Oscuro by Ricardo Jose Gonzalez-Rothi

For years he watched squirrels scramble, trucks drive by, barked at bicycles and chased after sticks. But this is all in the retrospectroscope of things now.

We didn’t realize it at first: the four-leg plant, the blank stare skyward, the hesitant steps, the awkward pavement-to-grass transitions. Arthritis we thought. Then one day he stumbled into walls. Sniffing aimlessly, he slipped off the edge of the stairs, tumbled like a hapless, unattended marionette.

The vet said “SARDS. Spontaneous Advancing Retinal Degeneration Syndrome. Not curable, not treatable,” Four weeks since the darkness invasion.

He hears the squirrels and birds, mis-steps over fallen acorns in the grass. Comforted by the television when inside, the chili aroma from the crockpot peaks his interest. He stands near the stove, looking up blankly. Staccato sniffs lead the nose ahead of greying snout hairs.

I find anthropomorphism tenuous. But close my eyes and try to walk untethered in that dark space around me, and it isn’t hard to feel, let alone imagine, what he suffers. We were told he will adjust. He is forever vulnerable but doesn’t yet know it.

I call his name and talk to him all the time. I take him out leashed, give gentle directional tugs.  When approaching a step, I say “Step up,” or “STOP,” before a wall. He struggles to read his scents, tilts his head to-and-from sounds. We pray for olfactory braille and acoustic reflection miracles.

But I wonder if we will ever adjust.

An academic physician and scientific writer, Ricardo has had his fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry featured in Acentos Review, Biostories, Foliate Oak, Lunch Ticket, The Bellingham Review and others. Born and raised in Cuba, he came to the United States as a refugee in his teens and now resides in North Florida.