This weekend, I paid a visit to Man’s parents and family in Maine. I am always excited to call on them, and chased my tail in the kitchen to express my joy.
I reacquainted myself with all of the quiet corners of the house, and explored anew the places which I had been familiar with in the past. I became the center of the gathering of people there, collecting attention and interesting smells like choice blooms from a field. Man’s family and some of their friends were there and I enjoyed making the acquaintance of these delightful humans.
All in all, I passed a pleasant day and evening in the Maine home. Then, this morning, Woman took me on walk around the neighborhood. On that walk, reader, some surprising events took place. I almost hesitate to tell you, but I must lay out the muddled thoughts which crowd my mind.
At first, Woman and I explored the pastoral scenery in the neighborhood of Man’s parents’ home. I smelled the sea air, the damp moss and leaves, and the leftover snow from the first wintry precipitation of the season.
Afterward, I strolled through some of tiny streets and alleys of the more urban part of town. As I wandered, I caught snatches of a familiar scent and seemed always to hear the movements of another canine somewhere close by, but whenever I chanced to turn and search for the source of the noises, I could not find anyone.
Then, I rounded a corner, and there he was: Orange Boy.
My brother and I stared at one another. I could not believe my eyes–yet there had been signs, and I had always felt sure he must be alive. After a moment, we bounded toward one another, sniffing the plethora of scents which attach to a dog over a lifetime and become part of who he is. We circled and studied one another, taking our time, tails wagging with the joy of acquaintance renewed.
Orange Boy was almost identical to me except for one missing optic: yes, dear reader–my brother’s left eye was missing and covered instead by a dark patch.
“What happened to your eye?” I asked him, and he looked down, pawing at his nose, remembering.
“I will tell you…one day…but not today. What are you called now? I know that you have a family. I have been close–I have been watching you–and I have seen them.”
I sensed that there was a mystery here which ran deep–deeper than I had ever before imagined. For the first time, I began to feel a little afraid, and to wonder what my brother had been through in the years since we had parted. I told him my name and something of my life, and he listened attentively, but offered no intelligence in return.
The wind picked up and Orange Boy’s ears twitched and his nostrils flared as he was alerted by something I did not sense or understand.
“I have to depart,” he told me, gravely, “but listen. I wanted to warn you not to inquire further into my past–do not track my scent. Had I been a better brother, I would not have ventured near you at all, but I could not help myself, and I have endangered you. Do not feel to melancholy; I will find you again when I can. Now, I have to go, and I advise you not to linger here.”
With that, my brother paced away into the dark shadow between two buildings. I was left bewildered and numb. I had felt so much so quickly–the elation of meeting my brother, alive, and then the fear that accompanied his cryptic warning and the emptiness that flooded into me with his sudden departure.
That night, I lay by the fire and let the whole day play through my mind again and again. I felt a tumult of emotions coursing through me and I struggled to maintain my outward calm. The humans pet me and distracted me with their affectionate attentions, but my mind was elsewhere, on my brother and the mystery opening up in front of me like a maze.
Ships that pass in the night and speak each other in passing;
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice; then darkness again and a silence.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn