Mine Sweeping

We attempt to go for a walk this morning.  But it’s getting late by the time we leave so we are forced to do the short loop through the park.  We realize that someone new must have moved into the neighborhood because of the dog poop on the sidewalk.  There are three separate piles along the way.  Each one looks older than the last, like the piles are from three separate days.  I wonder if the new dog owner is French–they’re not allowed to pick up dog poop because it’s someone’s job.

Stopping short of doing forensics on the dog poop piles, we walk around cautiously, avoiding getting any on our shoes successfully.  Then, we are greeted by three women, each with a small dog.  We’ve met these women and their dogs before–these women pick up after their dogs.  The little dogs have fun racing around together, but they don’t stop for a pet.  Although one is willing to let you throw its ball.  Today, we let them go on by without attempting to pet them.

Convinced that there is no dog poop to step around in sight, my eyes go to the sky.  I am hoping to see the Red-Shouldered Hawks who hunt in the park, but instead, I spot a flock of much smaller birds hanging out in the tree tops where they are back lit and there is no hope of getting a good look at them.  From their size and shape, I would guess they were a group of Cedar Waxwings, but who knows.  The call of the White-Throated Sparrow catches my attention.  I point it out to Pat, but he doesn’t know what I’m talking about, having failed to notice a bird was singing.  I realize he is probably thinking about our dogs, long gone, and missing them.

I try to imagine having a dog again.  I feel certain that some day, a dog will walk into our lives and stick.  But, for now, we are dogless and content to remain so for a while.  In the meantime, we console ourselves by petting other people’s dogs.

We return home and I work.  Our walk seems to have been symbolic of what I will face during my work day–I seem to spend most of my day trying to avoid land mines.

At the end of the day, it’s getting late and we have nothing to eat in the house.  It’s been raining since mid-morning, but it’s not that cold.  We decide to walk over to the Japanese restaurant by Coolidge park.  I pull on a rain jacket with a hood and find an umbrella.  We make our way carefully, leaping over deep puddles that have formed, dodging the splash from cars, and peeking from under our hoods before crossing the street.  I can’t help but feel my entire day has been about avoiding traps and obstacles.

When we get to the Japanese place, we discover it’s not open on Mondays.

We head for the Italian place at the end of the street.  It’s the restaurant furthest from our place on this strip, which means another block of dodging puddles.  But, we are happy to learn that tonight there is a special.  Fat Tire for $2.50 a pint and 20% off all pizzas.  We decide to give their pizza a try.  At the end of our meal, we discover that we’ve just eaten the cheapest meal we’ve ever had in Chattanooga.  Since the Japanese place tends to be the most expensive, we’re happy that they were closed today.

Now that we are warm and full, it’s time to go back out into the rain.  I pull on my raincoat and steel myself mentally.  We rush through the darkness, holding the umbrella so that it partially covers both of us. When Pat tips the umbrella, the water runs off onto my shoulder and into my purse.  I straighten the umbrella in his hands several times before I finally take over holding it.

We run across the streets, black silhouettes against headlights.  I realize we should have worn something with reflective strips on it.  Instead of avoiding mines, now we are dodging bullets.  When we make it back to our building, a man with a backpack is sitting on the steps up to the entry.  The steps are sheltered.  We assume he is homeless and trying to get out of the rain.  We greet him and continue on by, entering the security code to get into the building and making sure no one follows us in.

We walk into our place dripping with rain.  I strip off my rain jacket and find a spot to set the umbrella so it can dry.  After shaking away the wet, I get myself ready for bed.  I feel as if I survived some sort of test today.  Walking in the rain, especially after dark, always feels like an adventure.  I wish the end of my work day gave me the same rush that walking in the rain does.


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