We are walking, Betty and I, past the small house on the small hill, the one with the retaining wall that was messily put together. It isn’t crumbling, though it seems to be, the way the once oozing cement between the blocks is dry now. On top of the retaining wall are two grand statues of lions. Sitting between the lions is a cat, black with some white, and I think I know her. I wonder what she is doing here, between the lions, a few feet from the front door of the darkened house, where a bright orange piece of paper has been posted. Then I realize I don’t know her. She’s fatter and much too young.
We look at the cat for a long time because that is what we like to do together, look at other animals. Betty is the first to turn away, being the peaceful, non confrontational dog that she is.
We walk some more, down to the creek. We see another dog, whose owners will not allow it a social moment with Betty. In the wake of their passing, I catch the smell of my grandpa’s dog. He was a shepherd who lived outside and roamed the fields, rolled in the dirt, swam in the Mississippi. Until the end of summer, his winter fur was still turning over, falling out in hot clumps. From that tangle of fur, my grandpa would pull ticks. If they were fat enough, he’d crush them. If they weren’t, he’d drop them into a can with an inch of black oil at the bottom, where he dropped the potato bugs.
It’s twilight now. Rabbits are playing invisible. Flowers push their last flash of color before night. We pass another cat who has the face of an ape but we don’t stop to look. I am ready to be home, to review the promises I made to the day, to keep the ones I still can.