So here is self, settled back home, and able to resume reading the Wakako Yamauchi story (“Dogs I Owe To”) she began reading in Bacolod. She still hasn’t gotten to the end, but can feel it coming.
This is such a beautiful story. The language is restrained and yet painfully wrenching. A Japanese American family adopts a pet, a dog named Dickie. Many things happen to the family after they adopt Dickie: a baby dies, the family is forced to move out of the Imperial Valley, bankrupted by debt and just general bad luck. There is a tremendous earthquake, which they all survive, but not much else does.
The narrator’s parents tells her that she must be Dickie’s “executioner.” That is, it is up to the narrator and her brother to figure out a humane solution to getting rid of this dog, this extra mouth to feed, one that this impoverished family can ill afford.
They decide to leave Dickie in the place where they had last moved from, where nothing remains of their former hopes and dreams:
I said good-bye in my heart because it seemed hypocritical to say it out loud. I couldn’t speak to my brother, who was dealing with his own emotions. I watched Dickie run after us until the road turned. I prayed he would find his way back to the Augustas and that they, with kinder hearts than ours, would feed him, give him a drink, and pat him now and then.
That wasn’t the last time I saw Dickie. For years he came to me in my dreams, always running, running to me. Sometimes I’m on a bus, sometimes in a stranger’s car. Once his back appeared to be broken, but he continued to run. I am always watching him from a window, on a moving vehicle, my heart cut out of me.
We never returned to Imperial.
Self wishes to thank Lillian Howan, from the very bottom of her heart, for putting this collection of Wakako Yamauchi’s stories together. Self feels so lucky: she gets to read this collection in dribs and drabs, usually when she is flying to or leaving Bacolod. She’ll always think of the book this way: bookends to the brief periods when she is out of herself. When she ceases to be a mother, or a wife, or a teacher or even a writer. In Bacolod, she is nothing, simply her father’s daughter.
It’s funny how, in the story excerpt above, the narrator mentions seeing Dickie in her dreams. For some reason, self’s dream life expanded considerably on this last trip. She dreamt when she was on the airplane, both going to and coming from Bacolod. She dreamt every single night of her trip, except for the one week where Zack joined her. The dreams were usually nightmares, involving family members she hadn’t seen or spoken to in a while. Once (on the plane to Bacolod), she dreamt about being attacked by a bunch of ferocious gorillas who had escaped from a zoo. Another time, she dreamt that Dearest Mum was knocking on the front door of her house in Redwood City. Knocking and knocking and knocking.
Self dreamt about her brother-in-law, Richard, and about her husband. She dreamt about lizards and about losing her way in the intricacies of an unfamiliar house. Each dream was long and complicated and always ended ambiguously.
When self got back to Redwood City, the dreams vanished. What does this mean?