Tell me about how this story began. What sparked it?
The story was inspired by a visit to a friend’s house in Brooklyn. He had adopted two greyhounds, and the newer one had bitten off the older one’s ear. My friend had preserved the bit-off ear on his shelf. As he was showing me the leathery ear, his girlfriend was eyeing the dog warily.
There is such a strong sense of stumbling connection here—between Nelson and his adopted dogs, between the narrator and Nelson, and of course between the narrator and the dogs. Tell me more about this stumbling—this joining and this conflicting matching of energies.
I think it’s obviously a story that’s weighed down by substance abuse. It’s really hard to tell a story about a drunk that people don’t tune out to. But as I wrote it, I realized that it had to be more than just another story about alcoholism. Having it told from his girlfriend’s point of view suddenly made it seem like more than just another run-of-the-mill drunk tale. That’s because she’s sober and enduring him and the high-strung dogs. Anyone who’s ever entrusted their love and affection to a drunk knows that it’s like marrying someone so that they can get a green card. There are all these horrible compromises. I think that’s the reason it’s compelling.
If you could say one thing to the narrator, what would it be?
Don’t let his greyhounds out; they run for miles. But leave him unless he checks into rehab.
Kiss your dog when you’re vaguely sober, so he doesn’t bite off half your face.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
One thousand words is one of the most addictive art forms.