There's a terrible, long-in-the-tooth Doberman who appears in Episode, the title story in Colorado writer Robert Garner McBrearty's funny and touching new collection. The dog serves to complicate matters as the narrator and his father attempt to coax Len, the narrator's delusion-prone brother, into coming home. McBrearty writes:
"I help my father up and we hurry after Len to the fence in time to see the Doberman, old Jeeter, seventeen now, go into his Hound of the Baskervilles' act. With the guttural snarl of an enraged drillmaster, he staggers stiff-legged across his turf. He's a horrid looking thing, with scabby patches of orange-tinted medicated fur. The old dinosaur moves on memory. One last glorious mission. One last neighborhood ass to chew."
Although Len and his brother have returned to the neighborhood in which they grew up and they are following habitual patterns, everything has changed. Jeeter has lost his ginger, their mother has died, and their father is growing old, less equipped each year to handle Len's episodes. Jeeter could serve as the mascot for McBrearty's characters, who often try to motivate themselves into attaining a semblance of past glory, but never quite make it.
McBrearty, who lives in Louisville and teaches at the University of Colorado, won the prestigious Sherwood Anderson Foundation Grant in 2007 for three of the stories in Episode. He writes with great heart and can play all the notes on the scale of humor, at times achieving the zaniness and over-the-top personalities of a T.C. Boyle story, at other moments working in the wistful sad-funny key of Thomas McGuane, and including some amusing experimentation reminiscent of Donald Barthelme.