by Virginia Repka-Franco
“Dang Dogs!” I huffed under my breath as I went out to corral my barkers. It was 3am and the loud howls of my beagle babies were just one more reason for my neighbors to hate me. Hate me? Yes, they hated me, or rather they act like I don’t exist. Things have gotten so bad around here that no one even waves back when I try to say hello. They don’t even complain—not anymore. I pass each dark house—such pretty homes that I’ll bet are chock full of secrets. Every house is. Sidings and shutters whisper not to get too close, “Get on your way,” they warn. The only sound besides my flip flops slapping the asphalt is the “whoo whoo” of my dogs, getting farther away.
After walking for what seemed to be miles, I finally secure both of my canine knuckleheads on a leash and shush them as we walk through the damp grass of the roadside.
My solitary existence isn’t all bad. There is something liberating about being alone outdoors in the moonlight. The light of day carries so many expectations to conform in various ways including being properly dressed. That is what I love about the dark, no need to impress. I’ve always been a fan of comfort, which means cutoffs and an old cropped tee shirt. The one I have on tonight is particularly scuzzy—it has dark flecks all over it. My friends, when I made time to see them, used to say I was wanted by the fashion police. Maybe I could go all out retro and tie dye the shirt to blend the stains? Some day I will break down and buy some decent clothes.
But that would require leaving my little half acre lot. I can’t remember the last time I went anywhere. Caring for the house and the yard takes up all my time, especially my collection of blooming cacti.
I hate to brag but I have the loveliest collection of climbing prickles in Florida. You wouldn’t think too much seeing them all thorny, slouchy, and dry in the daytime. Each night, however, they reanimate and tilt their lush flower faces to the moonlight. It’s like looking at yellow and orange fiber optic show aglow in the darkness. The dull green stems that look so forlorn during in the sunshine stand glossy and prideful. That’s one of the reasons I won’t move. They would not survive being transplanted—and I am somehow dead sure that I wouldn’t either!
Besides, the doggies need the run of the yard. I secure the gate from the inside, unclip their leads and off they go. What bundles of energy they are after dark! They run with their floppy ears flying, playing a version of tag, where they bow to each other and then sprint in ever-widening circles until it looks like a blur through my eyes that are tearing up for no reason. I can’t remember why I am so sad. Memories flood my mind like the tip of a bad dream that I can’t recall. I just have to remember to always keep that gate closed so they don’t get out again! Nice as this neighborhood is, it’s a thoroughfare to the high school and some of those newly minted drivers have a heavy foot. I will never forget that day—how my heart thudded as I bounded into the road after my babies. Tires screeched and the sun bounced off a glint of metal, blinding me. One thing I can’t remember is what happened next—all I know is that we are home now—home to stay forever.
As I sit on the steps in the moonlight, I hear the panting of the tired out puppies and they come and slump down on the warm concrete—one on each side of me. They sniff the first breezes of dawn. Birds are singing the light into being. The cactus petals are how closed, having said their goodnight to daybreak. The strangers will come again today. My dogs will bark and bark but they will pay no mind. No gate can deter these people, those who have come to grab, claw and haggle. I’ll be here too, where else do I have to go? I’ll be damned if I leave just because at the end of my driveway there’s a sign saying ‘Estate Sale—Two Days Only’ in black, bold letters.
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Virginia Repka-Franco has been writing stories and news articles since 2002. She lives in Florida.