“I abide no blaspheming of My Dear Skurberry,” I replied. I rubbed Norton under his ear. He chomped away. A drool spot the diameter of a soup bowl had appeared on the crotch of my overalls. Biscuit chunks adorned it like mini-croutons. “I have come to reveal to you the origin of this … ” Mo looked down at Norton as though my happily chomping Skurbear were something floating by in the yearly Ganges f lood. “ … this dog,” he said in Jack Nicholson’s voice as Nicholson refers to Greg Kinnear’s little pooch in As Good As It Gets. He then gave me a viciously knowing look and told me I couldn’t handle the truth. Then he switched back to Apu: “After which I am offering to blend you up one aubergine squishie.”
I allowed him to glory in what he assumed was my ignorance of the word. Aubergine is—of course—the French word for eggplant. And I don’t even have one PhD. Ha! “Reveal away, Doctor, Doctor,” I replied. I gave Nort another bisky and settled back.
“When God made Adam,” Mo said, “the devil was furious because God looked upon Adam as His finest creation. God had made the devil of fire, and Adam of earth. The devil claimed that fire was a superior material, and that he was, therefore, superior to Adam. The harder the devil pressed his claim, the more his hatred for Adam grew. One day, the devil and Adam were arguing, and he spit on Adam, right in the center of his belly. God was outraged to see the best of his handiwork defaced in this way. He reached down, pinched away the piece of flesh and threw it on the ground. An indentation remained in Adam’s belly and in the bellies of all of Adam’s offspring where God removed the flesh the devil had defiled. It looks like a little button.”
I nodded. I appreciate a good belly-button myth as much as the next guy. “I thought you said this was a dog story.” Mo stood. He glanced down at Norty and didn’t crack a smile. Then he turned his eyes back to me. “God looked at the little piece of flesh on the ground and did not want even one such small piece to go to waste,” Mo said. “And so out of this profaned scrap of flesh, God made the dog, whose duty it would be to clean up scraps forever.”
He turned and walked down the steps. He didn’t turn back when he spoke in his Apu voice: “Come visit the Kwik-EMart later, and I am blending you up one mongoose squishie and one road-kill squishie in a to-go cup for your friend.”
“We’ll be there!” I yelled after him.
Wonderful, I thought. Brilliant. All my poor Skurberry needs is a vicious dose of anti-dog myth to squash his selfesteem forever. I looked down: Nort’s narrow black eyes perched over his dry and cracking parody of a dog nose like an out-of-office response that said no one home … ever. How could I tell if my dear Skurbear had been undone by this attack of species bigotry? The only time Norty had ever taken on a different expression was when he had a baby raccoon in his mouth, and then he looked prim. He was awake, which was all you could ever discern of his relationship to his environment. My dear friend Norton was a vessel of indeterminate content in whom I invested more love than I knew I possessed. I rubbed under his ear and told him the true story of how his ancestors came to be.
“Skurbear,” I said, “everybody thinks Adam was full of confidence because he was God’s favorite creation. But he wasn’t as confident as everybody thinks. The truth is that Adam was lonely in the enormous new world all around him. Plus, the devil picked on him all the time. And plus again, the devil glowed ferocious with flames and brilliant shiny shimmers of heat because he was made of fire, and Adam was made of the brown earth. The truth was that even though the devil was bad, he was beautiful, and Adam didn’t feel beautiful.
“Once the devil saw that Adam felt inferior, his hatred for him grew. One day he was bullying Adam and his contempt boiled over. He spit on Adam—as all the stories tell—right in the center of his belly.
“But here’s where all the stories get it wrong.
“The devil’s spit was volcanic, and it burned that hole in Adam’s belly. Why didn’t God blow on it to cool it off? Because God wasn’t around right then, that’s why. And the devil knew it. That’s something else the other stories get wrong: God isn’t always around.