As Pam and Chester went on daily walks, Pam noticed that other dog walkers smiled at each other, sometimes stopping to talk. No one talked to her and Chester. Some people, even without dogs, crossed to the other side of the street. Chester was terrified of other dogs, but he would have loved to make human friends. “You know there are kids on this street,” a neighbor said to Pam one day as they went past her yard. She had messy blond hair and deep pouches under her eyes. “Chester loves people,” Pam said. “He loves people.” The neighbor sniffed and went inside.

Pam had stopped seeing his scars. Stopped seeing his wide jaw and stocky body as anything but sweet. His body had filled out to match his head. He was sleek and muscular. Sometimes her shoulders ached after their walks. But worse was the lonely feeling she had when no one spoke to them. She remembered lunch time at middle school, eating alone on days her friend was absent, while around her groups of girls giggled and traded snacks. “Loneliness is an illusion,” Guru Baba often preached. “When the ego surrenders, the self experiences the ecstasy of union.” Pam wasn’t sure how to get herself to feel that. She’d have to ask her therapist.


“Yuck, Pam. Go wash your face,” Ted snapped one night after she had gotten licked by Chester.

“Why? A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human one.”

“I’m not going to kiss you on top of dog slobber.”

Pam stomped off to the bathroom. They slept back to back, scootched to their own sides of the bed. In the morning, as Pam started to get up, Ted took her hand. “Stay in bed with me.”

“I can’t. Guru Baba’s teaching.” His appearances always meant a rush for tickets and the need to diplomatically turn away the overflow.

“Wouldn’t want to keep Guru Baby waiting.”

“Don’t mock him.” Pam started fiercely brushing her hair.

“We used to mock him together. Why are you so angry all the time?”

Pam kept brushing. “My therapist says that saying “all the time” or “never” means a person isn’t in touch with the present situation.”

“Your therapist is worse that Guru Baby.” Ted got up as well, pulled on his clothes, and closed the door hard on his way out.

Ted was right; she had been angry a lot. But she hadn’t been nearly as anxious. Pam hadn’t needed to touch the pill container in weeks. “Let it be a tool and not a crutch,” Guru Baba said about everything from coffee to cell phones. Maybe she was achieving that with the pills. She still felt longing for her missing parts, but getting through the days was easier.




Alison Stone has published seven full-length poetry collections, Zombies at the Disco (Jacar Press, 2020), Caught in the Myth (NYQ Books, 2019), Dazzle (Jacar Press, 2017), Masterplan, a book of collaborative poems with Eric Greinke (Presa Press, 2018), Ordinary Magic, (NYQ Books, 2016), Dangerous Enough (Presa Press 2014), and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award; as well as three chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Barrow Street, Poet Lore, and many other journals and anthologies. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practices in New York City and Nyack, NY. www.stonepoetry.org, www.stonetarot.com. Alison recommends Planned Parenthood.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Saturday, June 8, 2024 - 13:37