‘I’ll take the dog. I think I’ll call him Jesus.’ He wasn’t some antichrist trying to prove an idiotic atheist point. He loved dogs and his previous dog had been his saviour, a German Shepherd named Rambo. The dog came to him with that name and he’d wanted to call him Ulysses but eventually he was forced to concede that he didn’t have the moral right to give him a new name, just because he was the dog’s owner.
‘How you gonna pray to Jesus in the future,’ I asked him.
‘As if Jesus is going to pay attention to anything I want,’ he said. ‘When I put my hands together it’s just to hope I won’t be made to suffer like Rambo suffered.’ He always spoke with his head tilted upwards as though a conversation had a water level that reached his chin.
‘A disease of the lungs had killed Rambo. Suffocation – getting choked for a year before it was over. “The one who is hated”. That’s what they say Ulysses meant in ancient Greek. Hard to imagine someone calling their son that, but who knows? And it only occurred to me when he was dying that it was just as true for Rambo. Remember how the whole town wanted to kill him? They even called in the Army. So now I’ll name my dog Jesus because you could say he was the opposite. He became “the one who is loved”.’
My neighbour was a white-haired man and could ramble if you let him, so I cut him off and said, ‘I reckon you might want to come up with another name, because you’re going to be Ulysses when people hear you calling out, “come here Jesus, good dog Jesus, does Jesus want another bone”. You should really reconsider,’ I told him.
‘It’s too late,’ he said. ‘I can’t change his name now that he’s Jesus.’
I took his money and gave him the puppy with a shake of my head. Ten dollars for the runt of the litter that none of my friends wanted for free.
‘Bye bye Jesus,’ I said, and watched them walk away together. My driveway floods easily and it’d been raining heavily. When they walked over the water from my backyard to the street, it was not a miracle, but it looked biblical in the after-storm light. I had kept it to myself that I’d already christened that little runt Maradona for his fancy footwork, getting around the bigger, stronger puppies for a feed from any available teat. I suppose I’m also a little to blame for a Rottweiler called Jesus.