Life is the greatest novel.
That notion came to me while jogging the other morning. Generally, literary notions come to me when I have no place to write them down, which is one of those real-life ironies that go into a good novel. If I ever have the perfect observation — and the outlook for that isn’t good — it will probably come to me while falling backward out of a plane.
Like you, we’ve had our hands full lately. Posh is pretty sick again but hardly down for the count. I discovered her out in the driveway the other morning hurling f-bombs at the 300-pound beagle, just as she did at me when we first met. Mouth like a sailor, body like a back road — my wife is a country song come to life.
God bless her redneck Sicilian soul.
Anyway, she’s out there screaming at the dog, which assures me her energy level is back to normal. My wife is especially ornery in the dark, and it was pitch black that morning, and chilly — the kind of morning the dog always picks to scamper away from her.
We had him tested, you know, this stupid dog. He’s 300 pounds, with no apparent brain, so I asked the vet to administer some sort of canine IQ test. The 300-pound beagle scored a negative 9, which disappointed some family members but was much better than I expected.
“He never tests well,” our daughter Rapunzel said in his defense.
I think the dog tested very well. To be honest, he’s better at multiple choice than the essays. But who isn’t? If the standard driver’s test had an essay portion, I’d still be walking — or crawling — everywhere.
In any case, this was a happy moment for all of us, and we celebrated appropriately this news that the idiot beagle might actually have a brain, all other signs indicating otherwise.
Posh bought a cake, and there were chew toys for everyone in attendance. We’re at that stage in our lives when we don’t wait around for blockbuster moments. Each day we make our own Mardi Gras. When life gives us lemons, we make lemon-drop martinis.
Let’s back up a bit — the book critics would call this “a flashback.” When Posh was out in the driveway in her PJs, note that she was wearing the tops from one set of PJs, the bottoms from another and a ratty old robe she stole from a college boyfriend she’s apparently still not over.
It was 6 a.m., still black as a Bible out there, and I didn’t have my glasses, so I’ll confess the scene was a little smeary. Yet she’d managed to pull this odd outfit together like some young bohemian actress and now stood swearing at the dog, with me standing there picking up the newspaper in dewy disbelief.
Of course, I wanted to point out that if she quit screaming at the poor old pooch, perhaps he would turn around and waddle back to her instead of marching off to the neighbors’ place, where no one was screaming. Plus, I think they were making bacon for breakfast, so she was also up against that.
We’re all up against something. For instance, the little guy brought home “The Iliad” the other day, and if you want to see human dejection at the highest levels, give a teenage boy a book thicker than his favorite pillow, written by some guy named Homer, who as it turns out is not the Homer he knows. He’s a Greek with too much time on his hands, which is never good.
You don’t measure “The Iliad” in pages; you measure it in furlongs. To be honest, it could use a little “haircut,” as they say in the news business, to mean it needs to be cut back a bit.
I think of “The Iliad” as a sort of literary hazing. It’s a classic, which is code for “a notable work that nobody except professors will read all the way to the end.”
What is it really? Torture — tougher than its brother, “The Odyssey,” as leaden as a Lutheran wedding, as dull as a bus ride to Dubuque.
But I don’t make the school reading lists. I’m here only to encourage him, the dog and the boy’s mom, as we set about these seemingly impossible daily challenges.
Yeah, life’s the best book. A long read … an impenetrable poem.