May 8, 2015

I hope you won’t think less of me after I tell you this, but the other day I was at the racetrack. It was the dog track where the Greyhounds race.

I’ve heard about the fast dogs all my life and so I finally decided I wanted to go and see for myself. I settled into my seat and was more than a little amused by the character next to me.

He was chewing on one of those fat sausages and the grease was running off his chin and dripping down on his legs and he would just bend down and lick it off. He was sitting there like he owned the place, which I found later was nearly true. My curiosity finally got the best of me and I asked, “So, you come here often?”

“Hump,” he whined in amusement, “I was born here.”

“Hhna, ha,” I chucked, “you and the Whippets, huh?”

“Greyhound,” he growled. “I’m a purebred Greyhound – tooth, tail and toenail. Listen, I don’t mind your type comin’ here and making amusement out of my types, but another slur like that and I’ll bite you!” His lip curled back to show some sharp incisors that were still dripping with sausage grease, and I wasn’t about to let him sink those into me. So I backed off a little and tried to smooth it over.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it as a slam. It’s just that I didn’t expect any… er, uh, I came to see the….Well, what I mean is that I….”

At which he snapped out, “Come on. Speak boy, speak!” And then he started howling at his own role reversal. “Ooo ha, ha ooo! Get it. The Greyhound says to the preacher man ‘Speak boy, speak!’ Haoooww, hoow, hooow!”

I was glad to be the tail of this joke, because it totally changed the old boy’s attitude. By the time he stopped howlin’ at his own joke his tongue was hangin’ out and his lips were curled up in a satisfied smile. I decided I’d risk more conversation.

“So you really were born here, huh?”

“Yowsu! Right over there in kennel 42. Not only was I born here, this was my home track. I bet I’ve run here 100 times!”

“Really! So you are a racer, huh?”

“Yeah, I suppose. If you want to call it that!”

“Well,” I asked, “Have you been winning anything much?”

“Ah, only if you think of a million dollars in purse money, not including wagers, as ‘anything much!’”

“You’ve won a million dollars, plus all the bets?!” I blurted in astonishment.

“Are you racing today?” I felt my pulse speed as I reached for my wallet.

“Down boy, down!” He started into another howl. “Owwha, ha, ‘Down boy,’ get it?”

When he caught his breathe again I continued, “Don’t you race anymore?”

“Nope, no. I wouldn’t step paw on that track for nothin’. Even though that’s what I did for years – step on the track for nothin’ that is.”

“Why would you say ‘for nothin’ if you won over a million dollars? Did something happen? Did you get injured? Are you getting…?” I decided not to finish that question.

“Did they mistreat you when you were running?”

“No, no, no, no,” he yipped. “I was in top running form when I quit and they always treated me like the world champion that I was. I had my own attendants at my beck and howl. Howhhaoo, ooahoww.”

“So… what was it then? I interrupted, “Why would a world-champion just up and quit?”
“Well for one thing, I was just always going around in circles – literally. Like I said, I bet ya’ 10 to 1 that I’ve been around this circle here at least 100 times. Nearly every day it was out of the gate on the run, and tryin’ to stay ahead of the pack. And I guess I really didn’t even notice all that so much because there was always something just out there…”

“Oh, you mean, there was always a goal, a dream…”

“No. I mean there really was something out there. There was always this rabbit. I could outrun any dog this side of Vegas. But, that rabbit. Dawgs! He could travel! I would go to sleep with my legs twitchin’ dreamin’ about that turbo-charged fur ball roundin’ the bend just ahead of me! I envisioned myself stretchin’ my stride, leanin’ into the corners tighter. ‘Someday,’ I’d whimper – ‘someday, I’ll catch you. Someday!’”

“And…?” I nudged him on.

“You’re as bad as the rest,” he snarled, “baitin’ me out! And for what?”

“Tell you what,” I said, “sausages are on me, all afternoon, if you’ll just finish the story.”

“Not much else to tell. I went around in circles as fast as I could go just ahead of the pack all those years pantin’ for ‘someday.’”

“And…”

“And, finally ‘someday’ came. I’d just rounded turn three and I literally ran over the top of the rabbit. He had stopped dead still in the track. I immediately stopped in confusion. I guess I’d never thought beyond what I’d do if I caught him. It wasn’t like I was hungry. I had all the perfectly balanced ration I could eat. But I stopped and sniffed the rabbit, and it was then…”

“Then what…?”

“You know,” he snarled at me, “you might need to slow down a bit yourself. You’re awful impatient. Well, anyway, then … then I saw that it wasn’t even a real rabbit. It was rubber, molded into the shape of a rabbit running on an electric trolley. All those years, I was running around in circles chasing something that wasn’t even real. I quit. I just quit.”

“Now, I’ll take my first sausage with extra grease please. Fetch boy, fetch! OWYha, ha, owwy! Get it, fetch, boy, fetch. No more runnin’ for me. Fetch boy! Yeowwwuuu.”
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If you are tired of just going around in circles and this whets your appetite for fulfilling purpose, I’ll see you Sunday.

– Pastor Mike

Idea adapted from: 1. Fred B. Craddock, Craddock Stories, (St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, Mike Graves and Richard F. Ward, editors, 2001), pp. 106-107.