The autumnal equinox has replaced long summer days which means I have only a little over half an hour after my class ends at 6 p.m. to beat the sunset on my drive home to Monrovia. I made my own deadline tonight.
My dogs won’t even expect it; we’ve been off our routine of evening walks ever since school started and I grudgingly set aside my summer self.
But I need this walk tonight.
I put on my shoes, the black ones I no longer wear in anyone’s presence but my dogs’ because the left one developed an incessant squeak.
My dogs quickly sense the turn of events. The pit bull leaps up, his tail going thwack, thwack, thwack against the front door. The retriever mix does spastic laps around the living room table as his ID tags jangle against his trailing leash. The Rottweiler’s nails click against the wood floor as she wrestles with her own leash.
My mom decides to walk with me half way so we can exchange news of the day.
Across the street, my neighbor, a bodyguard for A-list celebrities, focuses the soft spray of hose water on a yellow patch in an otherwise immaculate lawn.
“Hey, kiddo,” he says in the same gruff, endearing voice I’ve heard tell thrilling cop stories since the days when all the kids would play street hockey between a boundary of orange cones.
On our walks, my dogs have trained me to recognize each dog’s bark behind gates and screen doors as we pass. Here the well-trained Akita surveying the scene.
Across the street a Jack Russell mix comes tearing down the driveway and skids to an excited stop at the gate. My dogs whine in greeting and two get their leashes tangled. One’s wavy black fur brushing against the other’s short bristly brindle coat and the barking makes a funny kind of melody with my squeaky shoe and my pepper spray going tink…tink…tink against the house keys around my neck.
Sounds of home.
I’ve memorized the path. The purple mailbox with the odd yellow rings painted on it. The house painted white with primer that someone has added tentative sample strokes of muddy brown, burnt orange and cream near the front window. It’s been like this all summer.
I know where an old Cadillac used to be and too much oil has spilled. I urge the dogs around the goop which rarely works. A young man tinkers with his Jolly Rancher-green mustang. Usually his kid is out there watching him but not tonight. Instead his companion is Frankenstein, one of those electric fan inflated decorations set out for Halloween.
If I turn right instead of continuing left, I will see my elementary school with the new topiary out front in the shape of the dragon mascot.
Instead I pass my childhood best friends’ house. They moved back home but that doesn’t matter since we don’t talk anymore.
Under the canopy of trees that lead to my house my feet stomp alternately on mushy pollen and acorn bits. A window is open and I can see the warm glow from the orange walls and the pretty imitation Tiffany lamp I helped my mom pick out at JCPenney two summers ago.
Sights of home.
At work, and then in classes earlier today, I saw and heard it all. I have a feeling that’s how it will always be.
Bailey Porter, a senior journalism major, is Web editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.