It got quiet in the back yard. Suddenly. Almost too quiet, and a little too suddenly so I decided to have a look. As I got around the house, I saw Daughter standing very, very still right at the edge of our lawn, looking out to the other side of the fence our neighbors had set up a couple of months earlier.
She didn’t move one, but she looked happy. And I knew why.
I stopped, too. I didn’t want to spoil her moment.
Daughter was standing there, admiring the neighbor’s dog, a German shepherd, with a shiny black back, light brown paws, and enough energy to power up an entire village. He was running around the neighboor’s lawn but when he saw Daughter, he ran towards the fence.
All the neighborhood kids love Alf, but nobody as much as Daughter. Whenever she sees Alf out, she runs to the window to watch, and then relays the news of Alf being out to the rest of the family. In a very loud voice. All other dogs she sees are rated on an Alf scale, in comparison to the best dog in the world, and no other dog has ever come even close.
Now, with her allergies, and especially with the allergies of her brother, Alf, or even the alfiest of dogs won’t ever make our home their home, which is probably why Daughter has kept her distance all this time. That and the fact that Alf always tries to lick everybody’s face, and Daughter’s a little afraid of that.
A little? Fine. A lot. So much that she had never even touched Alf. No petting, no scratching.
That’s why she was standing there now, just observing, just watching as the neighbor’s teenaged daughter and her friends made Alf chase a frisbee. He was running from one teenaged girl to another, his ears turned back to make his head more aerodynamic, running too fast and too far, and finally falling down.
“Oh, Alf,” I saw Daughter say, but she said it so softly that I didn’t hear anything. I just saw her lips move.
I also saw her take two steps forward, towards Alf, who was already up and with his tongue flapping, chasing the frisbee. I was hiding behind a bush, watching her watching the dog, and my heart melted because I knew she was closer to her dream than ever before, but that she didn’t quite have the courage to go after it.
“Go. Just go. Do it,” I said, to her, but without a sound.
Her two steps had taken her to a spot in the sun where the girls could see her well. The next time the neighbor’s daughter caught the frisbee, she put it behind her back and then faked throwing it, sending Alf running the wrong direction, so she could speak with Daughter.
“Hey, what’s up?” she asked Daughter.
“Hi,” she replied.
“Isn’t he funny? He’s so gullible, that dog. You wanna pet him?”
Daughter didn’t say anything.
“You wanna? Come on, I’ll hold him so he won’t jump and try to lick your face. He does that to everybody,” said neighbor’s daughter.
Just as Daughter took another step towards the fence, and Alf, one of the other teenage girls yelled from the front door:
“Hey, Jennifer. Hey, there’s some creep in the bushes, let’s go inside.”
She was pointing to my general direction.
Jennifer, that was the name of the neighbor’s daughter, clapped her hands, and Alf came running.
“In, boy, let’s go,” she said. Then she looked at Daughter.
“Sorry, kid. Next time.”