Moira is jogging in the park on a warm fall day when she sees a man walking his puppy. She saw him the other day, but he walked taller. She stares at him, autumn blazing in her gold eyes.
He is a musician in a band that is down on its luck right now. His best song is about yearning. Larry wants to surrender to despair.
She studies philosophy at the college. Her best class is on ethics.
His closest friend and band member was killed in a car accident, and now there are only memories.
Moira has thought about memory and consciousness. What is the point? What is the survival advantage? None, she thinks.
He, on the other hand, does not do much with rationality; he is torn away from thinking. He bleeds emotion. He is a tune in a minor key.
She looks at the scampering puppy and thinks of her cat, who must be hydrated every day. The cat has cataracts, had surgery to remove a tumor on her jaw, but still loves to lurk for mice, though she never catches any. She’s an old cat: retired. She does not analyze logical propositions, though she does dream, and chitters in her sleep.
Larry’s puppy followed him home one night. He named him Turtle, which doesn’t bother the dog. Larry wishes he himself had a shell. Maybe he just needs an aspirin for the pain to go away. He walks Turtle four times a day, and Moira was jogging on this path because she believes in exercising for good health, not because she enjoys it.
“What a beautiful puppy,” she says.
“I found him,” he says. “It was luck.”
“Chance rules the universe.” She is embarrassed about how pompous that sounds.
He nods and pretends to understand with a small smile.
“I mean luck.” She gazes at the red and orange maples, the oaks still sturdy green, though copper tinges the tips of the leaves. “We’re a lucky species, we humans.”
He stares at a rip in his glove. “Sure.”
She bends down to pet his puppy. The squirming puppy feels like solid energy under her hand. “I sound wacky.”
“Not to a musician.”
She laughs. “What instrument do you play?”
She says, just to hear how he’ll answer. “I would have thought you were a flautist.”
“Nah, I only flout convention.” He likes the trill of her laugh. “Come hear our band. We’re playing down the street tonight. At the Last Chance.”
A gold leaf floats down and spins in the breeze, momentarily defying gravity. “I have a class.”
His puppy yips. Larry holds out his hand and catches the leaf. “Maybe tomorrow night? At the Ace Bar?” Around them, the world is silent, the sun is shining, the planet is rolling in its orbit, and the cosmos is cooling.
“Maybe.” She thinks she might listen to the music, even if there is no survival advantage.
published 25 January 2012