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The morning was bathed in sunshine and music as my dad, my step-son, and I went to visit an elderly couple who lived at the very edge of the world on top of a high cliff. We were delivering food because they were past the age of climbing up and down the cliff themselves. As we climbed the cliff my dad did not appear to change, but I grew younger and my step-son grew older. At the top of the cliff, he and my dad were peers, and I was just a child.
The old couple greeted us. The house was full of dogs. There was also a skunk. The dogs greeted me with much joy and I petted them. The skunk sprayed the couch and left. I declined to sit down. No one else seemed to mind the offense. I asked for permission to wait outside. It was denied.
The house was one gigantic room. It was filthy. Dad pulled from his pocket a huge mound of fish fillets which he placed on a big white square of butcher paper at the end of the service island separating the kitchen from the rest of the house. The old lady offered to cook the fish. Dad agreed.
When I said the house was filthy, I meant the kitchen, too. There were no clean dishes and I realized that if I was to eat there, something needed to be done. I cleaned the kitchen. I scrubbed and scrapped and soaped and boiled. Soon that part of the house sparkled. The fish still sat, unwrapped and unrefrigerated, on the end of the counter. The woman of the house said that since I had finally finished (implying that I was quite slow) she would now cook dinner, because lunch time was long past.
Happily, Dad announced that we had to leave. He and my step-son stood and walked to the door. The dogs started barking and howling and wailing. It was awful. I made a beeline for the door. The old man told Dad I couldn’t leave until I returned the dog pacifier.
Dad grabbed me by the arm and demanded I return the dogs’ toy. I told Dad I hadn’t seen the dog’s pacifier. He told me he knew that, but I needed to find it anyway or we’d never be able to leave. Suddenly my step-son morphed from adult to teen. He and I were magically the same age. He was annoyed because I had turned a simple fish delivery into an all day drama.
I searched the house. I moved furniture, swept floors and cleaned away filth. I sorted through old newspapers and magazines. I emptied ashtrays piled high with butts and ashes. (Since we had been there all day those were probably my father’s.) I picked up steak bones and food debris from under chairs and cushions. The entire time I cleaned, the old couple stood in the kitchen scowling at me. The dogs lined up on the couch barking and snarling, and my dad and step-brother stood shoulder-to-shoulder blocking the only door.
Suddenly Amoeba pushed past Dad and my step-son and entered the room. He walked straight to me. I got up from the floor and stood to face him. He said, “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting hours. You said you wouldn’t be gone long!”
I was dirty, tired, ready to cry — and some how, amazingly, my adult self. I told Amoeba. “They won’t let me leave until I find the dog’s pacifier. They say I lost it.”
“Did you?” Amoeba asked.
I burst into tears and told him I never saw the dog’s pacifier and I didn’t think there had ever been a dog’s pacifier there to begin with. Amoeba put his left arm around me and let me cry on his shoulder. He dipped his right hand into his coat pocket and pulled out a fist full of dog pacifiers. He handed one to the old lady, then he gave one to each of the dogs. The dogs promptly chewed the pacifiers up and swallowed them. “I never thought of looking there!” I wailed.
Amoeba turned me around and we walked out the door between my dad and my step-son. As we walked down the stairs and crossed the lawn toward the cliff trail, I said to Amoeba. “I love you so much. Thank you for rescuing me! How did you know to bring dog pacifiers?”
Amoeba frowned at me and shook his head. “Hon, don’t you know? One never visits strangers without taking dog pacifiers.”
We stopped at the edge of the cliff and looked back over our shoulders. I could smell fish frying. The sunset glowed red over the house. As we turned and started down the cliff-trail, the music slowly faded.