Sunday morning about 10:30 my doorbell rang. When I opened the door, there stood my neighbor Maria, and her little Pomeranian, Ty. She wanted to know if Toby and I would go for a walk with her. “Sure, why not,” I replied. I was just about to take him for a walk anyway. But suddenly I remembered the few other times that I walked with Maria. She always ventured into areas that I try to avoid, like Nova Lane, a gravel road with pit bulls and Rottweilers behind flimsy chain-link fences at every yard, and a snarling German shepherd in the last yard behind a rickety fence about three feet high. Toby is a little 13 lb. rat terrier mix, and between the loose dogs and coyotes and other wild animals in our neighborhood, I have to constantly be on guard.
There was another time I walked with Maria, and we ended up at a garage sale. She disappeared for several minutes, leaving Toby and I in the driveway with a bunch of drunk gang-bangers. They were talking to each other in Spanish and making me nervous. I was just about to head home when Maria suddenly appeared. After that episode, I thought to myself that the next time I took a walk with her would be right after hell freezes over!
Maria is from Costa Rica, and she’s a real character. She loves animals. Besides Ty, she has a parrot that often utters embarrassing phrases, an iguana, a potbelly pig, and a snake or two. She had a German shepherd named Moosey that she rescued from an abandoned home with about 10 other dogs and cats. They had been without food or water for about a month, and most of them had to be euthanized. When Maria was away, her husband would walk the dog while he rode in a golf cart around the three-quarters-of-a-mile street in our gated community. Then one morning she and her husband found Moosey on the floor of the bathroom, dead. Apparently several burs in his ear that were removed after he was rescued became infected, but went unnoticed because it was deep within his ear canal. But all the gossipers in the neighborhood spread a rumor that he died of a heart attack because her husband had ran him too hard beside his golf cart.
So back to Sunday morning, I told Maria I could go but I couldn’t go very far. So she told me that she knew a place right across the road where we could take the dogs. Across the road? There’s nothing there except a cemetery and a funeral home, I thought to myself. Surely she wasn’t taking us there!
Sure enough, when we reached the entrance to the cemetery, instead of going past it like I usually do, she walked through the gate and into the graveyard, and Toby and I blindly followed. We walked past the headstones, observing the names and dates of the departed. This is not bad. It’s actually kind of interesting, I thought.
Then she walked towards the funeral area. There was obviously a funeral going on. The parking lot was full, and two lady ushers were directing traffic. They said hello and petted our dogs. No one yelled at us for being there. This is not so bad, I thought to myself. We passed the staging area for the burial procession. There were several Asian men in suits standing around. We were almost back to the main road when Maria turned towards the buildings where the administration offices were. “Have you seen the fish tank inside here?” “No”, I replied. So we walked inside the building, dogs and all. The fish tank was about 12 feet long, but it was difficult to see the fish because the water was murky. Maria went into a smaller room to look for the light switch to the aquarium. Suddenly a woman in formal attire approached us and asked “Can I help you?” She seemed kind of freaked out. We probably startled her. I was wearing a Beatles t-shirt, basketball shorts, and flip flops. Maria looked like she was dressed for a 10k. We had dogs with us in a funeral parlor. What was the problem?
She politely told us that the light was disconnected because they had a problem with algae. Then she went back to her office. Probably calling the police, I thought to myself. Then Maria headed towards the open double doors of the chapel, where there was obviously a funeral going on. I foolishly followed her into the chapel, which was full of what looked to me like Filipinos. It was really eerie. No one was stirring. No crying. They just sat there still as mannequins. I looked towards the podium where an open casket was situated. I could see the head of an elderly dark-skinned woman lying in the final hours before she would be buried. I’m getting the heck out of here!
As we made our way back to the main road that led back to our little gated community, Maria turned to me and said “You know what Kevin? The woman in the casket, she was wearing glasses!” “Yeah, well, it’s probably difficult to see in there.” That’s it.