Ruth has spunk, attitude and sass to spare and I’d wager she’s the type who stocks vodka in the freezer for guests. And if the guests don’t drink vodka? She’d probably press a bill into her visitor’s palm and send him or her off to the corner store for an alternate libation of choice and some ice.
For the past few weeks, Ruth hasn’t shown up at the park at the usual hour. And because her health is sketchy and she has already had one near-death experience, my ruminations have meandered to concern regarding her whereabouts or possible demise.
Apparently, I’m not alone.
As I climbed the stone stairs of the dog run entrance yesterday, Jacob, another octogenarian park regular, posed: Have you seen Ruth lately?” I shrugged and motioned for him to join as I crossed the grass path to the stone bench beneath the orange tree. I sat beside David, a middle aged regular whose dog is named Meeklee and whose American partner is also named David.
Have you seen Ruth lately? I asked him.
No & I’ve been worried. I know that when she was hospitalized for a month, she put Jessie in the Dog Farm. Maybe something happened to her and she put her there again. Maybe they know something, David offered.
I had the Dog Farm number handy – Ruth had given it to me as a kenneling recommendation – so I dialed the number from my mobile phone and awkwardly explained to the proprietor that a group of dog park people was concerned over Ruth’s disappearance.
Did she bring Jessie there? Do you know anything about where she might be?
The Farm owner understood the gist and said that Jessie wasn’t at the Farm. But she offered up Ruth’s last name.
One call to information later, I was ringing up Ruth’s apartment.
Hello? a small voice answered. I didn’t recognize the accent and guessed it might be the Russian caretaker she had mentioned several times.
It’s Stephanie from the dog park. I’m looking for Ruth. Is she there?
Yes, mamaleh (English: sweetie). What is it you need?
Ruth? Is that you? We haven’t seen you in a while. So a few of us are sitting here and we were worried so we decided to —-
Tell her the view’s not the same without her! Jacob interjected, the relief in his voice audible. I think Jacob has a thing for Ruth, between you and me.
Oh, I’m fine. I’m fine. Thank you for calling, Ruth soothed and I could tell she was touched. I don’t come in the evening anymore because Jessie gets into the garbage and eats trash and it drives me crazy.
I laughed aloud and David commented Well if she’s laughing, everything must be okay.
Ruth, give me your cellphone number, will you? Just so I have it. And take mine, I urged. We exchanged and then she said:
Thank you mamaleh. Thank you for calling. I come on Saturday mornings so I’ll see you then. But listen, I have to go. I’m watching my German mystery series on t.v. and I have to see how it ends.
That’s the Ruth I know.