Conversations at the End of the Road: Clayton and the Frozen Food Caper

By Phil La Borie

Conversations at the End of the Road: Clayton and the Frozen Food Caper

Our street here in Murrells Inlet ends at The Great Salt Marsh. If you haven’t been a visitor to the Marsh, I strongly recommend it. It’s just amazing. I love the vast openness that stretches north and south for miles with the Grand Strand beaches in the distance. I often ride my bike to a vacant lot at the edge of the Marsh and sit and read or watch the herons, egrets, hawks, ducks, assorted other wading birds and Fiddler Crabs go about their business.

My reading often times leads to me closing my book with the intention of meditating, which after a brief period usually results in my falling asleep.

So, I was sound asleep in my beat up blue folding chair one day, when I felt a sudden cold wetness just below my knee followed by what felt like a rough tongue licking my kneecap.

As you might imagine, that sensation got my attention in a hurry. My eyes popped open to reveal an ancient dog staring somewhat mournfully at me. Just as our eyes made contact, an older woman standing next to my chair announced, “Well, I don’t think that Clayton will be with us for that much longer.”

Assuming that she was referring to her dog, I asked, “How old is Clayton?”

She replied, “Well, we’re not all that sure, somewhere around twelve or thirteen. He’s been with us quite a spell.”

Meanwhile, Clayton, complete with a gray muzzle, rheumy eyes and wobbly legs, had tired of addressing my knee and was busily rooting through the Cord Grass (Spartina alterniflora), sending the Fiddler Crabs scuttling off in every direction. Despite his advanced age, he was conducting a very thorough and vigorous investigation complete with a number of deep “woofs.”

I then I ventured to say, “Dogs are certainly great companions.”

“Yes they are,” my visitor replied. “They don’t ask for much. Just feed ‘em, pet ’em, let ’em run around some, get involved in a little romance from time to time, and they’re happy with their lot in life. You know, folks could learn a lot from dogs.”

“That’s true.” I said.

“Yeah,” she replied, “a whole lot. World might be a better place it we minded our manners and behaved like dogs. Well, at least most of the time.”

To keep the peace, I didn’t bring up the subject of knee licking and how that fit into the recommended dog behavior way of life.

I watched Clayton go about his detective business for a little while longer and then asked, “Uh, by the way, how did Clayton come to be called Clayton? That’s not a usual name for a dog.”

“No, it’s not,” she said. “We named him after my brother. Clayton, my brother that is, was always chasing after the girls when he was younger, and Clayton here was pretty much the same. Even when he was a pup, he’d take off after some lady dog or other. Lord, how could he run. So we named him Clayton.”

Then she added, “He’s also got a police record you know.”

“Your brother?”

“No, no, not him; this Clayton.”

“Oh, really?” I said.

“Sad, but true,” she said.

Before I could ask about the circumstances that led to his arrest, she filled me in.

“Truth is, the police picked him up down the road in the grocery.”

“You’re kidding,” I said.

“Nope,” she responded. “Caught him red-handed in the frozen food aisle. I had to go and bail him out.”

“Must have been embarrassing.”

“Sure was.”

A silence then ensued. A soft breeze came up, and the sun beat down.

Then, just to be neighborly, I asked, “Well, uh, how’s the other Clayton doing?”

“Oh, you mean my brother?”

“Hmmm, hmm.”

“Well, he’s getting on in years as well as this Clayton. Gonna be in his mid-eighties soon.”

“Gee, that’s great,” I said.

“Yep,” she said, “Got himself a new girlfriend too! She’s teaching him how to dance the Carolina Shag!”

“That’s a pretty strenuous dance, isn’t it? I asked.

“Oh, I’m sure he’ll manage it all right.”

With that, she called to Clayton (the dog, that is), and went on her way.

I couldn’t help but think of the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog…”

Says who?

About this writer

  • Phil La Borie Phil La Borie is an award-winning writer/artist based in Garden City, South Carolina. His work has been published in AdWeek, The Kaiser-Permanente Journal, Westworld Magazine and online at Phil is the 2015 winner of the Alice Conger Patterson Award offered through the Emrys Foundation. He can be reached at

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One Response to “Conversations at the End of the Road: Clayton and the Frozen Food Caper”

  1. Phil, your story was nostalgic, humorous and very enjoyable. You certainly captured both Clayton’s.

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