Seems every dramatic scene in family life involved a dog. Once in New Hampshire the trail back from Welton Falls was blocked by a river that had risen since we’d waded through it earlier in the day. Cassie, despite her webbed paws and breeding as a water dog, was frightened. My father took Cassie in his arms and tried to carry her across the current. He looked as frightened as she was. Cassie scrambled free and swam across, though when she clambered out on the other side it was way down stream.

My father used to wear what were then called wash pants, and a crew neck sweater somewhat the worse for wear.

I remember him saying “Cassie,” in a reproachful tone whenever he cut a fart.

He was funny. Still is funny on the page. I treasure the jokes my father told me. I’m older today than he was when he died, but the jokes make me a child again, with him leaning in and confiding humor. He was a full grown man and smelling of tobacco and of gin.

I think I’ll start with the most offensive joke he ever told me. So you’ll know right away if we can stand one another. The joke is dated, of course, but then it’s also immortal, or less mortal than the person who told it to me.

Which reminds me of my big surprise. You have to have a surprise, don’t you, in order to fool anybody into reading a book? Information withheld. Which seems dishonest, doesn’t it?

but back to the joke.

A stunning redhead comes into a talent agency looking for work. The agent wants to know what she does. “I sing through my asshole,” she tells him.

“What do you sing?” he asks.

“Oh boy,” she says, “You name it. Folk songs. Show tunes. The dying cowboy.”

“All right,” says the agent. “Sing me something.”

“Okay,” she says, “You asked for it,” she says, kicks off her pumps, pulls down her stockings, folds them up and puts them on the rug. Then she spreads her legs, squats and lays a big turd. It looks like something you might have ordered at Carvel, but it’s dark brown and with a couple of corn niblets.

Agent: “What the fuck are you doin?”

“What do you think I’m doing?” she says indignantly. “Clearing my throat.”