A Shakespeare reference? Huxley? Both, really. Just wanted to start off with a needlessly optimistic post title.
You know that cliche from those not-another-teen-movies? Where an English teacher assigns a book that somehow metaphorically resonates with the dear teen hero’s struggle? I used to laugh at that trope, until one day I think it killed my dog. To be clear, my dearest poochie Scout was already very advanced in her years by the time I reached that honors freshman English class, but that always made it seem more kismet to me, you know?
The book Mr. K, (name omitted for being a possible dog murderer,) held up and thumped his chest with was Of Mice and Men. I’d never read it before, but remembered seeing thew name often in the tests and essays my dad brought home to grade. English teacher spawn learn about books that way. I knew I was in for some prestigious reading, but I didn’t know anything to expect about the plot. Those who have read it probably know exactly where I’m going with this already. Those who don’t probably do to, really, since I opened this with the murder of my dog.
Anyhow, I was reading that book in class, enjoying it overall. Maybe, review it if I like, later, but now for the dead dogs. I’ll mention that while I was laughing at the character Candy for having the funniest old-man name ever, I did feel sympathy for him.
Old man Candy had an old, ancient really, dog that he’d raised from a puppy. As an old migrant worker, Candy probably couldn’t claim many other lasting friends or relationships beyond that dog. I was not an aging migrant worker at the time, but I was fourteen years old, the same age as my dog Scout, and I hadn’t lived my life without her, literally. My parents must’ve decided nothing makes raising your first child easier than adopting a non-potty trained puppy with worms? Sounds like them, anyway.
Anyhow, While Candy moaned about how sick his dog was in the book, I had to help my teen-aged black lab by lifting her hips up so she could get off the floor then again so she could go down the one shallow step to go out the backdoor to pee. I moaned both in commiseration with my lifelong companion and because she was too heavy for me to lift properly.
Then, it came. The night where, hand in hand, my parents told me they decided Scout was suffering too much, was in too much pain, and that it would be the kindest thing to do to let her go. I cried and cried, and cuddled with poor lame Scout for a while. When I felt empty, and when my sister found out and then started hogging Scout for her own weeping session, the selfish bitch, I went to my room and tried to take solace in reading, my go to distraction for these sadder moments. This is where the black magic part comes in.
Mini spoiler here for random Steinbeck fans who haven’t read Of Mice and Men yet,(I’m being nice because I assume if you do fall into that category you might have some sort of brain damage, and I imagine life has been tough enough on you already,) but Candy’s friends sort of coerce him into shooting his poor old dog to put it it out of its misery. Candy can’t bring himself to do it , so another guy does. This little event is supposed to foreshadow the book’s ending but I don’t think I got that subtlety right on the test because I’m a girl who’s dog is about to be put down for good in a few days and I turn to a page that describes my literary parallel’s dog getting shot out behind some shack like…Lenny. (Sorry, more spoilers.)
What’s worse, I came in the morning after Scout was put down, and evil, evil Mr. K, (Or should I say KKK?! Naw, seems in poor taste.) insisted we read that exact passage aloud in class. No, I didn’t have to read it myself, but I had to do that thing maybe other girls with long hair do where they lower their head so their hair sort of creates a veil around their face to hide their expression. A couple paragraphs in, I started to cry, silently, and hoped it just looked like I was very studiously staring close at the page.
It all came back. Scout, she was so weak and feeble like Candy’s dog, so naively trusting and willing to go to her death because hey, everyone’s all here and being real nice, helping my walk, and my dear owner isn’t warning me of my imminent demise, so why should I worry? Yeah, I had a tough time that day, and some weird sort guilt afterwards, even when I finished the book and the whole message turned out to be sometimes you have to be the one to end something or someone, when going on would only make them suffer. All I could do was look at my aging Great Grandmother with dementia and wonder when they were going to tell me she needed to get put down too.
More on that later though. The point is, books killed my dog, sort of, and I still love them. I love books enough to know that this wasn’t the last time they’d poke deep into my personal life with a little literary mirror.
I’m also willing to bet that there are other people out there who know what I’m talking about, who found themselves in a similar connection for better or for worst, as the priests say, (unless you try to convince them to marry you to a very tattered copy of Howl’s Moving Castle, the judgmental bastards.) Some of us might have even made connections with the same book, and that’s what I want to explore with this blog.
Not all of these books I’ve read will have gone so far to murder my dogs or other loved ones, and not all our encounters will take place in the classroom, as I loved books way to much to keep our relationship strictly professional, but that’s the emotional core I’m trying to lead you to here.I tell you about books I’m reading, have read, have my eye on, and we all try to come away from the experience more enriched and connected as human beings.
That’s not too much to ask from one tiny blog, right?