Owners are done tossing the ball over and over. It’s the beginning of dog days, so little dog hunts for a shady spot. Owners nap in chairs under a warm, hazy sun as a soft wind filled with after-smoke from the fire pit dances all around. She dreams of the sweetness of horses and the choices made by sweet people. He dreams of little sweet victories and ways to keep her sweet. Now little dog stirs from an incomplete shady spot, ready for a drink of sweet water…unless they’re ready to begin tossing the ball over and over.
They would recollect years later how it was mosquitoes that had drawn them together. Under a half moon, alone at her parents’ lake cabin, they ran from the shadowy swarms, barefoot across the sandy beach, and splashing into the tepid water, feeling against the soles of their feet the warm pebbles that had been baking under a hot day. They had always been kindred spirits in high school. But magically, that night, they found themselves laughing, then embracing, rolling with the subtle waves. Graduated and with all of summer ahead…young and impulsive, yet true to each other. And then a lifetime.
One fine summer day, while Couple strolled on bicycles through an alleyway near midtown, they came across a Scamp camper parked in Neighbor’s yard. Couple found the camper both cute and cozy, so they asked Neighbor if they could see the interior. Neighbor, who had always hated camping, said “Sure” with a smirk. It wasn’t until four months later when the authorities unearthed the Scamp camper near a long-abandoned ore mine, finding Couple both cute and cozy inside, cuddling next to each other like napping kittens. Meanwhile, Neighbor had absconded, relocated, and purchased the latest model of Scamp campers.
As calm as both the day and her long hair, Mother waited for Daughter, who had grown cranky on their walk home from church. Mother, offering a drink from a sippy cup, towered over Daughter like a Roman goddess, with bronze shoulders beneath the thin-straps of a long, indigo dress. Daughter began to stomp around in her white, puffy summer dress, becoming nearly as unmanageable as her own head of curls.
As Mother verged on displeasure, a voice from up the grassy embankment said, “Rhubarb with sugar, anyone?”
“Who’s that lady, mommy?”
“Let’s go see,” Mother answered, with a smile and a hand.
From up the path, he shouted what sounded to her like “Get back!'”. He was pulling away from her, her ‘soulmate’, the man who completed the other half of her. Driven. Intelligent. Energetic. Together, they were intending on conquering the world. But now…she began to fade, both in spirit and stride. Too many thoughts. From the single pink-line that had made her feel alone for so long. To the recent loss that had made him more distant than ever in their young lives. The morning sun slipped behind clouds as she began to walk slowly, staring down at the dead cat.
A lemonade freeze on a cold, windy day makes the most sense when she, strawberry cute, and he, math club nerdy, sit across from each other, staring only at each other, feeling comfortable with each other, ignorant of the other patrons. He jokes about something nonsensical, and she pre-laughs. And together a little something burns. Not like passion, but something more like a low, warm burn. Perhaps a cigarette lighter, a small flicker, just enough to keep the coolness of both day and drink at a distance.
As Crushner walked up the fairway, searching for his ball beyond the deep rough and tree line, his hatred for the game of golf trailed behind him like a scolded child. As he ventured into the trees, he could see someone coming down the adjacent fairway. His thoughts began to scatter, like an exploding time capsule, followed by an inaudible “Fifty goddamn years of this bullshit!”.
A nearby voice said, “Your ball’s between those two little pines.”
Crushner responded, shouting, “Where?!” But he remained lost as no one ever cared about an old man’s balls.