You pose him, your child, with the dog, the puppy,
the one your wife insisted you buy for him, your child,
your only son. You stand back. Your wife counts down
from three. Your child smiles in such an unnatural way
like he learned to do it from an instructional manual.
Something about this unnerves you. The posing. The
stilted smile. You made this child, your only son, and
he's five feet removed from you and his face is unnatural,
a caricature of joy. The puppy barks once. It echoes in the small
living room, and you can't help but think of this photo
as a marker, another tangible step closer to your own death.
You reframe. You say this is a moment. This is something to
cherish. This is something to look back on. Your wife says
good boy and scratches the puppy behind the ears.
She kisses your child, your only son, on the forehead.
But, of course, one day this dog will die. With any luck, you, your wife, and your only son will live to see this day and this moment
will reemerge and your wife will say he was a good boy and your
son will say he was so small and you'll feel this same dread -- the posing, the stilted smile -- you'll feel it all fresh. How many tiny tragedies can a man anticipate? How many tiny tragedies
can a man endure?