He immersed himself in small fascinations because they possessed the quality of cosmic slingshots; they traversed the narrow passages of ordinary days with mighty catapults whose earnest plead wed dreams to the hopeless places.
He learned to understand life beyond his years out of necessity. And as such he learned that to entertain lost causes was to profit on the flaws of humanity and in so doing, to live inside truths whose divinity provided the most grand and boundless of sanctuaries. Which is why he conspired to steal away on certain afternoons to Maribel’s house, running as quickly as his first grade legs could carry him. Maribel was a cross-grained old woman who lived across the street, catercorner to his family’s rancher.
The neighborhood kids had stitched together vicious rumors about Maribel, out of ignorance and spite. The portrait they painted was of a crazy cat lady who stole little kids and practiced Santeria. She was sentenced to this unfortunate reputation for having chased them off her property when they tried stealing mangoes or her morning paper.
He had avoided such an adversarial relationship when he brought her a kitten he’d found rummaging in some hedges one day. It’s how we won her over in quicksilver fashion. After which she recruited him to help her with chores whenever he borrowed enough time with which to do so.
Inside the give or take of his free time, he would help Maribel with basic tasks such as watering her plants, taking out the garbage, cleaning up or feeding her daily herd of assorted stray cats from the neighborhood. He was amazed at how she kept them all straight; from names she’d coined for them to their respective dinner preferences to the tiniest roam of a habit attached to their street smart tails. And then she shared with him the reason for such a studious dedication to her extended family.
“If you take these creatures seriously, God listens.”
As time wore him down in all the ways of a too mean world, he came to love that simple piece of Zen. The years added a patina to his memories, and the lessons learned gained the weight of purpose and inviolable truths. To abide by the tenets was to purchase a hard earned peace of mind. And so it was that the old woman in shuffling slippers and a frayed pink house coat with the perpetual ash of a Benson and Hedges hanging from her lips taught him lessons without trying.
He crouched down onto the grass and criss-crossed his legs and let his newest friend King fall into his arms. Here was a first rate mutt who didn’t give a fig for the flat earth quality of purebreds. The bric-a-brac DNA that coursed through his veins told better stories, after all. With mastiff jowls that swung like a pendulum to his eager terrier clench to the clumsy pit bull puppy wanting to be all grown up . . King was a brilliant harmony of imperfection.
He wrapped his arms around King and then he looked into his eyes and he could see that house across the street, catercorner from his family’s rancher in Miami. And from that other lifetime ago, the moments stretched into a million different truths and he took each and every one of them seriously.
God was listening.