Fog seeped. It crept into crevices beside the squeaking bull-rushes and turned the lake into a silvery haze. Coins of weak sun, tossed between heads and tails by intermittent rays, kept the world’s fate in the balance. Marsh herons’ wings creaked. Undulations of smooth turf, sullen in the gloom, stretched like a viridescent tongue, ancient granite teeth on either side biting angry chunks out of the flickering sky.
The dog appeared, feathery tail wagging with pure joy, cataract-blinded eyes almost purple in the odd light, a large log held proudly between still-powerful jaws. No longer sufficiently alert to see, let alone chase, the early-morning rabbits standing at ease before their burrows, or quick enough to sense and run with the airport’s many planes, Jumble retained the best parts of love-of-life and happy-with-Own-God, and his trotting, though slow, showed his simple pleasure in the walk.
Fog played games: Hide and Seek, Loss and Relief.
Using his nose, the old dog sought the water, as he always did, sniffing out its pattern and its nature, ‘seeing’ the flittering of tiny fish, the sweep of low-lying branches, alight with blossom, into the lake, the roughness of wire at the edges.
He stood, patchily visible, by the small hummock of damp grass and looked up, whole body trusting.
His owner, unable to resist the beseech of blind eyes and the hope in the shaggy coat, picked up a big stick and, arching between shades of fog and sun’s early promise, launched it smack-splat into the water’s centre.
Jumble jumped, a-quiver with puppyish excitement, plashing into the element with which he was most at home, wet nose exulting in this playful amniotic sack. He swam, breaths snorting out, paws, with their touchingly pink pads, paddling through and leaving ripples in their wake.
Fog lifted, a sudden curtain opening out into golden-green beauty. The owner’s eyes blurred. Tears fell. The animal doggy-paddled on.
The sheer catharsis of his continued existence caught Owner a blow of pain-laughter in the throat. Two weeks before, the beloved animal had been so sick, it had seemed, briefly, as if his fourteenth birthday (now three months away exactly) would never happen – and that ashes only would return from the veterinary clinic visit.
But he survived.
Fog shrouded the Owner’s eyes and mind for too many years so that sights seen were cloudy and wrongly named. Bright lightness now dawned.
Jumble emerged. Haltingly, it is true. Helped, By Own God, the last few inches out of the water. He shook, droplets flying in an exuberant shower from black and grey fur – and plunged on, through bands of darkness and brilliant light, into the little wood.
Fog crept away, its job done.