Writer Talk

Shelley Margosian Stack

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This Soldier and His Dog

It is Memorial Day weekend, and I have my first afternoon off since Easter. Instead of jumping right into revising chapters of my work-in-progress, I cleaned out my mailbox. A relaxing activity, and I don’t do much relaxing, so it was a treat. I saw a message from WordPress, and I remembered I started a blog, and published a few posts before I got busy for four years, and forgot about it. Oh sure, I know publishing a blog is a good thing for writers, but I’ve just been so darn busy. I don’t have scads of hours to write. I also have to earn a living. Writing is squeezed into hectic days of caring for two little kids, and giving music lessons but summer is on the horizon, and there will be less child care, and somewhat fewer lessons. My big goal is to complete my YA novel by the third week of August, and to begin the final revision. So why am I even toying with the idea of a blog entry? I don’t have a clue. Maybe it is a bit of guilt that I am not doing enough for my writing, that the one hundred pages I’ve written in the past six weeks are not enough, or that I haven’t published anything since the spring of 2015. I had a nice streak of five published short stories, and two essays since 2010, but nothing at all since I made the leap to writing a novel. Somehow I think I should be far more prolific. One voice in my head tells me I may be a lazy writer, while another yells at me to get real, fool, you work seven days a week.

Anyway, the hard copies of my most recent novel pages are waiting in a pile to my right, next to a favorite photo of my father. And, as I said, it is Memorial Day weekend.

His name was Ed. His mother signed him into the service when he was seventeen. He wanted to be a medic, but somehow ended up in the Air Force stationed in the Aleutian Islands. He hated the Aleutians, the desolation, and the cold. He hated the salmon served at every meal. He loved being a pilot, but hated gunning down the Japanese soldiers lined up outside a mess tent. He hated killing anything big or small. Ed found the stray dog a week after his arrival in the Aleutians. She’d been wandering around the base, living off scraps, and sleeping under trucks. He whistled to her and she came running. No one minded when Ed brought her into the barracks. No one minded she slept on his bunk, and ate with him in the mess hall. He was bereft when his time was up in the Aleutians, and he had to leave her behind with an islander.

The photograph is fuzzy. My father’s face isn’t clear, but that is okay. I know what he looked like. I see his love for the dog in the way his gloved hand cradles her hindquarters, and his forearm supports her middle, and holds her tight against his chest. He was just a boy in a world war, and I know that little dog helped him get through it. I thank them both for their service. This soldier, and his dog.Dad & Dog