“Does the power go out often?” Rain flushed over the closed window—I pulled the curtain wide so I could keep an eye on the outside. The big old pine by the drive swayed with limbs made limber with Spanish moss, ready for flight or a short flop.

“Sometimes.” Mom scrunged close and grabbed my arm, when I sat down. Hail pattered on the flat metal roof of the doublewide.

“This is nice.” And I thought hard for what else to say. “I know … You got a battery-powered radio?”


I sprang up and went into the darkness of the master bedroom. I found my CD player. I dropped the earbuds into a mug and played Django Reinhardt’s The Sheik of Araby; “You like him, Mom?” I moved the cup between us and the little sound of Django’s guitar riffed, and then Stephane Grappelli’s jazz violin moved in strong.

“The last hurricane was supposed to be big,” Mom said; “They wanted us to evacuate, but I stayed with your brother. That old house has been there more than sixty years. Never a thing has happen to it. Have you seen it?”

I’d been here a week and had yet to visit my younger brother, Jessie, at his home. Mom owns the house outright and lets brother live rent free. She would’ve given it to him, but was afraid the house would disappear into the morass of drink.

“The outside,” I said, “When I brought the new stuff for the church marquee, I meant to see him then.” I did see his upside-down tomato garden hung on the pergola at the side of the house, an early thought of economic independence before he’d become too sick.

“Then you know it. We should go see if he’s all right?” The last storm she’d stayed with him, he fell unconscious to the concrete slab floor. She couldn’t move him and the phones didn’t come back for hours. She cradled him and prayed. She’d always prayed in a low, almost inaudible voice—never asking for her but for others. For Dad—“Please forgive him and help him, you know best, and the son, the younger one, is dying and the older needs your help—all my boys, please help them, dear God. Please forgive asking for them but they need your help. There’s nothing more they can do…” and so on, until to stop the flood of nonsense He gives in or lets her fall asleep, exhausted.

Exhausted more often.

She thinks me miraculous—I see that. Here I am: Gone and now back and in His apparent service, after more than twenty years.

“Mom, he’d call.”

“Not if he’s passed out. He might be—”

“I’ll call him;” I had her cell; “It’s busy.”

“You’re sure?”


“He’s just down the road.”

“I’ll call later or in the morning.” She said nothing, but gave that helpless look of worry. “I’ll go check on him, now.” I stood and wind howled and something flashed by the picture window. She grabbed my sleeve and pulled me back.

“The gate will be padlocked,” she said. “He won’t come out. He never comes out.”

“I’ll jump the fence.”

“He has that old dog.”

“Then he’ll know I’m out there.”

“Sit.” She pulled me next to her and said, “That house, after sixty years, is going nowhere. He’ll do what he wants. He always does—stubborn like your daddy. Last time, I called the EMS and they took him to the hospital. All he did is yell at me for days. I thought he was dying. He says if it’s his time, let him die. It’s those doctors they keep telling him he’s going to die and he won’t. We’ll stop, in the morning, if it’s over.”

“Yes Mom.”

“He’s been waiting for your return. Jessie always looked up to you. You talk to him. Tell him he can change.”

“I left y’all for years.”

“You had to. Daddy hired a detective to find you, but he never did.”

After I’d found and written to her, (she’d moved from one end of town to the other.), she wrote every week and took the hint of my need and occasionally added a ten-spot to my commissary. Dad never wrote. She only mentioned him, after he got sick. And Jessie occasionally stuck a note in with Mom’s, “Boy don’t spend that tenner all in one spot!!!”

Mom sent a version of, “Son, don’t let nobody keep you from doing your best. Your Reverend Bossy sounds like a tough good man, you listen to him.” (I mostly made him up along with a cast of baddies I had to deal with). Every week, I meant to thank Mom and Jessie for thinking of me; but somehow, I got lost in the fog of activities. Prison is surprisingly busy, though repetitive, and the ten-spot occasional, though always looked for.

“You’re here and work for the church.”

“Not the church.” I want to be honest. The only honesty people deserve is what they are willing to pay for in one way or another. “I’m an independent contractor.”

“The Reverend says you’re a godsend.”

“Remember ‘Trouble’?”

“No, no, no. I knew it. It was too good.”

“Not me. Mom, the dog, Trouble, that mutt?” A little brown and white something or other Dad found and gave to Jessie and me. Really my dog—just another in a long line which Dad replaced after they chased and caught two tons of steel or courted the wrong bitch. Trouble was a genius and knew it. He went to school every day at lunchtime and worked the cafeteria for scraps until he’d see me, and then embarrassed at being found out, again, he’d return home.

It never occurred to him that I’d be looking for him. His plans were doggy plans: get there early and get all the errant petting he could and gobble everything handed over.

Those kids looked for him, no wonder he kept coming back. I’d lock him up and like Houdini he’d be free. Back home, I’d explain things to him. I’d tell him about the dog catcher and cars, while he looked powerful sorrowful. He understood every word. Never apologized, but pretended to change his ways. Then off he goes first chance. But that’s dogs—in search of the flagrantly fragrant or a subtle complexity of scent—wherever it leads, even if to the butt of another dog.

Mom agreed he was the smartest dog she’d ever seen, told time better than either Jessie or me. I taught him to beg, shake hands, roll over, stay, and play dead. He’d been very patient.

I didn’t want any more dogs, after he got run over.

“He went to school more than you,” Mom said. “Daddy …”


“That was Hampton Roads, second or third grade.”

“Phoebus Street.”

“I think about that sometimes—you and your brother so little. I forget sometimes how much I wanted you before you were here.”

“We wanted you, too.”

“Junior was so young when we married. Before you came, even afterwards, he’d play baseball and be gone for hours. He used to get me so mad. If it wasn’t baseball, it was reading—his nose in a cowboy or detective book. I’d go look for him and there he’d be up a tree. Reading.” She laughed; “I told him I didn’t want him leaving me alone.”

“Let’s go to the library tomorrow.”

“Can’t read the books I have. Every time your brother and I go to the thrift store we find more.”

“I’ll check my emails at the library, and then take us to lunch.”

“And your brother?”

“We’ll stop for him first. Where do you want to eat?”

“We can eat here. I got so many leftovers.”


George Bandy’s publications include War, Literature & the Arts (USAF), New Millennium Writings, Subprimal Art Poetry, Blue Unicorn, Broadkill Review, The Saturday Evening Post, Broad River Review, Neologism Poetry Journal, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Vol. IX, among others. His poem ‘Return from War’ won the Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Award.