It’s Saturday night and the babysitter comes and we’re heading out, The Desoto Hour blaring Big Band on WREK. The Glenn Miller Orchestra fills the car, flooding my senses so instantly that I smell him, ever-clean, Old Spice when Old Spice was still the thing a kid might clumsily wrap up for Father’s Day, and I see him, sidling up behind my mother in the kitchen, and I can tell he’s feeling romantic as he hums and wraps his arms around her, reaching for her hands, but she’s working and shoos him off, irritated but not really. He whistles, swaying along with the band, and I feel her softening, trying not to smile, and he feels it too, and begins rowing her arms back and forth until she gives in and they’re dancing on the faux brick tile, one circle, then two, ‘til she’s had enough nonsense and pushes away, “alright, alright,” turning back to the stove, affecting nonchalance, but the moment fills the room, and now the car, and still my heart, eclipsing death like saxophones swelling around a clarinet, transcending melody.
Waiting at the vet, Aud spies a box of chocolate glazed Krispy Kremes by the coffee and helps herself. I tell Brooks to climb up on the digital pet scale, curious to see how much he weighs these days. As if the very act turned him into a dog, I have to keep zeroing it out, encouraging him to hold still for a few seconds until the numbers stop at “Hold”. Aud wanders over and takes a turn, and as she stands there watching the readout, I notice she’s holding her arm out at a strange, backwards-diagonal angle.
Me: “What are you doing?”
Aud: “Oh, I’m just trying to keep the doughnut off.”
Arm in arm up the sidewalk when Sadie gasps, catching my elbow, her “No Mommy, stop!” halting me mid-step. I look down to discover a HUGE furry moth nearly underfoot, so stock-still I think surely it must be dead. Leaning in for closer review, Sadie and I both catch a slight body quiver, but our excitement dissipates as we realize its leg is broken. The two of us make a grim, silent eye-pact to do what we can to save it, or at least make it more comfortable dying.
We use a stick to try the slide-pick-up method, but the twig’s too thick, the moth’s grip too stubborn, as if it’d already settled on ending things here, on this miniature stretch of sidewalk, unable to face starting over elsewhere. We search around for leaves, but they’re all too papery to bear the moth’s weight. Sadie wonders if there’s anything in my purse, so I fish around, producing an apple-juice-stained envelope. We alternate prodding and protecting, one pushing while the other says “Be careful!” or “Not too hard!” then both pull back, startled, as the moth’s body begins quaking, violent shudder-spasms that somehow remind me of putting our dog to sleep, making me inexplicably sad.
Our moth is dying and I start to accept it, the stunned field medic giving up on compressions. “Maybe I should just step on it. Put it out of its misery.” I think, unaware I’ve said the words aloud until I see Sadie’s face contract in horror and disgust, shouting, “NO!!! Don’t KILL it!!!” The foxhole mate who will not see.
Just then Rick doubles back to find out what could possibly be keeping us. He crouches down, successfully swiping the moth from ground to envelope in one confident motion, resettling our fallen soldier on some ivy in one of those ankle-high fenced-in sidewalk tree plots, the best we can do given the circumstances. Rick walks on ahead as Sadie and I slowly follow, looking back over our shoulders. “I feel bad,” she says. “Me too,” I begin, “but at least he won’t get squoosh—” “Mommy! LOOK!!!” Sadie screams. “He’s FLYING! LOOK!!!”
And I swear it’s true, as big as a bird and as effortlessly high, until he’s cleared the building, levitating long enough for us all to see, flaunting and fluttering and flitting back and forth to a tall neighboring tree, like some sort of crazy Icarus/Lazarus hybrid, burnt the bright orange-yellows of the sun, crashed to earth but now risen — still rising — on the faith of one true believer.
“See, Mommy?” Sadie yells, bouncing triumphantly in place. “He doesn’t need a leg! He has wings!”
And in the moment, I don’t even care if they’re only made of wax.
Nobody can make you do weirder shit than a dog. Just realized I was straddling Floyd, swaying and singing in a baby voice, “Pardon me please, is this the Chattanooga Choo Choo?”
Commercials airing during The Shining are like toddlers appearing during sex.
Locking our front door, shaking my head at the absurdity of heading to a grocery at 8:30 p.m. to buy organic canned pumpkin for a dog who can’t shit, I nearly stumble over this letter, drying on the front porch:
“Dear Me. when you get this note you will be 20 congrats you might be wondering who is wrighting this But it is only Me or well you 1 thing i would like to say is wow i servived! So how is life Now at the age of 20 whats your job or do i even have 1? well if i do fill it in here _____ right now i am in peter and Dans class at the Paideia School Atl, GA Whats your favert color? Mines Blue fill yours in here _____ you Might Be asking your self why is this So Messy well a am fether and ink or is it called a Quill and ink Well i D.K. But at this point my Bffs are Mary lowans, Lylah Bannester, and Sophie EScabado. Who are yours ____,___,_and-______”
I cried, squatting there on the porch, at how quickly I’m ignoring, and hollering, and shooing, and shitting this all away. And I wrote a letter in my head I’ll try so hard to keep there:
“Dear 20-yr-old Sadie,
When you were 11, you were Magic. You might be asking yourself why I didn’t remember it every second of every day —well, I wish I had. But I am only Me. And I will love you at 11, and 20, and 50, and 400, with the fervor (but alas, not the talent) of a blousy-shirted poet, dipping quill to ink as stool scrapes to desk, hurrying so as to capture this love in words, before it blots into memory, and bleeds into life.”