed, my head under the blankets or pillow, in the face of the girl who
checked my license and sold me this beer, in my neighbor Mrs. Benedetto’s stare
as I talked to Suzie like she was a human girl. Yeah, I saw Her eyes
everywhere. Sometimes I liked thinking that she thought about my eyes, maybe
seeing them in somebody’s face on the street or through a store window on a
mannequin during a midday walk, if she still walked the route we’d walk when we
“Suzie, come. I mean it. Bad dog. I’m
having enough trouble today without you digging up stuff. C’mon, Suzie, come,”
I said. I emptied that bottle and noticed I only had one more left to drink.
The contents of two bottles had disappeared without me noticing. Just as the
past two hours had disappeared.
But the feelings of being the stupid
good guy who followed the rules, too late to the fair (damsel), and living with
regret, a Border Collie and only one more beer overcame me. Just as they had
every year since I lowered my emotional guard and got a gut punch for my
“Suzie,” I yelled. “Get your fluffy
ass out of those flowers now.” I was pissed, but not really at my dog. I
planted those flowers and pretty much ignored them because it pained me to tend
to them when I knew what they represented. But I couldn’t dig them up because…I
knew what they represented.
I took that last bottle and tipped it
up and drank most of it down in one long chain of swallows. Might as we’ll end
the day and the beer going out big, because the feelings were still big.
I lowered the bottle with eyes my
closed. I’d had enough of feeling sorry for myself. Yeah, these feelings were
always there, most especially on this day. It was on the first day of Spring
when I finally sowed my feelings for Her with hope they’d grow into something
beautiful. For years I’d dreamed someday she’d look back and think, “Oh,
wait…what if…?” But it’s really too late for that. I’ve lived too long without
gathering what I’d planted with such hope. I realized a while ago I could
live with that
I opened my eyes and found Suzie
staring into them. She’d finally come over to me. In her soft mouth she
clenched one of the Black-eyed Susans from the plot where she’d been digging
for the past hour. I looked over and saw that it looked like a roti-tiller had
torn it up for a new plating. Suzie dropped the flower between my feet and
pressed her head against my knee. She’d chewed off the center of the bloom and
the black eye was replaced by brown. I reached out and rubbed between her ears.
“Okay, I get it. Thanks, Fluff-butt.
You’re my girl, huh?” I said. “It’s over. We’re stuck with one another and
that’s okay. What do you say we go down to the dog park tomorrow and see if we
can dig up something besides flowers and foolish memories.”
I picked up the flower Suzie gave me
and put it in that last near-empty bottle. Then we both went into our house.
The sun had just slid over the Equator and the roofs to the west and tomorrow
new life would begin.
Joseph Hesch is a writer and poet who
lives near Albany, New York. Many of his poems and stories are inspired by his
350 year old hometown, but most spring from his many travels between his right
ear and his left ear.
Member of the staff at dVerse Poets
Pub and one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer's "2011 Best Tweeps
for Writers to Follow."