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Spotlight: Bob Bickford

Hi All

Today's featured guest is writer Bob Bickford and I am thrilled to be sharing a sample of his work on the Jimmy Broccoli page and website!

While online, I almost exclusively read poetry but, occasionally, I'll meander to read other genres - and this is how I first discovered Bob's writing. And it immediately blew me away.

Bob Bickford is a storyteller - and is a master of the craft. I've read a good number of his compositions and his work instantly catches and holds my attention and, frequently, demands a re-read - just to make sure I didn't miss anything. It's that good.

The piece below is called "Blue". As an animal and pet lover and the previous dad (for years) to amazing canine children (and one feline child), I very closely relate to the subject-matter. It's highly emotional and beautifully written - an honest testament of love. Very rarely do I have to pause for a few minutes after reading a piece but, after reading "Blue", my day had to stop for several minutes before continuing. Bob's words reflect EXACTLY how it feels to lose someone (I consider animals "someones" too) with real emotions and real thoughts.

Bob in his own words:

When he was little, Bob Bickford haunted the library. It was his favourite place. He hunted for good stories, got lost in pages, and daydreamed about becoming a writer. When he got older, real life got in the way and paychecks became more urgent than classes or degrees. The dream was filed under "impossible things", and nearly forgotten. After years spent in various corners of the United States and Canada, he dusted off his imagination and became a writer-by-night. He hunts for good stories once again, and he still haunts the library.

Today the spotlight shines on the work of storyteller Bob Bickford. Here is "Blue" - and I know you'll enjoy it as much as I do. _______________ Blue

So the house is emptier. I can stop bitching about sitting twisted at my desk, because a hundred pounds of fur named Blue isn’t under my feet tonight.

Fifteen is a lot of years for a big dog. I’ve known the hips were shot and time was getting short for a while, now. I built a ramp to the back yard because things like stairs weren’t workable any more. I had a supply of really good pain meds. I thought we’d deal with whatever came along and at least get one last summer. We didn’t.(In my heart of hearts, I thought we’d get forever. We still might, but we won’t know until we get there.)

I never met anyone who loved just living the way he did. He loved baths, and he loved the snow. When he got a treat, he took it to his bed so he could lay down and really enjoy the hell out of it. He loved hot dogs the most, but every meal he ever got served was delicious. He loved a cool tile floor. He loved sleeping, usually under my desk. He claimed to hate cats, but he just loved barking. He stayed as sweet as sugar, every moment of every day of his life.

Something in the hips let go yesterday, cruel and final. He couldn’t get up any more, couldn’t be moved. The end was sudden, unpleasant, and smelled like pee. Life often leaves the way it came in, with a lot of smell and a lot of mess. That’s by perfect design, maybe. I think most women understand that design. I don’t. I just know it’s so.

The last twenty hours of his life, the really good pain meds stopped working, even too many of them. If I sat beside him, the crying stopped. If I went to another room, it started up. That was the deal: If you're there, it doesn’t hurt. Stay where I can see you. Like I’m magic or something. He couldn’t get up from the kitchen floor, so that’s where I slept last night, but sitting beside him every moment of every day wasn’t a promise I could keep. I didn't know what to do.

This morning, I knew we were done. One last car ride in the late afternoon, after a really good supper. He was a sweet boy, right until the last breath. The vets called him beautiful.

I never cry, but I’ve been trying to change that. I don’t want to get old and be stoic. In the parking lot afterward, the tears came so hard they scared me. People drinking beer on a restaurant patio could see me through the windshield, and I knew it looked awful but fuck them.

So, he’s home now. A casual hero, the kind who doesn’t have to but does anyway, found out what was going on and did the back yard digging while we were at the vet. I started the filling, but he took the shovel from me, sent me inside to Terrible Rosie, and finished. Then he left. I don’t remember if I thanked him. I can see the spot from my office window, at the edge of the messy woods. It’s a pretty place, but I hope Blue’s somewhere else.

It’s a simple deal, this. If you love, you get hurt. The more completely you love, the more perfectly your heart gets broken. Chloe taught me that. Participation isn’t required. You can leave your heart to ferment in a jar and pretty soon you’re invulnerable, but if you want to play it hurts like hell. No way to cheat, no way to duck, and people generally grow one way or the other.

Hot dogs are going to make me cry, for a while. Cool tile floors, the empty space under my desk will make me cry. Maybe everything will. Terrible Rosie has never known a moment without her dad. They haven’t been apart since she was born, and she's going to hurt for a while, too.

At the end of this awful day, I had a sudden thought; one that could only have come straight from a perfectly golden, generous soul. Here’s what I think Blue left me, and what matters most: If you're there, it doesn’t hurt. Stay where I can see you. If you're there, it doesn’t hurt. Stay where I can see you.

I don’t think you get loved better than that, and maybe that’s enough. Maybe that's the heart of the deal.

Fifteen years turned out to be no time at all. Go play, sweet boy.

Bob Bickford

Photo: Blue

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