I have spent some portions of my life house-and-pet sitting. Always enjoyed it. And there are certainly tails to tell.
One such dog-sit was with Tibbit, a great, friendly dog. She just passed on to a more comfortable afterlife this week, leaving nothing but fond memories on my part. We shared this following episode a few years ago. I’ll share again in her memory.
This past weekend I looked after a dog whilst her owners went out of town.
Tibbit is a big, friendly dawg who likes inspecting piles of leaves. She has a long lead which her benevolent human allows to go as far as possible. She knows (better than her accompanying human) that there are treats at the end of each walk.
On Saturday I didn’t get Tibbit out until after dark. We skirted the university (where her masters work) and went up a street bordering the campus. We both liked the Christmas lights. Near the top of the street we met an inebriated gentleman warning us of a bear in the surrounding woods.
“Flush him out,” said he, “And I’ll get my 3 aught 3.”
“Get the rifle first,” I replied, and we went our respective ways.
Now Tibbit and I doubted the veracity of the gentleman, so when we came to a trail through the woods, we took it. I will admit I did peer more intently into the gloom than usual, but one trail led to a larger trail which led back to the university. We advanced without incident.
On Sunday I again walked Tibbit toward the university, though from a different direction. It was a crisp, clear day and she gamboled (as much as the leash allowed ) through the new fallen snow. Sunshine gleamed. This time we were on the other side of the campus, but our walk eventually led to a position about half a mile away from where we were the previous evening.
We followed another trail into the woods and admired the sun through the fir trees. The path was wide and sloped. It came to turn some distance away which would lead us even closer to where we were the day before.
At the top of the slope Tibbit stopped dead in her tracks. She stared and stared. She glanced briefly into the woods but mainly kept staring along the trail. I saw nothing nor heard anything (and I was intent upon both).
Tibbit did not move and made not a sound. She just kept staring.
After a solid two minutes of this I started to backtrack and she made no complaint.
You betcha she got her dog treats.
It had been a house of dreams, it was now a house of ghosts.
Ghosts tranquil and benign peered through the dusty upper windows, stood in wait behind the boarded doors. The dreams of long ago, which had tumbled down the stairs, and frolicked through the rooms, were now memories in the minds of ghosts.
The ghosts were themselves memories, destined to further fade with each new birth. But there would be no births in this house, as it slid inexorably toward decay. The lackluster brown shingles would be more smudged, the remaining panes of old glass would break, the floors would warp and collapse, the unkept roof would succumb to the years of harsh weather.
Even the `No Trespass’ sign was barely legible. Then where would the ghosts go?
Blaine left his car and walked toward the house.
If he had eyes to see, who would be there to greet him? Would children’s dreams, fair-haired and boisterous, burst through the front door and surround him in games of tag and laughter? Would he get caught by their enthusiasm (would he become a child himself), and race behind the trees, burrow into the hay, hide between the bins of potato and turnip, intent not to be `it’.
Or would he meet the ghosts, quiet and tentative at the top of the steps, moving slowly with their uncertain smiles. Would they greet him with a wave, invite him into their warm-smelling kitchens, offer him fresh tea, and squares right out of the pan? Would he sit in the stream of fall sunlight flowing across the well-oiled floor, and talk about childhood?
Blaine walked part way up the drive before he stopped.
He knew what lay beyond the boarded windows, and the sagging door upon its rusty hinges. Wallpaper would be water-stained, and curling off the plaster walls. There would be lumps of refuse in the corners of the rooms, with one inevitable rusty bedframe lying on its side. There would be gaps in the ceiling, where beams of sunlight shimmered through motes of dust. There would be holes in the baseboards, where earnest rodents made comfortable homes.
There would be musty smells offering a hint of long-ago meals, and something gone bad in the pantry. There would be one upper window (at the back) which still had a tattered lace curtain, half obscuring what had once been totally private. At night he would hear bats.
It was not this house he had come to see, of course. Of course, not this derelict house, which he knew could never be restored, and which was so beyond help even death slept while visiting.
Though it will give you no pleasure (well, ‘little’ pleasure) you are correct in all your observations.
Governments become the tools of the bureaucracies that run them. It doesn’t matter what type of Government, from the monarchy under which you lived, to the right-wing horror of fascists that called themselves socialists, to the inept socialism pretending to be ‘for the people’. All three governments held sway over the city where you spent your life. All three oppressed the people they ruled. All three looked after themselves first.
Writers are either writers or they aren’t. The urge to write encircles one like a snake around its prey. Feed it and it won’t quite squeeze you to death. You can not ignore it – even at your peril. It is with you every hour of every day, ever inquisitive and (sadly) always looking for something better.
Love is a see-saw of extremes. Every high guarantees a low. Every low reaches for a high. Every high reaches for a high. When these hills and valleys are eventually levelled, they are still desired.
Sex is highly over rated. The thing of it is, even rated fairly “’tis a consummation devoutly to be had”. Yes – I know – you appreciate Shakespeare. On a par with Goethe, even if you can’t bring yourself to say the words.
People are just one damned thing after another. Of course, so many people have brought you blessings that you throw up you hands to ward off the snake. Sometimes loosening its grip.
There is no castle with walls thick enough to hide against the perils of being human. Which is why you never tried.
Except the grave, of course.
Except the grave.
The Trial is over.
I once received a post card from Auschwitz, saying: “Wish you were here.” From a friend with a ‘certain’ sense of humour. Yes, I know we choose our friends as opposed to our families, but I probably would have done the same. Irreverent humour is but one response to that which is beyond response.
As it was, the post card took me back to my university days, when I worked on a farm in Germany in lieu of getting into a Goethe Institute. Not particularly taxing farm work. I could relate the painting of apple trees or escaping from the midst of a herd of bulls after breaking my whip on one of their backs – but I won’t. If I ever get to my memoirs however . . .
After the farm I travelled through Germany and parts of Europe, mostly by train. One of my stops was Munich where, as often as not, I stayed in a Youth Hostel. And there I met the Jewish gal on her way to Dachau. She was from the US and not on a work experience as was I. Dachau was the specific destination for her.
She either borrowed postage stamps from me, or I from her – I don’t remember, though I know we exchanged them. We had the part of two days together (no – no nights) and then she was on her way. I don’t remember if she asked me to accompany her to Dachau, but I think not. Although I was going to Britain to visit relatives, I believe I would have taken that extra day.
As it was, we exchanged addresses and, upon our return to North America, we wrote letters. And, as it was, we arranged a visit to my New Brunswick home from her New England home. That was quite a leap for less than twenty-four hours together. I picked her up after dark at the closest airport. During the drive I stopped in the middle of forest for two hitch hikers. She must have been a bit concerned, but she said nothing. I remember the deep smell of pine from their clothes, as they had been working in the woods.
She stayed with my parents and I for four days (no nights there, either). She told me that when her mother was talking to her grandmother on the phone about the trip, she heard her grandmother bellow across the room “IS HE JEWISH?”
Thus does memory flow from a post card.
I don’t, alas, remember her last name (this being decades ago). At the time she was studying to be an air traffic controller. Whether she became one, and whither she went, I do not know. When I last communicated with her she was attending Brown University. She did not discuss Dachau with me.