The first one has a dog. A shih tzu, I think. Small and fluffy, friendly. A soft tongue and short attention span (the dog, I mean). He’s just coming out of the park and I know him so I stop and say hello, how’s the new puppy, has he changed your life? As it turns out, he has. They no longer need an alarm clock, the man says, not that they really want to get up at exactly 6:15 every morning now that they’re retired. He smiles when he says it though and then we say goodbye—me to the man, me to the dog. The man says goodbye for them both and as I round the corner I hear him talking to the dog in a sing-song voice that in no way matches his grey hair, weathered face, his sweat pants and tee-shirt: Let’s go home and see mommy…
The next is much younger. Shirtless and shooting hoops in his driveway. A dog, fox coloured and Lassie shaped, sits politely off to the side, presumably keeping score.
I’m not looking for men, they’re just about tonight as I wander through the neighbourhood and beyond. Maybe it’s the hour—6 p.m.—dinner being cooked, or just eaten. The wimmin inside playing with power tools or sewing on buttons.
The guy in a white floppy hat and suspenders putting out his recycling lives alone I decide. He’s lived in this same house, a small brick bungalow, for forty years; he was the first owner. He and his wife chose rose-pink broadloom from the builder’s catalogue to cover the hardwood; they panelled the basement, put in a fake fireplace and a dartboard. He has a little workbench in the corner and his wife crocheted doilies for the arms of every stick of living room furniture. Cabbage rose chintz. Went smashing with the rug. She died ten, maybe twelve, years ago. In her sleep. He’s still grateful for that. Not that she’s gone, but how she went. The kids moved out in the 80’s and come back most weekends to see how he’s doing; they bring food and stay for supper, wash dishes and tidy the place up a bit. All the clatter and voices makes him feel like almost no time has passed and he might even think it stood still if it weren’t for garbage day coming around the way it does, reminding him yet another whole week is gone.
A man in his 70’s sits on the porch with a woman in her 40’s. I’m guessing, his daughter. Something about the way he leans back and she, slightly forward, towards him, as if falling into familiar postures in each other’s company.
A younger man rakes grass clippings, having moved a soccer net and ball.
Another mows his lawn carefully, precisely, perfectly even rows on a perfect angle. I want to stop and ask what he does for a living. He’s either an engineer or an acrobat.
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