Brian C. Avery is a Ph.D. Candidate at Pennsylvania State University. His work has appeared in Poet Lore, College English, Zone 3, and Quarterly West.
One dog's summer
The first transcontinental crossing by automobile
Doc and Sewall found me in the graveyard,
gnawing my dead master's remains.
"Looks like the right thigh," said Doc.
Sewall called me Bud. "C'mon," he said,
"This bug town's just a place between nowhere and nothing."
This doesn't happen every day, I thought.
We left Idaho in dust and handshakes.
And it wasn't until burying the bone in Kansas
it hit me. We weren't going back.
I was hanging on opportunity's leg
hard and good. I had found my place
on a dirty road and mobile.
"Hey Bud," they said. "Try these."
They tossed me a pair of matching goggles.
"Tighten the strap—they oughta fit fine."
I'll be damned if they didn't do a number
on America's young dust and mud.
Like thousands afterwards
I hung my face on the wind,
said to hell with propriety,
whipped my tongue right out to heaven,
howling in the breeze, quirking my tail,
spinning saliva down the highway.
Doc's bet was fifty bucks
to drive from California to the other side.
A simple matter of time
before everyone and their brother's dog would be at it.
"Hey Doc," we'd joke,
"how you going to spend your fifty bucks?"
He'd smile. He liked the joke.
When tires blew, Sewall cursed the rubber
back around the rim. We'd unkink knees,
piss on trees, the three of us
out for fame and fortune, two whole months the time of our lives, like gangsters,
sailors cruising for dates
or maybe just a good time and glory.
But that dark morning
rolling through the big final city
and onto the shore
Doc cut the motor.
Hip-deep in the motoring waves
squinting in the sunrise,
he poured his first bottle of ocean
into the surf.
It was over. They were the first.
I dropped to my haunches and scratched a flea.