H E R M E N E U T I C C H A O S J O U R N A L
This was his favorite spot in the city, not far from where he lived. You can look down and see the whole neighborhood. I remember when he first brought me here, with his dogs. Later, I would bring the dogs myself, when he could hardly walk anywhere without passing out, and never left the house at all, unless he was desperate for more poison to fuel his long slow slide. He’d go weaving down the hill, without his dogs, talking drunkenly to strangers. I would cross the street and hope he didn’t see me and pretend I didn’t know him, and I’d walk fast.
But now it’s like he’s up here with me and he’s well and strong, like before the alcohol took over. His dogs are young and playful and chasing each other through the park. His dark hair is blowing in the wind. He is smiling, watching his dogs, and explaining how they love this place. He loves his dogs because, unlike people, they are incapable of betrayal. I look at his face, and marvel at his quiet strength. His face is clear and tan. He is tall and lean and gentle. When he spreads out his huge hands, you can’t help but trust him.
He didn't believe in life after death. He had nowhere to go but back to his self, the self that he drowned in the fumes of alcohol that would overwhelm everything. Sometimes, I would walk into his house and the fumes would rise up and push me back out the door.
But the alcoholic was only the shadow of the man standing with me on this hill. He is laughing, and whistling to his dogs. Assuring a stranger that they are friendly. You can tell they are friendly; they are hopping up and down and wagging their butts.
He will not say much of anything until I start the conversation. Then he will gently but firmly point out the error of my ways.
I complain because my life is going nowhere. Even the positive affirmations and my success tape don’t seem to be working. He laughs and shakes his head.
One time, we sit at the foot of the Eucalyptus tree and I pull my Tarot deck out of my backpack. He looks at me as if I am crazy. Then, to humor me, he watches me spread out the cards.
He chooses one and it's the skeleton with the sickle moon over its head, pale face and an upraised hand, as if signaling a stop. It is number thirteen, Death. I look shocked and dismayed and he laughs and laughs. I explain, I protest, “It means change.”
He says, “It certainly does.” He is still laughing.
The dogs are barking at some audacious crow. I watch it, as it spreads its black wings, and flies away, soaring over the valley below.
Nancy Gauquier lives in central coastal California with her two cats. Her writing has appeared in many journals, including The Camel Saloon, Melancholy Hyperbole, Pindeldyboz, and Liquid Imagination.
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