ADOPTING A MAFIOSO

“Oh Stanley, I don’t know what to do.”

“How about getting off my grave for a start? You’re standing right on top me, can’t you show some respect?”

“I can’t see your grave because everything’s covered with snow. It’s all one big, white wasteland here.”

“Okay, so what’s the problem now?”

“It’s Harry the Cur, Stan.”

“I knew it!”

“He’s small, but strong and tough. He eats up my boots, jumps up on the bed in the middle of the night and lands right on top of my legs, has made the living room sofa his kingdom, and when I tell him to go inside the crate he just snorts. No answer, Stanley, just a snort!”

“Leave it to you to adopt a Mafioso.”

“I didn’t know they had Mafiosos in Mississippi. And you should see what happens in this house at mealtime. I put his food bowl on the washing machine and take down the bag of dog food, but Harry jumps up so high that twice he’s brought it down, food, broth, and all. No! I tell him.”

“What does that get you?”

“He’s ready to off Aussie, who’s bigger than he is, if she just eyes his food bowl and he pushes her out of the way so that he could go through the dog door first. She’s become a subservient female! When we had temperatures under 0 Fahrenheit a few days ago he had diarrhea. I shoveled him a nice path in back–”

“A bathroom path, how nice!–”

“But he said he’s no Eskimo and used the office in back. So what do you think, Stan?”

“I think you are one big dummy.”

“Me? Why?”

“You had a perfect life with Miss Awesome, no trouble at all. Awesome does what she’s told, goes where she’s told, never crazy or out of control. Likes to run away, true, but otherwise the perfect dog for you. A little too sweet for my taste—I like a little fight in my women—but very easy to live with. You could have lived with Miss Awesome peacefully for years, but was that enough for you? Did you count your blessings? No, sir, you had to bring Harry the Cur into the house. You want to know what I think?”

“Not really.”

“You like disruption!”

“I think that’s Bernie’s influence, Stan.”

“There you go, blaming things on the Man.”

“Just listen, Stanley. Bernie loved disrupting things. While other people liked routine, he hated it when things were easy and smooth, he needed to add another ingredient into the mix, otherwise it was not much of a mix, see? His favorite song was the one by Duke Ellington, It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.”

“That’s not just the Man, that’s you too.”

“Bernie could have been a regular Zen teacher, leading retreats and giving teachings. He gave great talks, till he decided one day it was time to build apartments for homeless families and the talks became all about construction estimates, deadlines, and new repairs on roofs.”

“You’re just asking for trouble when you do things like that.”

“Of course, Stanley, but Zen isn’t about just sitting comfortably on a cushion and staying inside your four corners.”

“It’s not?”

“No, Stanley, it’s about going full-blast into the mess of things.”

“Like Harry’s diarrhea?”

“Nothing’s excluded, Stanley.”

“Even a Mafioso?”

“I’m afraid so, Stan. Harry will change us, but we will also change him.”

“Good luck. Now leave me be, I need to nap; just listening to you gets me tired. Let me tell you, lying in the ground and rotting away under layers of snow is so much more peaceful than what you got up there.”