He had been standing in sheets of rain in the middle of the intersection late on this darkest of fall nights, perhaps disoriented, certainly adrift; the neighbor’s car veered from him. They called us a few minutes later, the phone possessing that anxious tone reserved for messages coming in after 10. Rain slicker on, treats in hand, I opened the door to see Christopher waiting patiently at the screen, tail moving, his head up, a wide jawed smile filling his face.
For 10 years he had been the big dog of the neighborhood, handsome, a red golden retriever, broad-chested, 90 pounds and powerful, an escape artist, a killer of groundhogs, a roamer of fields. He showed up at our door at all hours, and after we fed him, we walked him home. We thought it was better that he show himself here than lots of other places where he might choose to appear.
He took the treats gently from my hand, one after another, and then we walked out into the street and the 300 yards to the horse farm where his owner lived. Her daughter met me, out on her own search, and he happily padded away with her.
Coming back I switched off the flashlight. A few weak lights shone in windows a hundred feet away, but the deepest pall of darkness lay over everything else. The wind was rising from the west, the rain had stopped, and the sound of leaves and dry corn stalks crackled and whooshed around me. My eyes adjusted. More intense dark forms showed themselves against the less intense forms — a mass of leaves and limbs set off against the slightest glow of ambient light in the east, water on the black roadway taking on the quality of shadowed pewter. I turned around and walked to the cornfield and onto the muddy path and in for fifty or sixty feet until only filaments of shaking, buff colored, withered stalks held any faint hint of light. For at least a minute I remained unmoving, eyes open, barely breathing – I felt calm and gradually became quieter inside until I felt that it would be lovely to bring a chair out here and just sit, completely alert and happy, waiting for whatever might come close and show itself to me.