Over the summer, Roo started to agree to an evening walk instead of the 16 or 18 hours stretch between her last afternoon walk and her wake-up call around 11 AM. She only goes for these walks, though, if I take her someplace well-lit. She won’t consider it in the neighborhood where we’ve been staying, which has lots of trees and is too dark at night to risk it (of course, the darkness isn’t the issue, because if Roo detects the rustling of a mouse 2000 feet away on a moonless night, she can bolt through the densest foliage, scaling fallen trees and weaving through branches as fast as a falcon can fly, so it’s the night, not the dark, that worries her). So, getting her to go for these evening walks means loading her in the car at eight or so and driving the mile to the well-lit local main street, which, this being Maine, is actually called Maine Street.
There’s a music shop there that sells beat-up old records, phonographs, and, occasionally, musical instruments, and every night Roo insists on stopping there to look in the window. She stares at different things, none of them resembling a mouse or anyone else she would enjoy murdering, so what she must be sensing is a relationship between this music shop and her intense loathing of my mandolin. She looks at me from time to time or sits down, to see if I am getting the message she is transmitting, about the desirability of locking my mandolin up there, too, where it belongs with all the other offensive noisemakers. This, according to her thinking, would obviate the joke she has to endure late every night when I take it off the wall and say, “Oh, poor little Chiggi! I almost forgot to play you the mandolin!” Of course, what worries her is that I would not continue to forget. She raises her head from wherever she’s sleeping and gives me a look that could freeze a weasel in its tracks. The look she gives me is how I know what she’s thinking when she stares in the window of the music shop, because it’s the exact opposite. Instead of the dread I will come face-to-face with in our tiny camper later in the night, this is a look of hope. She is imagining how good it would feel to look up one night and notice that the mandolin has been magically transferred to its rightful place among all the other old junk, where, by rights, it is supposed to be, behind a locked door, on the other side of the glass.
I pretend to have no idea of what it is she’s thinking. The mandolin is my one remaining vice. I play it poorly, and among instruments that sound awful in the hands of an incompetent, the mandolin is a standout. The only tone I can produce reliably is that of the regret Roo wants me to experience with every note. But it is my one remaining vice, and possibly because I am getting old and, beside Roo, it is all that is left, I cling to it. It is our one bone of contention.
We’re moving on in a few days. Roo is sure going to miss that music shop.