Men and Dogs

Men and Dogs

by Katie Crouch


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When Hannah Legare was 11, her father went on a fishing trip in the Charleston harbor and never came back. And while most of the town and her family accepted Buzz's disappearance, Hannah remained steadfastly convinced of his imminent return.

Twenty years later Hannah's new life in San Francisco is unraveling. Her marriage is on the rocks, her business is bankrupt. After a disastrous attempt to win back her husband, she ends up back at her mother's home to "rest up", where she is once again sucked into the mystery of her missing father. Suspecting that those closest are keeping secrets — including Palmer, her emotionally closed, well-mannered brother and Warren, the beautiful boyfriend she left behind — Hannah sets out on an uproarious, dangerous quest that will test the whole family's concepts of loyalty and faith.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316002141
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 04/07/2011
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Katie Crouch's writing has appeared in Glamour, The London Guardian, and McSweeney's. She received her M.F.A. at Columbia University, and was awarded a Sewanee Walter Dakin Fellowship and a MacDowell Fellowship. She lives in San Francisco with a man, a dog, and a baby.

Read an Excerpt

Men and Dogs

A Novel
By Crouch, Katie

Little, Brown and Company

Copyright © 2010 Crouch, Katie
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316002134



TWO DAYS BEFORE Hannah’s father disappeared, he took her out in his boat.

It was an aluminum boat, flat and small with a pull-operated motor. Before they left, her father checked the gas and oil levels. Hannah held Tucker, the dog, on a leash.

Hannah was still small then. Eleven years old. Her hair was streaked with green from afternoons spent in the neighbor’s pool.

She wasn’t pretty. She had her father’s powerful features, and they were too large for her face. She wore a long T-shirt and red sneakers. Her bathing suit snaked up in bright lines around her neck. She wasn’t unhappy. She’s always been good at waiting.

There was no plan for the day. There never was.

The Legares were a family who navigated by the outlines of Buzz’s whims. The children had become excellent at collecting information. It was a survival tactic. They eavesdropped, they spied. Hannah’s brother taught her how to open and reseal mail over a pot of steaming water.

That morning there had been a fight. Hannah listened to the dull murmurings of it through the bedroom wall, the voices spiking in volume, then falling flat to silence. Shortly after, Buzz stepped out into the hall.

I’ll take Hannah, he said.

His voice through the door.

Her mother’s laugh.

Take her to China if you want to, she heard her mother say. I don’t care.

Hannah sat up. It was time to go.

Hannah, now thirty-five, remembers some details perfectly clearly, as if they happened just a moment ago. They bounce in her head, meaningless shards of color and sound. When she is ordering coffee. When she is in line to get on a plane.

Other things she knows she should recall—large events and happenings—now somehow eradicated. Sometimes she squeezes her eyes shut and scrapes her mind, trying to get to them.

She still has this list. Items she and her father took on the boat trip, written in an eleven-year-old’s cursive on Hello Kitty paper, carefully folded and stored.

    1 jug of water
    3 bottles of Coke
    4 cans of Budweiser
    2 bologna sandwiches
    1 net
    1 package chicken necks
    1 portable radio
    1 fishing pole
    2 hats
    1 bottle of sunscreen, SPF 15
    1 dog

When they were ready, Hannah untied the bowline and waited on the dock while her father pulled the cord. The engine sneezed, rumbled slightly, and died.

Damn it, Buzz said.

He looked up at his daughter and smiled.

Don’t tell your mother.

She nodded. There were going to be many things she wouldn’t tell her mother.

The boat started. Buzz steered them away from the Boat Club and turned the engine knob all the way to the right. Hannah stared at the shrinking land.

Always nice to leave, isn’t it? her father said. Where should we go? China?

I don’t know.



We’ll send them a postcard.


You’re right, no postcard.



How many bones are in the body?

Two hundred six.

Hannah’s father was a doctor, and she planned on being one, too.

How many cells?

One hundred trillion.

One hundred trillion, her father repeated, looking out at the water. He took a swallow of beer.

He was tall and, at forty-one, still lean from runs around the Battery. People remembered him as the high school track star. Buzz Legare wasn’t staggeringly handsome, but he was disarming. People wanted to be near him. Men pointedly used his first and last name in conversation. Hannah noticed that waitresses lingered after taking an order, even when her mother was there.

Aren’t you going to crab? he asked. We brought all of these chicken necks.

Hannah sighed. She didn’t want to crab. She wanted to read about Kirk Cameron.

Pretty soon a day on the boat with your dad will be the last thing you want to do, he said. Pretty soon, it’ll all be about makeup and boys.

OK. I’ll crab.

Buzz turned on the radio. He always sang. He’d start out with a hum, and then would become overwhelmed with the desire to perform. He never knew the words. He didn’t care.

Wake me up before you LA-la

Go-go, Hannah said.



Are you sure?

I learned the words so I can lip-synch them.

Lip what?


Buzz cocked his head.

We pretend to sing them. My friends and I. Like on a show.

Who pretends? he said, casting his line.

Everyone. It’s a show.

Do me a favor, kid. Don’t pretend. Just sing.

She looked at him, mouthing, Wake me up before you

Out loud, he said.

It was midday, and men, both black and white, were sitting out in the sun, legs spread, fishing poles in their hands. They stayed on separate docks, but their children spilled into the river together, floating side by side on Styrofoam boards. Some of them waved. Hannah waved back.

Suddenly, a scream cut through the sound of the motor. Hannah jerked her head toward the shore. On one of the docks, people were running and gathering around something lying flat.

Kevin! someone shouted.

A woman was crouching, shaking a boy’s shoulder.

Kevin! Will someone—Kevin?

Hannah’s father knocked about the boat like a large caught fish, swearing as spray lurched up behind with sick, slapping sounds. They slammed into the dock.

A boy had been stung by a bee. He was in shock. His throat was swollen, and his tongue was the size of a pickle.

I’m a doctor, Buzz told the boy’s mother. He always stood up a little taller when he said this. Hannah, get my doctor’s bag. Center console, in the flare box.

Hannah ran back to the boat, found the flare box, and retrieved the bag, a perfect leather triangle that opened and closed with a reassuring snap. Inside, set rows of neatly arranged syringes, bottles, and rubber tubes. One of her favorite things to do was to put her hand inside. It was always cool, as if it required its own separate air.

Later, Hannah looked up what would have happened if her father hadn’t stopped to help that day. The bee venom was almost as lethal as cyanide for the boy. When the tip of the stinger pierced his skin, an army of histamines split from the heparins and flooded his body. Water was released from the cells, causing his skin to strain against the liquid. He would have turned blue and choked on his own tongue while his mother watched.

Afterward, a party. The boy’s father brought out another cooler of beer, and the neighbors came, carrying plastic folding chairs and bags of potato chips and a great bowl of pink, curling shrimp. Candy-lipped mothers rushed back and forth with more food. The afternoon poured away.

We have to go, Buzz said after a while. Thank you for the good time.

So we’ll come see you, Doc, the boy’s mother said. She was leaning into him slightly. You’re our doctor now.

Buzz looked down at her and squeezed her shoulder. There was a pause, then he broke away and began running. Hannah and the others watched, openmouthed, as he did a cannonball off the dock.

He’s swimming! the boy screamed. The doctor is swimming!

He ran after Hannah’s father and flung himself in the water. Now people all over the dock were following Buzz. They jumped in with huge splashes, showing off awkward half dives in their shirts and shorts.

Come on, Hannah! her father yelled. He spouted water through his lips.

No, that’s OK, she said. She was worried about her hair. She’d sprayed it up, a proud open lily.

Hannah! Swim!

She shook her head. The boy’s mother was swimming near her father. She gave him a little splash.

Hannah, he called. How many times a day does a human breathe?

Twenty thousand.

How many heartbeats?

A hundred thousand.

Come on, sweetie.




Come on, honey.




There won’t always be a why.

They were all waiting. Her father, the not-dead boy, his mother, the strangers. It was April 6, a day she would come to circle in red each year and label: dad. 1985. What was happening? Hannah Legare can tell you. It was the year of New Coke. The number one song was “One More Night.” Christa McAuliffe was slated to ride the Challenger. Ronald Reagan was sworn in for a second term. As for the Legares—they were still a family. Hannah, eleven; Palmer, thirteen; Daisy, thirty-six; Buzz, forty-one.

On April 6, Hannah was a plain sixth grader with a bad perm. She was a bit scared of the water, and was shivering on a dock. She closed her eyes and listened to her heart, then held her breath to try to make it stop. It didn’t, so she jumped, because her father told her to.


Excerpted from Men and Dogs by Crouch, Katie Copyright © 2010 by Crouch, Katie. Excerpted by permission.
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