Rain threatened the summer afternoon. She wanted to go anyway and so I grabbed her leash.
Outside the humidity came in increments. It built layer upon layer until we were nearly at the river. There my sweat broke as I gave up the battle to the clouds. I didn’t mind though; that time and many since the end of the struggle came as a relief, despite my defeat.
Even though her tongue lolled far out of her mouth, her eyes spoke of happiness and not discomfort, so I bent down and unhitched her. She dove for the thin brush separating the road from the river and then waited, urging me onward. If I waited too long she would plead an endearing cry. Some days I would make her wait just so I could hear it, but not that day. Instead I gathered the leash around my waist and broke into a sprint. As I crashed through the trees she took off ahead and we ran together, legs thrashing for what felt like miles.
Eventually I collapsed into the long grass by the path and lay staring at the sky. Behind the river seemed quieter than usual, it was gaunt from the mild drought. All but she were still with anticipation for the rain. After a few false starts she caught a shoelace tight in her jaw and hunched down and pulled with all the power her compact frame could muster. It was enough to draw me up and she waited for me to rub her ears and tell her that she was good, but no longer than that. She turned and led me onward at a slower pace, perhaps chosen out of deference to my fatigue.
We walked to the bridge over the ancient locks. Centuries ago the river was much wider, wide enough for intrepid Dutchmen to sail it and settle. The Holland landing beside the Holland river. Not even canoes troll its shallow depths these days, as the locks sit a sentinel watch over the falling river. Perhaps from the perspective of the smooth beige stone it is not such a bad fate, but from my reference of eighty-six thousand and four-hundred seconds each day, every day, there is a distinct element of tragedy, a grave loneliness.
As we crossed the bridge I called her toward me and we sat together. It was before the town installed a metal fence, so I dangled my feet freely over the edge, unaware that this would be the last time. We stared down the marshy river with trees to either side and gray clouds above. I scratched her ears again, slowly this time, and we both understood what a sacrilege it would have been to break the silence. Instead we were content to sit and wait, and it didn’t take long for the clouds to oblige us with their gift of a gentle shower. Each drop of water on the surface of the river was a marvel, and we did our best to observe them all. A distant peal alerted us to a single stroke of lightning, but the world was otherwise serene. As the rain abated we lingered to be sure that we didn’t miss anything.
And like that the clouds gave way to blue sky. We stood together and shook what water we could from our hair, and then turned and walked back the way we had come.