Zippy and Hugo weren’t doing much of anything. Hugo was lying in his favorite spot in the west-facing window of their previous house – the first house his people had bought together – changing positions every now and then to soak up the afternoon sun as dust became glitter in the streaming rays. He was getting better at thinking something he liked into being.
Zippy, snoozing in Kevin’s beanbag chair in the old house that had long since been replaced back there, floated on memories into and out of consciousness.
This was pretty much how they stayed for a time, until Zippy grew more awake.
“I ran into Trudy. She said she met you.”
“Yeah, we had a nice chat and I learned more about Kevin when he was a kid, and about Donnie.”
Zippy chuckled inwardly, thinking about Trudy and that gang of hers, all waiting for Donnie.
“She was telling me how she got here when I realized you and I haven’t talked about your journey. I’d like to hear about it if you want to tell me.”
“It’s not much of a story, I’m afraid. From the others I’ve met here, how I got here is pretty typical. I was old, frail and blind. Finally, my kidneys gave out. That was the signal to Kevin’s parents. By that point, Kevin was a teenager and wasn’t home often, so we didn’t spend much time together. I slept most of the time anyway then, so I wasn’t very exciting to be around. I could still hear, and every time he came home and called out my name, I was so happy I jumped up as best I could, and ran to the sound of his voice.
“Anyway, the night I left there, Kevin and his mom said goodbye to me as his dad gently placed me in the old Suburban. Jay, his dad, was his usual stoic self. Kevin’s mom’s voice quivered as she scratched his ears one last time. Kevin was calm. I didn’t recognize it. I know what calm is of course but it was the way he was calm. Like he wasn’t there. Calm in the sense of an absence of feeling. It wasn’t like him at all.”
Hugo listened to this familiar description. This was very much like the Kevin he knew.
“After they said their goodbyes, Jay pulled out of the driveway and we drove. I didn’t know where we were going until we pulled up into the front of the vet’s office. While I didn’t like that place at all, I figured we were there for a checkup, though knowing somewhere in me that this wasn’t right, given how Kevin and his mom said bye to me.
“Jay carried me in and I heard him talking in a still, soft voice to someone inside. We waited for only a minute or two, him holding me close, until the other person said something, and Jay carried me further into the place. It wasn’t very far so I figured we were in one of the checkup rooms, where I’d been many times before and knew well. I was really hurting then. I had this ache all over that shot at me from random places in my body every once in a while. Then the vet came in. I had known him my whole life and didn’t need to see him to know that voice. A kind, gentle man but matter-of-fact as well, which Jay liked. I figured they were talking about how to make me feel better.
“They talked for a minute until I heard some paper and plastic rustling. Jay stroked my ears and pet me, then set me on a table, never stopping touching me, patting me, scratching me.
“Weird to look back and think I had a few more minutes and that was going to be that. I’d have made more of an effort to lick Kevin and his mom when they said goodbye. I don’t have any regrets mind you, though I do wish I’d known we were about to wrap it up. Now, where was I? Oh yes, so after a few seconds, with Jay’s voice soothing me, I feel the tiniest little jab of pain in my leg. I got drowsy and fell asleep. What was weird at the time, and I know this is typical now, is that I felt like I woke up as soon as I’d fallen asleep.”
Hugo remembered. He’d had the same feeling, of waking up without sleeping, only the sense of falling asleep.
“And when I woke up, there was Trudy, waiting for me. There was no one who’d gone ahead of me who was waiting for Kevin, so Trudy had been getting ready to see me again.”