The alarm split my head open as it went off. My new phone
wasn’t normalized yet, and school had just started for the year. It was loud
and shocking, but my day needed to begin, nevertheless. Swimming through tasks
uncompleted and filling all of my inboxes, I awoke and shuffled towards my
morning routine—bathroom, dressing in the dark, tip-toeing downstairs to awaiting
animals … feeding, coffee, and contemplation of things to come. Fat ran into
the house when I opened the back door, our friendly neighborhood cat, instead
of sauntering through my legs for food as I tripped in the dark out onto the
back deck. It was strange. I saw Pizza hesitate on the deck-rail, his front paw
fluttering as if testing the air for safety. But, with a clink and a spatter,
the cat food landed into the metal bowls secured to the kitchen window-sill
with wooden cut-out frames and super-sheva.
I returned to the kitchen to begin to feed the dogs, Roxie
and Dude, scooped Dude’s food kernels with a different plastic cup and then spun
to fill his bowl on the deck. Fat jumped onto the window-sill and greedily ate
at the same time, but Pizza was still paralyzed on the rail. Dude wolfed into
his chow, as is normal, his senses old and reduced to only taste and smell. And,
Roxie was already gone, having run around the corner after more neighborhood
cats that often come to call—usually, hence, returning to guard her food-bowl and, of
course, to growl.
I measured her kernels into the bottom of the cup, swirled
it for effect, and returned to the deck. She was still nowhere in sight, which
is often the case as she gets wind of usurper cats waiting beyond the fence. I bent, and watched the kernels fall from my
hand, swirling out of the plastic cup and into the bowl, metal clinking to a
stop—Roxie’s last meal. She saved me from imminent death, Roxie did, as I came
to suspect. I bent, the spill of kernels spaced out in time, falling to the
swirl of the bowl, the bottom of gravity cascading down, and around…
Hisssssss… jumped at me. Behind the dog's water bowl, full from
the day before, laid a snake with poison fangs. The last kernel fell into the
metal bowl and twirled on its end, as I watched fangs leap out across the meter between…
I reeled in my mind, a swear word careened from my mouth, loud, muffled, and I stumbled back over my own roots.
It glistened in the morning air, a viper digesting a recent kill.
Quickly, Fat left. Then I grabbed Pizza off the rail. I threw him into the
house, and then scooped my big dog Dude from around his belly, trying not to hurt his tumors as I
lifted him and flew him in, too. I shut the door and raced across the house to
open the screen at the front—then thought I saw the blur of Roxie coming in, followed by Luna the black cat, which disappeared upstairs with a bleating meow.
The snake catchers arrived from Atlit, after a brief call. All
business … they captured the endangered animal, with a trash-claw and a bucket.
We all joked about how it would be released back into the wild, next to our
home, then come calling again… ha ha ha ha… Then I walked to work through the
nature reserve next to our house.
On a break between
classes, my phone began to scream. It was subtle, but insistent, ending in Roxie’s
head being swollen and obscene. She had been bitten by the snake, my wife said
in the text. I was in shock. I ran into my next class and began to teach
vocabulary and connectors, but I actually can’t remember…
Hours became days,
and then the day stopped. Roxie swelled up and her brain stopped too. Her blood
pooled and then she stopped living; and then she decided to go. We all kept her
alive with our love, for a day or two, as she perked up every time family would
call, wanting to grow back to normal, chasing cats and growling next to her bowl,
loving, just … so deeply, the life she had found…
In memory, and in blessing
to all for a meaningful new year, full of promise and accomplishment, may you
be written into the book of health and astounding life…
(to read about Roxie's young life and start, please read here: https://israel-travel-secrets.com/beach-blanket-puppy/)