Days are short now, and chilly, and lighting the wood stove in the evening feels more like a luxury than a chore. I sit on the sofa, my feet on the coffee table, rereading the tragic story of Tristan and Iseult. Just as they drink the magic philter and their passion flares high, the flames in the stove dwindle. It's time to add another log.
There are, between me and my goal, three dogs. The first one, Bisou, is sprawled across my lap. I have to dislodge her before I can get up, but have you ever tried to un-lap a dog bred for over four-hundred years for the exclusive purpose of lap-sprawling? The minute she feels my hands under her body she becomes a dead weight, and it's all I can do, while murmuring apologies, to shift her 19.5 lbs to the side.
Now my lap is free, but I cannot put my feet on the floor. That is because Wolfie, who despite his East German sheepherding father is a lapdog at heart if not in looks, has laid his long black body in the narrow space between the sofa and the coffee table, leaving no place for me to put my feet. I hate to disturb him--I feel sorry for him because he cannot ever sit on anybody's lap--so I stretch my legs as far from his head as possible, heave myself up with my hands on the sofa cushions, and teeter to a standing position.
In front of the stove lies Dog Number Three, Lexi, the dowager queen. My guilt towards Bisou and Wolfie fades to insignificance compared to my guilt towards deafish, blindish, lameish, 13 1/2 year-old-Lexi. A few pages ago, as Tristan and Iseult first laid eyes on each other, I watched Lexi waddle over to the stove. She stood, head lowered and hind legs a-tremble, thinking things over, then slowly lowered herself onto the hearth. Positioned as she is, there is no way I can open the stove doors, much less put a log in.
"Lexi, move," I say. Then, more loudly, "Lexi, move!" She lifts her milky eyes towards me and gives me a reproachful look, but stays her ground. "Dammit, Lexi...." She sighs, heaves herself up, and waddles off into the kitchen, where I hear her plop down on the floor like a sack of potatoes. I put the log in the stove.
Straddling Wolfie's bulk, I reclaim my spot on the sofa. Bisou wakes up and snuggles back on my lap. I pick up my book. And in the guilt of Tristan and Iseult vis-a-vis the betrayed King Marc, I find an echo of what I feel towards my old dog, who is lying alone on the cold kitchen floor.