The Havanese Day Incident

         I would often visit my favorite park on Capitol Hill – a lovely neighborhood in Seattle where I lived for many years. It’s a beautifully landscaped park with a fountain that drains into a long, sloping pool with staggered Zen rocks that I once overheard someone say reminded the water with gentle obstruction.

Volunteer Park, Seattle
Children play in the fountain when the weather cooperates. There’s a large grass esplanade where people sunbathe and picnic. I really enjoyed going there. I’d gotten a cup of tea midday and walked to the park so I could sit and watch the remote lives of others. I had already made up my mind at this point. I would finish my tea and then walk back to my home, open the upper-left drawer of my desk, remove the .357 magnum from its case, load it, and without hesitation quickly stick the barrel in my mouth and make a mess. And that would’ve been that.

         A pretty girl walking her dog sat down next to me on the park bench. Hair fluorescent red, plump, weighty breasts sagging braless beneath a tee-shirt, canvas shoes loose on sockless feet. There were plenty of other places to sit but she chose right there next to me. She smiled and offered me a cigarette. I accepted. She lit it for me. We sat together and smoked. Neither of us spoke. The dog – a Havanese – sat sunning and panting between us. For a few minutes the timelines of our lives intersected and, sad and fragile as a glance, diverged. After finishing she stubbed the cigarette out in the gravel beneath our feet and placed the butt in a jar she carried in her purse. I don’t like to litter, she said. I smiled and thanked her again. I noticed then that the blue plastic bag she’d placed beside her on the bench was heavy with dog shit. Goodbye, she said. Goodbye, I said. She walked away – imperfect and memorable – diminishing. And then something familiar, regret maybe, suddenly provoked me. She was nearly gone – far off now down the street – and I ran after her. As I neared, my feet slapping loud against the pavement, she turned and smiled, vaguely curious and, I think, delighted. Suddenly aware of the momentum of my hurtling body I remembered a photograph that appeared in the newspaper showing my brother just before he struck the winning goal in the high school state championship soccer game. I can’t remember the look on her face when my foot actually connected with her dog. I do remember the sound – what I imagine kicking a set of bagpipes would sound like if you’d really put your heart into it. It tumbled in a silent, shallow parabola and with a loud thud struck a bakery window across the street. Then I was tackled. I looked up at her, smiled and said don’t you see, I’m going to live. She didn’t understand why this was terrific news.

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