By Bill Cook
It's Saturday morning, the time of day when Sanchez loves to lie between my legs. He licks the salt from my extended calf as I finger his splotched fur. It’s a simple ritual, plucking those maddening foxtails that insert themselves between his little toes, and even into his waxy ear canals.
Suzanne on the other hand, worries constantly, mainly because Sanchez is practically bald from all the medication he's on, but still she says maybe he’ll die soon knowing it’ll relieve her.
As the sun crests overhead, I can hear her in the kitchen rummaging, probably looking for either one of Sanchez's old blue-rope leashes or deciding which Sanchez-gnawed tennis ball to bring on this mornings walk.
At the porch door, scrunching her brow, she jabs her finger. I mime for her to come join me. "Maybe, later," she mouths through the divided-glass; the creeping midday sunrays absolve her, and for a split second, Suzanne appears transparent.
I turn and rest my palms on the sun-warmed deck boards. Sanchez tilts his head my way, unveiling his trademark smile. His tail won't stop until I begin scratching his emaciated ribcage. With my other hand I pick up the book I've been attempting to read all morning. The screen door creaks open; Suzanne pops out with two icy-cold ones.
She sits beside Sanchez. "I've changed my mind," she says, and reaches over him.
"Thanks," I say.
Suzanne rests her hand on Sanchez's backside, and begins petting him tenderly.
The noon sun will soon vanish over the roof of our house, I tell her. Sanchez rises and moves from between us. Suzanne scoots closer. She begins caressing my shoulders. Her breezy-warm breadth tingles over me. "What are you reading?" she asks.
I let the heavy book wilt, cautiously enchanted by her closeness.
Nothing of any great significance is what I want her to hear me say.
Instead, I reply, "Oh, the usual stuff." And pat the heavy book.
Suzanne gives me that inquisitive once-over, signals Sanchez, "Come-here, boy." She vigilantly inspects him for any newly, ruptured sores but Sanchez startles her, by acting playful. He has that roaring-and-ready look in his eyes, in the way his body is gyrating.
Suzanne proposes casually, "Let's take Sanchez to the park and throw the ball and see if he'll chase it." And I say, "Okay, if you're sure...and then maybe after we..." She shushes me with the tip of her finger, and I feel that deep chill—the ridges of her fingertip press into me. For a microsecond, I feel the world slip by.
Its Sanchez's time I know she's going to say. And, I'll say, Okay if you're sure.
Bill Cook lives in a rural area in Southern California’s High Desert, and has stories published in Skive Magazine, Thieves Jargon, VerbSap, Juked, and forthcoming in Tin Parachute Postcard Review.
Photo "Dog," courtesy of Dimitris Petridis, Athens, Greece.
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