I had been seeing her, always at the same place, muttering to the same or similar ducks, for weeks before I ventured to speak to her. If I had not had crackers in my pocket I would never have begun our little commerce with an offer of food, but as I stretched my hand across the impossible gulf between us there they were, each a simple orange square, pierced by fork points, twinned with another by a swipe of peanut glue, six such pairs arranged in three ranks of two files each, edge to edge, back to indistinguishable lightly salted back, girdled in cellophane. They had been meant for the dogs, who watched in alarm.

Think I can’t get crackers? she asked me. Thinks I can’t get crackers! Not bothering to unwrap them then, I dispensed the packet to the dogs, who tumbled over one another and let the crackers lie.

Her crew and she have burglarized my house repeatedly since, and so thoroughly I no longer lock it for fear they’ll shatter the rest of the windows to thank me. She leads them in, as she first led them to my door, and if asked why, I suspect her explanation would involve the crackers.

We curl together now, at night, the dogs and I, sometimes in bed, more often at the foot, beneath the little overhang, and huddle head to toe or paw to head or hand and listen for the door. I’ve moved their bowls upstairs. They’re hungry mostly, rarely vicious, she and those she brings. Whatever made me think I could offer a little, without offering all, I regret now thinking, but I’m happy when everyone gets a little something, and that the dogs and I have a bed and a home and friends who call.

Copyright ©1997-2006 David Hodges