My old dog's name is Runner, though his running days are almost over now. I got him from my little brother, the one you don't know about.
The first time I met my little brother he was already 12 years old. I was 21. Right from the start, we were like that. Mirror images. He was my brother from a different mother. That's what we said. He was my brother on the other side of things.
My father was mean to him. I saw that right away, as it was an all-too-familiar vibe. I had been clear of the guy for years, and so his confounding anger toward me had simmered down to whatever, a much better state of affairs. I was actually well on my way to forgetting the SOB when the business of some old girlfriend of his dropping their 12 year old son on his doorstep rocked what was left of the family.
I drove cross-state to meet the kid and see what shit the old man was causing. I'm not sure what I expected, but I soon sensed the old tension and fear still permeating the house. It was like stale cigarettes. It was like a ticking clock. The house was older of course, and he wasn't keeping it up either. It seemed sad to me, as sad as the Pennsylvania hill town where it stood, crumbling in on itself, off the main road, near the creek and the broken down mill.
I liked my new brother though. He was tougher than me. He played ice hockey and smoked weed. On my second visit to see my brother, for Christmas that year, I stopped on the way and bought him the dog.
The shelter called him a lab mix, nothing else, and he was about a year old when I got him. He had a ton of energy. My brother's the one who named him Runner. My father kicked it during dinner. I called him an asshole and he threw me out of his house. On the way home I stopped in a bar and got drunk. I met a woman who read my palm and told me I would die in two years.
Eleven years later I was somehow still running. I saw my brother more often then. We both lived in Philly, though on opposite sides of the city. He was 23 and I was 32, and we both had live-in girlfriends that my father hated. His girlfriend was much older than him, my age, and mine was much younger, his age. Mirror images.
The last time I saw my brother was just before Christmas and we had dinner together. We made plans to give the old man another try by driving back out there for Christmas. He invited us. My brother wanted us to go there alone, without our girlfriends. Why antagonize the motherfucker, he said. But I insisted. He needs to see who we are. Besides, he isn't worth the shit I'll get if I leave my girlfriend home on Christmas.
My brother said he would get some drugs to help us get through the day, but he was killed during the drug deal. We buried him on Christmas Day instead. I ended up with Runner here.