My father shot the neighbors’
  dog, and their little girl
still plays in front of his
  house in the road, cars
swerve when they see her
  around the blind curve.
My father wants to tell her
  to be careful, but he’s the self-
proclaimed neighborhood outlaw.
  I’m sure they don’t want me
talking to their kid. He warned
  the woman when the dog
stood behind him—bared
  its teeth—while he got the mail.
She listened, said it wouldn’t
  happen again, then two days
later the dog growled, followed
  him to the door.
Maybe I’m defending him?
  He’s been through so much:
buried mom after three years
  of helping her die.
Maybe he wanted to kill
  something that was trying
to hurt him, a threat he could
  end on his own terms? I’m
not saying it’s right. They
  have goats now, and when
they escape, almost daily,
  my father walks them back up
the driveway to their house.
  If he’s a bad man, it’s because
he’s a broken man. When he
  hands the woman the chewed-
through rope, the goat doesn’t
  want to go, but to stay,
it seems, beside him.

Aaron Smith is the author of, most recently, The Book of Daniel. He is associate professor of creative writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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