Leaving The Vets’ Alone

He bent down with a few scraps of toweling
to wipe up an accidental puddle,
bringing him eye level
with one of my tail-wagging doggies.

He patted her and smiled just a little,
then murmured something to her
that I didn’t understand.

He saw me watching and straightened up,
still trying to smile just a little.

He was gripping a sandwich baggie
with an empty little collar
zipped up inside.

Our eyes met, and he knew I’d seen.
I imagined murmuring some bit of kindness
but my words felt zipped up inside me,
so I just smiled back a little instead.

He seemed uncomfortably torn between
leaving the vets’ alone
and desperately wanting to be
anywhere he could stop
this damn southern smiling.

I saw the pain well up in his eyes
as he finally left,
forgetting that puddle and those towels.

I had nothing left to do,
so I followed him out the door.

When we got to our cars,
he watched me struggle with my doggies,
while I watched him,
and struggled to find my words.

We were both still trying to smile,
but I looked away from his pain.

I didn’t want him to see
that my smile of comfort
had changed to gratitude
for my own momentary fortune.

And I didn’t want to think about
the devastation I’ll feel when
I am leaving the vets’ alone
gripping my own sandwich baggie
with an empty little collar
zipped up inside.

I climbed into my car,
and held tightly to one of my
tail-wagging doggies,
murmuring kindness to her
that she didn’t understand.

When I looked up again
I saw him climbing into his car,
still holding tightly
to what was left of his smile,
and that sandwich baggie
with an empty little collar
zipped up inside.

~ cj 2013.10.26

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4 Responses to Leaving The Vets’ Alone

  1. Steve says:

    Awww. That’s sad. I’ve been in his shoes & it’s not easy at all.

  2. Paul M. Carroll says:



    Good job.

  3. Morine says:

    It says so much about you that you noticed this man and his sad situation, and that it affected you so deeply. hugs.

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