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Come, Sail Away

In Their Voices
By Jeannette Cooperman, July 2018, Updated June 2021
In their voices, dogs speak

Why will they not come to bed? It is way past time—I feel the weight of it in my bones, heavy with 11 years of leaps and spins and play bows. Mom’s the easier touch, but she’s still sitting at the kitchen table with a pen in her hand. I nudge her elbow with my nose.

“Yes, Louie, I know, it’s beddybye time,” she says, so distracted you’d think she was staring down a squirrel. She stands and takes a few steps, but only to stare into the coldbox. Good. She’s remembered to say goodnight to the leftovers. Now, we’ll go upstairs and—

She sits down and writes some more. Then she’s up again— maybe now? We go down the hall to the laundry room and fuss with piles of their dayblankets. For Pluto’s sake, when will she settle? I trudge up the steep, creaky stairs to sit in front of Dad, my back very straight, my eyes held wide open. But he is staring at the lightbox, and he pats me without even looking down. Bed, I think, pushing the thought hard so it will fly out and land on his ear. BED!

Wait—Mom’s coming up! She’s —oh, rats, she’s gonna shower. I sit in the steam until the invisible door opens, then lick her as dry as I can.

She gets embarrassed by my kindness and begs me not to bother, but of course I will help. It’s one of my jobs, like accompanying them when they go outsidey inside and alerting them if somebody steps onto our sidewalk. When she’s nice and sticky-dry, I trot back to Dad and ask again. Finally they put on their softclothes. One more look over my shoulder to be sure, and I leap onto the big boat. They turn off the lights and climb in, too. Their electric birds have stopped chirping at last, and the lightbox has gone dark, and we snuggle up and sail away together.

Jeannette Cooperman has written several nonfiction books and a murder mystery, A Circumstance of Blood (Endeavour Press, 2015)—and yes, there’s a dog in it. She was a staff writer at St. Louis Magazine, she goes home to a century-old farmhouse in Waterloo, Ill., where she and her husband live with a standard poodle named Louie.