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2006-07-23 16:32

  Afreezing downpour washed the black asphalt1 street in front of the small-town bar. I sat gazing into the watery darkness, alone as usual. Across the rain-drenched2 roadway was the town park: five acres of grass, giant elm trees and, tonight, an ankle-deep covering of cold water.

  I had been in that battered3 old pub for half an hour, quietly nursing4 a drink, when my thoughtful stare finally focused on a medium-sized lump5 in a grassy puddle6 a hundred feet away. For another ten minutes, I looked out through the tear-streaked7 windowpane trying to decide if the lump was an animal or just a wet and inanimate8 something.

  The night before, a German shepherd looking mongrel9 had come into the bar begging for potato chips. He was mangy10 and starving and just the size of the lump in question. Why would a dog lie in a cold puddle in the freezing rain? I asked myself. The answer was simple: Either it wasn't a dog, or if it was, he was too weak to get up.

  The shrapnel11 wound in my right shoulder ached all the way down to my fingers. I didn't want to go out in that storm. Hey, it wasn't my dog; it wasn't anybody's dog. It was just a stray on a cold night in the rain,a lonely drifter12.So am I,I thought, as I tossed down13 what was left of my drink and headed out the door.

  He was lying in three inches of water. When I touched him,he didn't move. I thought he was dead. I put my hands around his chest and hoisted14 him to his feet. He stood un steadily in the puddle, his head hung like a weight at the end of his neck. Half his body was covered with mange. His floppy15 ears were just hairless pieces of flesh dotted with open sores.

  " Come on," I said, hoping I wouldn't have to carry his infected carcass16 to shelter. His tail wagged once and he plodded17 weakly after me. I led him to an alcove18 next to the bar, where he lay on the cold cement and closed his eyes.

  A block away I could see the lights of a late-night convenience store. It was still open. I bought three cans of Alpo and stuffed them into my leather coat. I was wet and ugly and the clerk looked relieved as I left. The race-type exhausts on my old Harley-Davidson rattled19 the windows in the bar as I rode back to the bar.

  The barmaid opened the cans for me and said the dog's name was Shep. She told me he was about a year old and that his owner had gone to Germany and left him on the street. He ate all three cans of dog food with an awe-inspiring20 singleness of purpose. I wanted to pet him, but he smelled like death and looked even worse." Good luck," I said, then got on my bike and rode away.

  The next day I got a job driving a dump truck for a small paving company. As I hauled21 a load of gravel22 through the center of town, I saw Shep standing on the sidewalk near the bar. I yelled to him and thought I saw his tail wag. His reaction made me feel good.

  After work I bought three more cans of Alpo and a cheeseburger. My new friend and I ate dinner together on the sidewalk. He finished his first.

  The next night, when I brought his food, he welcomed me with wild enthusiasm. Now and then, his malnourished23 legs buckled24 and he fell to the pavement. Other humans had deserted him and mistreated him, but now he had a friend and his appreciation was more than obvious.

  I didn't see him the next day as I hauled load after load up the main street past the bar. I wondered if someone had taken him home.

  After work I parked my black Harley on the street and walked down the sidewalk looking for him. I was afraid of what I would find. He was lying on his side in an alley nearby. His tongue hung out in the dirt and only the tip of his tail moved when he saw me.

  The local veterinarian25 was still at his office, so I borrowed a pickup truck from my employer and loaded the limp mongrel into the cab. " Is this your dog?" the vet asked after checking the pitiful specimen26 that lay helplessly on his examining table.

  " No," I said, " he's just a stray."

  " He's got the beginnings of distemper27," the vet said sadly. " If he doesn't have a home, the kindest thing we can do is put him out of his misery."

  I put my hand on the dog's shoulder. His mangy tail thumped28 weakly against the stainless steel table.I sighed loudly. " He's got a home," I said.

  For the next three nights and two days, the dog——I named him Shep——lay on his side in my apartment. My roommate and I spent hours putting water in his mouth and trying to get him to swallow a few scrambled eggs. He couldn't do it, but whenever I touched him, his tail wagged slightly at the very tip.

  At about 10 A.M. on the third day, I went home to open the apartment for the telephone installer. As I stepped through the door, I was nearly flattened by a jumping, wiggling mass of euphoric29 mutt. Shep had recovered.

  With time, the mangy starving dog that nearly died in my living room grew into an eighty-pound block of solid muscle, with a massive chest and a super-thick coat of shiny black fur. Many times, when loneliness and depression have nearly gotten the best of me, Shep has returned my favor by showering me with his unbridled friendship until I had no choice but to smile and trade my melancholy30 for a fast game of fetch-the-stick.

  When I look back, I can see that Shep and I met at the low point of both of our lives. But we aren't lonely drifters anymore. I'd say we've both come home.

  冰凉刺骨的倾盆大雨冲刷了小城酒吧前的柏油马路。像平时一样,我独自坐在那儿,凝视着雨淋淋的昏暗。积满雨水的马路对过是小城的公园。那里有5英亩草地,巨大的榆树,而今夜还有一片齐脚面深的冰凉的雨水。

  我已经在那破旧的酒吧待了半小时了,慢慢地喝着酒。我那若有所思的目光终于聚焦在100英尺外,长满草的水坑里的一团东西上。我从淌着雨珠的玻璃窗往外又看了10分钟,想辨出那团东西是个动物,还是块被雨水淋湿的没有生命的东西。

  前一天晚上,一条貌似德国牧羊犬的狗来到酒吧,乞讨土豆片吃。那狗长着疥癣,饥饿不堪,大小跟那团湿漉漉的东西一样。我自忖,这条狗为什么淋着刺骨的雨水,躺在冰冷的水坑里呢?答案很简单:要么不是狗,若是狗,它肯定虚弱得无力起来。

  我右肩留有弹片,隐隐作痛,一直疼到手指。我不想顶着暴风雨出去。再说,也不是我的狗,也不是任何人的狗。那只是条无家可归的狗,在寒冷的夜晚只身在雨中流浪而已。可我想,我跟它是难兄难弟。把剩下的酒一饮而尽,我朝门外走去。

  它躺在3英寸深的水里。我碰了碰它,可它纹丝不动。我想它已经死了。我双手抱着它胸部,扶它站起来。它在水里摇摇晃晃,头耷拉着像吊在脖根上的一块重物。它半个身子长满疥癣,它那耷拉的耳朵简直成了满是烂疮的没毛的两块肉片。

  "跟我来,"我对它说。但愿不用抱着它那一身疮的躯体去找个避雨处。狗尾巴摇动了一下,它拖着衰弱的身子,步伐沉重地跟着我走。我带它到酒吧旁一处凹进去的地方。它躺在冰凉的水泥地上,闭上了眼。

  隔着一个街区,我看见一家便民店的灯火,它还没有关门。我买了3罐狗食,塞进了皮衣口袋。我浑身淋湿,模样又不怎样,离开便民店时,店员显得松了口气。我骑上我那辆哈利戴维森摩托车回酒吧,赛车用的排气管震得酒吧玻璃窗咔哒咔哒直响。

  酒吧女招待替我开了罐头,还告诉我这狗叫谢普,1岁左右,它的主人去了德国,把它丢在街上。那狗专心致志地把3听狗食全吃光了。我想摸摸它,可它身上散发出死狗的恶臭,而且样子更是可怕。我说了声"祝你好运",就跨上摩托车开走了。

  第二天我从一家小筑路公司觅得一份活,开卸料卡车。我拉着一车砾石穿过小城中心,看见谢普站在靠近酒吧的人行道上。我朝它叫喊,好像看见它摇了摇尾巴。它的反应让我感到高兴。

  下班后,我多买了3罐狗食和一块干酪汉堡包。我和我的"新朋友"一起在人行道上吃起了晚餐,它先吃完了它那份。

  第二天晚上,我给它带来食物时?它兴奋热情地欢迎我。时不时地,它营养不良的腿支撑不住而跌倒在地。别的人遗弃了它,虐待它,而现在它有了朋友,它对我的感谢是不言而喻的。

  第三天,我拉着一车车的石子沿主干道经过酒吧,可是没看见那狗。我想也许有人把它领回家了。

  下班之后,我把我那辆黑色摩托车停靠在街上,沿着人行道找它。我担心我找到的谢普不知成什么样了。在附近的小巷里,谢普侧身躺着,舌头吐在尘土里,看见我时只是尾巴尖动了一下。

  当地的兽医还在班上。我从雇主那儿借了辆客货两用车,把瘸拐的狗装进了驾驶室。检查完躺在桌子上孤弱无力、令人怜悯的狗,兽医问道,"是你的吗?"

  "不是,"我回答说,"是条野狗。"

  "它已经开始有犬热病的症状,"兽医忧伤地说道。"它要是没有家的话,我们能做的最仁慈的就是杀了它,结束它的苦难。"

  我把手放在它肩上,它长着疥癣的尾巴有气无力地拍了一下不锈钢检查桌。我深深叹口气说,"它有个家。"

  以后的三个晚上,两个白天,谢普(我也这么叫它)就侧卧在我公寓地上。我和我同屋用几个小时给它喂水,试着让它吃下一点儿炒鸡蛋。虽然它吃不下去,可我每次碰它,它的尾巴尖都轻轻动一下。

  第三天早上10点左右,我回家给来装电话的人开门。刚进门,差点儿没给那又蹦又扭、欢快跳跃的野狗撞倒在地。谢普体力恢复了!

  随着时光流逝,那满身疥癣、饥肠辘辘、几乎死在我房里的野狗,长得肌肉健壮,有80磅重;它胸部宽大,有着一身特别厚的、有光泽的黑毛。好几次,孤独和沮丧几乎摧垮了我的身心,谢普为报答我的恩情,向我表达它那无拘无束的友情,直到我别无选择转忧为笑,和它玩丢棒拾棒的游戏。

  回首往事,我结识谢普时,我们都处在生活的最低点,然而现在我们不再孤单,也不再流浪。我想说:我们俩都回家了。

  注释:

  1.asphalt n.柏油

  2.rain-drenched adj.雨水浸泡的

  3.batter vt.磨损,损坏

  4.nurse vt.慢慢地喝(或吃)

  5.lump n.块

  6.puddle n.(污)水坑,泥潭

  7.tear-streakedadj.淌着雨珠的

  8.inanimate adj.无生命的

  9.mongrel n.杂种狗

  10.mangy adj.患(兽)疥癣的

  11.shrapnel n.炮弹碎片

  12.drifter n.漂泊者

  13.tossdown(把…)一饮而尽

  14.hoist vt.提起,举起

  15.floppy adj.[口]松软的,下垂的

  16.carcass n.躯体

  17.plod vi.沉重缓慢地走

  18.alcove n.凹室

  19.rattle vi.碰撞作声,发格格声

  20.awe-inspirinadj.使人产生敬畏之心的

  21.haul vt.运送

  22.gravel n.砂砾,砾石

  23.malnourished adj.营养不良的

  24.buckle vi.坍塌,垮下

  25.veterinarian n.[美]兽医

  26.specimen n.怪物

  27.distemper n.[兽医]犬热病

  28.thump vi.重击,嘭地作响

  29.euphoric adj.心情愉快的

  30.melancholy n.忧郁,愁思

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