Sheeplifting: a short story with Harold the Handsome

“Go on, Harold. Go pee.”
The writer opened the door and checked the street for traffic. It was quiet. “Go on, I trust you.”

Harold was an old dog, well, not exactly old, just the far side of middle-aged. He was a good dog, honest and reliable. The writer wandered back inside and sat at the desk and stared at that metal bland object she loved more than him. He was bored. He decided to go get himself a treat.

Harold walked down the hill to Main Street. When the voice at the corner said Wait, he waited. When the beeps began and all the humans walked, Harold walked. He walked past the temptation of the popcorn maker, the bagel maker, and trotted past the booze seller and into Shaw’s, the grocery store. He’d never been inside before. It was all rather exciting. The doors opened when he stood there. The cashiers smiled at him. The other humans petted him. He was a big boy, with thick black fur and a red bandana. He looked pretty good and he knew it. His tail wagged, sweeping from side to side, and so he strolled past the carrots and spinach and towards the butchers in the back. He sniffed and found heaven.

Rows and rows of dead animals. No hunting needed.

He stood there, did Harold, nose sniffing deeply, jowls dribbling, and tail picking up speed. He stood on his hind legs and peered into the fridges. Sheep. Cow. Pig. Chicken.

Which should he pick? Sheep, he decided. You don’t come across them often, not something he gets to chase for himself. He chose a decently sized lamb chop with bone and clamped his teeth into it and drooled. He lay down for a quick chew.

Yes, it was good. He took it with him as he strolled back down aisle three, wondering why the writer always made him wait outside. He had just stepped through the magically opening doors when a voice stopped him.

“Wait!”

Harold is a good boy. He waited.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

A hand clamped onto his collar and in surprise Harold yelped. He dropped the meat. The hand let go to pick it up.

“I’ll have to call your owner. Where are your tags, dog? Don’t you have any? Should I call Animal Control to take you? Come here, dog. Poor thing, don’t you have a home?”

Home? Harold thought of home. He bared his yellowing teeth and then ran. Oh boy, did Harold run. Up Main Street, along State Street, waiting at the crossing like a good boy and then home up the stairs to his home.

His writer hadn’t moved. She glanced up at him standing in the doorway.

“Did you go pee?”

Harold turned around. He’d forgotten about that. He walked back downstairs and thought about getting a treat.

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Review: Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane by Nin Andrews

Wandering through the basement of the college library, I was looking for prose poetry collections. I didn’t know who or what exactly but I wanted to see what others were doing with the form. The title Midlife Crisis grabbed me and I smiled. Took it out and opened it. Yes. This was a funny book.

The Truth about Penis Envy was the first title I came to. “If Dick really wanted to know, Jane didn’t like his penis. And she sure didn’t want one of her own.”

Yes, the are many Dick jokes, such as the introduction that there was a “Dick sleeping in her bed, a Dick in the White House, and the god of all Dicks was in the heavens above.”

Oh, yes, such a great start. Andrews isn’t afraid to tackle politics, religions, and gender stereotypes of America’s suburbia. She is exactly what I needed in my search for quirky prose poems. This collection is a wonderfully absurd look at the lives of Dick and Jane in bland white Middle American suburbia. It’s not my background but I get it enough to find it hilarious and also moving, pretty touching really.

She’s written a memoir in a sense, a life story expanded from the first grade books of See Spot Run.

Under Creation Stories, she wrote; “of course Dick knows his story. How once upon a time there was an American Dream, and as part of the dram, Dick was created.” The second paragraph on the same page turns darkly funny though. “Each night, while he slept, Jane’s breasts turned into laboratory rats and gnawed tiny homes in Dick’s heart.”

Midlife Crisis has three sections with a hundred compelling and telling titles for each one-page piece. Instructions for a Little Dick on how to Become a Big Dick gives a list of fifteen actions to take, such as Beat Things, Kick Things, Suck Things, Fuck Things, and Kill Things. On the opposite page, we read how Jane also likes things, “especially new things” and that “her therapist suggested Jane was trying to buy a new Jane. But who would new Jane be?”

Midlife Crisis is full of short paragraphs, or list-like questions, some written like an interview, as well the prose of dreams, nightmares, and descriptions of incidents like visiting that therapist. The pages flow easily and effortlessly building a insightful look into what if Dick and Jane had lived into middle age. Yes, there are many plays on words, on sexual double entendres and although the language is simple and straightforward, that light touch builds into a collection quite heart breaking.

I found it silly, laughing out loud, and also certain pieces made me catch my breath, striking home. Andrews combined forms, tone and language with depth – and beautifully. The story of a regular couple of kids from Ohio and look at them now. I felt for them both, even knowing this is a story of the characters from a children’s’ book, yes, it was that insightful. Hilarious, engaging, and striking.

What do I take from this as a writer and reader? The playful use of titles, sections, and form kept the flow of the story moving in a compelling way. It built a tension and depth while making me laugh and think. The thematic narrative arc set the tempo and held all the thoughts and what-if scenarios together. Andrew’s use of simple and witty language, playful, inventive, creative came across as light but she wrote with poignancy.

Midlife Crisis is a wonderful collection of funny, moving stories of Dick and Jane in a unique snapshot rapid-fire format. I’m glad I found it.

Midlife Crisis by Nin Andrews

Del Sol Press, 2005. Short fiction/ Prose poetry/ poetry. $15.95

Midlife Crisis