This book does not resemble a book yet, except perhaps in my own imagination, a place where it already has a nice cover, and a readership in or around the double digits. I’ve been bad at communicating where my story’s edges are, or even clearly confirming that there is a coherent story forming to begin with, albeit somewhat slowly.
There are a fair number of characters, some Human, some not Human. Dooley is the Dog of the story – that’s not to say there won’t be other dogs in the story, just that Dooley is The Dog. He is Maeve’s Dog, and Ani’s Dog. Who are these characters, you might ask? Some of the Humans. You could say they are some of Dooley’s Humans.
You will have to follow along to find out more about these three, or else someday maybe find my finally published book in a bargain shelf at Value Village – a true sign of success! I want to write stories for people who shop at and donate to Value Village and places like it. I do not mind that I might not receive royalties for the re-selling; this is how stories are shared and perpetuated. At this point, I have no business plan anyhow, so why not project past all the complicated stuff and imagine a future where sales are, once again, less consequential? Perhaps that’s exactly what I should be aiming for anyway: straight-to-Value-Village marketing! I could start a movement, or inadvertently join one that perhaps has already begun.
You might notice that I’m struggling a bit with capitalization of species names, on top of my other punctuation and sentence-structure challenges. This is partially a proofreading / editing thing and partially an unresolved question of whether species all deserve to have their species name capitalized, or not. Differentiating between Human and non-Human makes less and less sense, the more one explores the idea that we are all simply animals of different natures and spirits. If I call you Human, should I not call the deer a Deer, and the dog a Dog? Why do we capitalize anyway, in the midst of a sentence? I missed the lesson on that. Where’s my editor? Oh, right. I don’t have one. Right. That’s another Thing in and among all of the other Things.
Anyway, here’s the first chapter drafted from Dooley’s perspective. I am a terrible anthropomorphizer – in my daydream world, all living things have an opinion and a perspective. This might be a kind of animism, I don’t know about that stuff.
Dooley Goes to School
Dooley was a dog among dogs. Smart as a tack – half Basset Hound, half Husky, and one-third something else. He was getting on in dog years now, so sitting tied loosely to a tree all day in early Autumn felt quite fine to him. He was doing this now, in fact.
He had been spending his time watching the curious people of Elder Falls walk unhurriedly from building to building, treed path to community garden, artificial duck pond to watchtower. It was admittedly an odd assortment of structures and Human-envisioned contraptions he had not had the opportunity to observe before, all in one place. The people here smelled much different than people elsewhere. They seemed to get involved in more things, and tended to get a lot of it on them.
Dooley knew how to read English and French in his mind, phonetically. Had somebody told him this was probably not at all normal for a dog, he might have found that interesting, but since dogs did not really have a way of discussing the topic of phonetics among themselves, he never had the chance to learn whether or not this was an unusual thing. He knew thousands of English and French words – also something he might have been informed was a bit unusual – but he always preferred to keep his own abilities under wraps. He liked laying about, and didn’t need the responsibility of a real human job. Dooley sometimes had nightmares about having to wear a tie, or having to “up-sell” somebody, a concept he only partially understood, but fully disapproved of.
Dooley’s favourite English word, without question, was anthropomorphism, because hearing it spoken in his mind made him immediately think of chewing on something delicious and gooey, and not entirely healthy.
He had first seen the word written in a magazine somewhere, and had snuck off with the magazine so that he could spend time staring at the word and working out for himself how it would probably sound, if a human were to say it aloud. Its meaning eluded him still, since no Human in his life up to that point had used the word in front of him, in context. Maybe Humans did not like using the word anthropomorphism in front of Dogs, as though it was some guilty secret. That made enough sense to him; Humans were bundles of complexities and secret presumptions, in Dooley’s experience.
He had mostly chewed up that magazine afterwards, an attempt to hide the evidence of the theft. This never worked out for him, of course – he always left ample bits of whatever forbidden thing he had eaten all over the place for others to find. He could not help this, it was just a dog thing. He had reasonable control over his paws but the lack of opposable thumbs made operating in a human designed environment particularly challenging and frustrating.
He had learned the trick of sounding out words in his mind from his human brother Bull, who used to read the paper to him all the time, very often in different voices, depending on what he’d been up to, and what kind of mood he was in. That was before Ani left Bull, and took the rest of them with her on her next adventure. Although Bull was one of Dooley’s most favourite people, the man was not always very nice to be around. This changed from day to day, until one day, Bull was no longer there. That is, they (Ani, Maeve, Dooley, and Norm) were no longer where Bull had been. Still, the dog always appreciated that in his nicer moments, before things got bad, Bull had spent so much time convinced of the mutt’s ability – his absolutely certain ability – to understand and even read French, and then eventually also English (they lived in Canada, you really needed both). Where Bull had gotten this idea from, nobody was ever sure, but he knew he was right, and he was. Bull was almost always right.
Dooley now and then tried to speak the words he could hear so clearly in his mind, to honour all that hard work. So that he could ask for the Turkey and Rice flavour and not the beef (he liked cows, just not that way), or tell Maevis how much he loved her – in his own words – or that he needed to do Number Two, and please just this one time could he be let off his leash to poop in private in the neighbour’s sunflower patch instead of the middle of their backyard, where children play. His tongue and lips would never cooperate though, it came out all wrong. It always made people smile when Dooley tried to speak Human. They called him “Chewy” sometimes. That wasn’t the worst thing, he supposed, though he wasn’t entirely sure about the reference. There were lots of things Dooley had never been exposed to – he was more of a reader anyway.
In the speckled Autumn shade of the poplar stand near the middle of the “town” (or whatever the humans called this particular style of building arrangement), the old dog had been left loosely tied to a slim tree by his human daughter Maevis, while she went to her first day of school in their new home.
They had shown up about three weeks after the first day of school, which he knew was rather bad timing on Ani’s part. Ani did not understand kids very well. Bull had loved kids but drank too much to be of much use to them, especially in the end. The turtle / tortoise they called Norm was fairly incapable of looking after anything other than herself, given all the precarious circumstances the girl tended to put her in. Dooley knew the tortoise was a she, but was not surprised that nobody else seemed to know, or much care. Animal genitalia were a strange and secondary concern to them, generally.
Maeve had disappeared into the long, low building with the high, angled roof. Dooley could tell she was nervous about making new friends. He had licked her on the side of her face to get her going. Sending the kid off to a new school every single year was a job that had always, coincidentally, fallen on him. He did not really mind at all.
In front of the school was a most unusual sign painted on a large wood square, posted between two unpainted wooden poles. Dooley had slowly read it aloud to himself several times before he we sure he had gotten the words right. He wasn’t used to seeing them together like that, and he had been spending the past while laying in the dusty shade, trying to make sense of them.
The Elder Falls
Multi-Generational School of
Community Architecture & Engagement
He he had already guessed the place they were now in was probably called The Elder Falls. The word School was well-known to him, so he knew he had delivered Maeve to the correct place. Plus, he could hear and smell the teachers and students inside, making teacher and student noises.
Most of the remaining words were vaguely familiar to him and made him think it was perhaps a gardening school or maybe a science school. Dooley associated the word science to rocket ships and medicine, and although the sign did not have the word science in it, he still hoped that maybe Maeve had finally found a school that could keep up with her curious mind, with or without rocketry.
The word Architecture was completely new to him. It was this one he kept looking at. Passerby reasonably assumed he was dutifully waiting for his owner inside, which was partially true, though Maevis was his human daughter, not his owner. Some humans might have told him that they felt there was not much difference between the two. To Dooley, they were as different as night and day.
Was Architecture something scientists studied? When people studied things, they often looked at them, then found pictures of them, then sometimes wrote things about them. Occasionally, they might think to pick them up, or at least touch them if they were too heavy to carry. Only children and the most dedicated scientists (and of course dogs) typically thought to put the things they were studying in their mouths – this did not seem to be a thing most other scientists agreed was a good idea. Was Architecture a thing that could be investigated by putting it in one’s mouth? Dooley had no idea.
Would Maeve study Architecture? What kind of thing was that? Did it involve sewing, or medicine? Maybe it had something to do with gardening? He could not guess. It wasn’t a word he particularly relished trying to say out loud, given his natural speech impediments; he was left to enjoy the word in his imagination, a place where he could speak in complete sentences, and open doors with his paws, at will.
Maeve had also noticed the sign, before going in. Dooley had watched her calmly after she left him under the trees. She had said his name in her embarrassed, admonishing way while wiping his tongue spit off her face, before turning from him toward the school building.
She had walked, looking at her feet, across the gravel lane between the trees and the school, and when she had looked up toward the sign, it had caused her steps to slow somewhat. By the time she stood in front of the building’s front doors (there were two), she had come to a complete stop, trying to make sense of the words, just as he was doing now.
When Maeve finally chose to go in, looking back at him briefly for assurance, and being old enough to feel self-conscious about it, Dooley had decided that Ani and he had made the right call to bring her here.
Wherever here was.
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