Gloria had a morning schedule, and she stuck to it as if her life depended on it. Without an alarm to waken her, she managed to get out of bed at exactly 6:45. She slid into her slippers, shuffled into the kitchen, and made coffee. At 6:50, she sat down at her kitchen table, sipped from a chipped but favorite cup, and stared down the world, which stared back at her, through her grimy third floor window.
At 7AM, it was time to walk the dog.
Attire varied. Sometimes she wore her slippers, sometimes she wore sneakers. Depended on what kind of world stared back at her.
Today, she chose sneakers. There was a grey tinge to the sky just above the buildings, and the grime of the window seemed particularly foul. There was chill in the air, and the coffee in her cup seemed to her dense and bitter. Sneaker weather.
"Pea!" she called. "Peanut, c'mon." Peanut, as always, was a reluctant companion. Gloria knew he was burying himself beneath the piles of blankets on her recently vacated bed, burrowing and flopped, perhaps his tongue lolling as limply as his tail. Only two years had passed since Gord had been sensible enough to say, "Gloria, jesus, let the damn dog sleep."
Gord was moldering in the urn in the pantry now. The mass of him, spread beneath the covers and curling into the shape of Peanut, was now a disassembled mess shaping into a ceramic vase next to Ramen packets and Nutella jars. Now, if Gloria wanted Peanut to get up and participate in her morning schedule, there was no Gord to complain.
"Peanut!" Gloria was dropping the last of the coffee into the kitchen sink. Her sneakers were sealed onto her feet, and she was wearing a track suit days from a good washing. Pea's leash was in one hand, and she rattled it, making sure the metal tags rang out like a bell.
Peanut was old. Not ancient, not as old as Mr. Kurtez's animal around the block, but the brown fur was tinged now by a grey wisp. Gord lived long enough to tell Gloria, "He can't do these damn walks like he used to."
"If I'm able to do them," Gloria said, "then he can."
"I cant do the damn walks anymore," Gord replied. Then he died. Just like that. Strangers flocked like pigeons, and Gloria stood there as the ambulance arrived, clutching the leash as Peanut sniffed Gord's body.
"No, I'm..." she told everyone.
"He's.... There is nothing we can...." she heard.
Peanut barked. Moved to protect Gloria. Peanut was always Gord's dog, so it moved Gloria to see Peanut think he was defending her from the well-meaning pigeons. Humans.
Gloria rattled the leash, the tags, once more. And Peanut came. His heft--light, solid--smacked onto the floor of the bedroom then clipped across the floor to the kitchen. He stood with one front paw turned out, waiting to be clipped by the hook of the leash.
Gloria giggled--always--at the front paw. "Grace Kelly," she said to Peanut.
To Gloria, the out-turned paw was a regal, vulnerable stance as if Peanut was in 'Rear Window', swirling in a dress and delivering food to Gord. An artifice and a vision.
"Wanna go out?" Gloria asked, bending at the knees. "Lessgo out!"
Peanut fell onto his side and exposed his belly. Gloria reached out a hand to scratch the exposure. Peanut's tail thumped against the kitchen floor like a metronome. Gord, a pianist in his spare time, would've appreciated it.
"Hey, Glor!" a woman said, greeting Peanut and Gloria as they passed.
"Hi! How are you?" Gloria paused for a moment. Her sneakers squeaked on the wet sidewalk and Peanut squeaked from the sudden stop.
"Good. Good." The woman reached out for a quick touch, as if to reassure herself that Gloria was tangible. Gloria felt the woman's fingers brush across her shoulder. "It's not a bad day."
And it wasn't. From the apartment window, the day had seemed too grey, too purple and dark. Now that she and Peanut had gone out into it, the day was warm and golden and fine. "I wore shoes for nothing," Gloria said to the woman. "Poor Peanut doesn't need the sweater."
"No, he doesn't need it. I hope you enjoy the day." The woman smiled. "Peanut is...?"
Peanut, leashed and sweatered, growled. Gloria and the woman locked eyes. "I am so sorry." Gloria made a face indicating pain. But she wasn't pained.
"Why?" the woman asked
"Pea never does that. Growls. It's not--"
"He's a dog. Don't worry about it Gloria." The woman bent down and brushed her hand across Pea's head. Peanut wagged his tail, took his Grace Kelly stance. "Peanut is just helping you."
"Still. He shouldn't growl."
Pea, in his morning ritual, nudged and tugged Gloria along his preferred route until they both came to a cove. Geese, ducks, joggers, rocks, and water sipping at the land, taking a small piece of it away with each wave.
Gloria didn't often speak to Pea on these walks, but today she did. "It's a thing," she said to Peanut as they stood watching the water bounce into the earth and rebound. "Just a continuous thing."
Pea huffed, sat down. Stared at the geese as if they were his mobile feast.
Gloria dropped the leash after a long time of considering her options. Some years later, as she slipped away and human pigeons flocked to her body, Gord said, "At least the damn dog got you to exercise."
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