“Old Trick” by John Sheirer

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Duchess was nineteen–impossibly ancient for a big dog–when Dave brought her to the vet for the last time after a month of lethargy and a week when she didn’t eat and rarely left her bed by the fireplace.

For nearly two decades, Duchess had barked at countless delivery trucks, slept in pools of sunshine on hardwood floors for what must add up to entire years, saw three kids off to preschool and eventually to college, ate and pooped a mountain range of kibble, dug enough dirt to bury a city, chased whole universes of squirrels that she never caught.

The vet said, “A good life, a big life.” His voice was so kind, like an old, wise friend. “Maybe it’s time for her to rest now.”

Dave nodded, ignored the stranglehold on his throat, stretched out a hand for one last touch goodbye.

For the first time in weeks, Dave saw Duchess’s nose twitch and search, saw a familiar look in her cloudy eyes as she slowly raised her head a last time.

Just seconds from the end of her life, she was checking to see if Dave’s hand concealed a treat.

 


John Sheirer lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wonderful wife Betsy and happy dog Libby. He has taught writing and communications for 26 years at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, where he also serves as editor and faculty advisor for Freshwater Literary Journal (submissions welcome). He writes a monthly column on current events for his hometown newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and his books include memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, political satire, and photography. Find him at JohnSheirer.com

“Gym Day” by John Sheirer

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Rick flicked his workout towel at Ben to get his attention. Ben paused between repetition sets on the butterfly press.

“See her?” Rick whispered, flicking his eyes toward an athletic woman striding on the elliptical machine about twenty feet away. Ben nodded, sweat pooling on his nose. Rick bent down close to Ben’s ear. “What do you think it would be like to do her?” he asked with a leer.

Ben thought of Rick’s wife, Allison, right that minute working her second job keeping the books for a local landscaping business between trips hauling her and Rick’s kids to various soccer games and piano lessons. Allison always had a smile and a kind word for Ben, often suggested fixing him up with one of her friends.

Ben looked from the woman to Rick and replied, “It’s probably almost exactly like being with Allison.”

Rick stopped staring at the young woman on the elliptical and turned a sharp gaze toward Ben. “How do you figure?”

Ben started a new set of lifts, pounding the metal bars together with a resounding clank a foot in front of this face. “Because you don’t love her either.”

 

John Sheirer lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wonderful wife Betsy and happy dog Libby. He has taught writing and communications for 26 years at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, where he also serves as editor and faculty advisor for Freshwater Literary Journal (submissions welcome). He writes a monthly column on current events for his hometown newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and his books include memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, political satire, and photography. Find him at JohnSheirer.com.

“Six Dreams that Might Not Be Dreams” by John Sheirer

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(1) As a child, he often dreamed of being chased by a mummy. He was running as fast as he could through the woods while the mummy was staggering slowly, tripping over roots and stones, bumping into trees, holding its arms in front of itself like a bad movie cliché. Even so, the damned thing was still catching up to him.

(2) As an adolescent, he sometimes dreamed about falling from a high cliff near the rural church his family attended. In the real world, the cliff was only about four feet high, and the kids jumped off of it on a dare after an hour of listening to the minister negotiate for their eternal souls. In his dream, the cliff was hundred of feet high, thousands, maybe bottomless. He didn’t scream as he fell, but instead squeezed his eyes shut on the way down, feeling himself accelerate and expecting to hit the ground and die. Instead, he awoke with his eyes shut so tight that his whole face hurt.

(3) His last year of high school, he dreamed of playing softball at recess between classes. It was weird to think that they actually still had recess in twelfth grade, but his school was different that way. The last day of the school year, he hit a home run that went so far the outfielders searched for five minutes but couldn’t find the ball.

(4) He once dreamed of getting five root canals at the same time, all on his upper right side. The dentist kept asking how often he brushed, why he took so long between dentist visits, what he thought his teeth would look like when he reached middle age. Did he even want to have his own teeth when he was an old man, the dentist demanded to know.

(5) Even after years of teaching hundreds of classes, he dreamed that he was sitting at the desk in front of a classroom full of students who weren’t paying attention to him and even actively ignoring him. He was about to try to get their attention and get the lesson back on track when he realized that he was naked from waist down.

(6) Halfway up Mount Washington, he dreamed something popped in his foot as he stepped from one rock to another on the rugged trail. This was the first time he had tried to climb this mountain, and it was also going to be the last time because he was getting too old for shit like this. He wasn’t sure if he should limp back down the bottom half of the mountain or limp the uphill half to the top. The only thing he knew for sure was that his foot really hurt, and he would never do this again.

 

John Sheirer lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wonderful wife Betsy and happy dog Libby. He has taught writing and communications for 26 years at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, where he also serves as editor and faculty advisor for Freshwater Literary Journal (submissions welcome). He writes a monthly column on current events for his hometown newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and his books include memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, political satire, and photography. Find him at JohnSheirer.com