Watching the Dog

I was walking downtown. Up ahead, there was a little dog, maybe a foot long, hopping along beside his owner, a young woman. I was spacing out, watching the dog, either in the moment or detached from it, I’m not sure which. (Most likely, the latter.) The dog was carrying a tennis ball in his mouth. Somewhere along the way, he dropped the ball and it rolled under his legs. Actually, the clearance between him and the ground was shorter than the diameter of the tennis ball, so his front legs were lifted off the ground – he rolled over it. He stopped short, backed up, and the ball rolled out between his front legs. He picked it back up and resumed his hopping pace. I caught up with him while he was working things out, and was now walking just behind him and his owner. The spell had been broken and I had almost reached my destination, so I turned toward the entrance, glancing over at the dog one more time.

The dog’s owner had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and was leaning down over the dog. She removed her free hand from its pocket and reached for the tennis ball. She pulled the tennis ball out of the dog’s mouth, and a red metal cylinder, half the length of the dog, slipped out of her pocket and tumbled onto the sidewalk. I made an audible oop sound at this. The dog owner pocketed the tennis ball. Then she quickly picked up the cylinder and — with one eye on me, I felt — stuffed it back into her pocket with the ball. The cylinder was a can of mace.


This suburban freeway off-ramp is surrounded by evergreen trees, I don’t know what kind. I can’t help noticing how young the trees look. I’m guessing that they’re younger than me, but again, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Cars are backed up here, so I’m waiting. The traffic in front of me creeps ahead a couple of car lengths, and I follow, quick with the clutch because the car behind me is close and I don’t want to roll back into it.

I didn’t pick the leaves off my windshield when I abandoned my valuable parking space earlier. Those leaves freed themselves during the first couple of miles of the trip. The last one I noticed came unstuck from behind the windshield wipers as I was driving out onto the 520 bridge.

There are leaves here at the off-ramp – pale yellow leaves – drifting around in the air above the freeway, caught by some system of weather and currents from the steady freeway traffic. They’re waiting to fall.

The present that I’m referring to is yesterday, late in the morning, when it wasn’t raining and such things as leaves that are lighter than air were possible.


The same round sparrows are waiting around in a short barren bush in the landscaping beside an attorney’s office. The bird in the middle is twisting itself around to dig under an itchy wing. But he won’t hold the pose when I raise the camera. He gets back to work after I put the camera back in my backpack.