by Leah McClellan
The hawks arrived late in the afternoon. Some landed in the yard, but a great cluster of them settled on the wooden fence, close to the house.
Inside, the woman washed the dishes. Her glance alternated between the window and the dog who panted loudly in the adjoining room. He was stretched out in front of the fireplace, his face turned away.
The sound of rushing water and the echoing clatter of dishes was comforting. She heard it at a distance, but the crackling of the fire was very close. She heard herself cough, and that, too, was soothing. The whistling teapot, footsteps, a clatter on the counter, a cabinet door closing, a drawer opening, a gurgle of water. Familiar sounds. Happy sounds.
She held her mug between both hands as she kneeled down next to her dog. She stroked his head gently, and then she leaned over to kiss him. With the tea set aside, she wrapped her arms around him and lay her head on his shoulder. It wouldn't be long. He turned to her slowly and licked her cheek.
A muffled flutter of wings beat on the other side of the wall. She took up her tea once again, sipped, and got up. She walked to the window and looked down. A dead rabbit was on the ledge. The hawks took flight.
The tears fell. She turned to her dog, and their eyes met for a very long moment. He was still.