I thought bringing the leash on our run was a bad idea. I thought it would slow us up but you said it wouldn’t. It was the blue leash, the smellier one. Charlie’s red one was nicer, but it still smelled like nylon. The blue one smelled like burying your nose in the back of his neck fur. You held the leash bundled up until mile two and then you let one end drop, holding onto just the loop. The metal clip skipped along the sidewalk and our pace quickened, which surprised me. We didn’t make a conscious effort to speed up but the clinking clip ignited something. Charlie was always great for pace, our footsteps syncing with his clicking toe nails. Our tap-taps to his tap-tap-tap-taps. We hit mile three and turned for home and I asked if I could take a turn holding the leash. You gave me that look and I understood. After all, he was always more your dog. So I let you run in front and I ran to the side of the trailing leash. The sky turned from amber to indigo and lamp posts turned on along the street. I noticed every few steps tiny sparks shooting out from the bouncing leash clip. Neighbors piddled around outside. They were finishing up yard work or pleading with kids to come inside for dinner. We waved. They waved. You turned and asked if anybody was looking at us funny and I said no. Most of them knew Charlie had died. You said good and started running harder. At some point, we started running so fast Charlie’s leash lifted off the pavement and I thought it looked like a long ribbon blowing in the wind. A blue, wonderfully smelly ribbon. When we got to our house you wanted to keep going. We stood there, out of breath, staring at Charlie’s leash, now lying back on the ground. I said sure and we ran until it was too dark to run anymore.
Laid hollow again, she cured against the concrete form. Her house without hearth and sink. No radiators or illuminated recessions. A cavity with off-shore winds blowing out to sea and old fashioned names echoing in the emptiness.
The husband waited for her forward march like he had each time before. The month or day to begin didn’t matter. Not anymore. Theirs was a perforated calendar of deceased hope. Scrap sheets of computation and expectation left shredded by shards of broken tears. No more calculators or Google remedies and the books were burned.
Their efforts proceeded. An industrial revolution of production and efficiency. They used salt-treated lumber and galvanized screws, twisting them deep into her toughest flesh. The best chances of holding anchor waited in the near impenetrable.
And once again, a new start. They are not surprised and announce nothing. All words to be chosen precisely like hands placed between thorns on a rose stem. He skips time, throwing days into the surf. She sits with knees bent, listening for broken glass, praying winds stay on-shore.
When the new is hidden no more, loved ones ask how many times they can do this.
Daniel W. Thompson’s fiction has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Jersey Devil Press, Literary Orphans, decomP, and other places. As a child, his grandfather paid him $5 an hour to clean up frozen cow patties and pull stones out of the vegetable garden. Now he lives in downtown Richmond, Virginia, with his wife and daughters, cleaning up diapers and dog fur. No compensation has been offered.