G a i l
Age 8, part 2
8 years (July continued)
The wind is still, and around me is silence. Except for one sound: familiar, strong, insisting. What is it? It keeps going. Then something clicks in my brain, and I know it. Barking. A dog. Wendy. I crack open my eyes and see a golden shape in the distance. She’s barking at me, and I know what she’s saying. I call to her in a weak voice: “Come girl…” But she doesn’t come. She stops barking and sits down in the middle of the street. “Come – girl – Wendy.” She doesn’t. So I give up. Instead, I take stock of where I am and how I am. My legs are twisted in a weird position. My flip flops are nowhere. My toes are all scraped and bleeding. So are my knees. I feel dizzy, and for a moment I don’t remember how I got here. I take a deep breath and gather up my legs and my will power and try to stand up. I can’t, at first, because everything hurts. But I keep trying and finally hoist myself up to a standing position. The asphalt burns my raw toes. I start stumbling toward Wendy, who’s barking again. It’s much lighter now, and I can see her clearly. Her ears are alert, and she’s standing up. Next to her are my flip flops.
I finally reach her. She doesn’t act like she usually does when we meet up. No wagging tail or happy sniffling. She stops barking and whine-growls at me. Her eyes search my face, and her tail is between her legs. I bend down to pet her head, but as I reach out to her, she jerks backward and scurries a few feet away from me. She’s like a different dog, but I can read in her eyes, that she thinks I’m like a different Gail. I can’t get down on my knees, so I just bend over and stretch my hand out to her. “Come on, girl. It’s me. Don’t be scared. C’mon, Wen.”
She stretches out her sensitive nose to meet my hand that is reaching out to her. She takes a few sniffs, but then freezes and again looks up at me, right into my eyes. She slowly backs away and then turns and takes off running. She goes right past the house and then just keeps on running. I scream for her, “WENDY!!” But my voice is still weak. I don’t know what to do. My best friend has just run away from me.
I’m back in the house. It’s still early, so no one is up yet. I go to the bathroom and grab some supplies to clean up my legs and feet, and then I tiptoe back to my room. The curtain of the open window is waving in the breeze, and I say out loud, ” Stupid, stupid. Why didn’t I shut the window?” In my mind, I can still see Wendy, sprinting.
As I sit on the floor cleaning and bandaging my knees and toes, I try to understand what happened.
I remember running. I remember the wind. Then it was almost as if I had started running too fast, at a speed I couldn’t control. Something took over my legs. The energy in them burned. It started at the top and then moved down toward my feet getting stronger and stronger, until it was all in my toes. It felt like they were on fire. And then, I remember not feeling anything under them. Yes, yes! I had been in the air! I had been! Just for a moment, I had been in the air! My mind had gone blank, then, so I don’t know for how long. But it can’t have been that long. It’s been only 20 minutes since I got up this morning….
Everyone always tells me, “Gail, you’re the sensible one.” I stay calm when things go wrong. I fix things when they’re broken. I solve problems. That’s what I do. But all of a sudden, I don’t know what to do, I don’t have answers, I don’t even have a clue how to find an answer … out of control legs, feet lifting off, body in the air… ???
Wendy isn’t back, and I feel an ache inside that I’ve felt only once before in my life. Every moment that passes makes her empty bed, the empty driveway, the empty yard, the empty house hollow me out more. I’m panicking and feel like I can’t breathe. What if she never returns? What if I never ever hear the jingle of her collar again? Or stroke her velvet head.
I think of running. Running wild. Wendy is the only one who witnessed what I had done.
I’m sitting at the porch door, like I often do in the evening, when the house is quiet and everybody is off doing their own thing. I’ve spent all day searching for Wendy with no luck. But then I spot a golden shape moving through splashes of evening sun. As quietly as I can, I slide open the screen door and step outside. Wendy’s sharp senses pick up my movements immediately, and she turns her head toward me. My voice shakes as I call, “Wendy, come.”
She freezes in mid-stride, keeping her eyes on me, and I know what she’s saying: “I don’t understand what I saw you do.”
I stare right back into her face. “I don’t understand it either. Please come back.”
Wendy hears me. Her intelligent face takes in my words. She sits down in the shadows, eyes focused on me.
I carefully walk toward her. The grass is warm around my bare feet. I bend down to make myself small, and I hold out my hand to her. Her black nose is sniffing the air all around, but she doesn’t take her eyes away from my face. Finally I reach her. And I am so thankful that she doesn’t run away. She just stays frozen in place, her look burning into me. Without getting too close, I stretch my arm, and she lets me pet her head. I give her time, and after a few minutes, I get down on the ground next to her. She sits stiffly, not looking at me, just staring into the distance. I keep petting her. Finally, she seems to relax, and she lies down beside me.
I let my hand rest on her neck, and we’re both just still. I feel like she’s grown up, in the hours since she ran away. The puppy fled, and a wise, powerful dog has returned.