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sometimes, an elephant

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Sometimes, an elephant

Every time my grandpa farted, he would blame it on that little invisible elephant that sat under his chair. For a while there, I really believed it existed. (I was very young.) I imagined a world of invisible animals, cuddling us in our sleep, skittering across the kitchen floor when I dropped bits of food, warming themselves in the sun spots on our living room carpet. During that time of serious gullibility, I stepped lightly, for fear of accidentally smashing the tail of an invisible dog or tripping over that elephant’s trunk. I loved that I live in an animal kingdom, even if the only animal I could actually see was a black lab my grandpa called ‘Foots.’

Now, that I’m grown I know there’s no such thing as invisible animals. Sometimes, though, my eyes play tricks on me and I catch a glimpse of something furry, only to find out it was nothing more than the effects of poor depth perception or astigmatism.

The other day, I was sitting on my couch, chatting on the phone when I saw a big fuzzy thing amble by my front door. Too big to be a cat, not the right shape for a dog. I dropped the phone and opened the door just in time to see a giant raccoon sashaying through my yard. He was a big guy, probably about 35 pounds and had only half a tail. I’m serious. This time my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. I’m quite certain of that.

A while later, a squirrel come up to the door (I have glass doors, by the way, that open to a smallish patio that’s mostly enclosed with a variety of growth—bamboo, maple, some kind of evergreen) and just stood there on his hind legs, observing me observing him. I was on the other side this time. The watcher was now the watched.

Fascinated by this mini-parade of animals, I passed most of the day reading with one eye on my book, the other on the window. Robins flocked on the patio, then a cat, then another cat and, late in the afternoon, a dog. He ambled by, much like the raccoon, minding his own business, out for a stroll. Minutes later, he reversed his course and headed back towards where he came from. Then, after another minute, he came by again, this time looking in the window, hold eye contact as though he wanted to tell me something. I put on my shoes, grabbed half a hamburger bun (it’s been a while since I bought groceries) and went out to greet him.

And, of course, he bolted.

We played Catch that Dog for quite a while, up and down the alley that runs behind my house, through neighbor’s yards and, finally, back into my yard. I realized then that he is the dog who lives above me; somehow he’d escaped and his family was gone for the day.

So Marshall and I hung out for a while. I went against all I’d said to friends about having animal hair in my house and gave in to this guy. Marshall, as it turns out, is a great dog—docile and sweet. I didn’t have the heart to lock him up in his yard until later when he began to make me sneeze. Once I returned him to his place, I gathered up all the left over furry bits (he’s quite the shedder). , all the while thinking how much I’d like to have a dog of my own

Marshall lives directly above me and I often hear him bouncing up and down or sometimes just ambling around, his long nails scraping the floor. He’s become like that invisible elephant, heard but not seen. I’ve reentered the world of invisible animals.

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Author: Kim Sharp

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