I remember my dog just couldn’t stop jumping all over me. We had spent the whole summer together, wandering down by the creek, splashing in the water or exploring the bank, crawling through the hideout some boys had made in the bamboo thicket, or joining my father in the orchard as the fruit – apricots and nectarines – were harvested. Sometimes we’d jump into his pickup to drive downtown for an ice cream sundae at the local ice creamery.
We might stop in at my uncle’s hardware store next door and “shoot the breeze.” I loved the hardware store smell of the place, the large-planked wooden floor and display tables crowded with hammers and tools and gadgets.
“Hi Bob,” other farmers would call to my father. And, “My, hasn’t she grown,” referring to me.
The summer was endless – delicious hot weather, cool times in the shade leaning back against the trunk of an orchard tree, bike riding along the canal where I once watched some boys weave a garter snake into their spokes and wanted to kill them. And always Susie was with me, tongue hanging out as she ran along side, my partner in adventure and fun.
Then I disappeared from her life: I went back to school. Oh, how I missed her, and she missed me. How she wandered around sniffing all over – in the sheds out back, in the tangle of ivy beneath the water tank, inside the chicken coop – or as close as she could get to inside – and all over the ranch. My father told me she barked insistently at him, demanding to know where I was.
But I was at school, harnessed again into a schedule of bells and lessons and recesses. I squirmed in my new dress and too tight shoes and longed to be in my tie-top, shorts and sandals, roaming free with my dog in the countryside. I worried about Susie – Would she miss me? Would she think I’d abandoned her?
When I got off the school bus after that first day in fourth grade, Susie came racing up to me. I don’t know how she knew where I was or when I would be there – and she knew she wasn’t supposed to cross the road – but there she was, and jumping all over me. We ran and skipped all the way home, both of us overjoyed with each other.
“What in the world happened to your new dress?” Mother asked when I came into the kitchen, screen door slamming behind me.
I looked down to see a big tear in my new fall skirt. “Oh,” I said, “ I’m sorry. I think Susie got a little carried away when she saw me.”
I expected Mommy to be disappointed, but she just smiled. “Change into your play clothes now and run outside. Susie has been driving your father crazy all day. And don’t slam the screen.”
I changed quickly and I rushed outside to play with my dog. “Want to go down to the creek, Susie?” I asked as the screen door slammed.
Indian Summer was just beginning.