Bridge & Tunnel Books

A Night at the Pump House 2018

"V" by Jane McCafferty

This is hard for me, V, because you’ve got your face buried in your  so called therapy dog.  And you’ve already decided I’m your enemy.


I can see that by your choice of wig. I should have never taken you down to WIG WORLD when you were high.


As you said to me when I wore that wig ten tears ago,   

orgetfay  igway,


And I took off my wig and tossed it. That’s how much I trusted your opinion. Your vision.


I‘ve always known you don’t feel the same about my vision of things.  I always cared more about you than you did about me,  which is why you won’t even pick your head up off a dog and argue that point.  


But V life is hard, don’t make it harder. That wig you got on is a terrible addition to your person.   That wig is the color of blood. Your face in that wig looks like an accident. Wearing that wig is like telling the whole world  fuck off. And If that is your intention, let me tell you, it’s time to change your intention. Because I’ve been there, V, and what I learned is, if you tell the whole world to fuck off, it listens.  It fucks off.


Especially now that you’re starting to show your age. Forget about it, V, nobody likes you when you show your age.


And then you’ll be sitting there in your wig, starving for some kind of  genuine human touch. In a land which is not known for the genuine human touch, have you noticed? I mean have you noticed people are becoming more and more like  machines just like your brother told us would happen?


But even if genuine touch were not in short supply,  nobody wants to touch you when you  bury your face in a therapy dog 

I been there, V.

I know how it is.

Sometimes it gets so lonely. Like David Bowie sang. Remember that song? From our fire escape days?



THIS ROOM IS SO COLD. Don't you have heat? Your face can’t stay buried in  a dog forever. And by the way, I know the diploma you carry around for him is not legal, that your friend Rusty Sage makes counterfeit therapy dog diplomas not to mention sells you the drugs you think are vitamins to wash down with vodka.


I’m not going to get Rusty Sage busted, or you, I think you know I’d never do that,  But I think it’s time you let me drive you to this different sort of rehab.


Farm animals do most of the healing.

You heard me.


Think about it, V, you could sleep with a REAL pig.


Yes I know you feel you’ve already done that, but I mean A REAL PIG WITH A CURLY TAIL


Remember those days on our fire escape? 

How one set of those black iron steps led from my bedroom window to yours, like it was the universe drawing a line of connection between us?  On those steps under the moon you told me the story of a woman who had a heart attack, and her pet pig ran out of the house and stopped traffic to save her. REMEMBER?  You loved that story. You gave up bacon after I told you that story.


I think those fire escape nights were the happiest I ever knew, weren’t they for you? If you could circle back that way, and really put yourself beside me on one of those summer nights----  if you could just be young again, young and telling me stories of the days when your father was in love with Roberto Clemente---   


V , that was before we were brittle.


I wanna go back to the time before we were brittle.


Before we were brittle, V,  we could feel like sitting on that fire escape was heaven. You and me and our Iron City and the fire escape holding us high above the world. We could see the river from there, and we took it for granted.


I didn’t even mind that I loved you more than you loved me. In fact, I’ve  preferred it that way with people ever since. But please won’t you at least pick your head up and look at me? 


There you are! Oh man, V,  your face!

Your face is….. your face!

I got high hopes for you. Just seeing your face is giving me high hopes. Let’s go. Let me take you for a ride. We’ll just look at the place.  You don’t have to stay. Ok? Ok, V?



JANE MCCAFFERTY writes fiction, essays, and poems. She is author of two novels and two books of stories. Her work has received several awards, including an NEA, two Pushcarts, listings in 100 Best American Short Stories, The Drue Heinz Award, and most recently the 2016 Talking/Writing award for essay. She has stories in Catapult and forthcoming in The Iowa Review, and poems in Cafe Review, Presence, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and other journals. She's working on a novel that seems to be taking forever but is not if you look at things in geological time. She teaches fiction and non-fiction at Carnegie Mellon, and creative non-fiction in the Carlow Madwomen program, and facilitated several community writing workshops, most often with Laurie McMillan at the Wilkinsburg library over the past five years. 

Heather McAdams