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2003-11-25 | 10:59 a.m.

It is cold and I need to go on a sweater hunt. We wear sweaters so infrequently that when the warm starts up we stash them all away in the basement. I’ve scrounged up a few but when the cold comes there are never enough. Everyone’s hands are cold and unfeeling and mine are cracked and bleeding again. When I pinch the skin on the top of my hand, it stays pinched.

Part of the problem is that I don’t run the heat. We have an old, enormous gravity heater (let me guess: you’ve never heard of a gravity heater; I think we have the only one in captivity) and if I break down and turn it on it will smell like burning hair for three days. That’s because there’s a grate the size of a coffin in my dining room with a big hole underneath, and everything that falls in that hole (like hair, and fur, and the sloughed-off skin cells that you and I call “dust”) gets cremated down there and we get to smell it. For three days.

I suppose I will have to run the heater before Christmas. Because when Those People are here, direct from their climate-controlled existence, they’ll be expecting 68 degrees everywhere. Maybe even 72. But we can’t afford 72, surely not. The parents know to bring sweaters but there’ll be a baby this time.

***

There is a dog here, name of Rusty. We are fostering him. Rufus is not amused. I met this lady in the park, a down-on-her-luck lady who is living in a motel with her boyfriend, and the manager said NO DOGS and she was praying on it, she said. I told her I have a big back yard and gave her my phone number, if she needed a place for him to stay until they get things figured out. She called the next day. Bambi said, “I hope you like that dog because those people are never coming back to get him.” That’s the conventional wisdom, I know, but this one may prove the exception. The lady called yesterday to find out how he made it through his first night. She was crying in the doorway of the motel room as we pulled away with Rusty in the van. Her boyfriend, who looked like my brother, smelled like booze and was missing a few teeth, was hugging her gently. They seem like a sweet couple and I hope they can find a little place that will let them keep the dog. People who are just getting by need their pets, dammit.

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