This morning we received a surprise in the mail: A Note of Release (aka Release of Deed), and a nice note from the lady we bought it from, congratulating us on a job well done. This means that our home is paid for. No more house payments. No danger of losing it unless we don't pay our real estate taxes. If I sound a little understated it is because I am still looking over my shoulder. We bought this place ten years ago and made our house payments when we couldn't afford to pay anything else. When Gary was laid off and when his hours were cut, when our savings dwindled down to nothing, we still scraped together the house payment every month. It is hard to believe that we're done.
Friends have asked if we are planning a mortgage burning party. Perhaps once we take the Release of Deed to the County Seat and hand it to them and they say "It's all yours", we'll feel like a party. As for now, I think we'll settle for sitting in the living room with a glass of wine and allowing the idea to wash over us.
What must be done
The dogs lay in the living room, stomachs full, on their cushions, and in their kennels. The windows were open and an early evening chill filled the air. The people were at the table eating dinner.
He dreams. The Old one stared toward the boy.
The Hound shook his head, his ears helicoptering in the air. They are still small—of childhood things. He is too young.
Maybe not so young. One got in last night.
As stray Creeper. The Hound yawned. A stroke of luck.
The small dog's eyes were on the floor under the dining table. He repeated his earlier warnings. They're bolder. Less afraid of the light.
The Old One didn't argue. They know I'm growing older. It's made them brave.
And stupid. The Hound came to alert, watching the boy move toward the kitchen with his plate in his hand. They underestimate us all. He watched the boys' feet hopefully as he served himself a second plate of food. The Small Dog was watching too and the Hound knew he was faster and stealthier.
Only to a degree.
Sure enough, the boy's serving included a spill.
The Small Dog was in the kitchen before the Hound was even on his feet. But the Cat beat both of them, snatched up the morsel, and was gone. From the table, the Man Person reminded the Small Dog that he should be in his kennel. Small Dog looked properly mollified—not because he'd done something he shouldn't have, but because he'd been caught and missed the bite—something that wouldn't have happened just a few years before.
None of them needed to say it, but they all knew—they were all getting older and their best days of triumph over the Many were behind them.
He needs guidance. Better to be too early than too late.
The Hound mumbled at the Small Dog audibly from his cushion. He'd eaten plenty and was not hungry—it was the principle of the thing. The cat needed to be taken down a peg. To the Old One: What? Are you going to rise up and talk to him?
It's not my calling.
The Hound couldn't argue that. The calling was specific to the dog. The Old One looked out for the woman in her daily journeys and was the guardian of them all. They were all warriors when they had to be, but he was the Old One, a title given only to those who had survived the worst battles. The Hound watched the windows and the doors and policed the household shadows, was the boy's playmate and protector while he rode his bike. The Small Dog announced intruders and visitors, knew the woods, the wildlife, kept company with foxes, and terrified rabbits into blathering their secrets. His high speed chases through the woods reminded the Many that the house was not unprotected and where the boundaries were. But none of them knew dreams. Only that they happened. Only that they were powerful and that there was a narrow time in every person's life in which they were about opening doors and letting in the darkness or the light.
The Old One stood, slowly, unfolding each arthritic leg. Tonight I will call for help.
But the Many . . . The Hound growled in alarm. Calling for help would expose them. The Many would know that they were feeling vulnerable.
"Hush Oscar," said the woman. "Solomon lay down. We're not through eating yet."
The Old One pretended he didn't hear her. It's a clear night. It has been a long time since I have said prayers. I believe I will do so later.
He lay back down as slowly as possible, carefully arranging his stiff limbs.
The Hound looked toward the Small Dog who returned the stare. There was a silent agreement.
We will join you.
Another breeze wafted in the open window. All of them raised their muzzles to catch it and all three dogs shivered. Though it had taken all day, the chilling breeze had found its mark.
The Small Dog began to bark.