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“They left me. The dogs. The afternoon!”  I cobbled together what she meant. I heard the panic in her voice, but that didn’t stop me from brushing my teeth and buying her a Slushie before I pulled into her empty driveway.

I entered the house, de-pursed and -jacketed myself onto her sofa. I took note of the state of her home. It wasn’t until I reached the second stairway that the dogs decided to make a fuss, but the herd did not murder me as she always fears. The dachshunds are a noisy lot but they know I’m not afraid of their “yeah just you try it” eyes and ivory teeth. They flop over and let me love them like the pussies they are.

She needed someone to take the dogs outside for their afternoon walks because everyone left her. I did my best in shifts and had some success as they relieved their bowels and barked at the breeze inside a plastic white fence. She asked me to stay and of course I did, willing to stay until midnight.

I brought the queen a blue Slurpie because I know it’s what she likes. I walked her dogs because it’s what she needed.  I listened to the queen whose house has been on fire since I’ve known her, Judge Judy playing in the background.

The queen sipped and nipped at food which I found encouraging, her dogs circling her wagon, allowing me on her bed. I complimented the lady on her bedroom curtains not because I felt I had to but because it was sincere.  It seemed to make her happy. I understand now why she says her bedroom is cold: the north wall is one big window that faces the Chesapeake Bay, and it’s hard to keep out the north/northeast wind from your eyelashes this way. The view is beautiful, if only one is okay sleeping under a pile of covers.

The queen was strong enough to ask for help in getting her dogs outside to relieve themselves, yet she wouldn’t allow anyone to delve into why her body is wasting away. I find it hard to ask and receive help, and her cold fingers remind me that I am a fool. She apologized for the current state of her home where she served everyone homemade meals and tried to save everyone from themselves because it was her job. I held her cold hand and noted the “watch it, punk” look in Izzy’s eyes: I told them both, “No worries.”  I left them resting in a nest of clean saffron sheets and a gray throw.

We all let each other down when we do not talk, when we do not speak the real. When we do not truly listen to each other.  My prayer for today is wrapped in saffron and dandelion, tiny pollens stuck to my fingers and nose, that we stop and we listen, and we grant ourselves peace.