“Aussie, where were you? Did you run through the frozen stream? Don’t deny it, just feel those hairs. They’re full of frozen water and mud, your chest is turning into an icicle!”

“Who cares? I was chasing deer and it ran across the water!”

“Aussie, you’re crazy. Do you know how icy that water is?”

“Of course, I know, I’m the one who ran through it. Who cares? When I chase deer, I’d go through hell. Have you ever smelled a deer? It’s the best smell in the world: warm, thick, sour milk, oil, and urine. Man, what a milkshake!”

“Aussie, you have to let some of that stuff go, otherwise how will the light shine in?”

“What light?”

“You know what light. The light of not-knowing.”

“Does it have a smell?”

“It’s the transparency all around us, the air, the space, the emptiness.”

“Does it smell better than sour milk and urine?”

“I’m not sure it has a smell, Aussie.”

“Then I’m not interested.”

“Aussie, you got to let go of your attachments.”

“My attachments are what make life worth living!”

“I also feel bad for that deer, Auss. It’s March with lots of snow on the ground. We’ve had a late winter, and this is the time when deer really starve. That’s probably why that deer was so close to the road, it was looking for something to eat. I’m sure it wasn’t particularly strong when it ran.”

“Fooled me.”

“The cold temperatures and snow have extended the winter famine for them, they’re not at their best. And look at you!”

“I’m looking, I’m looking.”

“You’re well-fed and warm, you don’t worry where your next green meal is coming from.”

“I hate greens.”

“You’re at the peak of your powers, Aussie, and they’re not. It’s not an even contest.”

“That makes it more fun!”

“Oh, Aussie.”

“Oh, Eve. Besides, why are you always going on and on about this sad thing and that sad thing? The poor trees sagging under the weight of the ice and the winds. The deer starving in winter—boohoo!  Why can’t you just sit back, or stand back, and enjoy life? Go chase some deer.”

“I do enjoy my life, Aussie, but it’s important not to lose connection with the grit, you know what I mean?”

“I have grit in my life.”

“Like what, Aussie?”

“Every time you say Stay! and won’t take me with you.”

“That’s grit?”

“Of course, that’s gritty. How about when you do take me in the car but leave me there when you go into a store? Stay! Worst word in dog language.”

“I take you to the farmers co-op where they sell dog supplies, don’t I? I say: Come on, Aussie, let’s go shop-ping.

“Shop-ping! My favorite thing after eating, chasing deer, and mauling Henry! And yes, when you don’t take me shop-ping life gets gritty.”

“Oh Aussie. If you saw the hungry dogs in Bahia, you’d know a little more about gritty.”

“They didn’t go shop-ping in the dog stores?”

“They sniffed around the garbage, Auss.”

“I love rummaging around the Kings’ compost next door.”

“In Bahia people are too hungry to throw out much food, Auss. The dogs lie down a lot on the hot pavement.”

“Like me! I love to doze off under the sun.”

“Not quite like you, Aussie.”

“Do they have friends to play with?”

“There are other skinny dogs around, but they’ll fight over every scrap of food they find.”

“Just like me and Henry. I kill him the minute he makes a move towards my food bowl.”

“You don’t understand, Aussie. Not like you and Henry at all. You can’t see beyond your own life so you’re making crazy comparisons. You know what this reminds me of?”

“Do I have to listen?”

“When my mother came to the United States, sometimes people asked her how the war years were for her where she grew up. At first, she tried to tell them of the hunger she went through, of the starvation in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, even of how she was so sick there they removed a tooth without anesthesia. Do you know what her American friends said to that?”

“Did they say they were sorry?”

“If only, Aussie. What they said was: We know just what you mean. Here we couldn’t get chocolate, we couldn’t get sugar, and not enough coffee. After that she never said another word to them about what she went through.”


“Because what they meant by grit and what she meant by grit were entirely different, Aussie. It’s hard to understand that without some kind of direct connection, if not experience.”

“Watch me murderize another squirrel, you’ll see grit then.”

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