- Author: Eric Kraft
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Title Page: Eric Kraft
Inflating a Dog is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, events, and organizations portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally and are not to be construed as real.
Copyright © 2002 by Eric Kraft
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
E-mail [email protected]
Manufactured in the United States of America
Design and cover photograph by Eric Kraft
Author’s note: A portion of Chapter 46, “A Dead Dog, Beached (Afflatus, Part 4),” is based in part on information in “Colonoscopy,” Publication No. 98-4331 of the National Institutes of Health, published in June 1998 and posted as an e-text on the World Wide Web 7 July 1998 by the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). This e-text is not copyrighted, and the NDDIC encourages the free dissemination of the information it contains. However, the NDDIC probably never anticipated that anyone would adapt the information with so free a hand as I have used. The adaptation is, of course, my own, and the NDDIC cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies that I may have introduced. The tone and style of the adaptation are also my own, and the NDDIC cannot be blamed for those either.
First published in the United States by Crown Publishers Inc.
First Babbington Press Edition: May 2010
Title Page: Peter Leroy
On Being a Bastard
BASTARDY has been good to me. I don’t actually know that I am a bastard, but I’ve tried legitimacy and I’ve tried bastardy, and, on the whole, bastardy has been more rewarding.
For one thing, bastardy gave me the inspiration for the first doo-wop song I wrote, although, because it was a subtle piece of work for a kid my age, no one but I noticed that it was about bastardy. It began like this:
There’s a space between
What you say and what you mean.
And it went on like that for quite a few lines before ending like this:
There’s a space between
Who I am and who you say I am.
That’s where the shadows fall.
And where the shadows fall,
Anything can happen
Anything at all.
Bah doobie doo wah.
I sang it to Patti Fiorenza one afternoon when I was walking her home from school. Patti was not the sort of girl who blushed easily, but I thought I saw the color rise in her cheeks as I sang, and I interpreted the cause of her coloring as embarrassment, arising from her recognition of the theme, a controversial one at that time.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I think, um, I think there’s too much ‘woh-oh, woh-oh-oh-ohhh,’” she said.
“Really?” I said. I didn’t want to argue with her, though I disagreed with her. In the entire song “woh-oh, woh-oh-oh-ohhh” accounted for only fifteen lines out of forty, not too many at all.
“Yeah,” she said, “and — ” She seemed reluctant to go on, and this time I was certain I saw her blush.
“That’s okay,” I said. I touched her hand. “You don’t have to say anything else.”
“It’s just that — I — I really think I should tell you that — you really can’t sing, you know?”
The adorable little thing. The song apparently embarrassed her so much that she couldn’t even bring herself to admit that it embarrassed her.
“Well,” I said, seizing the opportunity that she had given me, “in that case, why don’t you sing it? Why don’t you sing it with the Love Notes?”
Eventually she did, after some rewriting that cut six “woh-oh, woh-oh-oh-ohhh” lines, and it became popular enough at high school dances that soon most of Babbington knew — in a subtle, almost subconscious way — that I considered myself a bastard.
Hasn’t every boy everywhere at some time wondered whether he might be the child of some man other than his declared father? I think so. At some time or other, I think, every one of us suspects either that the beer-swilling Yahoo sitting in the living room watching television, the one who claims the perquisites of fatherhood, he who must be obeyed, must be a fraud, a usurper who has ousted our real father from the nest, or that the poor sap drowning his sorrows with beer and old jokes must have been defrauded, must be a cuckold, and that our real father, a dashing figure, a rogue, a restless profligate, is out somewhere roaming the world making conquests and siring our siblings.
I certainly wondered whether that might not be the case in my case. Some nights, many nights, I would slip from bed, creep partway down the stairs, and sit silently there, where I had a view down along the length of the living room, and I would spend some time observing Bert Leroy in the flickering television light, looking for some sign that would convince me one way or the other, and though I never saw anything that constituted incontestable proof, just the sight of him sitting there slack-jawed and gaping was enough to send me back to bed shaking my head and asking myself, “How on earth could I be the son of that fool?”
We have only a couple of options if we want to alter our beliefs about our paternity. We can decide that we were adopted, or we can decide that we are bastards. I favored bastardy because it brought with it an illicit, romantic, and passionate history, a history far more attractive and desirable than adoption could have provided, with its official procedures and forms in triplicate. Choosing bastardy also seemed like a nice thing to do for my mother; not only did it improve my paternity but also her love life, inserting into her past a wonderful night when, with someone handsome and clever, she conceived