For this prompt, I handed out the list below. It’s a list of commonly used old sayings; you may be familiar with many of them. I deliberately left a gap between clauses and asked everyone to mix and match the halves so we came up with new phrases. Some of the sayings we ended up with were hilarious, some of them were thought-provoking, and quite a few were poignant. “Don’t believe in moderation,” was one. Another one was, “When life’s path is steep, an old broom knows the corners.” I ended up being drawn to, “One day, you can’t make him drink.” What I wrote surprised me.
The list and my own writing are below.
The list of old sayings:
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
A stitch in time saves nine.
Better late than never.
Don’t believe everything you hear.
Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Never spend your money before you have it.
One day at a time.
Save for a rainy day.
Seek advice but use your own common sense .
Seize the day.
The best cure for a short temper is a long walk.
When life’s path is steep, keep your mind even.
A new broom sweeps clean but an old broom knows the corners.
Even a fish wouldn’t get into trouble if it kept its mouth shut.
Everything in moderation
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day;
Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever
Health is better than wealth
Life is a journey, not a destination.
Life is what you make it.
Money buys everything but good sense.
Out of sight, out of mind
Plan your life like you will live forever
and live your life like you will die the next day
The more things change, the more they stay the same
The truly rich are those who enjoy what they have.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
You have to take the bitter with the sweet
One day, you can’t make him drink, though you bring the bowl to him, and scoop the water up in little handfuls, bringing it to his mouth. That’s when you know it’s over; the life you’ve shared together is about to end.
So you pull out the Mexican blanket and cover him—he’s shivering more than usual—and you take the cushions from the couch and place them on the floor next to his bed. You lie down, and you wait.
He sleeps. His breathing is slow, but steady, and occasionally he wheezes. But soon you are both in a deep sleep, dreaming your own dreams. His dreams have always been unknown to you. Is he chasing that grey squirrel up the fruitless mulberry again? Is he marching down the beach with his mini-frisbee?
At 11:30, you awaken and place your hand on his belly—still warm—and surprise yourself with the joy you feel knowing that he is still alive, though you know he will not move from this bed ever again and you will never again feel his cold nose pressed up against your face.
You relieve your bladder in the bathroom, where a candle burns near the mirror. You scrutinize your reflection. Crows feet run deep from the corners of your eyes. Your neck is baggy and red. When did you grow old?
In the kitchen, there’s an open bottle of red wine on the counter. You pour yourself a glass and sit down on the couch cushions again, stroking his head, saying, “It’s okay, Buddy. You can go if you need to. It’s okay.” But you don’t really mean it, and he probably knows you’re lying, the way he knew on those lonely nights when you drank too much and cried watching stupid movies like When Harry Met Sally, even though you knew it had a happy ending. Or Summertime, when you knew it ended sadly. You were past forty and still single and feeling very sorry for yourself.
He’d crawl into your lap, his wiggly half-Chihuahua body shaking more than usual. “It’s okay, Buddy,” you’d lie, and he’d place his front paws on your chest and lick your chin, knowing you were going to that place again.
Those who work with the dying say they will wait for you to leave the room if they don’t want you to see them die, and though you can’t imagine any creature wanting to die alone, you stand up and walk back to the kitchen, wondering what he wants right now, wishing he could show you.
You remember him the first day you brought him home, how he was just a butterscotch drop with bat ears and two brown marbles for eyes. How you sat on the floor in the shelter and he crawled into your lap. How he chose you.