It was warm for early December. But Southern California was often like that. So I’d put on sunscreen, a baseball cap, and sunglasses with my T-shirt and nylon track pants. Most of my clothes now hung loosely on me like a hanger. As the cars and trucks whizzed past us on the left, I felt oddly out of place and time, like an old jockey harnessed behind his horse in a seat-less sulky. I tried to pick up the pace. But that didn’t last long. The cancer—and chemo—sucked all the energy from me daily. Hell, I just wanted to make it around the damn block! That was all. I hit the brakes again slightly. “Slow down, Summa.” About the middle of this side of the block, lived a large, male Rottweiler, who patrolled his property behind a wrought iron fence and electronically-controlled gates. As we approached, Summa started pulling harder—she knew where he lived, too.
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“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I said just above a whisper, braking harder. I didn’t want my voice alerting the Rottie either. But Summa continued to pull, her chest heaving, her breathing rasped by the linkedchain collar pulled tighter around her neck. I continued to apply the brakes but the back wheels slid and skid instead of stopping. And sure enough, as we got to the corner of the neighbor’s block wall, the bigheaded Rottie lay in wait. Summa jerked us forward the last few feet until both dogs were at each other face-to-face with the wrought iron’s mesh between them, making lots of loud, vicious noises but unable to do each other any harm. I pulled back on the walker. “Summa! Stop!” I pulled again— harder. “Sto-op!” She continued to snarl her teeth at the Rottie but backed off. “Go. Go!” As soon as she stepped away from the east gate, the Rottie stopped barking, raced behind the fence to the western end of his property, and stood panting, waiting for our next encounter. I tried to steer us closer to the parkway grass, but at 90 pounds and with four-footed drive, Summa’s strength easily out-matched mine. They went at it again with the west gate between them until I could cajole Summa into passing. The row of honey-colored fur on her back stood up straight like a warning to others—DON’T MESS WITH ME!
That Rottie would’ve kicked her butt. But she remained fearless, defiant. I had to laugh. And wished that I had her courage to likewise face my foe. We both knew there were no more dogs on this part of Orange Grove. If there were, the large condo complex that occupied the southwestern corner of the block hid its mandatedly-small canines and felines behind closed doors. The pressure was off for awhile. I remembered my iPod in my pocket and turned it on. The Wallflowers sang about driving home “with o-one headlight.” Partially-impaired. Physically and metaphorically. The objective correlative—something which stands by itself while mutually representing something else in the story. But my four-wheeled walker had no-o headlights at all. So where in hell did that leave me? We turned north—right turn number three—at the corner up Hamilton Avenue with the purplish-green San Gabriel Mountains now in the background serrated below an intensely blue sky. We were more than halfway home. Thank God. My legs, which had carried me well over ten-thousand miles in my distance-running past, were already tired. The bone pain from the cancer in my feet, legs, back, and hips was sometimes
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