Sad dog: Heartbreak in rural Minnesota

Sad dog: Heartbreak in rural Minnesota

That girl Lily left in June and left poor Douglas so broken up he didn’t leave his house for a month or more. He sat there on his couch, eating peanut butter straight out of the jar and keeping that miserable look on his face. Anybody who would’ve seen him would’ve thought he was a dog who had been kicked too many times. Maybe he was. There’s not much difference between a dog and a man when they’re down and out like that.

This is the story of a man who turned into one sad dog.

We don’t have much time for falling in love, not with the storm keeping men out of work and our little town going the way of the dinosaur. All the young people moved out except for him and her it seemed, but then she moved out too and left him and then there really wasn’t much else. He’s a young guy, 27 years old I think because I remember he graduated in the same class as my nephew. But my nephew was one of the ones that left right away and didn’t come back.

No loyalty for hometowns anymore. It’s just all of us that have been here since before the storm that still call this little town home.

And gosh was she pretty. I knew why he fell in love with her. We all did. Fall in love with her I mean. And they got married pretty soon right out of high school because he had a smile and a confidence that carries you much further in life than even a good brain will. At least at first. But for some reason he didn’t leave with the rest of the kids his age. I mean there are still a few young people left, but they’re the ones who are going to take over family business like the Hawkins clan that run the metal works shop. And some of the farmers that still stick it out. And there is a county prison maybe thirty miles away and one kid I know went and worked as a prison guard over there and stayed living in his mother’s basement. His name is Greg.

But that boy Douglas is a writer and so he stayed home writing all day and eventually that pretty girl Lily she got tired of staying with him, and staying in this town where there is only two restaurants and a café and where one day she would be old and gray and what had she done with her life? I heard them arguing once in the café on Main Street and that’s exactly what she said.

“Someday I’m going to be old and gray and so are you and we stayed our whole lives here in this one place where nothing changes and nobody does anything different than what they did the day before.”

And I thought that maybe I should take offense to that, but then I thought, well she’s right and the people who live here, the people who stay, that’s exactly the way we want it.

So she up and disappeared, and I don’t know if she told him she was going to leave or not but she sure didn’t tell anyone else. She was just gone one day and left him sitting there on his couch looking like a sad dog and not doing anything, not even going down to the café to write. And we tried to cheer him up, but nothing would. It’s not like any of us knew what to say.

I’ve been married thirty years to the same woman who is happy as long as she can watch her shows at night and as long as there is food in the refrigerator and I think maybe that’s the difference. We’re simple here and we don’t need much to be happy but as the world gets more complicated so does everyone else. They want more, you know, the younger generation. They see what the world out there is doing and they’re not content just to be. The way it was before, you were happy if you had a job and three meals and maybe a little money tucked away for rainy days and if you were lucky you could take a vacation every couple of years. You know, down to Las Vegas maybe, or if you were really well off on a cruise or something, or to Europe. But then you would come home and keep on the way you had been keeping on.

But not anymore and that’s okay, too.

Except it leaves poor Douglas sitting at home all alone and all the rest of us in town not knowing what to tell him. She always did have a lot of life to her, that Lily, and so I guess when she disappeared we shouldn’t have been surprised. And maybe Douglas wasn’t. He told me once that he was lucky to have her and I remember I laughed and waved my hand at him, because I thought they were a real good couple, like they made a lot of sense, and none of us could think about them not being together. We always liked having them around. Always liked the way he would make her laugh and how they would walk down the street holding hands and looking at each other the way people who have been happily married a lot longer than them would look at each other. It brought life to the street. I’ve never had any thoughts about how quiet this town is, and never been surprised that the young people don’t want to stay here, but having them around added a little extra something special.

But we all grow old and I guess that scares some people more than others. So she’s gone now doing something different with her life. Hopefully what she wants to be doing, because Douglas, he sure as hell isn’t doing much. Just sits at home with that sad dog look hoping that maybe one day she’ll come back to him.

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Sad dog: Heartbreak in rural Minnesota