Walking the Dog

I live across the street from a swampy vacant lot. Cottonwoods grow on the lot’s margins. And around the lot there are houses, apartment buildings, highways. There are a lot of people who never see one another.

A bird’s nest clings to the tree closest to my subdivision.


I’m not exactly sure what my stretch of suburbs is called. There is a sign on the arterial, but there is a sign at each of the three intersection of my neighborhood at the arterial and each one says something different. PineHurst, I think mine says. There is an Oakwood, and a Mapleleaf, too, I think. Inside, though, the same three house plans have been built on top of small knolls, in dells, in a steady ranks up the slope of a long hill. In the forty odd years since they’ve been built they have been modified. Extensions hold RVs and hot tubs. The yards have overgrown trees in them. Some of the houses sit among clumps of gigantic fir trees. The generation of maples that must have been planted when the construction crews first installed the units have matured and the city is cutting them down, leaving smooth, whitish flat places where there had been trunks.

There isn’t any sound of people in my neighborhood. Jus the sound of the cold wind moving through the cottonwoods, the hollering of some neighborhood girls as they walk down the street taking joy in the sound their voices make among the empty yards, the moan of airplanes as they pass overhead, the rumbling and hissing sound of traffic on Pacific Highway and I-5. Even though my neighborhood is populated with people, everyone remains indoors. Even in the summer, but now that is winter they are inside. Christmas lights appear at night, strung during the day maybe, but there nonetheless to cast their light on the empty streets.

I walk my daughter’s dog through the empty neighborhood. She stops to shiver and poop on someone’s lawn and I pick it up with plastic groceriy bags from Safeway. They are thin and I can feel the poop, still warm and fragrant, and then I reverse the bag around the poop and tie it into a knot. As soon as she is finished with her business, she racks her paws across the ground, scattering moss and grass, and then she drags on the rope. I pull her back and finish tying off the poop and then we wander through the dark neighborhood. I wouldn’t come out of the house if I didn’t have the dog to walk. Outside, though, the sun has just set and it is dark but Puget Sound glows purple under the dark, dark blue of Vashon island. An airplane passes close overhead, silent, except for the rush of air. Banks of lights flash. And then it is gone and still around me there is the sound of moving people and the houses are full of people and I am among them on the empty streets.

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