In the deep recesses of my mind, tucked away in a well-protected crevasse is Heartland. Memories of my boyhood reside there. It is a place where a boy’s picturesque view of his world makes time stand still. I do not often go there, but when I do a warm memory always welcomes me. Let’s go there now. A memory of my boyhood is waiting for us.
What a night. Major spent it doing battle with a flea. His incessant gnawing, scratching, and shifting around kept me awake. Now, as a sunbeam dances on the bedspread, I am so tired I ache.
I should get up, but, hoping to shake off my tiredness, I linger here in bed while Major, exhausted from all his gnashing and gnawing, soundly sleeps on the floor below. Lingering and aching, I think about Major, the flea, and the events of yesterday that led to his misery last night. And in turn, left me sleep deprived this morning.
Major, an apricot colored mastiff weighing in at 187 pounds, is more than a dog (and tasty flea food). He is my constant companion, confidante, and fellow explorer. We are a team. Everywhere I go, he comes along. Everything I do, Major is there.
Yesterday is no exception. Up with the sun, we eat breakfast with Dad, Mom, and Pamela. Then, as we do every day during the summer, we go check out the happenings in this part of Corydon.
First stop, my friend Donnie’s house. Front door unlocked, Major and I step inside, nod good morning to Donnie’s mother, traipse up the stairs, and then walk into his disgustingly messy bedroom. Where, we shake awake my still sleeping friend. Some boy talk ensues, and we hatch a plan to play ball later today. After which, Major and I move on, leaving Donnie to his morning chores.
Next stop, Mrs. Van Fleet’s garden. There, as she meticulously tends it, Major and I hear about the weather—partly cloudy today, rain tomorrow—and the marvels of natural composting. She rewards our attentive listening with a pat on my shoulder, a rub of Major’s nape, and a big sack of cucumbers for Mom.
Next, sack of cucumbers under my arm, we sneak in the back door of the church. Once inside, we plan to spy on Dad. No such luck. Dad sees us. He tasks me with removing wax from the altar candelabra. When I finish that job, Dad walks home with us for lunch.
Still lingering in bed, I keep wondering about whence cometh the flea that is more than a match for Major. As I linger and wonder, Major, now awake, rolls to and from in a futile effort to squash the mighty flea. Let’s see, Donnie’s house, Mrs. Van Fleet’s garden, and Dad’s church—no fleas there. Well, maybe Donnie’s room. It is a disgusting mess…nah, not there, sure lots of dust and clutter, but no fleas. Where, oh where, did the flea find Major?
Flea-crazed, Major is miserable. In all the time we have been a team, never ever has Major been this frenzied. His misery is so worrisome that it makes me miserable. Desperate, an unthinkable thought enters my mind—bath.
As it does, voila, I know when and how the flea found Major. It was yesterday afternoon, when Donnie, John, Cindy, and the rest of us were playing ball. I was on the field—running, throwing, and catching, a big bubble gum in my mouth—and Major was sitting near the backstop watching the game. Next to him, Ginger, Connie’s lovable mutt. Major and Ginger, sweet on each other, were sitting closer than friends ever sit. Yes, it has to be Ginger. She hangs around the pigs, cows, and chickens on Connie’s folk’s acreage near the edge of Corydon. The flea came from the acreage, to town, to Major via Ginger!
Mystery solved out of bed I jump. Time to stop Major and my worries. Down the stairs I dart. To the washroom I go. There, I grab a bar of fels naptha soap then head outside. Major follows me, stopping to scratch, gnaw, and roll to and fro with each and every bite of the flea.
At the edge of the patio, I command Major to sit. Stubbornly and ever so slowly he lies, not sits, down. I grab the hose, turn on the water, and give him a good spraying. Then, leaving the hose to flop around on the patio, I, both hands holding the soap bar, commence scrubbing Major. Suds cover every inch of him—and me. Undeterred, I keep scrubbing. Lather is everywhere. When Major unleashes an ecstatic howl, I stop. The flea is dead. He need not worry any more.
On this trip to Heartland a memory of my beloved Major greets me. It reminds me of the transcendent nature of friendship. How a true friend takes care of his friend. How the misery of one friend affects another. How the challenges that friends face strengthen the bonds of friendship more than the good times they share. When a person cannot see or understand the source of his misery, the bond empowers a friend to help him see and understand it. Moreover, when a person is incapable of lifting himself out of misery, an empowered friend must be guide, support, and be the strength for two. This is why, when Major could not sleep, neither could I and why, when the flea had bested him, I washed away the flea.
Looking back, I see that my life has lots of fleas. Not of the type that Major had, rather the annoyances that pester me and keep me up at night. These fleas are incredibly small and not immediately visible. They seek me out when I engage with others. Find me when I step up. Bite me when I am tired and want to sleep. These fleas drive me nuts. To rid myself of them, I must look deep to understand their source. Some fleas have simple cures, a walk, a talk, or a bar of soap. Other fleas necessitate the breaking of habits, changing of lifestyles, or severing of relationships.
I now understand that my flea-crazed misery affects my friends. The bond of our friendship is what ends the misery. Either I lather up and wash off my fleas, or a friend will hose me down. For my friends, I will do likewise. This insures that one flea will not make my entirety, or theirs, needlessly worrisome.
Note: This is the 18th post in the Heartland Series. Please click the subscribe button on the right side of the blog page to be notified of future posts.