For all his life, Frank had been at war with the willows. They sprouted in and around the stream, clogged the irrigation ditches, and choked off the water flow.
His land, a narrow plain between ... [+]
Blue Glass Dog
"Are you sure this is where you want to live?"
"Yes, mom," I replied, lifting a laundry basket out of my car. It was filled with the few clothes and possessions I'd taken from my marital home. "And it came fully furnished," I added.
"But don't you want to be around people?" she asked, concerned. "It's so, I don't know, secluded out here." Her eyes swept right, through the tree line where gravestones jutted from the ground like gapped teeth.
Despite my best efforts, I'd failed to fulfill Tom's picture of an ideal wife. After seven years of trying, I welcomed the seclusion. Craved it. A chance alone to find me again, not Tom's image of me. But my mother didn't need to know that.
I led her down a flagstone path to the front porch. As I fumbled for the keys, my mother stole a glance over the railing. "Oh," she exclaimed, "It's a bit overgrown, but what a marvelous flower garden."
"I've never gardened before," I told her.
"Well," she replied. "You've never been divorced before, either."
Inside, I unpacked my basket. At the bottom were six glass bottles the color of bright cobalt. I arranged them on the kitchen windowsill.
"Those are grandma's," my mother said, her tone more than a little surprised. "You've kept them this whole time?"
"Yes," I told her. "Since I was twelve."
The next morning, I took a mug of coffee outside and inspected the garden, a wild tangle of green I couldn't make much sense of. Somewhere in the knot of stems and branches, an animal cried out, startled. Leaves shook, shedding morning dew.
"Hello?" I said, setting down my mug.
A dog emerged from the garden, pausing to sniff my mug. "Hello," I said again, holding my hand out tentatively. I judged him to be a shepherd mix, skinny almost to the point of starvation. He hesitated a moment, then licked my fingers. I took him into the kitchen, where he lapped up a bowl of water.
A trip to the store and a flea bath neither of us enjoyed later, I called my mother.
"How are you settling in?" she asked.
"I found a dog in the garden," I told her.
There was a long silence on the other end. "A dog?" she said finally. "Are you going to keep it?"
"I think so," I told her.
"But you've never had a dog before!"
"And I've never been divorced before, either," I replied.
The markings on the sides of his nose reminded me of a funny moustache, so I took to calling him Salvador, after the painter. We quickly fell into a routine—rising early together to start our days. On sunny mornings, light streamed through the glass bottles and fractured the ceiling, making the room move like ocean waves. Often, I would pick up one of the bottles, shifting it to cast patterns on the floor for Sal to chase.
About a month after I'd found Sal, we were walking the road winding through the cemetery. It was there, among the rows of planted souls, with Sal's toenails clicking a steady rhythm in front of me, I realized I was happy. Really and truly, for the first time since my grandma had given me six blue glass bottles she claimed were filled with happiness.
Later that same day, I decided to tackle the mess of garden. I ripped up handful of easily identifiable weeds, leaving the rest until I could get further guidance from my mother.
Sal danced through the sloping yard, barking at robins and marking every pine he passed. I laughed and sat back, folding my knees under me.
Suddenly, the dog was at my side with something in his mouth.
"What's this?" I asked.
He dropped a clear glass bottle in my lap.
"No," I told Sal. "We only collect blue glass."
The next day, he brought me blue glass.
Soon, the clapboard house was overflowing with blue glass. Bowls, bud vases, and bottles of various shapes I accented with flowers. Pink roses set against indigo, white hyacinth floating in a shade like the sky and daffodils tucked into the pale cerulean of diluted rainwater. I didn't know where Salvador found so much blue glass, but I imagined he carried them out of the cemetery, plucking bottles from the very memories of those who rested underground.
Spring dissolved into summer, and spring blooms deepened into summer blossoms. In late July, while harvesting blueberries next to the porch, I heard a loud, metallic shriek. My hands clenched into fists, smashing the berries and spurting juice through my fingers. I ran up to the road, where Sal lay under the tire of a car. I didn't speak to the shocked teenage boy as he helped me load the dying dog into my car.
"I'm sorry," the veterinarian said to me after. "We did everything we could to save him."
Tears leaked from my eyes, the color of diluted rainwater. "Here," he added, folding a string of azure glass beads into my hand. "This was in Sal's mouth when he came in. I thought you might want it."
I took my dog's ashes home and placed them in a blue mason jar on the windowsill. My mother called, but I didn't answer. I looked around at my home, brimming with so much blue glass and happiness it seemed to spill out over a single summer.
Since I knew Sal would want me to, I kept to our routine, and on the first day of August, I found a small, hard object while digging in the garden.
It was piece of blue glass, blown into the shape of a dog.