Shelly was vacuuming. It had to be done. And it had to be done without dirty little feet pattering all over. That's why Andrea and Gomer were outside. The little girl had a rake but it was taller than she was and the piles were not especially neat.
Pile, singular, to be precise. 6 year old girls don't clear their yards of leaves. They make castles and forests out of giant piles -- leaping in with wild abandon -- and then thrashing about, making angels with their arms, or pretending that they are resting on one hundred mattresses and that uncomfortable pebble is a pea.
Andrea was pretty sure that she liked fall the best, not counting Christmas and swimming during the summer. She threw handfuls of leaves into the air and ran through them. She burrowed underneath them. All the while Gomer barked and jumped, chasing her and scattering the golden yellow memories with his tail.
Shelly looked out of the window as she finished in the living room and unplugged the vacuum to move toward the back of the house. She smiled, watching the two of them. You couldn't help but smile, they were adorable together and there's something about watching a black lab playing with a child that forces contented happiness. He was two but still acted all pup and his barking was as energetic as his lunging and leaping.
Shelly was in the back of the house, running the vacuum cleaner over the throw rugs in the bedrooms, when the red truck stopped along the side of the road. Andrea didn't see it at first, her eyes were closed and Gomer was tickling her with slobber.
"That's a cute dog you have there." said the man in the truck. She sat up and pulled leaves from her hair. She missed quite a few. "What's his name?"
"Gomer." she said carefully. This man didn't look like someone she knew.
"That's a fine name." said the man, nodding. "Is he yours?"
"Yes." she answered. She cocked her head sideways at him. "Who are you?"
"I'm sorry." he said. "I'm Tim." She still looked puzzled. "I work with your Dad."
"My Dad's not home." she said. The man smiled. "Do you want me to get my mother?" Gomer wasn't leaping and playing anymore. He wasn't barking. His tail wasn't wagging.
"No, that's okay. I can just talk to you." Said the man. "I used to have a dog like that. Do you think it would be okay for me to pet him?" He opened the door of the truck and climbed out.
"I guess." said Andrea. Gomer wasn't so sure of that. He growled softly, a deep, low sound that, after he did it, made him look around wondering where it came from.
When the man started to come across the ditch Gomer barked. The man stopped for second and then continued.
"Stop, Gomer." said Andrea. "He just wants to pet you." But Gomer didn't stop. And neither did the man. He was moving quickly now and when he reached out it wasn't to pet Gomer.
Shelly thought she heard the phone ring and shut of the vacuum cleaner. The phone wasn't ringing, but the sound of Gomer's bark had changed and she responded to his urgency. The truck on the road barely registered as she flew out the door to her daughter.
The man looked up at her. "Who are you?" demanded Shelly.
"That's Tim." said Andrea. "He works with Daddy."
Shelly stared at him hard. Her expression equal parts, “The hell you do” and “Get away from my daughter.” The man backed away from her toward his truck, slipping in the ditch and nearly falling, but not slowing. When he pulled away she started shaking. Gomer came over to her and she patted his head.
Andrea wanted to jump in the leaves, wanted her mommy to rake them for her. Shelly shook her head. "Let's go inside for a while, okay?"
"But I want to jump!" said Andrea.
Shelly picked up one of the discarded leaves, a giant deep orange one bigger than her hand. Andrea stopped and looked at it. She found one like it and held it up, beaming.
"That's very nice. Let's press them." said Shelly. Her little girl was confused. "In wax paper. Then we'll always have them." That satisfied Andrea and she followed her mother into the house.
But Gomer didn't come in until much later, after the truck that had been parked at the end of the road finally left.