Monday, December 10, 2012


A friend said, “Whatever you do, when you drive out of Pleasant Hills for the last time, don’t look back.”

I didn’t, and with Kitty mewling pitifully –she’d never been caged before -- and Rosco whining, I turned left onto on Route 301 South, and kept on going. An unharmonious chorus of complaints continued from the back in the Equinox’s cargo compartment for three hours, ceasing only when I'd left Maryland far behind and was almost clear of Virginia, where both animals gave it up and fell asleep. Bums. 

I still had six hours of driving ahead, and had been sleeping on the floor at Pleasant Hills for the last two nights. I’d left Daniel packing the horse trailer and pickup truck. He’d stay one more night. I didn’t envy him.

When I hit Weldon, North Carolina, I stopped at the KFC, and Kitty, Rosco, and I ate chicken like a pack of starving animals. After Rosco marked a number of tires in the parking lot, we hit the road again.

By the time I pulled into the driveway of my new home in Aiken, South Carolina, it was almost dark, the neighborhood quiet. My exhaustion and exhilaration tracked so closely together they’d become a single, overwhelming force. 

Deep breath, kept on moving. Climbed from the car. Put dog in fenced part of yard, cat onto screened porch. Lugged pet food/dishes, litter box, and toilet paper inside. Fed animals, left Rosco in the new house with a promise to return. Stopped for KFC on way to hotel.

Like a robot, I checked into my room and unpacked my suitcase. Hot shower, changed clothes, and back to the new house by eight. 

I wanted Rosco to know that after I left him in this strange house, in an area that felt and smelled so different, I would return. As a four-month-old, he was found on the Baltimore Washington Parkway almost starved to death. I’d adopted him from the pound in Prince Georges County, Maryland, and suspected he has abandonment issues. 

That evening, I took Rosco for a walk around his new neighborhood and discovered a conundrum. How do I tell a dog that’s had the run of two-hundred-acres in Maryland he is not allowed to pee on the neighbor’s bushes in South Carolina? It remains an ongoing puzzle.

Back at the house, Kitty stood on the screened porch staring into the night, lashing her tail.  Who knows what this means? After lavish petting and cooing, I drove back to the hotel where all I’d left behind caught up with me.

I poured myself a drink and odd details of Pleasant Hills floated in my thoughts. The sunken stone step outside the kitchen door -- an impression made by the tread of relatives going in and out for more than two centuries. The pine step plates of the grand staircase I padded up and down as a small, barefoot child. The horse stable where I’d raised so many young Thoroughbreds.

Daniel had said to leave Pleasant Hills would be like a death. Refusing to sink into that dark place, I turned on the TV and was saved by the new season premier of my favorite TV show, “Burn Notice.” The main characters, Michael and Fiona, were also trying to escape from something and apparently needed to fake their own deaths. 
Fiona and Michael

While they were figuring out how to do this, I attempted to remove the key to Pleasant Hills from my key ring. 

While I stared at the ring assembly, Michael and Fiona drove to their house with several gallons of gasoline. I slid a fingernail between the key ring’s metal pieces and tried to pry them apart. The metal was heavy and tight as a padlock. Meanwhile, Michael and Fiona were splashing gasoline around the interior of their home.

I had to separate myself from Pleasant Hills. I used a thumbnail and the nail on my forefinger. I pried. My fingernail broke. On TV Michael and Fiona were pouring gasoline onto their bed. Pry harder! My finger bled, the skin tore. Fiona lit a match and torched the bed. My thumbnail broke down to the quick. Damn it! Michael and Fiona’s home burst into flames. The rings finally separated and the key slid off.

Michael and Fiona prevailed against all odds that night, and I did too. Death and rebirth. I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep and in the morning, I was ready for our new home.
Rosco enjoying his new home