The dog was the last thing that had tethered them together. He had provided a common area of interest; lengthy discussions concerning its well being kept dinner from being an entirely silent affair. Now that Red was gone -- the vet ending his debilitating pain due to advanced arthritis -- there was barely a word spoken between them.
He sat in the living room reading his paper - the paper she hated, with its headlines concerning alien abductions and Sasquatch sightings. From the kitchen, he could hear the familiar noises that came from her pie baking -- her annual attempt at securing Best in Show at the fair.
Disgusting, he thought, rhubarb should be outlawed.
A flash from the maple in the front yard caught his attention. It was a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, first of the season.
He was going to call out to let her know that spring was finally here. Before he spoke, he considered all the firsts he had informed her of over many decades: first leaf to drop, first snow, first bluebells to bloom in the garden. When had she stopped responding? Not even a courtesy grunt. Now, without the dog, the space between them had grown so distant he wondered if he was just a ghost in her life.
Still looking out the window, he took a cue from the article he was reading.
“Looks like the first of the killer bees are here. Must be spring.”
“Wow, must be thousands. Oh look, their swarming Howard. He probably shouldn’t swat at them, just makes them angrier. Oh, he just found that out. June is using the hose, trying to spray them off of Howard. She should know better, won’t do anything, and, yep, there they go, their going after June now. Looks like you might have a little less competition at the fair this year.”
Just the sounds of baked goods being prepared.
“Still, you’ve got to be impressed.”
He glanced at the article making sure he got his facts right.
“Migrating all the way from…” He spoke the name phonetically as he read it, “La… La..guna…de…San…Marcos in Mexico, gosh that’s tenacity to fly all that way.”
She turned on the mixer, and spoke a little louder.
“Oh nice the kids must visiting. I haven’t seen Harold Jr. since he got his engineering degree and it looks like Mabel must be in her second trimester. Guess that’s what’s making it so difficult for her to roll on the ground and get the bees off. Anyway, probably not a good idea. I think that just forces the stingers in deeper. I don’t really get what Jr’s trying to do, I guess scraping the bees off with a shovel. That’s gotta be causing more damage than helping, smacking himself in the face…”
He heard the squeak of the kitchen door and she stood there wiping her hands on her apron.
“What on earth are you going on about?”
He nodded at the window. “First warbler, must be spring.”
She put on her glasses which were hanging on a cord around her neck, squinted out the window, then gave a curt nod and returned to the kitchen.
He folded his paper and headed out to his truck trying to remember, after fifteen years, how to get to the dog pound.