Pearl lay sprawled, limp, in the fallen oak leaves, the mid-September heat warming the coarse white hair on his side. Orange spots drifted like continents across his ribcage, and on his belly the pink and black mottling of skin could be seen. Oh, the mystery of dogs! His side rose and fell with each breath, his nose in the dry grass, his body like a drum. The winds of mid-morning moved over him, carrying stories, scents, the far-off highway, a late cricket, the clatter of chimes, the peace and magic of the forest. Pearl sighed deep, and flexed his toes, and the air from his breath moved the leaves just-so.
A dream! A dream! It was the farm, that sweet early part of his life before his hip had been broken, back when he still walked straight, not sideways like a trapezoid. A wooden door, a dirt yard, a fence for the chickens, fields, thickets of trees, even trickling water, off somewhere, he could feel it all there, again. And in his dream he was waiting, lazy, sprawled on his side in the dirt, for the slap of mud-boots, the worn rising and falling of human legs. The blue-eyed boy and his gentle hands. Spring, summer, harvest, the length of ditch where he liked to lope, stalks of grass bending, small rustling mammals in the underbrush. And strangers, with their armloads of gifts, the smell of hair grease and sweat-soaked t-shirts, dust, suntan. Dinner, lunch, everything. Youth! And he knew that it would last forever.