On Wednesday I was driving down a country road behind a stream of cars led by a school bus. It was a knockout day: blue sky, fading green September fields. The bus stopped and so did we all, waiting for the kids to climb out to waiting mothers.
To my left, on the grass about ten feet from the open door of the bus, was a big black lab. He was hunkered down and watchful as the children in new fall clothes came down the steps. It was a still life: two dozen cars stopped in both directions on the highway, a big orange bus, tykes with backpacks, brilliant sunshine, and this gleaming dog, waiting for somebody he loved to come home.
Then like moments do, this one broke apart. Moms scurried with their kids across the road, red bus lights were turned off, and cars started to crawl forward. The child, maybe some 12-year-old behind whom the dog trailed all summer up hills and down creeks, never showed. The bus doors closed and the dog stood up, seemingly undisappointed, and wandered off toward a nearby house. Maybe the kid stayed after school, or maybe there was no kid at all. Maybe it's the dog's habit: checking out the school bus at 3:30, musing in his doggy way: What's this about? before going back to his master for a treat.
In the category of Life Is A River, a cable guy came by today to resolve some issues with my DVR. As he was leaving, he apologized for being on the telephone earlier. "It was the ex-wife," he said. "My dog died this morning. A black lab. Hit by a car. He's in my back yard; I need to go home and dig a hole for him."
My insides seized up. I told the cable man how sorry I was. Then I picked up my Harry and hugged him tight, hoping the school bus dog was okay, chasing butterflies or snoozing somewhere in the sun.