“When God came back, he found Adam sitting on a smooth, round rock staring into the fiery sunset. Adam was feeling that everything in the world was brighter and stronger than he was. This wasn’t true, but that’s how Adam felt. God looked into Adam’s heart and saw all of this.
“God walked with Adam far from the devil’s radiance and roar. God reached into Adam’s heart and excised a little piece. He pointed to a patch of earth where flecks of gold lay on the surface like tiny leaves. ‘My son,’ God said, ‘I am going to make a new creature who will always love you.’ God scraped up a palmful of earth and mixed it with the piece of Adam’s heart. He wrung his hands together and molded the heart-earth into a ball the color of caramel. He rolled the ball out on the ground. It sprouted four legs; a tail; pointed ears; a bright, curious face radiant with love; and a noble snoot. The dog ran up to Adam and licked his foot where Adam had stepped in something nasty. It tickled, and in a few licks, Adam’s foot was clean. Adam smiled. The dog smiled. God smiled. And Adam had a friend forever.”
I thumbed the switch on the thrift-store floor lamp that stood beside the couch, grabbed the stack of student stories from off the milk crate we used for an end table, and set to the work I loved and that allowed me to feel of use in the world. Becky and Snickers got home from their run then. Snickers took a long drink from the dishpan of water there on the porch, then climbed up and curled beside Norty. Beck went in for her shower, but she popped out later with the giant comforter we all snuggled under when we watched TV; we called it our comfort mountain. It was, of course, layered with dog hair. She covered the three of us, then went back in to read her papers. I was comfy as could be under the comfort mountain with Norton and his mom in that beautiful evening in that golden time.
I was still reading when Mo came walking up the sidewalk. I set the stories on the milk crate, clipped ropes on Snicker and Norty’s collars, covered them with my part of the comforter and tucked the edges under them.
“Doctor, Doctor!” I called to Mo. “Doctor, Doctor, I need one eggplant squishie.” I hustled out to the sidewalk and caught up to him. “And one road-kill squishie to go.”
Where Mo got the old Spike Jones line, I’ll never know. YouTube, maybe. The good Doctor, Doctor was a YouTube monster. I swear this is what he said: “Yes, we have no eggplant, we have no eggplant tonight. All we are having is the aubergine squishie.” I admit it: the squishies that Mo and I pounded ’til after midnight were concocted of gin, vermouth and jumbo green olives, as always. I remember our handshake that night, as I remember that golden time with the dense weight of years welded with regret.
I tottered down the sidewalk to that wonderful big old house with the covered porch at the dead end of James Avenue. Snickers and Nort and the comfort mountain were inside when I got back, and Becky, Nikki and Josh were in bed. Anissa was starting high school in Spokane with her mom, and Pascal was in his last year of prep school with his mom in Paris. It was like waking up from anesthesia when I looked around one day 12 years later and everybody but Norty was gone.
I never cried as much in my life as I did when Beck and I stood beside the table and held Norty as the vet slipped the needle in the big vein in his leg with a gentleness that still touches me all these years later. As great as the vet’s generosity of heart was Becky’s act of friendship in taking Norty in with me. We weren’t about to let our dear Norty spend one more minute in pain from his cancer.
I can’t spend any amount of time behind the wheel of my rusty old Ford F250 without feeling Norty’s head on my thigh. How I laugh remembering the time he fell through the passenger side floor. It was the look on his face, of course, that was so funny. Good thing we weren’t going down the road.