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It's Nelly's World

Out There

alec vanderboom

Last weekend, I went on a date with my dog.

The sun, which I'd feared had spun off into the farther universe never to return again, finally came out. It had rained for weeks, it seemed. We hadn't had a decent walk in a long time. It was Friday evening; I was feeling too restless to stay at home. Besides, I was curious about what had happened to the small town of Phoenicia in the floods. Suddenly I knew what I wanted to do: walk up the side of a mountain just outside town, then take Nelly out for a nice dinner. Even if I would be the one eating it.

It would be my first dinner out alone in so many years I can't count. I never liked it back then, fearing I wore the visible badge of the pathetic. I usually armed myself with a book. I wanted to be braver than that now, but I have to admit I wasn't: I brought a pad of paper on which to write. Just in case the muse visited, you know.

Phoenicia has always been a magnet to me. I love the way the mountains cup it; I love the fact that Main Street is two blocks long, then vanishes into the formidable green. I wanted to buy a house there. Now I'm glad I didn't: Phoenicia is sort of cursed.

Their library burned a few months ago. And every time it rains, now, the town is flooded.

There were piles of food and supplies in Rotary park, left for anyone who needs them. There was a board for posting help needed/help offered. The streets were coated with silt and mud, and huge piles of dirt that had been
scraped up stood everywhere.

I watched two women, one maybe a young sixty, come out of Mama's Boy across the street from where Nelly & I were dining. They were eating ice cream cones. They walked over to the restaurant, where they spied someone they knew on the patio behind me. I heard the older woman say, "Did you see my house? It collapsed just yesterday." She then reached down to pet Nelly, and tell me she was just like the dog she'd wanted to get a while ago. Now, she said, she was glad she didn't. But I said, "Do--for when you rebuild." She smiled and said, "Yes, that can be my reward."

I felt bad for every moment I've ever spent pitying myself. This woman, who'd lost everything, could smile, and hope for a dog.