Week 13 – Prompt: Never underestimate the lives of old men sitting on benches. Mystery Basket: a person named Ralph, animal crackers and driving on Route 66.
Belvedere loved afternoon walks, even more than morning ones. There were so many more scents at this time of day and this excited the hound dog. Belvedere sniffed everything that crossed his path – trees, bushes, grass, crotches, butts – he couldn’t help himself. He had to sniff. He loved the scent of stories. Sometimes they made him sad. Yesterday, he’d tugged his human over to the trunk of a thick elm tree, pressed his nose against the rough wood, damp with pee from an old Great Dane named Tiny. The sickly, sweet scent of the urine told him that Tiny wasn’t long for this world, but hadn’t let his human know yet.
Some stories made him happy. Not so long ago, Belvedere nuzzled his nose into patch of grass with glistening droplets of the pungent pee of a young female pug, pregnant with her first belly of puppies.
Sometimes the stories Belvedere sniffed scared him. Once a half-dried puddle of pee on the sidewalk told him a tale about a terrified pit bull forced by her human to fight with other dogs until one of them died. It made him shiver with fear and nuzzle against his human’s leg.
Even more than dog scent stories, Belvedere loved the human ones. Problem was these stories were harder to get. His human usually apologetically tugged him away before he could get a good sniff of a human’s crotch or a baby’s full diaper.
Today, though, Belvedere was out for a walk with Trixi, the yappy poodle, and her old female human who lived next door. The human was weak and didn’t like to make a commotion tugging on his leash, so the old hound dog knew he could get some good human scent stories on this walk.
It wasn’t long before he was dragging the frail old human towards an old man sitting on a bench, eating animal crackers and staring ahead with blank eyes. Belvedere hovered up some cracker crumbs off the ground and then jammed his nose into the human’s crotch and took a big whiff.
That whiff was enough to tell Belvedere the man was dying from a terrible disease that was stealing all his memories, and everyday the man came here to sit and stare into his past. To try and salvage the memories that told him who he was. He often wondered what he would become without that anchor. Death didn’t scare him like losing himself did. A distant memory wormed itself through the wrecked part of his brain. He was with his wife on their honeymoon, both of them so young and beautiful, driving along Route 66 with the top down, the dusty New Mexico wind in their hair. He heard her soft voice with that east coast lilt say, “I love you, Ralph.” The man smiled, and reached out to touch her silky hair, stroking the air in front of him, and then the memory was gone, destroyed by the disease like a film reel burned by a flame. Tears streamed down the man’s wrinkled face. Belvedere whimpered and nuzzled his hand.