Two Masters
By Gale Acuff

I'm on duty. My job's to stop the dogs,
Trixie, old, and Fluffy, young, from stealing
each other's chow during their feeding time.
To play it safe, I'm inside the screen door
of the back porch—ready to pounce if they
leave off their portions to snatch each other's.
And they know that I'm near and mean business,
for I've intercepted them before, just
enough of a surprise, to scare them back
to their stations—they respect me because

I'm human, I guess. I mean, they respect
me, I guess. A couple of months ago,
Trixie, older but smaller than Fluffy,
tried to swipe his food. But Fluffy, showing
he's grown up, took a bite out of his neck
—that taught Trixie a lesson. Even so,
you can't be too careful, even after
justice is done. Now I guess I protect
the older one from the young, his weakness,
which is new, from the other's strength, also
new though he's younger. So time is moving

—for me, too: I'll be ten next week. Before
I know it I'll be eleven, twenty,
thirty, fifty, eighty. Then a hundred
if I'm lucky. Or not. It's up to me,
I guess, and God, or maybe just God or
maybe just me. I guess I'll never know
until I'm dead, when it will be too late
—we don't go to church enough to signify.
All I know is what my Father orders

me to do now, and every evening.
I even salute him—smartly, he says,
just like they did it in the goddamned Army.
Then he fills the two bowls and sets them down.
He can't get out of the way fast enough
to suit me. When he's safely in the house
and out of my hair, then I watch the dogs
wolf their food, like I drink when I'm thirsty
and Father tells me to slow the hell down.
When dinner's over the two dogs are friends
again. It's when they need to fill themselves
that things get dangerous, as though they fear

they'll never get enough. They lose their minds,
such as those are, and behave like people.
That's when I step in and drive them apart,
like Moses with the Red Sea, sort of—at
least like Charlton Heston in the movie.
You can't trust Hollywood, but I know dogs
—we're gods to them because we have the food
and keep them hungry and satisfied and
loving us, if that's love. Father thinks so.