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Zen Puppy

Sam's mother couldn't understand the little statue of the Buddha, the candles, and the incense.  She had raised him Catholic.  Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.  That's a rule.  "Where did I go wrong?" she asked herself.  All mother's ask themselves that, even if their children become saints or rich men.  They didn't follow mother's plan (which, of course, she never verbalized, since mother's assume that children know).

Sam had been a good Catholic.  He served at the altar from the third grade and even through his time in the military.  It was the University which changed him, even more so than the war.  The war had taught him the futility of hatred.  The University taught him the futility of everything else that organized religion and organized anything else created.  Organizing, even for the greater good, always ended up catering to the needs of the few who floated to the top.  He cited Jimmy Hoffa, pedophilia among the celibates, the crusades, every war since the first fight over a mastodon bone.....

He was not bitter.  He was very happy.  He had found a place for his mind to rest and his soul to grow stronger.  He couldn't explain to his mother that the little plaster Buddha was just to remind him that he was the Buddha and she was the Buddha and we were all... you get the point.  Sam didn't meditate with a koan or any formal chanting.  He just crossed his legs and let his mind go.  Eventually it went, or so  his family thought.

He was twenty-eight.  Graduation from High School at eighteen.  Four years in the military until twenty-two.  Two years building flimsy wooden boxes with tin sides and roofs, fondly known as mobile homes.  At twenty-four, he matriculated. His brothers thought it was a dirty word but were ashamed to ask him what it meant.  He knew that.  Four years later, he was twenty-eight and had a bachelors and a masters degree in psychology.  With the bachelors, he minored in physics. With the masters, he minored in theoretical physics. Intellectual chicks found him interesting.  So did drug dealers. Because of his very short hair and very long beard, they thought he was an undercover cop.  That could have caused him problems, but his job as a bartender on the early morning shift at the Tight Pussy but him in good standing with the most important of the drug dealers, Irv Dean.  Irv was his buddy.  Irv was crying into a glass of beer and tomato juice at seven o'clock in the morning when they met.  He was expounding on his first trip to the Rock, the prison down the road.  His father had pissed him off. A twelve gauge shotgun was handy.  He blew off both of daddy's knee caps.  Daddy was confined to a wheel chair until he died of stupidity.  Irv never forgave himself.  Sam did.  Irv took an instant liking to him.

At the time, Sam was still going to Sunday Mass in a classroom where all of the introductory courses were taught.  These rooms seated two hundred people, which meant the football coach and his wife and kids had just enough room in the first row, with one seat left over.  That's where Sam sat.  He got to know the coach, and they got even friendlier when the coach locked his keys in the station wagon one Sunday morning and Sam opened the door with a coat hanger.  Sam wasn't big enough to play on a team that was seeking its second national championship, so the coach gave him seasons tickets as a reward.  Sam gave them to a beautiful art major he had thought was interesting.  She gave them to her fiance, who was the president of a fraternity.  

These things happened.

Sam met a lot of interesting people at the bar.  Aside from Irv and his friends, there were house painters, professors, professors ex-wives, people collecting welfare checks, a Catholic priest, the strippers from the club across the street from the university's main entrance, and the bartenders from places that closed about the same time Sam opened.  You never knew who would come in for a liquid breakfast.  Of course, not all of his patrons were drinkers.  A few just drank orange juice or cola or something like that.  One of them was a woman named Cora.  She wrote childrens books. He liked her. She read some of his science fiction and took it home to her husband who was a real science fiction writer and had won the Hugo Award for one of his books.

The husband liked what Sam wrote and they arranged to meet at the strip joint, which was actually two bars in one.  The back bar, which had twice as much seating as the front bar, was the strip joint.  The front bar, which had half as much seating as the back bar, was the queer joint (as gay bars were called in those days).  They met in the front bar. They talked about a lot of things, such as the Spanish Civil War, in which the real writer had fought on the side of the Communists, because anything was better than Fascism.  A few hours later, the topic of Sam's stories came up.  The famous writer said "Get a typewriter, kid.  I got eyestrain reading your chicken scratches. Otherwise, it's pretty good.  You need to drink a little more, then you'll have it."

And that was that.  

Sam was working on his doctorate at that time and he ran out of money.  His GI Bill was finished and his grants and his bar tending job weren't enough.  He packed up his books, guitars, both pairs of jeans and the rest of his stuff and went back to the homestead. This was before he got the Buddha statue, but it's really where the story starts.  All of that other stuff was just to warm you up.

Sam's idea was to work for awhile, save upon enough money to pay his research fees and dissertation binding, etc. and defend his thesis, take a bow, and launch a brilliant career in academic research. That was when he met Harry Fischkopf at the local.  Harry was a contractor.  He was cheap so he could get a lot of work which he hardly ever finished.  The locals didn't mind.  He'd get the bull work done and then they'd hire one of the really good guys to finish it.  Harry always got paid, but he told Sam a different story.  He told him how hard life was with ten kids, mortgage, truck payments, and bar bills in every local in a forty mile radius.  That's when Sam first realized he had compassion for all sentient beings.  He just wasn't sure whether Harry was sentient or not.

Since he didn't have anything better to do, Sam started to work for Harry.  He liked tearing off roofs in the Summer Sun, especially when the houses were close to the railroad tracks and a hundred years old with soot from the old steam engines and coal dust from the three mile long coal trains covering his body and sticking to his sweat.  It reminded him of the old miners who used to walk down the hill past the homestead after shift.  They were all black, except for the white rings around the eyes where they wiped the sweat away and the white stub of a hand rolled cigarette dangling from their lips.  Sam found that to be a romantic image.  Sam had a lot of romantic images in his head.  Things like Saint Sebastian, the human pin cushion.  He was going to take Sebastian as his confirmation name until he found out that Sebastian shared a name day with Fabian, who was a big rock star when Sam was a kid.  So Fabian was Sam's middle name.

Other romantic notions were the starving artist, which he couldn't be while he lived at home.  His mother would cook twelve pork chops for three people and feel bad if there were leftovers.  Tearing roofs off and putting new ones on in the hot sun kept him from getting fat.  Another romantic notion was just religion in general.  Aside from getting shot full of arrows, saints could be really cool, like his favorite, John Chrysostum.  Golden mouth, a lot cooler than silver tongue. Of course, that was before he found out about the guy's contribution to anti-semitism and his smashing up of "pagan" stuff that would probably look real good in a museum if it was still around.

Before his military service, military service was a romantic notion, too.  He didn't think much of it anymore.  Marriage was another one.  He had idealized the institution by ignoring the arguments between his parents and his aunts and uncles.  Harry, however, would end that one.  With ten kids and a wife who didn't know any better, it was pretty obvious to Sam that life wasn't all "Leave it to Beaver".  He didn't want to be cynical, but all of the Catholic literature and the Sunday sermons didn't help.  He tried the Orthodox and the Protestants and the Jews.  Nothing was working.  

Sometimes, you'll have years like that.

It was a Saturday afternoon and he found himself moseying around a second-hand bookstore in the big city (population 75,000, about a hundred times bigger than his town of 800, give or take a hundred, nobody was counting anymore).  He didn't like the fungus crawling up his nose, but there were a lot of interesting reads here.  He left with a rucksack jammed with eighteen volumes of wisdom and amusement.  He had found the complete Vonnegut collection, some stuff on comparative religion (which he hoped might get him out of his spiritual quandary) and a little book on Buddhism called  "Zen Buddhism" by a man with the unlikely name of Christmas Humphreys.  

He spent a couple of days with the comparative religion books, then moved on to Vonnegut.  It was the start of a new semester at the University, but he still hadn't saved enough money, because Harry hadn't paid him the last two thousand.  That would become a story of its own.  I might write it down sometime, just to amuse you.  It probably wouldn't teach you anything, though.  The point  here, was that Sam needed another job.  In an uncanny turn of events, a local college was advertising for a Russian instructor.  Apparently, he was the only one who applied, because he got the job.  He'd studied Russian for nine months, eight hours a day, five days a week, in the military. You don't want to know why.

Now he had time and money.  He got though all the Vonnegut and started on "Zen Buddhism".  It was the beginning of a love affair.  It was actually the beginning of two love affairs.  The college he was teaching at was a Catholic girls' school.  Fox.  Hen house.  Handsome Sam.  Beautiful women.

After Sam was twenty-eight and teaching at a Catholic girls' college, he was sixty and working for a really big, ugly company which thought he made too much money so they fired him.  They called it a "reduction in force" and he was eligible for unemployment compensation, which he didn't need, since he'd learned how to make money in the stock market.  So he gave up on the accidental corporate career and went back to his love affair (the one with Zen, the beautiful woman has since found greener pastures.  She didn't see him becoming a very successful corporate executive.) He also moved to Europe. Paris, London, Berlin, etc. were all too obvious.  He was going to become a starving artist in a small city where he had worked for the big, ugly company before they put him out to pasture.  He was actually going to become a starving Zen artist, but without the starving part, because he had enough money to live comfortably until his retirement funds kicked in.

You might be wondering what happened between 28 and 60.  For one thing, he didn't die, although he had come close a couple of times.  Once, a drunken Russian motorcyclist knocked him over in front of the Kaiserdom in the city of Speyer.  The Kaiserdom was a really old cathedral (dom) where they buried a couple or three German Emperors (Kaiser).  The Russian was stupid.  Sam was unscathed.  The Russian got arrested.  Sam went back to his hotel and drank a lot of Riesling wine, which they made in the area, which was Rheinland-Pfalz and was pretty close to France, which is why Flammkuchen (the French call it Tarte flambé,they would, since French is their national language) was available in almost every restaurant.

Another time Sam almost died was when he was thirteen and the neighbors' German Shepherd followed him and his cousin up the mountain.  They called the dog Hardon, because he always had one.  That day, he tried humping Sam's leg while Sam was standing on the edge of a cliff surveying the valley below for signs of a bear that old Kawliga said he'd seen roaming the woods.  Hardon knocked Sam over the edge with the force of his humping, but Sam grabbed a bush and hung on until his cousin managed to haul him back up.  The cliff was four hundred feet above the valley floor.

Anyway, Sam wasn't dead. He was living in a part of Germany that most American's had never heard of because nobody talked about it in history books.  They talked about Prussia in history books, which is what it was before the day Sam was born which was the same day Prussia ceased to exist by proclamation of the British Occupation Forces.  They did it because Prussians were military-industrial geniuses and liked to built stuff to fight with and then start fights to see how it worked. The British figured without Prussians, things might stay quiet for awhile.

In the old days, even the priests and monks were warriors.  One of the big guys was Wittekind, or Widukind, who was always fighting with Charlemagne and eventually got captured and baptized.  There are statues of him all over the place, with the biggest one over near Detmold, where Sam liked to go and see what the tourists looked like.  But Wittekind, or Widukind, wasn't a Buddhist.  Shinryu Suzuki was.  He was a dead one, but his books were really good for Sam.  They taught him what he didn't learn in business.  It was okay to screw up. You could always do it right the next time you tried.  Sam liked that.

Since he was sixty now, he didn't drink as much as he did when he wasn't sixty and had to drink in a factory where they made implements of death and destruction.  Sam hated martinis and there was no one who ever said "Breakfast of Champions" when serving them like in Vonnegut's book of the same name.  Later on, he had to drink beer after work with his bosses, because three martini lunches had become politically incorrect.  A couple of his buddies had died in horrible car accidents after the happy hour sessions after work and he learned from that.  He also learned that the alcohol free variety of Heffe Weizen was just as tasty as the alcohol laden variety which made him stupid enough to fall in love.  That was when he was sixty.  The happy hour deaths occurred when he was in his thirties or forties.

Nothing much happened in his fifties.  Now he was a writer and a teetotaler and a hiker and a wood carver and a photographer.  Sixty and advancing in age and wisdom although he still didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew  up. Except for maybe a Zen monk, which he already was, although he didn't get transmission from anybody.  He thought he might take a train down to the black forest to Johanneshof, which was a Zen monastery run by an American who got transmission from Suzuki himself. He also thought he might take a train to Warsaw and look around for a woman, but then he remembered the last one and how it took five years to figure out she had actually dumped him soon after their first time together but had nothing better to do so she stuck around to do some hiking and eating and traveling, all of which Sam had been doing alone before he met her and had learned to do alone after she finally found something else to do other than hang around with Sam.

Life was like that, even though it was the result of a run-on sentence.

So Sam now lived in an apartment five stories above the sidewalk and he could look out the window or stand on the balcony and watch the water flow through the moat that used to separate the now nonexistent walls of the city from the enemy, who were mostly French until the Americans came along in 1917 or something like that.  It wasn't a bad place to live, except on weekends, and only then if he wasn't sleeping well.  The young people drank at a disco across the moat from Thursday night to Sunday night and they left in gangs and shifts.  They were loud, but only if you couldn't sleep. You couldn't hear them if you were asleep. You get used to a lot of things when you sleep.

There was a midnight shift, a three in the morning shift, and then the diehards came between five and six. Most of those times, Sam was asleep, unless he had to urinate, which, at sixty, was every three hours.  He timed his sleep on the weekends so that his pissing would be between shifts.

It was a nice apartment, with one big bedroom, one big living room, one small kitchen, a bathroom with a washer and drier in it, and the balcony that looked out on the moat that kept him safe from Frenchmen and barbarians, but not from young drunks.  It was close to everything he needed.  Food, tobacco, coffee, the whole downtown shopping area, the train station.  There was even a whorehouse five minutes away, but he didn't need it.  He swore off women when he realized they were another of those romantic notions I mentioned earlier.  There's nothing wrong with them.  But it's easier being alone when you want to disappear from this time phase and go back to being a kid or a wise old man. Women don't like that, espcially if they're talking to you when you take a powder.

So, once again, Sam was sixty, living in a nice apartment in Wittikindland, alone, sober, and relatively sane, despite his history with women and alcohol and Catholicism.  The one thing he missed was taking long walks with his non-friend who had dumped him but hung around until she found something better.  He particularly missed those parts of the walk where she had to urinate and stepped behind a bush to do so.  He liked looking at her very nice butt when she squatted behind a bush with her pants down.  It was alright, though, since he had that mental image, which would never get fat or grow wrinkles.  Someday, he'd write about that, but this story was about something else. At least, I think it's about something else.  It is.  It's about Zen, which is why it's all over in space and time.  The woman never understood that unless she was squatting behind a bush.  Then she was absolute zen.  So are we all, except that Sam doesn't squat when he pees, expect for when he's home. She taught him to sit on the throne to piss, since he left too much of a trail when he did it from an upright position.  I don't think it was his fault.  German toilets are of a differnt design than American ones, although they look pretty much alike. Most American men wouldn't submit to the humiliation of sitting on the throne to pee.  It doesn't bother Sam. The drunken youth don't bother him. Being dumped five years before knowing it doesn't even bother him anymore.  The only thing that bothers him are the old ladies who ask if they can sit at his table outside the cafe when there are ten others empty and he's trying to read or write.  They're usually looking for a handout or a cigarette and the waiters come over and tell them to scram before Sam gets pissed, which is not a zen-like thing to be, except that it's okay, since the next time, you might not get pissed.

One thing about zen a lot of people think they get, but don't, is the "One Suchness". Here's what the encyclopedia says:
While alive the Buddha referred to himself as  Tathagata , which can mean either "One who has thus come" or "One who has thus gone" [1] , and interpreted correctly can be read as "One who has arrived at suchness". Tathata as a central concept of Buddhism expresses appreciation of the true nature of reality in any given moment. As no moment is exactly the same, each one can be savored for what occurs at that precise time, whether it is thought of as being "good" or "bad".

A lot of people think it means "go with the flow". Sam thought so too, for awhile, but at sixty, he had become the flow.  He had a good idea that the flow was a lot diffent than the going and he knew he had stopped going.  That confused the people he knew at the beginning of the story, most of whom are dead and not really worried about it.  Hardon, the dog, has been dead for years, but his cousin who rescued him from the jaws of death, without having to resort to the jaws of life, but instead, offering him a branch (not olive, but maple), was still alive.  He wondered, from time to time where, and how, Sam was.  So did Sam.  Another person who wondered about Sam was the woman who had dumped him without his noticing five years or more ago who had lately found something or someone better to do.  She thought he was suicidal.  She doesn't understand zen and the small talk of manic-depressive American starving artists.  She doesn't have to.  And anyway, he wasn't starving, just struggling, so from now on, he's a struggling writer, not a starving writer.  Don't let it confuse you, they're not the same thing, although the same people who were confused by Sam's having stopped going were also confused about the difference between starving and struggling.  Sam had always struggled, but he never starved.  He could prove that with the XL and XXL clothes in his closet which he liked too much to throw away, but which looked more like tents than clothes when he tried them on.

Sam had changed alot.  That was the point.  Some old Greek guy said you can't step in the same stream twice.  Sam figured it was once you couldn't step in the same stream.  Flowing water and time, or at least the psychological construct we call time, are pretty much the same, except that time is only wet when it's raining.  It wasn't raining on the day when Sam was becoming the subject of this story about a zen man in a cafe on a Tuesday wondering whether he should get a haircut today or wait another week. It hadn't rained in a couple of days, and sitting in the outdoor cafes had made Sam browner than brown.  He felt good, about sitting outdoors as well as about not having made a decision about a haircut.

That's what Sam called a good day.

He still liked the woman who dumped him for reasons he didn't care to find out, but felt reasonably sure that she could be replaced by a dog, specifically, according to the terms of his rental agreement, a small dog.  Sam never lied nor cheated, so he met the terms of his rental agreement by obtaining a small puppy.  By the time it turned into a big dog, he'd have charmed his landlord into liking it and understanding the subtlety of language. He called the dog Zen Puppy and taught it how to respond to commands in five different languages. Zen Puppy didn't care which languages they were, he was Sam's dog and life was good, so he'd respond.  They got along beautifully.  Sam adopted the German custom of carrying a leash and only using it in emergencies, like when other dogs were in the vicinity.  For the most part, they were on a trail walking around in fields and forests, so Zen Puppy was free to frolic.  When they were in the market square, sitting outside; or in imperfect weather (which was the norm), sitting inside Zen Puppy was tethered to Sam by the leash.  He didn't mind.  Lots of people liked  to feed him the cookies you get with your coffee and Zen Puppy really liked cookies.

One day, in the Summer, when it was really hot and the umbrellas were up over the tables at the cafe in order to shade the patrons and encourage them to stay longer and spend more money (which Sam would do gladly with no encouragement, although he did like the shade) Zen Puppy started barking loudly, which was rare.  He was a well-behaved dog.  Sam looked up from his book and she-who-had-dumped-him was standing there, grinning at him.  This was unexpected.  Sam was perplexed.  They'd had no communication for months and he had put her out of his mind.  It reminded him somewhat of a scene from Camus' "The Stranger".  He couldn't remeber the specifics.  It was deja vu, vu, deja.  He rattled his tongue around in his mouth, trying to find a position where it would work to produce a sensible sentence.  He couldn't find one.  She broke the silence.  "hi", she said.  "Hi", he replied.  "Is this chair free?" she asked, pointed to one next to his as opposed to the one across the table.  He blinked a few times before answering, "Yes."  One syllable words were comforting in this situation.  He might even manage two syllables if she didn't say anything wierd. She did.  It was "Good to see you." Not wierd by normal standards, but in this situation, well you know a bit about Sam.....

Sam was thunderstruck.  He didn't really know what thunderstruck meant, but it seemed appropriate, and he'd always wanted to use the word, if only in an internal dialogue, which was the case.  She sat down and he looked at her.  He reckoned he was still thunderstruck, if that had anything to do with the inability to produce anything more than one ore two syllable words.  "Na, alles klar?" she asked.  He knew that meant "Is eveything ok?" or "How goes it?" or something like that so he answered "Ja." which meant "Doin' fine."  He couldn't think of anything clever to add, so he said "How about you?"  She was fine, her kids were fine; mother, father, etcetera, all were fine. Sam was out of question, so he tried the weather. "Beautiful day." was his starter, and it came out in a way that he knew she'd interpret as one of his oblique criticisms on the state of the planet.  He needed to rejoin the one suchness.  It should be easy enough. He looked at the dog. She looked at the dog.  "When did you get the dog?" she asked.  "I've had him forever." fell out of his head.  "It's only a baby, how could you have had it forever?"

HE: I've always had a dog in my head.
SHE: You've got too much in your head.
HE: Not always, when I don't try too hard, there's nothing.

He was on a roll now.  Familiar ground.

SHE: Still the part-time zen man.  What's the dog's name?
HE: Zen Puppy.
SHE: How's that going to sound when he has a grey muzzle and weighs thirty kilo?

Did I mention she was very pragmatic?

HE:  Good, I think, just right.

She smiled. He liked it when she smiled.  She didn't do it often.  He smiled too.  He was always smiling.  He was a zen man.  She had to get back to work, so she shook his hand and left with the ritual "Wir sehen uns." which meant "We'll see each other again." which was highly probable, given the nature of accident and the smallness of the space-time continuum.

He remembered what he was doing before she showed up and went back at it.  He only had half an hour before the dog had to pee again.  The dog was lucky, it didn't have to squat behind a bush, but it wasn't any fun to watch like she was.  When he sensed it was time for the dog to pee, he put all his accoutrement (used here in the generic sense of accessory,or 'stuff', not clothing) in his rucksack and he and the dog went for a walk. 

The dog was a chick magnet and he was stopped by several pairs (most young people travel in pairs) of too young, too attractive women so they could gush over the cute puppy.  He didn't mind.  After an hour of meandering the ultimately meanderable streets of the city, they went home to eat.  Sam ate precisely two and one half times a day.  The dog ate when he felt like it, which was always.

When Sam was sixty-five and the dog was five, they met her again. This time, he was not thunderstruck.  There was no rush of memories or any of that wishy-washy stuff you get when you're first aware of being dumped.  He hadn't been dumped in five years (he had only actually been dumped by her.  He'd always been the dumper, never the dumpee.  Odd.) He also hadn't been any nearer to a woman than the next table in a cafe or the other side of the dog in five years.  He was a zen man.

Sam and the dog were walking around the big city next to his small city.  She was too.  They said hello and all of the other things you're supposed to say and it was pretty much like the last time, except it was Christmas instead of Summer and she didn't have to get back to work.  They went to the Weinachtsmarkt together, which is a little village of fake rustic cabins where you can buy Christmas stuff.  The goods vary from town to town, but there's always gluhwein, which is hot, spiced red wine.  She like gluhwein, so they went to the gluhwein booth and stood among the Christmas shoppers. She drank gluhwein and Sam and the dog watched her. They talked about the content of the last five years.  Sam said he didn't have much to report, it was like it always was, except that the dog didn't eat shoes anymore and Sam hadn't had a drop of alcohol since...he didn't finish his sentence and turned the table over to her.  She'd done some interesting things, but since she's supposed to be a minor character, I won't report them in this story.  I'll write another one, just about her, five years from this one.

It ended with merry christmas, greetings to all, wir sehen uns, and the obligatory handshake.  End chapter.

Sam had actually done a lot of interesting things in those five years.  One of them had to do with a trip to Peenemunde on the island of Usedom in the Baltic.  Peenemunde is where the research and testing of the V-1 flying bomb and the V-2 rocket were done during WW II.  It's prominent in literature such as Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow", where I first encountered the name.

He met an old man there who knew a few of the scientists and their afternoon in a cafe gave Sam enough notes for a Peenemunde novel of his own, which started with a couple from Bielefeld (home of the world famous railway viaduct which refused to fall under hundreds of tons of allied bombs) taking a New Year's Eve trip to the island for a romantic Silwester (that would be New Years Eve). It was a parody of the abortive plan she (the minor character) had made for them the year that she officially dumped him on December 27th.  It didn't work in the context of the rest of the book, so he had to cut it out and turn it into a short story, which I will write when I'm done with this one.

Sam was a better writer than he thought, and the book cranked up his monthly website hits from a little over one thousand to a lot over four thousand.  He felt pretty good about that.

Something else that happened in those five years was the discovery of a memory from when Sam was twenty-five (which, technically can't be a part of a story that starts when he was twenty-eight.  I won't tell anybody, if you won't) and walking through the woods behind the  university with his dog. This was a long time before Zen Puppy was born.  This dog's name was Wiser.  And he was.  Than Sam, anyway.  You can say that because Sam's hormones were stirring up a lot of complications in his life and Wiser had his under control.  On this particular walk, Wiser was in the lead.  He wanted Sam to see this pretty little farm house at the foot of the mountain.  Wiser didn't know a beautiful woman with two sons and no husband lived there.  He just knew it was pretty.  He had found it a few weeks ago when Sam had parked him outside of the cafe and he decided to go for a walk without Sam.  It was a good walk.  He met a couple of other dogs, got some good information about pretty things to see, and headed for the closest one, which was this farm house.  He liked it and went back to the cafe to tell Sam about it.  Sam was done talking about philosophy with the Greek and Italian physicists he met every day at the cafe and let Wiser lead the way.

When they got there, Sam was stupefied (Sam likes this word too).  The view was even better than the dog fortold.  Hanging laundry on the clothesline in the backyard was the beautiful blond Sam had been ogling in the cafe for over a year without having a clue how to approach her.  Now, he would have to figure it out.

He did, but that story's too long to fit in this one, so Sam's got to get out of his reverie and work on the present, which is, strangely enough, now.

Since the title of the story is Zen Puppy, Sam and Zen Puppy need to spend some quality time trotting through fields and woods together.  This part happened on the A3, a rundwanderweg (that would be loop trail in American) just to the Northwest of the city (that's the upperleft on a map for those of you who don't do compasses).  I mentioned before that on Sunday, whole families, whole villages, even, take an obligatory walk.  Only death, war, famine, or other bad stuff like clouds or a stiff breeze are allowed to interfere with this tradition.  Our heroes were about five kilometers into their loop, past the Guinea Pig Ranch (where scores of little piggies sit, eat, and do other non-strenuous activities in a big, fenced in garden) and heading towards the village where Sam would usually make a wrong choice and end up circling the village two or three times, adding an hour or two to his trek. It didn't make any difference, of course, if you'll remember, he's unemployed, except as a struggling artist. About two kilometers from the village, they met an old, yellow-haired dog going the other way without it's human. Sam thought it looked confused and was pretty sure of it when the old fellow got into the traffic lane to avoid Sam but met a Volkswagen intead. Fortunately, the driver was paying more attention than the dog.  The dog shook it off, and kept going.

Just outside the village, Zen Puppy insisted on taking Sam into the center of it.  Sam knew the trail didn't go through the village, but it was still pretty early and the two hours it would probably add to the trek didn't bother him.  A couple of hundred meters farther on, a rather hectic looking woman and her teen-aged daughter asked if they had seen a dog.  Sam described the dog he'd seen, which was the one they were looking for, and gave them the dog's coordinates when last seen. They started running.  That was the last they'd see of the yellow dog or its worried females.  The rest of the walk was uneventful. Except for the large diameter of the circle they made around the village before they found the way back to the city, it had been pleasant.

They were sitting outside the cafe.  Sam was drinking an apple juice spritzer (apfel scholer) and Zen Puppy a bowl of water when an ancient hag took one of the vacant chairs at their table and started to chat about the weather.  Sam tried to concentrate on filling up the pages of his journal, but she wouldn't let him.  She finally got tired of small talk and came to the point.  She could use a couple of Euros and a cigarette.  Sam was smoking a pipe and didn't have any cigarettes and he said so.  She asked for Euros again, but Sam was saved from contributing by the waiter who shooed her away and told not to come back again if she was going to disturb his customer.  After that, it was peaceful and I wrote this story.  Aside from a lot of it, it's true.
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