Sometimes I feel audacious, perhaps even bodacious;
Because I am edacious (which often means voracious),
I’m curvaceous and cetaceous and a little bit drupaceous.
Though my heart is quite capacious and I often am flirtatious,
I rarely am capricious and seldom wholly hellacious.
When my bare feet grow crustaceous and moods slip by fugacious,
my words won’t turn fallacious and I’ll still hold on, tenacious.
Mary Stebbins Taitt, for Keith, and for Robert his birthday
Miss Lothrop’s 7th grade English
Tiny Lee Latham
Tenacity, Extra Credit Vocabulary “Memoir”
When my brother Jake came back from Iraq, he brought a pit bull, Killer. The army dog squad was going to put Killer down because he was so mean, so Jake brought him home thinking maybe I could tame him. People in Mountain Home call me "The Whisperer," because animals like me. I don't whisper to them, though, not like in the movies. When Killer arrived, despite his name and reputation, he was a wimp. He hid under the back porch and would not come out, except at night when no one was around. Jake says that some of the army dog trainers beat the dogs to make them mean. I believe it. Killer has nightmares. He cries and whines and yips and cringes in his sleep
Jake locked Killer in the chain-link pen behind the house where Fonsie, our blue tick, used to hang out before he finally gave in to old age and decrepitude. I was assigned the task of feeding Killer. In addition to his daily ration of kibbles, I snuck him all the codfish cakes, hotdogs, over-salted ham and other crappy food Mom gave me. She insists I have sit at the table until I finish my dinner if it takes all night. Grandma taught me to hide plastic bags in my pockets, and when my mother tired of watching me like a hawk, I'd slip the goodies into the bag and give them to Killer.
I put his food into the hole Killer dug in order to crawl under the porch, and put the treats on top. Every day, I enlarged the hole a little, moved the dish further into the hole and climbed a little farther in myself.
I talked to Killer. I didn't whisper, but I did kind of croon the way Mom speaks to a baby. I told him he was pretty, even though I couldn't see him, hiding in the dark under the porch. He's not exactly pretty. He's plain brown, kind of tan-brown, a few spots, a wide head, pointed ears. But when I said pretty, I didn't mean pretty like a movie star or pretty is as pretty does. What I meant is, "You could be my friend, and I will be your friend, and you won't be alone any more." Once I realized what I meant, I said that, too.
I took Pa’s has a hand drill. I turned the handle slowly and its corkscrew bit into the wood. Little curls of wood spiraled out through the hole in progress. After I turned it for so long that my arms got tired, a hole appeared, all the way through. Each day, I drilled a hole in the side of the porch. Each hole is a little smaller than a quarter. At first, I put them a foot apart. I measured with my yardstick. Then I drilled halfway between.
Meanwhile, I wormed my way slowly under the porch, a few inches closer each day, until one day, I emerged all the way out of the tunnel and into the cave where Killer huddled in a corner. By then, I’d made enough holes so I could see him, dimly, and I held a fat piece of steak that Grandma got from the all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet, after she was too full to stuff any more in her belly. The plastic bag trick. I held the steak and called the dog. I didn’t call him Killer; I called him “Amigo.” I sat, held the steak out with an outstretched arm, waited, and slowly he came over, took it, ran back to his corner and bolted it. I told him he was a good dog.
Every day, I moved my hand closer to my body until he finally let me pet him. For a month, every day, I just petted him and fed him and crooned to him, my Amigo. My friend. Everyone else still referred to him as Killer.
One evening, Jimmy-Jeff Fairchild climbed over the fence just as I was emerging from the hole I had lined with old rugs, so I wouldn’t get dirty climbing in and out of Killer’s den. Jimmy-Jeff was carrying a pillowcase. All the lights were out in the house and no one was home but me and I’d been in with Amigo so long it had gotten dark. Looked like Jimmy Jeff intended to rob us.
He tossed the pillowcase onto the porch and grabbed my breast and my crotch and knocked me down, almost into some dog poop. I kicked and pummeled him and Killer, who'd only come out from under the back porch at night to do his business came charging out and latched on to the Jimmy-Jeff’s leg. He would not let go. Jimmy-Jeff, who is only a couple years older than I am and kind of skinny, pounded Killer with his fists and kicked with his other foot. Killer held on. Mom had taken Slime Mold, my other brother, to some soccer game in Timbuktu, and Pa was working the evening shift. I called Pa at work and he called the cops and came straight home.
The cops arrested Jimmy-Jeff. Killer let the cops and Dad pet him and praise him. He must have thought he was doing his job—the one he was trained for. Jimmy-Jeff spent the night in the tank. When the cops pulled up the kid's sweatpants, Jimmy-Jeff had marks from Killer’s teeth, but they weren't deep. Killer, my Amigo, was fairly gentle. He just held on. The cops said the most damage was from his struggling.
Dad said, as he looked at Killer, "That dog sure is ‘tenacious.’” And then he looked at me and smiled. “Just like my daughter,” he added, smiling. “It took a lot of tenacity to tame that beast, and Tiny Lee, you did it.”
Mary Stebbins Taitt