Above the tick-tock of two old clocks, the rattle of storm windows, and the knock of radiators, I swear I can hear gas hissing through copper lines to the furnace downstairs. Outside, crows caw and cars rumble past, the traffic having picked up some since cities and towns are slowly opening, even as bodies pile up. In less than three months, there's been a staggering eighty-seven thousand coronavirus deaths—and counting—in this nation. The collective mourning must be deafening. Is anybody listening?

Through the southern windows, sun fades the back of the green couch where Calvin sleeps in our laps on the days after grand mals. He pulls my head into his, wants them nested together. I gladly accept. It gives me time to rest. Smellie pads over and plops her head on my leg where there's a free hand that can pet her. This will be how we will spend much of our day together.

If I were to sit up from here, I could nearly spy the gray fox if it were crossing our backyard. She's a wild-looking thing, low to the ground, grizzled and lean, a straight line going from snout to tail when she's hunkered down on the hunt. Once, I heard her screech like a woman or child being tortured. It gave me shivers. Though small—about the weight of a cat—if backed into a corner she might give our dog a run for her money. Luckily, Smellie's got seventy-five pounds going for her—the same as Calvin. Nature is crazy.

Peeking out the side window, I watch our neighbor's fifteen-month-old daughter who's already doing cartwheels around Calvin—walking down the sidewalk without holding her mother's hand, picking dandelions, tossing balls, waving at strangers. Recently, I wrote to someone about Calvin, telling them he's as much like a baby or toddler as a teen. Some things never change.

I'm almost drifting off when Calvin comes to. Such is the story of my life in this house. Rarely do I get more than a few minutes or hours of uninterrupted sleep or solitude, especially now. Never enough time to dream satisfyingly except when I'm walking in the woods with Smellie, hearing the woodpeckers drum, the songbirds warble, and the wind rush through the trees like a collective voice telling my mind to hush and not to worry—it's listening.

The end of the day finally arrives. In a cool shadow, I hear a bumble bee bounce off a window. They're huge this year for whatever reason. Earlier, I was able to dig three holes in the back corner of our yard and plant some arborvitaes. They look happy, as if the've been there forever, like trees yearn to be. As the sun sinks, there's almost no traffic. I notice again the clocks ticking and that same buzz or ring or hiss, though the furnace isn't running. I think it must be so quiet that what I'm hearing is just myself listening.

Photo by Michael Kolster

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