today. i woke up tired, and it was raining. neither is uncommon. it's a saturday, which is not exceptional. the days tend to run together for me here in clarksburg. except for sundays, bc mom usually cooks a big meal after church and invites my 70-something uncle, who tells stories of his days as a hell-raiser. i especially like the recent one, where he told some unfortunate fella, "man, lemme tell ya somethin' — i'd like to set you on fire just to see how far you can go on a gallon 'o gas." his stories are often quotable. he calls my boy "snuffy smith," bc in these parts if you're not italian you're a snuffy. my boy is somewhat italian, bc i am, but he doesn't look it. not yet, at least. sundays never feel too empty or too full. the other six days, well, like i said, nothing much to differentiate them. it could be tuesday every day for all i know. it's been that way since the novelty of being home wore off, not long past my arrival on that mid-july evening last year, maybe in early september, i'd guess. i didn't have time to consider how living here again would feel bc i left memphis like leaves do trees in the fall: abruptly. during these nine or so months back at home, people have often said "make the best of it," and i've often told people that i'm "making the best of it." some days, i'd like to take the phrase "make the best of it" and shoot it full of holes. but instead, i keep on being me, a mismatched mashup of eeyoor and winnie the pooh.
this morning, as every morning, i collected my achy legs, threw them over the side of the bed, and filled my arms full of my ever-smiling fat baby, who makes me smile through sleepless eyes and drenched days. i peeked into dad's office so he could whistle at him, the way he does every morning. it's the same whistle i heard every morning as a child, when dad would wake me for school. he'd have on dress pants, a short-sleeved button-down shirt, and one of the many ties that hung on the inside of the hall closet door, and before i rolled out of my white-metal-framed daybed, he'd be on his way to teach english and world history to uninterested high school kids in taylor, one county to the right of harrison. those kids were more interested in writing love notes that dad would confiscate and then laugh as he read them to himself. or maybe i made that last part up.
shortly after dad's whistle on this rainy saturday, mom appeared beside the changing table to sprinkle my fat baby's face with kisses and tell him he's a good boy even though he keeps mommy awake at night. then she told me that my other fat boy, kaiser, wouldn't get up this morning when dad went to the basement to let him out. he's my first baby boy, mine for nearly 13 years now. he hasn't felt well for a few days. and there's nothing i can do to help him. i've failed him, my sweet, unfailing companion. this move, it has been hard on him. there is more grey than brown on his snout and, for the first time in nearly 13 years, less energy in his lopsided gait. fatty tumors stick out, displacing patches of shallow fur on his belly. the vet said they're benign, but i hate them just the same; they are a sign of his waning years.
my kaiser was already looking, waiting for me, as i descended the basement stairs. he got up when i called him. i knew he would. we walked together, slower than usual, to the door. after he peed, he lumbered back inside to his pile of blankets, and i sat next to him on the cement floor and rubbed his favorite spot, right in the front of his chest, next to one of the bigger tumors, and i whispered next to his silky ear, "hi, my pumpkin. you're the best boy in the world."
the sun is starting to push its way out from behind the clouds. it's 3:38 and there's time for a better day. says winnie the pooh.