I walk the dog Puck, or rather, he walks me.
He pulls on the leash wanting to leave the ordinary
World behind. He stops, looks back, stares, and sighs,
Waiting for the sixty-five year old human to catch up.
My eyes sparkle, my cheeks burn rosy,
My chest aches for adventure.
After grooming, the Shih-chan looks like a white rat
Perched on short white legs. He puts his black nose
To the ground, sniffs, and picks up
The savory scent of a strange dog.
I count on him to show me the way.
At the end of the driveway, the little grey sparrows use
The hedges as a playground and shelter. Their peeps
Mix with the familiar bedlam of their flapping wings.
I chuckle at their frenetic love of life.
My journey takes us past single-family ranch-style homes.
A whisper, a desperate cry tickles my ear, pulls me up the hill
Toward a stand of lonely white pine.
The mournful song puts
It’s soft cheek next to my heart.
At the top of the hill
A blue uniformed guard patrols the street,
Directing traffic around orange cones,
Plastic horses, a large blinking florescent arrow.
Both resenting the delay in our journey,
I frown and my ears get red,
And Puck growls as we walk around the chaotic space.
A bottomless hole stares back up at us
As we delicately tip-toe by,
Sensing a force pulling us into the abyss.
Puck wines with fear, trying to pull me back down
The hill to the real world.
We have entered an unusual realm of strange powers and events.
My hair bristles and my muscles tighten
As the scream of a hawk, and behind me, the taunting “caw”
Of the crows echo through the halls of the trees.
The sun throws shafts of light through the yellow oak leaves
radiating an orange glow to the forest.
The white pine leans over and whispers in my ear,
“Please put my children in the soil, they are dying.”
I grab the cones and push them into the ground with my palm.
Across the street, three old maids, extremely independent,
Old, and reclusive, push aside the shades
And peak out their windows.
They are pale, squalid, and squat, with swollen knees,
With foul air blasting from their nostrils, ooze
Dripping from their eyes.
They grab at their chance, passing a monocle
To each other, at once holding it up to their eye.
I’ve seen them taunted by mischievous children.
“Look at the witches,” they shout,
Then run away into the woods.
The witches in unison twitch their pointer finger,
Beckoning me to come near,
But a dark-face Mastif barks
And growls warning me to stay away.
We reach the final leg of the journey when we are
Caught in the pocket of a cul-de-sac.
Perplexed, we look everywhere for a way out.
We believe the enemy has led us into the dead-end
To confuse, befuddle, and mystify us.
We spy the familiar orange radio towers
Scraping the belly of the sky like three needles.
They are pointers to home.
Puck pulls me through a hole in the chain-link fence.
The brambles clutch at my pants, snag at my sleeve,
Trying to keep me in their world.
My palms sweat and I bite my lip.
But Puck leads me onto a narrow, often-used deer path.
The trail curves down into a valley and then
Up to the top of a hill filled with weeping willows.
The next sunny day, alone, I go to the top of the hill.
Believe it or not, the signs, the guard,
The hole in the ground, and the witch’s house
Are gone, melted away into the darkness of the night.
If the truth be known, I yearn for that kingdom,
And wonder if there is any magic left in our real world.
Albert Ruggiero is a baby-boomer, so his view of the world has always been through his glasses of the 50’s, but his stories are filled with hope and a view of the future. He is the author of two short-story collections; “The Curious Boy and Other Short Stories” and “Bestride the Narrow World,” and the novels “Wilson’s Wall” and “Daughter of God and Man.”