Diplomacy

Henrietta, Texas, 1954. Donny Burkman was my closest friend at this time, and also lived closest, just on the other corner of the block. My mother had only recently bought our little house with green siding, and I liked living there, in the north of town, near the graveyard. That may sound grim, but it was another neat place to explore.

We climbed the stone gateposts, we read the old gravestones, we walked on folks graves, we sat on the close-cut grass and drank sodas. It was a fine place.

Being ten years old, we wanted nothing to do with his younger brother, John, two years younger. And so we were dismayed, on that hot summer day, as we lounged in the shadows of my mother’s living room, when we saw John coming across the Laughon’s lawn.

My dog Bullet and John didn’t get along. Bullet rose from the cool porch, to greet John.

We were grateful, because that slowed John down. Clearly he was coming to look for us. Bullet stood his ground, growling low. John came slowly on, circling around Bullet.

“Nice Bullet,” he said. “Good doggy. Nice Bullet.”

Donny whispered, “Let’s hide.” With a sudden brainstorm, I herded Donny and myself behind the open front door. John would never think to find us there, so close. Now we could no longer see John, but we heard him drawing closer.

“Good doggie,” he said, somewhere near the porch.

“Nice Bullet,” he said, backing onto the porch.

“Good doggie,” he said, opening the screen door. He was just on the other side of the front door, behind which we hid. “Nice doggie,” he said, backing into the room, “Good Bullet.”

He closed the screen door.

“Stupid dog,” he said.

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