SINGLE: MISS TENNESSEE b/w THE CRYERER
This eBook contains two of my previously published short stories. "Miss Tennessee" appeared in The Land-Grant College Review #2 while "The Cryerer" appeared as One Story #8. I am grateful to the editors of both journals for originally publishing these stories. I have had a few pieces published elsewhere (and many more remain on my hard drive) but these are two of my favorites. They are offered here under a Creative Commons license. (You'll find a link to the full license below.) You are free to distribute them electronically, as is, with this preface intact, and -- hey -- a link back to www.hanasiana.com wouldn't hurt either.
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I loved the little guy from the day she brought him home. She carried him wrapped in a sweatshirt from the shelter at the corner where she'd been saying for months she was going to go. She set him down on the hardwood floor and he clipped around like a fawn -- clip, clip -- looking through doorways and carefully eyeing us both. He was tiny but he was strong. He was muscular and sleek, like a miniature greyhound, and we both watched intently as he clipped around, soldiering things out and whining under his breath.
Miss Tennessee looked at me and smiled and said: "Well honey? What do you think?" And I told her: "I love the little guy."
He was never really my dog. He was more like my step-dog, but together we named him Steve. We thought it was funny, giving a dog a man's name like that. But it fit, like Miss Tennessee, which I started just to tease her about being full-grown and long-legged and pretty, but in a tomboyish way that made it both absolutely ridiculous and absolutely plausible that she had ever been Miss Anything. It always made her swallow a grin. Steve's name, on the other hand, made it sound like he wasn't a dog at all, but this little man. Miss Tennessee often called him that: the little man.
Steve liked me okay but he loved Miss Tennessee. With me it was man things. After he got snipped or when he was stung by bees, down there, in grass that came up to his chin, he would come sit by me, hoping I'd understand. With her, it was everything else. When she took a bath, he stood with his paws on the side of the tub, and when she went someplace he couldn't go he stood where he last saw her and waited. If she went into a store and left us together in the car, he stood with his paws on the dashboard, waiting and crying and looking at me like maybe I was to blame.
He was tough in his own way. He growled at people passing by and people who didn't give him what he wanted. It was a deep and sincere growl, if not loud or at all intimidating, based as it was on anatomy smaller than a cat's. Like a cat, he sometimes brought home dead things. He brought Miss Tennessee chipmunks and mice and assorted birds, which I buried -- in his view and with much ceremony -- in the soft, gray dirt under the porch.
His confidence was not unshakable, however. He was aware of certain limitations. Sometimes, when furious, like at me or at Miss Tennessee's sister or Miss Tennessee's sister's dog -- an Alsatian monster who sometimes came over and hoarded all the little man's bones -- he knew better than to strike directly so he would bite something else instead. He'd bite the arm of the couch or a pillow or the little blue rug he'd learned to pee on and he'd snap them around with his head -- really killing them -- his big marble eyes locked on the real target. It was like he was thinking: "This is you. You fucker. You fink."
Sometimes we spoke for him. "This is you, Prince. You fucker. You fink," I'd say when Steve pretended to bite Miss Tennessee's sister's monster Alsatian, and we would all laugh. There was always something Steve seemed to be thinking, and we were always saying it for him. When we ate breakfast in the living room, he'd get up on his hind legs to look at the fruit and toast laid out on the coffee table. It was creepy to look at, like maybe he really was a little man, weaving back and forth like a dancer. Miss Tennessee would nudge me with her foot to make sure I was watching.
"Look at the little man," she'd whisper. "He's going: Where's mine? Where's my toast." And I'd say: "I don't see why you guys get all the fruit and toast when you're both already so big. Look at me. I'm tiny."