They're a large dog. Rubbery to the touch, like a seal. Their shape suggests a phallus. When they bark it sounds like a call from a walkie talkie, with the initial burst of static followed by a small and muffled metallic woof. They don't bark much, though. They're pretty quiet, and exquisitely obedient. They are the source of my popularity amongst the old ladies in the neighborhood. The ladies come over and fawn over them, and on holidays they bring me pies. I like the old ladies. The sublime reality of their impending mortality has given them a sentimental appreciation for rare living novelties, like the old pup. They call them "Saint," or sometimes use real saint's names, like "Saint John," or "Saint Matthew." It is like attending mass when they visit them. They sometimes order a pizza, light candles around themselves and the dog, and just talk, as though neither I nor the dog were there, but that the dog were an essential element to their meeting. The dog brought them together. They gave them an excuse to all talk together that they wouldn't have without them. Sometimes the dog would look over to me during these occasions and roll their eyes. I'd laugh. The ladies could be a bore, but they kept me company.
"I suppose you heard that my grandson, Jonathan, is considering going to seminary."
"My doctors say to stay away from red meat, but I had a tenderloin last night that told me to stay away from doctors."
"You always evoke a certain Shakespearean quality, Bertha. Avoid staircases."
"Theodore and Calvin are planning a birthday party for Dexter."
"I haven't seen the photographs yet. Cynthia always tells me she's going to send them, but they never come!"
"Flowers, flowers, flowers! It's like living in a florist's shop!"
They went on and on like this, gumming their pizza down by candlelight, as the dog sat quietly and panted away. Sitting with them in the candlelight like this, I would think about all the ghostly knowledge, all the fleeting dreams, all the bittersweet romances of a life winding down, a life settling in to the reality of its impending erasure. The candlelight accentuated the wrinkles on their faces, making them dark caves, probably full of wisdom, pain, joy, full of all the absurd, disorganized, chaotically beautiful, crystalline junk of a full human life. The dog would give one of their rare barks, and all the old ladies would laugh, and when they smiled, more caverns were instantaneously dug into their spectral visages. It made me wonder what it means to be young, and whether perhaps life was just a circular tour through a junkyard, with symbols and structures acquiring fleeting significance relative to other junk of their kind, but in the end just being buried away in some cave. The elderly walk slowly because they have to carry all the weight of that junk. These ladies didn't seem to mind too much. They talked and talked as though they were constantly just digging through caves, noticing this family member here, this decorative lamp-post there, noting their re-discoveries, and placing them back as they were, moving along. I'm not sure if the dog saw it that way, though. Anyway, what do I know?