Don’t get me wrong. I love humans (most of the time), and I know they’re often (not always) intelligent. However, they have a blind spot when it comes to other animals. I say “other” animals because humans are animals, like me and you and other creatures. For some inexplicable reason, humans make-believe they’re special, with their fancy language and culture and money and politics and war…it’s endless. Many don’t even believe in evolution and think that God made them separately. I don’t really care how special humans think they are. What galls me – I’m an English Bulldog and proud of it! – is that when Helen, my owner, had this story ( the very one you are reading now) critiqued in a writing workshop, and they said I, being a dog, should speak like an illiterate baboon, or some such absurdity (are baboons less than dogs?). Can you believe it! What ignorance! What literary snobs!
“No dog would speak or think like I do,” they said.
Really? But I wrote this short story entirely myself. Yea for me!
Well, they’re right in one sense: I can’t mimic human words like a parrot can (by the way, parrots are extremely intelligent birds, so much for the prejudice of ‘bird brain’), but I assume that’s an anatomical issue, not one of intelligence or sophistication. I have a larynx, as do humans, but the structure of my vocal track – pharynx and tongue and lips, the whole nine yards – doesn’t work in quite the same way as it does in humans, though I’m no scientist. I’m a dog and, of course, have a dog voice, not a human voice. But, hey, that’s just veneer stuff. I understand what humans say (at least what they mean), while they often don’t understand me (sometimes they guess right) when I bark or whine or make whatever sounds to communicate. They just repeat like an idiot robot, “Mister Pushkin (more about my name in a moment) wants to go out to pee,” or, “he’s hungry,” or, “he needs some attention,” when I might be saying that rain is forecast for this afternoon, so don’t forget your umbrella when we go for a walk, or something like that. What dummies, these humans!
I resent being dismissed as child-like or naïve or a “lower” creature – less evolved – than a human. If you’re incapable of reading this story, which I consider a fine piece of literature, as if it were written by an educated dog, no less than a sophisticated human, please put it aside. There’s nothing lowbrow in how I think or express myself in writing (I hunt and peck with my left paw – my dominant paw) on the computer keyboard. So, there you are: I can think and write like a human (as well as in dog terms, which humans can’t), but I can’t pronounce words as humans do (I’ve tried, but no go), which saddens me and leaves a melancholy streak of being isolated from Helen and other people. Now that I’ve cleared that up, I hope you’re ready to appreciate my relating a slice of life in a dog’s universe.
But first, about my name. I bet you wonder why I’m called Mister Pushkin. Pushkin would be weird enough, but why Mister Pushkin? It’s due largely (not entirely) to Helen’s husband, Bud (his real name is Harold, but everyone calls him Bud since he won a beer-drinking contest as a teenager sponsored by Budweiser). When Helen brought me home from the kennel at 10 weeks of age, Bud said, “He’s cute, Helen, I’ll give you that, but he’s ugly – squat, hardly anything for a tail, and no snout to speak of. He’s never going to win blue in dog shows. Admit it. Every dog you’ve had has been a champion. This little guy at least needs a respectable name to give him dignity. He isn’t going to set the world on fire with perfection.”
“How can you say that, Bud? You have no idea what this dog will be like when he grows up.” Helen sounded hurt.
Bud blushed. He knew she was right and admitted he was being harsh. He paused a moment and then suggested, “How about calling him Pushkin, the great Russian poet? That’s a dignified name, and certainly original for a dog.”
“Maybe,” she said with hesitation. “Interesting, but I’m afraid not many people today know who Pushkin was. Nineteenth-century Russian poets aren’t exactly in vogue these days.” After a moment of reflection, she looked concerned and added, “If his name is Pushkin, do you think judges will think of his face as Pushed-In?”
“Now who thinks this puppy is ugly, Helen?”
Her face turned red this time. “Okay, let’s call him Pushkin. It’s growing on me. But how about adding Mister to his name to give him a nudge of extra status?”
“Good idea,” Bud said. “Mister Pushkin. I like it!”
And so, I became Mister Pushkin, quite different from Thunder, which is what the kennel people called me before Helen bought me. To be honest, I like Thunder better than Mister Pushkin, which I find pretentious. Also, I don’t understand a word of Russian, although that may not matter. Thunder, on the other hand, sounds…I don’t know…powerful…like nature declaring ‘don’t mess with me’ in a universal language.
Anyway, I appreciate the thought that Helen and Bud put into my name, but honestly, Pushkin? I Googled him and read one of his famous poems, Remembrance. It’s about looking back when old and feeling like a failure. Is that what Bud had in mind for me? Listen to the ending; it’s depressing.
…And Memory before my wakeful eyes
With noiseless hand unwinds her lengthy scroll.
Then, as with loathing, I peruse the years,
I tremble, and I curse my natal day,
Wail bitterly, and bitterly shed tears,
But cannot wash the woeful script away.
Frankly, being alive is enough for me…yet…well…there’s something noble about having a purpose in life greater than oneself, and then, if you’re really lucky, accomplishing some of it. It doesn’t need to be heroic, just something you respect. Funny, how a casual comment (like Bud calling me ugly) or a random happening (like looking up Pushkin’s poem) can weave into the tapestry of one’s thoughts and life. Whether I’m ugly or beautiful (at least for Bulldog enthusiasts), part of me felt ugly (and still does) the moment Bud said that I was ugly, and another part of me felt that I needed to find a purpose in life (not just adopt my owner’s purpose to win dog shows) when I read Remembrance.
My problem, however, isn’t my looks. Pretty or not, it’s Helen’s obsession with winning dog shows. She owns me, which means I’m her slave. What a contrast with my caretakers in the kennel before she bought me. They were laid-back, friendly types, who cuddled and petted me constantly, saying sweet things, like, “you’re the most adorable little puppy I ever saw,” and, “I wish I could keep you forever.” Although I was adorable (false modesty is hardly modesty), their fawning over me was bullshit (excuse the vulgarity), since they could have kept me forever; no one was making them sell me.
Helen’s appearance was like a comet crashing through the planet’s atmosphere. It shattered my world. I knew right away that life wouldn’t be a bowl of cherries anymore if she bought me. Her first words were, “He’s a w-i-n-n-e-r! I’ll make him a blue-ribbon dog – a champion of champions. I’ll take him.” That said, she turned away (never even petted me) and went to the business of buying me.
Nonetheless, I was thrilled that she liked me right off the bat, and that made me like her despite it all. But I sensed something off kilter, not quite right. I smelled desperation on her part (dogs often think through their noses). I wasn’t against winning. I’m as vain as any other dog; it was Helen’s urgency (win or bust) that worried me. She didn’t seem to care how cute – adorable – I was. Wasn’t just being me enough, at least at first? Winning? Winning what? Blue for first place? I don’t have a favorite color. Maybe no color at all is okay with me.
I was about three months old the first time I witnessed Helen’s obsession of winning. She was wearing a blue dress, not pale blue or sickly off blue, but a rich, pure, dark blue, which matched the blue of the first prize ribbons that lined the wall next to the fireplace in the living room. I was lying on the plush shag rug, minding my own business, next to the left arch (being left-pawed I’m partial to the left) of the knotty pine rocking chair in front of the TV. Helen was rocking the chair back and forth as if the arched rockers were blades of speed skates racing in the Olympics. It felt good as the wood rubbed my side gently, and I absorbed the radiant warmth from the fire. Those were the days! I often dozed off now and then, but Helen’s exclamations always woke me up. She was continually tense as she fixated on the TV, her clenched hands white from the pressure of squeezing her fingers together, as if that would help Twitter – a decadent (at least in my opinion) toy French Poodle – win Best in Show. A toy French Poodle, can you imagine? A toy!
“Come-on, Twitter, come-on baby doll, lift your head, raise those front paws, prance, you can do it girl, you can do it,” she mumbled. Helen didn’t know or care about Twitter; she just latched on to one of the dogs and claimed it as her own. “Be PERFECT,” she said, with exaggerated sincerity. Helen asked the indifferent TV, “What’s the problem, judge, you dumb-ass, can’t you see she’s the best when she’s wagging her tail in front of you?” It was the same – predictable – with each dog show she watched.
Bud too had his rituals. His favorite was beer-drenched rambling and guttural grunts being an arm-chair coach during the Sunday afternoon football games, while Helen played canasta with her lady friends in the next room. Helen and Bud lived in different universes in the same house and slept in the same bed at night. She was driven to win, period, whether it was a card game or a dog show; winning was her bottom line of whatever she did. Bud didn’t seem to care about winning. As for the football games, he said the same thing each Sunday: “It’s just a game, win or lose.” Maybe he felt frustrated with his lack of accomplishments, like the narrator in Remembrance, and ignoring competition made it impossible to lose.
People are such creatures of habit!
Although I don’t agree with Bud that competitions are frivolous, I still believe I’m more like him than like Helen. I don’t care which dog wins Best in Show, and I’m happy to sink into the soft rug, soak in the warmth from the fire, and drift in and out of sleep. Life is short (especially for a dog), so I might as well please myself when I can.
Hold on for a minute. What kind of tinted lens am I looking through? Am I dishonest or just lacking insight? I’m sure Bud cares which football team wins whatever he says, and, of course, I want to win first place in dog shows, not just for Helen (although that’s important), but for myself. I’m more than her slave. Being adorable isn’t enough for me. My life is complex and conflicted. I want to please Helen, even when she gets mad at me (usually unfairly), but I want accomplishments of my own. I am ambitious to win those damn dog shows, yet I am lazy and love relaxing by the fire without a care in the world. And I can’t deny that I desire a sexy bitch friend (what male doesn’t?). Human companionship is fine, but I’m a dog, and dogs need dogs.
I also wish I could do something worthwhile instead of feeling guilty so often for not helping anyone. I don’t expect to save the world, but it would be…heartwarming… to be appreciated for more than looking pretty. I want a legacy greater than a few blue ribbons saved in Helen’s scrapbook.
Face it, I’m almost human! Pretend to be me as I tell you about my experience in a dog show.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the final event of the West Virginia State Canine Championship,” crackles the high-pitched microphone. The words bounce off the walls of the freshly painted brown barn. Every year it’s the same. Mister Samuels puts the cows to pasture and converts the barn for the show. He always adds bleachers, puts hay on the floor for atmosphere, and has fluorescent lights on the ceiling to make the event festive. It’s covered by local television in Morgantown, making this a big deal in West Virginia on the last weekend of April.
From my viewpoint, it gets monotonous and scary at the same time. I feel if I so much as slouch for a moment or scratch myself at the wrong time I’m in big trouble. The whole state is staring at me, and I worry that I’m as ugly as Bud thinks I am, or at least thought so at first. Helen expects me to win Best of Show, as usual, as her other dogs have done. Her anxiety rubs off on me. I feel that I’m carrying the weight of the world on my back – God help me – although I realize that it’s just another dog show that will soon blend with all the others. It makes me wonder whether my worth varies with the result of each dog show, or am I worth the average of my results in all the dog shows?
These crazy judgmental situations make me think of such nonsense.
The microphone rattles on, “The 14 dogs, each remarkable for their breed, have won their individual group championships, and will now compete for Best in Show. Please give a round of applause to our judge, Ms. Shelly Landers.”
Ms. Landers was Helen’s biology teacher in high school. It’s all quite incestuous.
Oh, please, stop all the talking and let’s get started. How long can I stand spread eagle, all fours stretched beyond reason, my hairy chin and cropped tail (meaning no tail to speak of) reaching in vain for the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. I can’t help thinking of Helen’s outbursts about Twitter some months ago as I wait for Shelly, Ms. Landers, to inspect me. I turn my short neck to scratch my back with my teeth (oops, I shouldn’t have done that) and am struck with how imperfect I am. Also, I think of how boring I must be to look at, with short brown hair that can’t be spun into a fancy hairdo, like Twitter and many other competitors have. I hate feeling the roll of fat against my truncated nose as I scratch myself, which makes me snort with strange sounds and drip saliva. I wish I looked like those four-legged beauties of Helen that won those blue ribbons that are pinned on the wooden wall in the living room. I must appear like a mutant. Everyone will laugh at me, especially if I’m not seen at ground level, and no one gets that low. I’m an aerial view for the judge.
Never mind, I beg myself. I’m an English Bulldog, a proud lineage, and the first Bulldog that Helen and Bud ever had, so it must be an adjustment for them as well.
I never knew Helen’s dogs that got all those blue ribbons, but I’ve seen their pictures around the house. Wow! That’s some competition for me. I was bought after the tragic death of Sunflower, an Irish Setter that ran in front of a truck. I guess she wasn’t as bright as she was pretty. Anyway, Sunflower’s rust-colored hair looks soft and glows in the picture, but she seems somewhat emaciated. I wonder what it would feel like to rub my muzzle against her. Fireball, a sleek Golden Retriever, was another one of Helen’s blue-ribbon wonders. His pictures are sprinkled throughout the house. I especially like the photograph of when he won the West Virginia State Canine Championship, the dog show that I’m in right now. My favorite picture, however, is the one in which he is flying through a hoop of fire as if he’s some kind of God or bird or mythological creature. Fireball was a champion at obedience as well as being a perfect physical specimen: he was Perfectly Perfect you might say. He made Helen happy and proud. What does that make me? Less than kindling in the fireplace, a fluttering flame on the edge of extinction.
Oh, here comes the judge.
“Hello, Helen. So, this is Pushkin that you’ve been telling me about,” said Ms. Landers with a smile of questionable sincerity.
“Mister Pushkin,” corrected Helen. She slipped me one of those tasty little tidbits as a bribe to behave, or else! “He’s our little gem.”
There she goes calling me little again. I may be on the small side for a bulldog, but I’m still in the normal range: not too tall, boxlike, straight legs. I’m more compact than small, but my perfection depends on the judge proclaiming it. She defines me today.
I can feel Helen’s anxiety.
Oh, God, there she goes slipping her sweaty fingers between my back legs and pressing my, well, you know what. It’s so embarrassing, especially in public on TV. Men judges are more discreet in that area. I wish I had a long tail like most dogs to swat her away. Ouch! Not so hard, Ms. Landers. You don’t have to lift my backside. Can’t you just use your eyes? That’s what they’re for.
“What a cutie! I love those ears. See how they go out to the side and then just flop over,” comes a feminine voice floating from the audience.
Is she talking about me? I bet it’s that pretty blond girl with curls in the second row.
“Yeah, I suppose,” said the boy next to her, the fuzz on his upper lip glistening with beer foam. Teenagers! “But Bulldogs are kind of degenerate, know what I mean? They’re accidents of nature as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “They’re not cuddly or heroic looking, and certainly not cute.”
“But they’re so distinctive, and I hear they have a heart of gold, really affectionate. I like that,” retorted the blond.
I like that girl! She has a sweet voice, and she’s right, I do have a heart of gold, but that doesn’t help me get a blue ribbon. Actually, I’m too nice. For example, most dogs would throw a fit when they get a bath and scrubbed to death, whether they like it or not. It’s more like being molested than cleaned. But I just bear with it and don’t complain. They mean well. And now, being poked and pinched and buffed just so some two-bit judge, who doesn’t know anything about what it’s like to be an English Bulldog, can look me over and decide what I’m worth. Top dog? Maybe. Who cares? Helen does. Why don’t I ever protest? I just go along with everything.
I’m too nice.
Ah, that feels good when Shelly squeezes my toes and rubs my shins. I have good legs. Uh-oh, there go her fingers in my mouth. Yes, Ms. Landers, those are teeth and if you get saliva all over yourself, don’t blame me. I didn’t ask you to stick your thick hand in there.
“Just a few more minutes, Mister Pushkin,” Helen whispered in my ear.
I think the judge heard that. Her eyes flicked in my direction for a split second and she’s emitting a new odor. Her smell has changed from sweet musky orange to a bitter, stronger, acrid orange, not quite lemon, more like grapefruit. Hard to get the right fruit so a human would understand a distinctive odor no dog could mistake. I think that Helen doesn’t have confidence in my ability to remain patient during my humiliation, but she needn’t be. I can be steady as a rock if I have to. But it’s too early to tell how this is going to turn out. I remember once when the judge hardly looked at me, I won blue, and another time I was bounced after the judge gave me what appeared to be super-duper consideration. Judges are impossible to read. I think they want you to think you’re out of it when they plan to make you Best in Show, or make you think you’re the best, that you walk on water, when they know they’re going to eliminate you. Judges love to abuse their power, to control your mind, so to speak. Well, they certainly have power.
I wish I could tell Helen everything’s all right, win or lose. Poor Helen. Being a Bulldog makes it difficult to communicate with human beings, at least past the superficial nonsense of licking here and there, or sniffing between their legs. Actually, sniffing can be quite painful when your nose is as sensitive as mine. Licking is better.
I hate all the waiting as the judge goes around inspecting each one of us.
Finally, it looks like she’s ready to move ahead.
“I want Charlie, Babs, Doughboy, Number One and Mister Pushkin to come forth. The others may leave now,” said Ms. Landers, looking stern, like the commander of a great naval ship ordering her men to prepare for battle.
Number One! That’s sick. Does that mean piss, or does it mean he’s better than everybody else? Number One does look pretty nifty though, for a Doberman, that is. Mean looking critter. I better behave or Number One will eat me for lunch.
Helen looks happy. I’m in the final five, and now she gets to parade me around a bit. She loves to do that. I’m happy when she’s happy.
“Please walk Babs up and down the runway,” commanded the judge.
I never liked Poodles, but Babs, WOW, she really does something to me. I think she noticed me from the corner of her eye. She’s a pro. Look at those furry legs dance; I’d like to get my paws around those groomed poles! She’s got class and, I don’t know, great pheromones! Maybe French Poodles aren’t as bad as I thought. At least she’s not a toy, like Twitter. No sir, she’s got mass.
“Thank you. Very nice, Babs, very nice.”
Nice? Ms. Landers thinks Babs is “nice?” Babs is history.
“Doughboy please. Your turn,” said the judge.
Doughboy? Blubberboy is more like it. He ought to be rolled down the runway. How does a freak like that Bassett Hound make it to the final five? What’s the point of all my dieting if a vacuum cleaner can get to the finals as well? Life is unfair! If he wins, they’ll probably celebrate with a dozen glazed doughnuts. Yuk. The whole thing makes me sick. Good God, there’s another fart drifting from plushy Doughboy. Lucky thing for people they can’t smell worth a darn. Some of them wouldn’t smell a turd if they were squishing it.
Hey, what’s all that commotion? What’s going on in the grandstand? Everyone’s standing by the aisle looking concerned.
“Move aside, please, the gentleman needs help. Let me help you up, sir,” said the usher. “I’ll get your cane. It bounced down a couple of steps. Here it is. Steady now. Don’t rush. Are you hurt?”
“Not at all. Just embarrassed,” said the gentleman. “Thank you. I didn’t realize there was another step. I counted them on the way down, but I guess I missed one. My mistake. Sorry about the popcorn all over the aisle.”
What’s a blind man doing at a dog show?
“Never mind about the popcorn, sir. I’ll help you to your seat and then get you some more. Let me see your ticket. There you go. Third row, seat 17. Be careful.”
“Thank you. My son will get me soon. Goldy, his Golden Retriever, is in the obedience competition. Wish I could see it, but I like just being here, sensing the dogs. Blind people have that ability – sensing things that can’t see. I love dogs, always did. I’m getting a seeing eye dog next month. Can’t wait. A German Shepherd. His name is Shakespeare – a beauty, or so they say. Thanks again.”
Why is Helen yanking my leash? Stop it; you’re hurting me. I may be a muscle ball, but still…
“Mister Pushkin, please, get some life in you,” said Helen. “The judge has called you twice. What’s distracting you? Do I have to drag you? She wants to see you walk,” she pleaded.
Okay, okay. I’m coming. Poor guy. Blind. Was he blind at birth? I wonder if he can see anything, even a little bit, a faint light perhaps. If not, life must be black all over for him. Why is it always German Shepherds that get to do the important stuff, like being a seeing-eye dog, or a police dog, or just about anything people care about? They’re prefabricated icons. Lassie, the Rough Collie is their only competition. What’s the use if you’re a Bulldog?
“C’mon, Mister Pushkin, lift those legs! Hold your head up! Prance! You look like an ironed rug,” Helen whispered.
Man, she’s angry. I do feel like an ironed rug. She got that one right.
“Bring him back, you’ve gone far enough,” said Ms. Landers.
“That’s better. Please, give it what you’ve got. Look sharp for mommy,” Helen begged. She looks desperate. I hate when she calls herself mommy. Helen’s not my mother.
She’s too big, and certainly no dog, but I do love her, sort of. She does own me. I guess that means I kind of own her, at least a little bit. I never knew my mommy. It’s confusing sometimes, not knowing where you belong or who your parents are, who to be loyal to.
I wonder what it’s like to be blind? It must be claustrophobic, like being in a closed cage at night and bumping into bars: trapped, jailed, no way out, black on black.
What a great name, Shakespeare. Not Mister Shakespeare. It seems ridiculous, being Mister Pushkin. Isn’t just plain Pushkin enough? I wouldn’t have to be a Mister to be validated by some judge if I was a seeing-eye dog.
But…well, I hate to admit it, but the week you’re knighted as top dog feels pretty good. If I win this thing, will Helen elevate my name to Sir Mister Pushkin? Winning blue is very different from feeling blue. And then Helen is so up the whole week when I win. She just buzzes around like a happy bee.
“Thank you, Mister Pushkin, Helen,” Ms. Landers said. “Finally, Charlie, front and center please. Up and down the runway once.”
Forget about it, Charlie. You’re boring and you know it. Why don’t you go home and be a good pet?
“Shh, Charlie. No! Quiet,” begged the young man accompanying the scrunchy Daschund.
“Shut up, will you? Sorry, judge. Good boy,” said Charlie’s trainer, as he slipped the noisy dog a biscuit.
Maybe I judged Charlie too quickly. Daschunds are sneaky. Watching those stubby little legs zip along like a wind-up robot makes me feel like a gazelle. Well, it’s all relative, I guess, except for German Shepherds. They’re in a league of their own.
“Please walk Charlie up and down the runway once more,” requested the judge.
Uh-oh. Sounds serious. Better not get your hopes up though, Charlie. She may be just looking for a good excuse to can you. It’s that power play again.
“Thank you,” said Ms. Landers, and then she moved to the central table to announce her verdict.
I can feel Helen trembling through the leash. Best of Show, top dog, top dog-owner! She can sense it. Any minute now…
Yes! Ms. Landers is pointing in my direction.
Blue! Blue! Yes! The sky and deep blue sea! True blue. Helen, I did it! Okay, we did it. Yes! What? Why is Babs going towards the judge? Everyone’s clapping. Babs? She’s prancing, more like strutting, I would say. I didn’t win? Why can’t those judges learn to point their fingers in a straight line? Are their fingers crooked due to arthritis? They are old enough. No, it’s the power privilege. They’re such a tease. It’s like that all-important phone call one craves. One waits. Then ring, ring. Yes, finally. Hello. This is Mister Pushkin. Did I win the lottery? Oh. Sorry. You have the wrong number.
Maybe next time. Yes, maybe next time. Perhaps.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve never cared about anything.
“How did Mister Pushkin do, dear? Do you have another blue ribbon for the wall?” asked Bud, as soon as we entered the house.
“Got red. Damn it. We were so close. Mister Pushkin just blanked out before the walk. I don’t know what happened. He looked distracted, uncaring. Hard to figure.”
Second place was all over her red face. She clenched her jaw, her eyes lasers shooting bullets of light past Bud, as if he didn’t exist. Past me. Past reality.
“Damn it!” she mutters again.
Life can be ironic. I was laughing about Number One, and I end up Number Two. It does hurt, earning red, being number two. Oh, what the hell. It’s blue or failure, unless Helen says it isn’t. Or, unless you’re a German Shepherd. I wonder what would happen to me if Helen went blind?
There she goes into the garden to fiddle with her flowers. Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle. Helen always does that when I don’t win blue, after her fit that is. She’ll get over it. She always does. Anyway, you can say what you want, but Babs was really something. No dog would disagree, at least no male dog.
I’ll have to wait until Helen finishes with her flowers to get my dinner tonight. So what? I’m not hungry. At least not too hungry. Not yet.
I wonder how that blind guy is doing. If he was born blind, he wouldn’t know blue from red, or any other color. It wouldn’t matter. His blue would be being able to see, and I don’t think he’ll ever get that.
If I were his seeing-eye dog, I wouldn’t let him fall down. That would be my Remembrance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
During his 50-year research career at the National Institutes of Health, Joram Piatigorsky has published some 300 scientific articles and a book, Gene Sharing and Evolution (Harvard University Press, 2007), lectured worldwide, received numerous research awards, including the prestigious Helen Keller Prize for vision research, served on scientific editorial boards, advisory boards and funding panels, and trained a generation of scientists. Presently an emeritus scientist and writer, he collects Inuit art, is Vice-Chairperson on the Board of Directors of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda. He blogs at his website (Joramp. com), has published personal essays in Lived Experience and Adelaide Literary Magazine, a novel, Jellyfish Have Eyes (IPBooks, 2014). He has published the following books with the present publisher, Adelaide Books: a memoir, The Speed of Dark (2018), two collections of short stories, The Open Door and Other Tales of Love and Yearning (2019) and Notes Going Underground (2019). His short story, Not for Everyone, was a 2019 shortlist winner nominee, and his short story, The Optimist, won the 2020 Adelaide Literary Competition. He has two sons, five grandchildren, and lives with his wife in Bethesda, Maryland.