By John Thomas Tuft

Jeremy MacGregor liked things that were different. The first time that he heard Bruce Springsteen singing in falsetto throughout the entire song of “Lift Me Up”, not even a Side B song, he had to know more about this gem of healing and risk.  A castaway song from his THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD album, it had ended up abandoned until the director of a movie asked for a song for the ending of the film, LIMBO. A song so delicate the singer has only performed it live one time, Jeremy loved its uniqueness and felt that it was his own song in a very special way. As much of a special way as was his love for his Eleanor, and his black Scotty dog, Sir Fergus MacGregor.

Jeremy and Eleanor met at a Springsteen concert in Pittsburgh in 1984, the Born in the USA tour, in the old Civic Arena in the Lower Hill District. He thought she was the prettiest 16-year-old girl in the crowd that night, and what was better, she didn’t seem to mind the two hearing aids he wore. Being hearing impaired at an early age had effected Jeremy’s speech to some degree, leaving him with somewhat a clipped guttural pattern with dropped consonant sounds so common to those with hearing loss. Eleanor didn’t seem to notice and made sure he could see her face when she spoke to assist in his efforts to get it the first time. Which mattered most when they left the pounding din of the concert. But before that, even then, they ended up dancing in the aisle high up under the retracting dome roof of the Arena.

It is said by some that humanity’s biggest fear, our truest despair, is being separated from God, however one defines that. But our more righteous fear is that of being separated from our home, this earth, and the rest of the humans on it. If there is an original sin, it is of believing that we are not of this earth, not of the world in which we find ourselves. Our sentience, our awareness that we are, is believed by some to be our gateway to eternity; our means to be in touch with the otherworldly, the supernatural. But impair one of our senses or stick a fork into the workings of the brain, and the ethos, pathos, logos of convincing each other of our existence as spiritual beings runs into a hard rain of pain and doubt.

Which might be neither here nor there in the story of Jeremy and Eleanor. Or it might be everything. Sir Fergus might be the only one to know in the end. Jeremy and Eleanor’s story progressed like a good novel, or a good Bruce Springsteen love song, maybe Tunnel of Love. They fell deeply in love and, a decade after the concert, they planned to marry. Life would be Glory Days or maybe, I’m Going Down. The night before the wedding, Eleanor gave Jeremy a gift, a little black Scotty puppy which she named Sir Fergus MacGregor. Sir Fergus had everything going for him, a thick, rich black coat, cute bark, dignity in all things, not to mention the aristocratic countenance that comes naturally to a Scotty. They would be a family, in a nice, neat home, a home full of love and warmth, hospitality and hope. A home where Bruce Springsteen himself would feel welcome at any time.

Eleanor took Sir Fergus home with her that night to his bed on the floor next to hers. In the night an intruder broke into her apartment, kicked the puppy to the side and assaulted and brutally murdered Eleanor. When the police had sorted it all out, they made sure that the brain damaged Scotty was in the care of the heartbroken hearing-impaired Jeremy. Something broke inside them but they carried on as best they could. A few times a day, the neighbors saw the quiet man who now kept to himself outside walking Sir Fergus. The once normal looking Scotty now had a pronounced problem with his gait. For every pace that Jeremy made forward, the dog made one forward, two back, jumped into the air and twitched, staggered. Then repeated it all again in hop’ita-skip’ita fashion like a vampire in J.R. Ward’s, The Savior. Forward ho, one, hop’ita-skip’ita, end in a lurch. Forward ho, one, hop’ita-skip’ita, end in a lurch. Over and over.

The police caught the suspect, and he was sent to prison to rot for a long, long time. Jeremy watched the man be shackled and shuffled off after the trial. He had hoped that would help, but it did not. Sir Fergus tried his best to comfort his human, but it was an impossible task. Jeremy grew more and more despondent and no matter how much Sir Fergus tried, the brokenness would not heal. Jeremy hoped that routine would help, but it did not. He took to watching television with his new hearing aids turned off because he just didn’t want to know what was going on. Sir Fergus saw all of this and worried, as only dogs can.

Nobody is quite sure how it happened, but one night Jeremy had a dream. In the dream, Eleanor came to him and whispered something. Jeremy could not make out what she said. He strained and strained until the frustration made tears run down his cheeks. Then he heard it. A song. Clear, haunting. Promising. He awakened. There on the bed beside him sat Sir Fergus. Somehow the CD player was playing, and the falsetto voice of Bruce Springsteen filled the room with Lift Me Up. For deepest healing, at long last, he knew he must take the steepest risk. He and Sir Fergus drove to Western State Penitentiary that morning. And while Sir Fergus waited in the car doing nervous hop’ita-skip’ita, Jeremy sought out the man who murdered his happiness. And forgave him…

Words are magic and writers are wizards.