In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning. —F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Crack-Up”
The muffled sounds in the distance started shortly after twilight. Louder retorts came every once in a while, interspersed with runs of pop-pop-pop, reminiscent of machine gun fire. From where we sat you couldn’t see any flashes in the night sky, but you could hear the sounds in the distance.
My wife appeared in the kitchen holding the dog in her arms. “She’s shaking, poor thing,” she said. “She doesn’t know what to do, where to go.” She carried the little white terrier into the TV room and sat with her on the couch. The dog jumped down and paced aimlessly about the room.
I finished my snack and wandered in to where my wife sat. The dog was lying down at her feet, panting furiously. Every so often you could see her shudder. Outside the popping sounds continued in the distance.
“It’s those fireworks,” my wife said. “She can’t handle the noise. Maybe it hurts her ears.”
“They’re probably triggering unpleasant memories,” I said. “No telling what abuse a rescue dog might have suffered.”
“Poor thing,” my wife said.
When I turned to go, the dog followed me up the stairs to the bedroom. I pulled off my shoes and socks and lay down, resting my head against a short stack of pillows. The dog ambled to the far side and leaped up on the bed.
“Jackie,” I said, holding out my hand. She approached in a pant, turned and lay down next to my thigh. I scratched her ears and patted her back. Immediately she rose, circled the center of the mattress and lay down again, this time facing me.
I stroked her chin. “Puppy,” I said in a soft voice, “what did they do to you? Poor puppy.”
Once again she got up and wandered aimlessly about the bed, panting. She couldn’t, it seemed, get comfortable. Outside the muffled sounds continued. For nearly twenty minutes she repeated this ritual, unable to rest, despite my attempts to reassure her by voice or touch.
When I got up, she hopped down from the bed and followed me to the stairs. Normally she would have led, but this night she hesitated at each step, looking up, waiting for my next move. We retraced our path to the TV room.
“Still shaking?” my wife said, eyeing the dog. “Come, Jackie. Up, up!”
The dog stood by the coffee table with her head and tail down.
“I guess it’s a no-go,” I said. I walked back upstairs and the dog followed at my heels.
I lay down on the bed and reached a book from the nightstand. The dog hopped up and began to circle again. Finally, she dropped down and rolled over on her side, continuing to pant on the counterpane. I reached up and turned out the light. I could feel the dog shudder in the darkness when the sounds started up again.
When I woke the next morning, the dog was gone. I got up, pulled on my trousers and made my way to the bathroom. When I opened the bathroom door, there she was, lying down on the throw rug.
She followed me downstairs to the kitchen. I made a cup of coffee, got a plastic bag from the stash behind the basement door, and snapped the leash on her collar. “Let’s go for a walk,” I said. Her ears perked up. Seconds later, she was pulling me down the driveway.
We made it halfway around the loop before the door of a minivan slammed shut with a thud. Immediately the dog froze, turned and headed back up the hill at an accelerated pace.
She didn’t stop until we entered the driveway of our home.
For those traversing the dark night of the soul, time of day makes no difference.