Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Life in Grand Junction

It is a little before 7:00 when Scout jumps off the bed. I hear him plop down at the top of the stairs and let out a soft whine. I roll onto my back and try to gauge the day. It is still mostly dark. Scout whines again. He must have a pressing need. I get up, go to the bathroom and then open the bedroom shades. It is gloomy out, with overcast skies and a new dusting of snow on our next-door neighbor's roof. On the street that runs down the opposite hill to meet the neighborhood's main boulevard, I see the vehicles of early commuters, their headlights off, appearing as shapeless blobs moving slowly down the slippery hill in the pre-dawn darkness. I go into the office to turn on the computer and then give Scout a scratch as I maneuver past him and down the stairs to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. I give him another scratch as I head back up the stairs and into the office to check my email. Nothing new.

As I get dressed, I hear Scout go down the stairs and thump down at the bottom in anticipation of his walk. I follow him down and check the outside thermometer. It reads 14 degrees. Better than the below-zero temperatures of recent days. Must be the cloudy skies, I think. I put on my coat, stocking cap, boots and gloves. I clip Scout to his leash and open the front door. Across the drive of our housing complex, I see our neighbor's Christmas tree lights shining through his patio door and wonder if they have been on all night. Last year, he had his tree up until February. Scout takes an immediate detour onto our snow-covered front lawn and squats to pee. He really did need to go. As I wait, I look at our next-door neighbor's abandoned townhouse. It was for sale; now it is in foreclosure. Two other units in our complex are also in foreclosure, for a total of 3 out of 31. That is nearly ten percent. We never met our neighbor, though we lived next to him for five years. For a few years, we did not even know his name and referred to him simply as Boo, after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird. Our dog takes his name from the same story.

Scout and I walk down the drive to the boulevard and wait for traffic to clear so we can cross. Most of the passing vehicles are pickup trucks, most of them are white, and most have their headlights off. The speed limit is 30, but all are going at least 40. None of the drivers turns to look at us as they pass. We cross the snow-covered grassy median and walk up the bike path on the opposite side. I see deer prints in the thin snow that covers the asphalt. I see prickly pear cactus on the adjacent hillside, half-buried in snow and looking chilled. It reminds me of the school kids I see at the neighborhood bus stop, shivering in their hoodies, nylon shorts and sneakers.

The bike path ends and we turn right onto a residential street. There is no sidewalk so we walk on the left facing traffic. I keep Scout close as vehicles pass. Their headlights are off. The drivers do not make eye contact. The street ends and we are in the desert, walking along a double-track. I unclip Scout from his leash so he can run free to find his pooping spot. He gallops up the track, rolls in the snow, gets up, shakes and takes off again. I see him go into the spinning, squatting hop that signals a poop and reach into my coat pocket for a plastic bag. I bag the poop and tie the ends. I turn and look back at the last house before the street ends. Sometimes I see the woman who lives there glaring at me through her kitchen window. Sometimes I see her Christmas tree lights shining through the shades. This year, they have been shining since before Thanksgiving.

I clip Scout to his leash and we continue along the desert track as it loops around to meet up again with the bike path. The sun begins to show through the clouds to the east. A light snow begins to fall.

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