Riley was writing happy emails about moving in with her beau. But she never answered when I asked how her dog, Mon Patou, was doing. I tried to imagine a happy story for him. But the new home had cows, and I couldn’t imagine Mon Patou, with his dodgy hips, managing a barn's worth of cows instead of three goats, one sheep, and a chicken house. It would kill him to be a failure. I imagined him trampled by cows, made a fool of by that wild-eyed sheep, depressed, not eating, and finally put to a querulous sleep.
I adored Mon Patou. We’d taken to each other instantly, lunging and feinting as we played in the new snow. He’d used to work with a whole herd of sheep, but the hip trouble that made him bunnyhop through the snow put an end to his farm days. My friend Riley took him in. She brushed the mats out of his hair and gave him a manageable fiefdom: three goats, one sheep, and a chicken house. When someone walked down the road, Mon Patou would bark his head off; when the sheep went for his food, he’d snap her away.
I saw your report on the subway. The one from the SickKids Neuroscopy Department. You’re sitting sleepy in your parka, between a man and a woman with hair dyed the same brown as her purse. Your report has three pages. No, the man turns to a fourth; the woman’s purse strap is laced through a gold chain. The man draws his finger down a column of numbers. Maybe the words beside them are the same width as the word “normal”? The woman looks too, quickly, pursing her lips differently. You all get off at Glencairn. I really hope you’re okay.