In several weeks Malcolm and Luke became inseparable, except for the long hours when Luke was working. On weekends, he took Malcolm with him to work where the pup sat on the concrete balcony of the office and contemplated the world beyond. Luke watched Malcolm from his desk and marveled at the animal’s patience, his diligence, how he looked and analyzed his surroundings like some kind of wise man or sage—a philosopher king, of sorts.
“Let’s go, Malcolm Big Baby!” Luke called. It was time to go home. Malcolm bounced back into the office--the day of contemplation over and an evening of walking just beginning. Malcolm jumped into the car, and Luke put the top down on the convertible. Malcolm loved riding in his dad’s sports car. He sat upright in the passenger’s seat, sniffing the wind, his ears slicked back against his head. Just then over radio began playing Neil Diamond’s song, “Sweet Caroline”.
Luke grabbed an imaginary microphone and began singing, leaning into Malcolm, who turned toward him, grinning. “Where it began, . . . ” Luke crooned like Sinatra. He swung the wheel with his right hand and pointed his fist with the invisible microphone back to his mouth and continued to sing. They sped down the highway, minutes from home. When the chorus started, Luke smiled like a teenager in love and leaned in toward Malcolm again, one eye on the road, the other meeting Malcolm’s curious stare. The wind strained Malcolm’s lips, a laughing mouth. Luke bellowed above the sound of the radio, “Sweet Mal-colm. Good times never seemed so good. I’ve been inclined, To believe they never would, Oh, no, no.”
Luke stopped the car in front of their house and continued to sing into Malcolm’s face, “But now I look at the night, And it don’t seem so lonely, We fill it up with only two. And when I hurt, Hurtin’ runs off my shoulders, How can I hurt when I’m with you.” He switched off the auxiliary, climbed out, singing “Sweet Caroline’s”chorus a cappella. He opened the door for Malcolm, and the two ran to the house.
In a short time Malcolm had become Luke’s soul-mate, his son. It wasn’t long before all that “man-talk” Luke warned Malcolm about that first day turned to mush. “Sugar booger, Sweety Petey, ” Luke cooed in Malcolm’s face right before bedtime. “Is my little bitty big baby sleepy? Does Malcolm Big Baby want to sleep in daddy’s nice warm beddy tonight?”
And Luke’s stern lecture about not giving snacks and table scraps went down the same drain as his distaste for girlie language. Buying only the best for his Malcolm Big Baby, Luke brought home boxes of organic, pet health-food treats and the best, most appetizing dog food money could buy.
One morning Mark happened to walk into the kitchen just as Luke was feeding Malcolm. “Come here, Sugar Booger--my big lovey-dovey, scoopy-poopy, puppy-wuppy. Daddy has your tasty dinner. Oh, I know what you’re thinking, Son. You’re thinking, ‘Oh, Daddy, please hurry. It takes too long to chew it. Please, just hurry and put it right in my belly now. Oh, Daddy, please hurry and put in my big, big belly!’”
“Like—well, that’s totally so uncool, Luke,” Mark said, his arms crossed.
Luke whipped around. “Uh-h-h, . . . .”
“Yeah, you’re really pathetic, man. You sound like a total girl.” He snickered. “All that lovey-dovey shit and daddy stuff. I don’t know what happened to my macho brother, but he’s gone!”
Luke smiled sheepishly and shirked his shoulders. “I can’t help it. He got into my brain like some kind of neural parasite—like a cranial worm. I’m all screwed up now, and it’s all his fault. I’m in lo-o-o-ove with my boy,” Luke sang. He paused and laughed. “I’ve never had a dog like him. He’s a walkin’ oxymoron. He’s so simple—loves his walks, loves digging holes, loves treeing squirrels, yet he’s adventurous and fearless, too. Last week when Cindy and I took him to the beach, he jumped into the waves and started swimming in the ocean--just like that! And he’d never seen the ocean before. The dog is brave; he’ll try anything. He’s extreme.”
When Luke wasn’t working, Malcolm was his constant companion, and for the next year the two enjoyed the same routine: long walks into the prairie every evening, Malcolm luxuriating in the breeze that rippled his fur like stroking fingers. On their journeys into the brush, Luke loved watching the growing Malcolm sniff out a mole. Digging furiously, Malcolm raced to find the tiny rodent, and he didn’t stop until he had uprooted it. And he was hell on squirrels and groundhogs, running after any that had foolishly left too much ground between it and its escape tree or hole.
Yet, just as fearless and ferocious as he was faced with a woodland creature, so was he just as fearful of the broom from which he ran terrified, skidding away and raking claw marks into the hardwood floors. So, too, it was with the vacuum cleaner, which, thanks to Luke’s manliness, he didn’t see that often. But when the dust bunnies started hopping across the living room floor, not even Luke’s machismo could resist them. Out came the long silver “bastard on wheels” as Malacom’s dad called it--the thing hell bent on sucking a big white dog into oblivion.
Months flew by and Malcolm grew like a Texan cornstalk—lengthening, widening, and getting taller overnight. And he and Luke became closer than ever, though Luke was disappointed that his big hairy brother didn’t care for snuggling.
“Come on, Malcolm Big Baby,” Luke coaxed. He patted the bed where he lay. “Come on up here. Jump up and come to beddy with daddy.” But Malcolm didn’t want to share a bed with anyone, preferring to sleep downstairs, beside the sofa.
So, Luke began sleeping on the sofa.
Pulling the blanket up around his neck, Luke found a way to feel as though Malcolm was sleeping with him. He stretched the blanket over the side of the couch so that only a sliver of it hung on the floor. Then, Luke called Malcolm, and Malcolm lay down, one paw touching the edge of the blanket. Voila! Malcolm was sleeping with Luke.
One evening Malcolm and Luke were watching CSI.
“Hey, my Big Baby,” Luke said, running his fingers through Malcolm’s thick fur.
Malcolm looked up from the side of the couch. “He’s just so irresistible,” Luke thought to himself. “And he’s all mine.” He smiled inside. Then Luke slid off the sofa and lay beside Malcolm as gunshots sounded from the television. Luke squidged himself into Malcolm’s space, and for perhaps five minutes Malcolm tolerated Luke’s nose snuggling in his ear. But when Luke started whispering sappy stuff in Malcolm’s ear, Malcolm got up and walked over to the Lazy Boy where he lay down.
Luke frowned. He said, “Okay, I get it, Malcolm. Just a bit much for your taste, huh?”
Malcolm had been living with Luke for over two years, yet he was still enthralled by his dog’s majesty, His Great White Presence, as he called him. Something as inconsequential as watching Malcolm watch the outside world still thrilled him. The dog, Luke told his co-workers, looked as though he was studying the outdoors: the critters, the bugs, the sage brush, the prairie wildflowers. He reminded Luke of the great Buddha, sitting and taking everything in, sitting for hours watching and contemplating. “I’m telling you,” he said to Gary, one of the bio-tech engineers, “it’s as if Malcolm’s thinking to himself, ‘Well, there’s a tree. Yup, there goes a car. Uh-huh, a squirrel. Here comes another car. Everything’s in order here.’”
Luke found Malcolm equally amazing at dinnertime as he slurped his food like a man—hearty and lusty—packing it into his mouth like a contestant at a food-eating competition. His unbridled enthusiasm for his dinner, his passionate appetite, his attacking the bowl awed Luke. He felt such contentment experiencing Malcolm living in the moment of food.
Malcolm’s needs were multi-fold: intense yet simple: he lived in the moment, the present, the occurring. Though his greatest pleasure was spending time with Luke, he found joy in other activities, too: digging a hole, sneaking over the fence, taking a walk, eating dinner, riding in the car, and sleeping. All these simple, everyday acts Malcolm lavished in, pouring his heart and soul into the chase or the food. Even his bedtime was punctuated with long, deep-sleeping snores.
From the beginning Luke was impressed by Malcolm’s masculinity. While Luke cooed “Daddy this” and “Malcolm Big Baby” in Malcolm’s face, Malcolm tried not to disappoint, retaining his cool, not slavering kisses all over Luke’s face nor crawling into Luke’s bed He even peed like a man.
The Machiss-piss occurred every morning. After Luke awakened Malcolm from his deep sleep, the first thing on the agenda was to relieve their bladders, so out to the backyard they both went, out of sight of the neighbors. While at their urinal tree, Luke glanced down at his man-dog and marveled at Malcolm’s masculine pose—not lifting a leg as other male dogs did, but standing on all fours, his legs spread widely. Then the full stream of pee came, large and full. Luke was proud, though a bit intimidated.
The morning pee soon became a family ritual.
Then there was Malcolm’s superman pose. One evening after Luke had had an unusually long day at work, he came downstairs to find Malcolm stretched out facing the wall with one front leg extended and braced against the wall. Luke laughed, but the dog didn’t move. “Hey, Superman!” Luke yelled. But only Malcolm’s ears moved—nothing else. His long leg stood straight out, like the Superman of the 1950’s television series, his one arm outstretched into a fist, his cape flapping in the wind.
When he wasn’t playing superman, Super Malcolm loved accompanying Luke on his golf outings. He rode alongside Luke in the golf cart, and then he watched and waited for Luke to swing at the ball, never barking or fussing while Luke took his backswing. He seemed to know that hitting a ball with a stick was very serious business, almost as serious as taking a pee.