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“Pedro, come out!”
It’s three years ago, and my father is on his hands and knees, peering under the bed, where the cat has hidden. My daughter is two and loves animals, but Pedro–a fluffy, ten-year old house cat–has decided he doesn’t want to play with her. He has retreated to safety back in the dark underbelly of the bed. The two humans crouch down together, side by side, toddler copying grandfather: “Come out, Pedro! Come out! Everything will be fine! Pedro, come out!”
I used to always walk in the woods
before I became crippled.
— from a dying woman
I respond to a ranch house at twilight. An old woman is dying from metastatic lung cancer, vomiting blood. In between episodes of dry heaving and spitting dark clots, she reaches her hand out, sometimes grabbing my arm, other times involuntarily seeking the sky. We both know what her family refuses to see: she will be dead in a few hours.
According to family legend, my mother took me for a walk in my stroller on one of those dog days of summer–high humidity, flopping flowers, lackadaisical leaves. I was happily singing along with the birds when a neighbor’s demonic dog rushed my stroller and tried to Eskimo-kiss me with its snout. I screamed, the dog howled, and thus began my lifelong fear of all furry, four-legged Fidos.