Buddy holds his back legs in close but his feet point out at an awkward angle as he stumbled toward the front door. His legs are failing him more often these days. He keeps plodding along though it is obvious the painful awareness of his aging body troubles him.
“I’ll never again turn the young ladies heads,” he sighed as I opened the door.
“Or go running off in the wind.”
“What are you talking about?” I closed the door after we’d stepped outside.
“I’m three quarters old from the start to the end.”
“Oh.” I remembered the song.
“And I wish I was eighteen again.”
“George Burns,” I acknowledged with a nod.
“Yeah, Ol’ George had it right.”
“You want to be eighteen again?”
Buddy paused to pee and I waited respectfully until he was done.
“I don’t know, maybe. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he said after symbolically wiping his feet in the grass.
Continuing with his reference to A Tale of Two Cities, I added, “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”
“And I sure made a fool of myself, didn’t I?”
“What do you mean?”
“With Miss Annie.”
Miss Annie was Buddy’s first girlfriend. He so wanted to be close to her but she rebuffed his romantic advances. By the time he arrived on the scene, she was getting a tad old and crotchety. Not unfriendly, mind you, but no longer given to the frivolities of youth. He’s never quite been the same since her passing. I guess none of us have.
“I don’t think you were a fool and I’m pretty sure Miss Annie didn’t either,” I replied.
“Things got a little better between us after the vet stole my junk.”
I chuckled remembering how Miss Annie explained to Buddy that the vet flipped his sister switch. After the operation he no longer looked at her with amorous intentions but rather as a sister.
“She had her moments, didn’t she?”
“I was an idiot.”
“You loved her, Buddy. Guys do stupid things when we’re in love.”
“How ’bout you?” He asked. “Do you think you’ll ever again turn the young ladies heads?”
“Me?” I scoffed. “Not a chance.”
“Do you wish you were eighteen again?”
I considered the scenario for a split second before I frowned deeply and shook my head. “No way.”
“Were you an idiot back then?”
“You have no idea.”
As we made our way back to the house, he said, “My legs wobble. They hurt.”
“I know,” I said, trying to hide the sadness because I knew my little boy was showing signs of old age.
“Yours wobble too.”
“I know,” I said again, trying to hide the…you get the picture.
“Does it bother you?”
We stepped into the house and as he headed down the hallway to the family room he said, “I miss her.”
“I know,” I replied, tears welling up in my eyes. “I miss her too.”
“She died thinking I was an idiot.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Buddy. She was very fond of you.”
He stopped in his tracks and threw a glance over his shoulder. “Ya think?”
“I know that for a fact.”
“How do you know?” He asked, slowly turning around to face me.
“Because she said so and she’s watching over you to make sure you’re okay.”
“Really?” He asked, tilting his head slightly.
“Really,” I replied, nodding. “She’s glad that we’re taking care of you.”
“Me too.” He turned back and walked into the family room before muttering, “I still wish I was eighteen again.”
“Why is that?”
“I’d try to do things differently.”
I heard Miss Annie say, “Tell him he did just fine, Dad.”
“You tell him.”
“Tell who what?” Buddy asked. When I didn’t answer, he said, “Was that her?”
I nodded. “She said not to worry, you did just fine.”
Buddy was staring into the distance, processing it all when Miss Annie said, “I’m not grouchy anymore.”
“You never were,” Buddy whispered. “You were sweet. I was an idiot.”
“Okay…um…” I said, half pointing my thumb over my shoulder. “You guys got this?”
“Tell him we got this,” Miss Annie said to Buddy.
“I can hear you.” As I walked away, I added, “You two take good care of each other.”
“Always have,” Miss Annie said.
“Always will,” Buddy added.
I heard Miss Annie whisper, “You’re taking good care of him.”
And Buddy whispered back, “I try but he gets grouchy sometimes.”
“He doesn’t mean it.”
“I know. Is he neutered?”
“We might want to consider…”
“I can hear you!”
Read The Morning Zoo – Sister Switch