–Derek SheffieldLast patches of snow all but gone and firstwildflowers flecking the lawn, I walked outto the shed and pulled open the doorwith a woody squeak, and there, rising from the dirt floor,surrounded by a dusty clutter of tools,a little mountain, the kind of thing my daughtersmight have scooped together in the fall and leftfor the faeries if it weren’t a perfectly conical accretionof turds. What to make of such a thing,holding the door, and beholding it in the spillof the first light—and then I knewthe droppings. Here she was, my old dog,that golden shuffle of paling wheat fields who’d retrievedand licked clean how many rocks thrown from this hand?What was left of her, here. What creaturehad carried each dried nub from the yard’sfar corners to form this strange cairn? There,under the nail-hung weed whacker, my grease ragon the floor pressed flat: a little bed I kneeled to touch.Something had curled here in the gasolined nightsall winter as snow and more snow made a worldof white mounds. I walked around back,searching for a gap, and stopped mid-step—a big, squirrel-like bulk on my scrap wood,the black, unblinking shine of a left eyetilted toward mine. No glimmer of flight in that orb,no twitch of scurry, only the deepest calmas if the ages of the earth were taking my measure.I felt like a pane of glass even as I took all I couldof it, its weight and whiskers and wide, rounded ears,a long bottlebrush tail stretched out over my pileof sawed lengths of lumber and plywood,and later I would look for it in a book among my stacks.That night, after I turned out the lights,and my daughters asked for another story,I told them of its midden while I sat on their floor,becoming another dark shape among the heapsof their clothes and stuffed animals; at first, “Eww!”and then only the sounds of breathing as they rememberedtheir old dog, those restless slopes that passedthrough their arms, the river sounds she madelicking those rocks to death. Let us not let goever, is what I took from your cave-wall stare,wood rat, who would grab every bloody toothmy girls have tucked under their pillows, pack rat,who would make hill after hill of all the yearsof their homework, vestigial historian, who’d cleaveto the locks of do-it-yourself haircuts and clutchevery tremor of their changing voices, their first words,every shape and shade of their widening gazes,and all the hard shit, too, the nights of no sleep,the wet beds and fits and screams, slammed doorsand shaken fists (how long have you been with us?how many iterations of you and them and me?),even as you turned at last toward the woodsbehind our house and slowly, one careful stepat a time, slipped away as if you’d alreadysnatched all the rain-colored secondsfrom all the clocks that ever were or will be.