How to keep moving

You can tell the sun to fuck off all you want, but it won't. I was here first, it will only argue, and you don't want to get into THAT conversation again. Chicken, egg. Earth, Sun. Grief, you.

Just get up. Be your own Nurse Ratchet. Scowl at yourself as you brush your teeth and inspect your swollen eyes and puffy skin. You were an unconventional beauty once—a nose too wide for film, bottom teeth too crowded for closeups, but your bright eyes and lithe and lively body and crisp clean fetching gestures drew in the audience, seduced it, when they didn't see it coming. Perfect for the stage. Yes, you did all right, once upon a time.

Nurse Ratchet stabs you in the left buttock with a syringe. Only kidding, she says. It's empty. Get moving.

The puppy is wide awake in her pen downstairs, hopping in place and crying. Hello hello hello oh you it's you do you see me because I see you!

Make sweet reassuring sounds as you let Red Dog out back. Find your coffee entourage: spoon, mug, Splenda, cream, Caffe Verona K-cup. Switch the Keurig on. It lows like what you think a narwhal would sound like. While it moos and futzes, release the hound.

Bella is wiggly happiness, eager to play. She is stretching into a wholly new creature. Legs, lengthening comically. Snout, elongating. She adores Red Dog, and for a second, you worry that she likes Red Dog more than she likes you. They do play for hours, salivating into each other's mouths. That's a tough act to follow. You usually prefer a few movie dates first.

Sit on the couch and sip your coffee. Get up and fiddle with the thermostat, always broken. The house finally gets its orders, begins cranking and pipes are clanking—you are suddenly on a ship, a ship that's going nowhere. Well, at least it will be warm. You hope.

You sip your coffee and burrow under a cover and watch the four animals—two feline, two canine—play. Watch them, they let you watch them. They are perfectly lovely creatures.

They are so lovely, you want to die. You really, really want to die. They are all you have this week, and they have each other more than you have them to count on. Something's got to give today, or you will die of grief. You will take a deep breath and step into the abyss, the abyss no one is supposed to talk about. You have pills, razors, the usual. Not great to have around, but there you are. At least you don't have a belt.

Get up. Get dressed. Don't expect to do a crackin' job. Just a modicum of hygiene, some acceptable footwear.

Get away from the house. Find a reason. A bag of Senior Dog Food, left behind from Sir James's passing. Yes, you think, you can donate it to a local animal shelter. People do things like this.

Drive to the shelter, which is the poor-man's shelter, not the fancier, well-funded Humane Society. This is the rougher side of animal rescue town. They seem confused by your offering.

It's a donation, you say. My old dog died.

I'm so sorry, they say.

I know, you say. Do you have a dog that might need some cuddling? Like, a dog who might need a little socialization today? Somebody in need?

The staff has to think about it. Some of the dogs haven't had their rabies shots yet. You can't touch them.

Oh, you say. You wait.

I guess you could hang out with Marshal, says one woman. Are you good with pitties? she says.

You are good with big strong pit bulls, yes.

She sizes you up, then fetches Marshal, a tan and cream handsome big boy, maybe Am Staffie. He's had a hard life of abuse.

She ushers you and Marshal into the visitation room, which is more like a jail cell for conjugal visits, with a stained futon couch and concrete walls and floors.

You rub his velvet ears, massage his thick muscled neck. His paws are itchy and he bites at them: likely an allergy, poor fella. He's a beauty. Tell him so. Say a little prayer over him that he'll be one of the lucky ones. He closes his eyes beside you on the futon, in no hurry to go back to his kennel. Who can blame him?

Say, I'm so sorry, buddy. It shouldn't be this way. I'll get the word out about you.

He doesn't answer. He lives in the present. I'm here now, I will surely go. Very little stays the same, least of all, people.