SEE SPOT READ
Roger still mourned for the death of his dog. He was now alone. For the longest time Roger had left his beloved dog’s water dish in the kitchen and the doggie-toys where they had last been dropped around the house and strewn in the yard. But now Roger decided that he must let go for his own sanity. Those reminders only made him trip on sadness.
“I’m old and just can’t carry anymore sadness.”
Roger hoped that he would someday think about Spot with only fondness.
“I couldn’t bear to lose another dog like Spot. I am too old. He resolved, “I am just plain alone and I am going to be content with memories.”
Roger remembered how he had named Spot. The dog had been a sudden stray in the neighborhood. The dog had been a good looking mutt and healthy, but confused and frightened. Roger had figured that the dog got left behind when one of the many of his neighbors who lost their homes in that recession just weren’t able to take a dog with them to their new lives. That was heart-breaking to think about. His wife would feed the dog on the porch and always made sure there was a dish of water. Finally she had gently cajoled Roger, who was long retired and needed things to do, to accept the dog as family and to build a doghouse in their backyard. At first, at a loss for a name, he had resorted to the name “Spot” from the classic books of his childhood, the Dick and Jane reading primers. Then, to tease his wife, while his wife was still alive, he started calling the dog “G-Spot” to make her giggle and blush.
“Where is G-Spot? I can’t seem to find G-Spot. Will you help me find G-Spot?”
After his wife passed away Roger just called him Spot again and didn’t see a reason to change.
Roger tried to be practical and considered that he could sell the spacious wooden doghouse that he had built. But although he could imagine the words he could not imagine the deed itself. He felt in a moment of weakness that he would keep the doghouse as a mausoleum for Spot’s ashes. But he instantly realized that he would then be Crazy Old Guy.
He had scattered his wife’s ashes over their favorite meadow in the mountains. He resolved to do the same for Spot.
While these thoughts occurred to Roger he was on his hands and knees inside the big doghouse pulling out the layers of blankets and then pulling up the carpet pad.
That’s when he found the leather-bound book.
“No More Dead Dogs,” read Roger in astonishment, “by Gordon Korman. This is a young adult’s book.” He blinked past the possibility of Spot having a library and wondered, “Who would put this here? Why?” His wife had not been prone to such practical jokes. But their driveway had no gate, and then there was the neighbor’s fence behind them that was only five feet tall.
“How long has this thing been here?” he muttered while rotating the book through all angles. The corners of the binding had been gnawed, but not as severely as if it had been used as a stolen doggie toy. “For God’s sake!” Several pages have been dog-eared as references. Roger opened to dog-eared Page 5 and his eyes fell upon, “…Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down…”
Roger sat up erect and bumped his head. He then backed out of the doghouse with the book. Someone had hand-written upon the inside of the back cover:
2314 Josie Avenue
That was an address one block over and behind Roger’s house. Roger could not resist taking a walk there immediately. It could not have been a more beautiful day anyway: sunny, slightly breezy, between winter rainstorms, with snow on the mountains to the East. A “picture post-card day” Roger thought.
He was carrying the book with him as he strolled. So many neighbors had come and gone in the last five years that he didn’t know anyone well enough anymore except to acknowledge them with a nod. He figured he just didn’t have the strength to make new friends anyway.
2314 Josie Avenue was now a rental house. There was a real-estate sign in the front. Apparently it was vacant. Roger sauntered up the sidewalk. Roger was ready to just turn around and continue on his tour of the neighborhood and enjoy the day when the house’s door opened and a grey-haired woman emerged.
When she raised her eyes and saw Roger standing there she said, “I don’t have time to talk. Just give me your hand-out, alright?”
“What? Oh,” said Roger with a grin, “This isn’t a Bible. I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness or anything. It’s just a book I’m carrying.”
“I am so sorry. Were you interested in this property?”
“Maybe. Can you tell me a few things about it?”
“Of course. I am Marta St. Joseph. Call me Marta.”
“Marta,” he nodded, “I’m Roger.”
“It was owned by a family until the recent downturn…”
“The Roch family?”
“Why yes, did you know them?”
Roger smiled, “I knew their dog.”
“Oh, my God, it is so strange that you say that.”
“I bought the house about five years ago as an investment. For several years the Roch’s son would show up and ask around if someone ever saw his dog anymore. He told me that his dog had run away just before they had to move out. The family was breaking down, he said. I tell you that having to move out like that must have been devastating enough to everyone; and then to lose their dog. Do you know that they had to leave behind almost everything? It broke my heart. I even rented a storage space for their things for awhile.”
“What happened then?” asked Roger.
“Well, the mother and son eventually reclaimed their things. They thanked me,” Marta exhaled and pursed her lips for a moment, “They hugged me. I don’t know what happened to the husband. Very sad. I think they did get back on their feet eventually.”
“There but for the Grace of God…,” offered Roger.
Marta paused and reflected and then she looked up at Roger, “You joked that you ‘knew their dog’. What did you mean by that? Was it true?”
“Yes, ma’am. If it was their dog he is the one who came to live with me and my wife just about five years ago. We gave him a home. He became family.”
Marta saw Roger’s eyes suddenly shine with tears.
Roger’s words clenched in his throat, “Sorry…, Marta.”
“That’s OK, Roger. What happened, if I may ask?”
“My wife passed away a year ago and just a few weeks ago Spot, that’s what we named him as kind of a loving joke…, but anyway, Spot passed away.” Roger gave a wry grin and sniffed and shrugged.
“Roger, I am so sorry.”
“That’s OK, really. That’s life, eh?”
Marta said, “Do you know that the young man said he used to read with that dog? The dog would lean on his lap and watch him turn the pages. So one day the young man just started to read out loud. There was one book, he told me, that made him laugh as he read it out loud and the dog would bark like he was laughing too. Isn’t that just precious? I tell you, I would be very sad to lose a friend like that.”
“No More Dead Dogs,” boomed Roger like an oath, smiling.
Marta was willing to appreciate the joke, but she looked puzzled.
Roger showed her the book cover, “I don’t know if the dog took this from what they left behind or if that young man placed it into our doghouse like a blessing…”
“Oh, my God,” Marta said slowly with awe. “It is Love that keeps us alive.”
With optimism born again, Roger asked, “Marta, would you care to walk with me for awhile? It is a beautiful day.”
Special thanks to fellow OS-er Gerald Anderson for inspiring this story!
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