How To Like It - Stephen Dobyns
How To Like It - Stephen Dobyns stories

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These are the first days of fall. The wind at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
Source: dwgill

How To Like It - Stephen Dobyns

by dwgill

These are the first days of fall. The wind

at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,

while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns

is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,

the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.

A man and a dog descend their front steps.

The dog says, Let's go downtown and get crazy drunk.

Let's tip over all the trash cans we can find.

This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.

But in his sense of the season, the man is struck

by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories

which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid

until it seems he can see remembered faces

caught up among the dark places in the trees.

The dog says, Let's pick up some girls and just

rip off their clothes. Let's dig holes everywhere.

Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud

crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,

he says to himself, a movie about a person

leaving on a journey. He looks down the street

to the hills outside of town and finds the cut

where the road heads north. He thinks of driving

on that road and the dusty smell of the car

heater, which hasn't been used since last winter.

The dog says, Let's go down to the diner and sniff

people's legs. Let's stuff ourselves on burgers.

In the man's mind, the road is empty and dark.

Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,

where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,

shine like small cautions against the night.

Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.

The dog says, Let's go to sleep. Let's lie down

by the fire and put our tails over our noses.

But the man wants to drive all night, crossing

one state line after another, and never stop

until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.

Then he'll pull over and rest awhile before

starting again, and at dusk he'll crest a hill

and there, filling a valley, will be the lights

of a city entirely new to him.

But the dog says, Let's just go back inside.

Let's not do anything tonight. So they

walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.

How is it possible to want so many things

and still want nothing. The man wants to sleep

and wants to hit his head again and again

against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?

But the dog says, Let's go make a sandwich.

Let's make the tallest sandwich anyone's ever seen.

And that's what they do and that's where the man's

wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator

as if into the place where the answers are kept-

the ones telling why you get up in the morning

and how it is possible to sleep at night,

answers to what comes next and how to like it.


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