Hatch didn’t want to lose his son-in-law’s dog Willie, but the dog wasn’t one to follow the orders of another man. Hatch was no good to a dog like Willie. Had to be the son-in-law or no man at all. Hatch turned the name around. Will he sit? Will he stay? No, he Willie not. But this didn’t mean Hatch wanted to lose him. When Willie started running down the street, Hatch ran too.

They ran to the corner house, an old brick bigger than everyone else’s. Four dogs were already in the yard and two looked just like Willie so now there were three dogs looking like Willie. Three brown and white long-haired dogs with pink tongues hanging out of their mouths. Six men in blue striped overalls were playing catch. It was as hard to distinguish the men as it was the dogs.  They threw baseballs and wouldn’t stop even when Hatch and the extra dog showed up. It was like they were the Yankees warming up for game seven and Hatch and Willie were the Cubs from when the team hadn’t yet broken the curse. Although the men wouldn’t look Hatch in the eyes, he felt like a man being watched.

“Don’t look at our dogs,” the first man throwing said. “If you look at our dogs then our dogs will kill your dog,” the first man catching said. “Don’t look at us either,” the second man throwing said. “If you look at us then our dogs will kill your dog,” the second catching man said. “What the next man says will be true,” the third man throwing a ball said. “What the last man said was a lie,” the third one catching said.

Hatch picked up a glove. “Now we can really play,” the first man said. “What is the sound of one hand catching?” the second man asked. “Now we can really win,” the third man said. “What do you think is the point of intuition?” the fourth one asked. “What do you think is the point of this game?” the fifth one asked. “Do you think an all-powerful God could create a rock so heavy that even he couldn’t lift it?” the sixth man asked.

Hatch looked down at his feet and for a second thought he had caught the world spinning. For a second, he thought he had seen a way out. Where there’s a will. He turned the dog’s name around and around again. Will he, will lee, will who? Will I? Why lie? Wile-eee-ki-oh-tee, oh my oh my, woah Nellie. But this didn’t mean Hatch wanted to lose the dog, so he intercepted the ball meant for another man, and he threw it as hard as he could, as high and far as he could, as if he could throw it all the way home, and he ran after it as fast as he could, as if he could still catch the ball, as if the three brown and white long-haired dogs fast on his heels had always been back there, following him the whole time. 

Al Kratz lives in Indianola, Iowa with his wife Kristy and their cat Tom Petty. He’s on Twitter @silverBackedG.

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