Friday, May 9, 2008

Big Chaos, Little Package

I was all set to write about entropy today, but the subject suddenly feels rather depressing to me. Entropy isn't much fun at all, is it? Entropy is creeping chaos. Ew. I prefer my chaos to be more straightforward than that!

So, meet Scout.

Scout is a ten week-old black and tan rat terrier mix adopted from a shopping cart at a local grocery store. We didn't know we were going to bring home a puppy on Sunday, but there he was. There were apparently seven puppies in the litter. All but Scout and one of his brothers had been given away by the time we got there. And I must say that the five that went first must have been extraordinarily cute, because, as you can see, Scout was hardly homely!

Rat terriers grow to be between ten and twenty-three pounds. But since Scout's a mix--and we don't know what he's mixed with--we have no idea how large he'll be. He's a bit bow-legged, front and back, and stands a lot like a boxer. And he has a whip-like tail that others would probably bob, but we will not. His tiny needle teeth are sharp, but he's none to fierce, though he has a pert little bark when he's attacking his red rubber toy.

Suddenly we find ourselves on constant potty patrol. But the rugs are all rolled up, so we're prepared. The hardest part about having him around is his propensity for being underfoot. We're all afraid of stepping on him! He's also turned our three year-old lab, Hrothgar, into a kind of elder statesman. Or Hrothgar would be, if elder statesmen couldn't help but obsessively lick people on the face, the hands, the feet.

I didn't know how strong my desire for chaos was until I heard myself tell the kids, "Sure, we can take him home as long as Daddy says it's okay." We're just winding up a three-month remodeling project, I'm editing CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS, starting the next novel and I have lots of other writing projects and appearances on the horizon.

But a writer doesn't just pull words out of chaos and manipulate them. Writing comes from life. I've never understood writers who are able to write and write and not have much contact with the visceral. Certainly we draw deeply on our past, our childhoods. But how can we imbue our characters with life if we're not living it?

Ah, living it I am. And right now it's curled against my back, its damp nose resting on its paws, sighing mightily. I'm kind of afraid to move because, when I do, I'm going to have to take it outside. Again.


While I'm away, here's a link to an interview with my husband, Pinckney, who talks a bit about The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, a story he's just published in Image Magazine. He has some rather revealing things to say about our darling Hrothgar....

8 comments:

MargyWrites said...

Hi Laura!
I had to come all the way over to the handbasket to find out Scout is a boy- I hoped (s)he'd been named such for killing mockingbirds. I was going to borrow hwe- we have a very territorial bird here these days. Trouble is, bird doesn't recognize that this is MY territory...

MargyWrites said...

Ay-yi-yi.
I hate typos.

Jen HE said...

At last we find out the story behind Scout - I'd been putting together little clues but would never have come up with the right story. My daughter was appalled at someone leaving a litter of puppies at the supermarket, but happy that at least one of them has gone to a good home, with big bro doggy in place to keep him right.

This is my motto: an orderly house is a dull home.

Devon Ellington said...

Congratulations! What a wonderful addition to your family. Scout will bring you so much joy.

My tortoiseshell cat, Elsa, is 13, and she is STILL underfoot all the time. Thank goodness she doesn't hold a grudge!

But I couldn't live without her!

Kip de Moll said...

I've had St Bernards that started out that small!!!!
Life is underfoot. It's all the little things we have to step over and around that creates our unique dance. Good for you for taking the risk and writing about it!

Laura said...

Margy--I was remiss on myspace, wasn't I? True, "Scout" is associated with the girl in the book, but it just seemed to suit the puppy. He's so alert and curious!

Jen--You can assure your daughter that the puppies weren't abandoned at the market. The people who "bred" them were there looking over them, giving them away. They took the last one home. I was stunned that they hadn't brought water, though--It was a very hot day.

And, yes, our home is never dull!

Devon--Thanks so much. He is a big handful of joy! And bless Elsa's heart. A good companion cat is such a treasure. I hope she's dashing about many, many more years!

Kip--So beautifully said. I truly pray that whatever is not rat terrier in Scout is NOT Great Pyrenees or a St. Bernard!

Joe P. Frick said...

I DO hope your rat terrier gets a bit bigger, because if he runs into any of the rats around my place, I don't know that he'd be able to take them...

And my blog is back up! Resume stalking....NOW.

Laura said...

Uh, does that mean you're coming to take my dog? Really, your stalking privileges exclude domestic animals. You better check your contract!