Home from school I opened the door to find our dog yodeling from the top of the basement stairs. I stood shaking my head at an animal who has no sense of decorum. Her yodel is a high-pitched yelp and whine that involves her tail wagging her body. She curls her snout into what we call the horrible smile, a kind of baring her teeth without snarling. Her tongue lolls out of her mouth and she bobs her head up and down, sneezing like she's having a seizure. It's some greeting.
My part is to yell in a high voice, "it's you!" which is what I imagine she's saying over and over. "Oh my god, it's you!" I tell her while clambering upstairs. I stop near the top of the stairs and take her head in my hands for a good shake. Sometimes she lets me come into the kitchen but times like today she really, really needs to show me exactly how much love she has for me and I stay on the steps accepting it.
For some reason I was in the mood to make our dinner of roasted vegetables and cheesy egg cups. Chopping vegetables is clear and simple, worthwhile and rewarding. Things my school work often isn't. Vegetables almost never argue back or tell me suck my dick, nigger! Eggs crack without slamming fists into the lockers saying, fuck this place! I washed and sliced cauliflower, rinsed and quartered brussel sprouts, peeled and diced carrots and potatoes, and threw in a bowl of leftover chopped leaks. When I doused all that with olive oil, salt, and pepper, it allowed me to massage it together, spread it on a cookie sheet, and slip it without fuss into a 425 oven for half an hour. Even the clean-up was easy work with results about which I could feel good.
While I cooked, my wife was online at the kitchen table finding jobs to which I might apply. She cast the net wide, doing work I dislike and feel inadequate in doing. I told her, "This is awfully nice of you." She told me it was nothing and that she was happy to do something to help. As if she doesn't help me pretty much every day of the twenty-seven years we've been in love. When she was engrossed in the computer screen, I took the opportunity to stare at her, wondering how someone grows lovelier each day and is devoted to me. Then I decided to accept it, my good fortune, and felt like the dog standing atop the stairs wagging her whole body. I thought, "it's you! Oh my god, it's you!"
Our younger daughter came into the kitchen dressed up in character. She twirled and smiled, glowed really with happiness and security, knowing no one in the kitchen would find her anything but wondrous. When my wife questioned part of her look she consulted the book from which the character springs and read a section to us, losing herself in giggling. She left me smiling as she said that she had better get ready for dance, something she does mostly as herself rather than in cosplay regalia.
The cat wanting to get in on the action jumped onto a chair near where the dog was lying and swatted at her without baring her claws. "Come on! Let's brawl!" The dog, alarmed by any interaction with the cat stood up wagging her tail and retreated to another room. The cat rolled on her back and stretched her paw through the back of the chair for the hell of it. It looked like it felt good that stretch and roll.
Who knows where the other cat was? She's mysterious until it's time for food.
Our older daughter joined us for dinner while her sister was at dance. It took three times of us asking but she came up with something to tell us about her day at school — a screw-up with the metal detector and entry system that had them all late for first period. I watched her eat three servings of roasted vegetables, two pieces of toast with jam, and four egg and cheese cups. When my wife mentioned how much she had eaten our girl replied, "I'm hungry" in a tiny-kid's voice straight out of her first three years. She then told how she and her friend swam 4,000 yards though swim season has been over for months. Like a shark, she's the perfect swimming and eating machine, and one long, lean muscle.
It's evening now. Our younger girl is still at dance. Our older girl is rubbing the dog's belly and criticizing her for being lackadaisical. My wife is on the couch still looking at jobs for me and for her. The cat is on the foot stool not attacking anything. Who knows where the other cat is? I have a record on the turntable and these words coming out of my fingertips like magic lightning. The house is warm and were it in my power I would never, ever leave this place, these animals, and most of all these people. What with all that and the writing, I can't imagine what else I might ever need.