Sizzling heat crisped the grass this summer until it resembled shredded Nabisco Shredded Wheat biscuits. The sun baked my head, because more often than not, I’d forget my hat. The dog refused to walk and instead lay near an air conditioning vent in the house. But yesterday’s soft breeze encouraged him to walk around the block. He actually trotted further than his usual one block or two. That’s how pleasant the morning was.
Wherever we walk people smile when they see Nobby and often stop to pet him. Yesterday was no different. We were going along a tree-lined trail when two women approached. “What ‘blend’ is he?” one asked. She cradled Nobby’s head in her cupped hands. He loved her instantly.
“He’s a Golden…”
She finished my sentence, “…Retriever and standard Poodle?” I nodded.
She bent down and passed her hands along his back gently, then she stepped back and said, “Mmm, nice comportment….” Obviously she knew dogs and probably had a bit of dog-show judge in her DNA. “What’s his name?”
She laughed. “Is your last name Clarke?”
“Yes,” I said, surprised. I wondered if she’d seen Peter walking Nobby?
“In England,” she said, “anyone whose surname is Clarke is called ‘Nobby.'”
“Yes, I know! You’re the first person to get that. We named him after my father-in-law.”
“I’m from England,” she said, “and Australia.”
It was my turn to laugh. “I could tell.” I would tell Peter about this when I visited later.
In this university town, old-timers grumble when the slow summertime pace screeches to a stop with the return of students, this year some six thousand more than ever before. Cars race along the main thoroughfares, stores are packed with incoming freshmen and weepy mothers, while
dads look forward to the empty nest back home.
So I wasn’t surprised to see a herd of students running full tilt along the sidewalk toward us half a block from home. I decided they could bloody well go around us rather than forcing me to step off the curb into the street. Nobby and I stayed on course even though I got dirty looks for not stepping aside. As the group, maybe 30 strong, pounded past, one runner stepped into the street, smiled at me and said, “Excuse us, please.”
Ah-h. “Thank you,” I said. What a nice young man.
Yesterday turned hot after the pleasant start, so I stayed inside with the dog. Today, though, was quite cool and London foggy. Nobby was only too happy to go for a walk this morning. We were nearly back home when we startled a flock of chickadees feasting on echinacea seeds in a neighbor’s garden—sunshine on the wing, a yellow watercolor wash, the perfect end to our walk around the block.
2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist.