“Why would I make fun of you?” I asked PJ.

“I’m not used to taking walks with people.”


“Neither am I.”

“We’re here,” PJ said to me, and when I looked up and around, I realized that we were on the town baseball field. She runs the diamond. “Watch this. It’s beautiful. The opposite of a door slammed in your face.”

When he let Ms. Jenny off the leash, the little thing started sprinting around the baseball diamond. She ran really fast and hard, but her legs were so little that it took her quite a long time to make it all the way around, which was so frickin’ cute that I had to follow her on her second lap, which made her bark and start to run circles around me as we made our way around the bases. When I hit home plate, I looked over at Private Jackson and he was smiling at me in this very strange and almost eerie way, so I picked up his dog and held her to my face, giving her a kiss, before we walked back to PJ.

“So do you forgive me for slamming the door in your face? Are we even now?” he asked me.

“You bet. That was great!”

He kinda smiled in this really sad way, and then I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

On the walk back to his house, Ms. Jenny peed on a tree and pooped by a bush, but neither of us said anything.

When we arrived at his house, I said, “If you ever feel like writing me another haiku, I’d love to read more of your work.”

“Don’t make fun of me,” he said.

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“I’m not. Can I send you some of my haikus? Maybe you could critique one or two for me,” I said, even though I hadn’t written a haiku since third grade. True.

“I just wanted to make up for slamming the door in your face, and now that I have erased the bad karma, I’d like you to leave me alone. Please. It’s what I most want.”

That bit muted me.

He turned and started walking toward his door, and I kept waiting for him to look back over his shoulder and say something nice, or give me some sorta sign that he really wanted to see me again and be my friend, but he didn’t look back or anything, which made me feel sorta mad at first, but then that madness turned into a sadness that stuck with me for many days, until I got this crazy idea: I would send Private Jackson a hopeful haiku every day, and every one of the haikus would be about dogs, because that was the only thing I knew he liked.

I washed and waxed Donna’s Mercedes for twenty bucks—she lets me do that sometimes—and then I used the money to buy a box of envelopes and two books of stamps.

I started sending Private Jackson one doggie haiku a day.

According to Private Jackson, here are my all-time top three doggie haikus (out of more than a crapload):

Pooping anywhere

You like outside, anytime

A dog’s life rocks hard

A pup will never

Forget to kiss you goodnight

Even when you smell

Dogs have lots of fur

Does that count as wearing clothes

Or are they naked?

Okay, I suck at writing haikus, but I was faithful and wrote Private Jackson every day for more than a month.

He never wrote back even once.

Then one day I found this little wet furry thing in a Nike box, who I named Bobby Big Boy and nursed back to health, as you know.

I found a doggie

In a designer shoebox

He was very sad

(I actually sent that haiku to Private Jackson but got no response.)

What you don’t know is that BBB was all traumatized from his stint on the streets, living in a bright designer shoebox, and after I rescued him from the clutches of starvation, B Thrice was very sad for a time, even after we got him back up to his fighting weight.

I used to sing to BBB, give him extra spoonfuls of peanut butter, bathe him in Donna’s tub, give him full body rubdowns, read him happy books, and I even made him a dapper coat. Donna bought him all sorts of toys and gourmet doggie food and Phillies dishes, but nothing seemed to cheer him up. I just couldn’t figure out what would make BBB happy.

Then I saw these two goth kids making out hard-core in the A-building stairwell of our high school—they looked so happy and in love when they paused the spit-swapping and let me pass through, and for some reason right then and there I knew I needed to get Bobby Big Boy a girlfriend.

When I thought about the size and weight of BBB’s perfect companion, Ms. Jenny came to mind, so I took B Thrice to the baseball diamond at five o’clock and introduced him to Private Jackson and Ms. Jenny.

We arrived when Ms. Jenny was already off the leash and doing laps, so she didn’t notice us at first.

“Who’s this?” Private Jackson asked, saying nothing about all the haikus I had sent him, which bummed me out a little.

“This is Bobby Big Boy.”

Private Jackson bent down and patted BBB on the head. “Where did you get him?”

“I found him on the street in a shoe box,” I said, wondering whether PJ had not received and read any of the haikus I had sent him about BBB.

“You rescued him,” PJ said.

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s good karma.”

That’s when Ms. Jenny saw Bobby Big Boy and Cupid’s arrow stuck. She came tearing ass off the baseball field and began sniffing BBB’s butt. I had him on the leash, so he started crying.

“Let him off the leash,” PJ said.

“What if they fight?”

“They won’t. Ms. Jenny’s a lover.”

So I let BBB off the leash and the two little dogs began to wrestle and run around in circles and roll all about for at least a half hour as PJ and I just watched and smiled.

“This is the happiest I’ve seen B Thrice since I picked him up off the streets,” I told Private Jackson.

“I think Ms. Jenny is in love,” PJ said to me.

And then we both agreed that for the sake of our dogs’ happiness, we would meet at the field at least once a week, for doggie playtime.

But when it was time to say goodbye, I couldn’t help asking whether PJ liked the doggie haikus I had been sending him.

“Ms. Jenny will be looking forward to seeing Bobby Big Boy again,” PJ said. He leashed Ms. Jenny and walked away.

I was pretty proud of BBB for not trying to hump Ms. Jenny on the first date, so I chalked the experience up as a victory, and left it at that.

We started visiting the baseball diamond pretty regularly, and after a few weeks or so we were walking Ms. Jenny and PJ back to their house, and then one day we went inside for tea, and I saw that Private Jackson had been hanging up my haikus on his living-room walls, and that he had completely covered one of four walls with my haikus!

“Why do you put my haikus up on the wall?” I asked him.

“Do you like green tea?” he replied.

“Yes,” I said, even though I had never before even had green tea, and then we drank tea together silently, while BBB and Ms. Jenny took a nap, spooning on the rug under a glass coffee table.

A bit later on—after many house visits—Private Jackson started allowing me to read through his haiku notebooks, which impressed me very much, because he writes beautiful poetry.

Here’s Private Jackson’s best haiku, as far as I’m concerned:




Simple and true. Like a frickin’ snapshot. Jackson wrote that one for me and gave it to me on this really nice piece of paper for my birthday last year. I carry that haiku around in my backpack and I read it whenever I am feeling really down. I have it memorized, of course, but I like looking at Private Jackson’s handwriting, because it is so meticulous—like a little kid’s. It’s as if he was trying so hard to remember how to spell each syllable, or maybe like he was giving each syllable so much importance, that every single letter had to wait an extra second to be born and is therefore spaced just a little too far apart. You’ve never seen anything like it, and his kick-ass handwriting makes the haiku even better.

To this day, if I ask Jackson any questions about his past or his family or anything like that he’ll usually say some Zen bullcrap like “There is no past,” or “I am here in the present,” or “Like our dogs playing in the grass, I am.” It used to piss me off a lot, before I got used to the Zen hooey. But now, I sorta like it. True.

And that’s all I ever do with Private Jackson—run the dogs, drink tea, and read his haikus. I still write him haikus, only I hand deliver the poems to save money, because postage adds up and I’m living in Hello Yellow as of late.

Something cool: I’ve covered three and a half of his living room walls with doggie haikus. I’m going to cover all four before junior year ends. Word.

As we are riding Donna’s bike back to her house from the old folks home I ask BBB if he needs some good lovin’ and he barks once, so I make a detour and we ride toward the ghetto, toward Private Jackson’s house.

It’s past five, so no diamond running for BBB today, as we’ve missed Ms. Jenny’s daily sprint around the bases, but B Thrice can still get some kissing and spooning in, so when we arrive, we stash the bike around back and then knock on PJ’s front door.

When Private Jackson opens up, BBB sprints into the house in search of Ms. Jenny and disappears into the hallway that leads to the bedrooms. My dog can get quite randy from time to time. He needs a release every once in a while.

“I’ll put on tea,” PJ says to me as I enter his house and sit down on his old-ass couch.

I listen to PJ preparing tea in the other room—the sound of water running into a metal kettle, the clicking sound of the electric gas stovetop starter, the ignition of gas—I imagine the blue flames and the bubbles rising in the kettle, and I start to feel better.

Time sorta stops when I’m in PJ’s house—it’s sorta like stepping into a real church, not like Father Chee’s converted-store-strip-mall church, but like some ancient holy stone church that smells of centuries worth of praying and hoping and believing, sorta like in the Catholic church where I was confirmed, St. Dymphna’s, and PJ’s house feeling holy is strange, because—after reading so much of Private Jackson’s poetry—I’ve sorta gathered that he’s in the Nietzsche-Donna-Ricky camp. I’m pretty sure PJ’s an atheist.

Here is the saddest haiku I have ever read:




Private Jackson wrote that one back in ’Nam. He doesn’t know that I read it, because I flipped through the back section of one of his haiku notebooks when he was making tea.

He had said I could read any poem in the sections segmented by the blue and red and black plastic dividers, but he didn’t want me to look at the pages between the green dividers. Of course, I turned to the green section just as soon as PJ was out of the room, and he seemed to stay in the kitchen for a very long time—way longer than it takes to make tea—so maybe he wanted me to read the Vietnam haikus, I don’t know. But from what I have gathered from reading his haikus—because he doesn’t tell me squat about his life—it seems like Private Jackson started writing haikus in the jungle, maybe as a means of staying sane, and he just never stopped writing haikus when he came home.

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