Corky

The year was 1966.  Corky was the dog across the street, Myrtle Ave., a sloping, leafy suburban street in Millburn, NJ.    Corky was the bane of our existence.  Not only was the dog unappealing to the eye, scraggly, mottled and mangy looking, but it barked incessantly.  A midrange throaty bark without pause.  The barking became a constant soundtrack to those hot summer days on the block.  And so a plan emerged.

My brother Todd, elder by four years, was the neighborhood kingpin.  As a kid he was highly creative, hysterically funny and an aberrant 9-year-old.  He would come up with the most incredible things to keep us entertained – bicycle jumps, trumped up wrestling matches between kids who didn’t want to and didn’t know how to wrestle, dodgeball games using bottle rockets, BB gun shooting ranges with kids as targets, firecrackers implanted in sticks of butter, the hunter and the hunted, etc.

Now he had a plan to ‘stop that dog in its tracks.’  This is one of my earliest memories and the image I have is of dozens of neighborhood kids cheering me on:  “do it, do it, do it, do it”.  I am filling up a bucket of water at the faucet near the back of the house.  I am stumbling up the driveway with the unwieldly bucket tipping back and forth, the kids are cheering, the dog is barking, hacking up the soundspace with its insistent anger.

I become timid, I’m afraid I’ll be bitten, but the kids keep on cheering.  I’m enjoying the celebrity, I’m the hero this time.  I face the crowd, I keep on marching – the bucket spilling a bit on my cheap summer sneakers.   “Do it, do it, do it, do it” mixed in with other phrases like “Corky, Corky” and “Dump It!” and Paulie, Paulie.”   I approach the dog,  its barking on full,  I don’t recall how or why it stayed in that spot in my driveway.   I pause over the dog’s body, I’m scared I’ll get bit, I suddenly feel more sympathy than anger, I feel I’m being used, I see up close what a pitiful little dog this is.  The cheering grows louder and more insistent –  I tip the bucket and drench the pathetic creature.

A pause in the film, suddenly the sound is turned off, a ringing in the ears,  no kids, no dog, no water sounds and then – wild cheering, I am a success and even as I want to bask in my heroic cowardly deed, I can’t get over how sad this little creature is.   Corky bursts into an uncontrolled stream of barking, more outrageous and aggressive than ever, and I turn and tear down the driveway for the back door and the safety of linoleum.

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