This is a work of fiction.
The next morning, I asked Curly what he’d like to do to remember Popeye.
“I guess we can’t go to camp, right?”
“Not back to our camp site, but we could go hiking in the area around there.”
“What about the kittens and TJ?”
“I think we can leave them in the van with food and water, as long as we’re careful. If we don’t go onto any of the difficult trails, we could even carry them or put their carriers into some sort of wagon.”
Freckles said, “You can use my old wagon for the kittens, but can I carry TJ?”
“Thanks. Yes, we can put TJ in his carrier and carry him. Lydia, would you like to pull the kitties in the wagon?”
“What about Tilly?” Curly said.
“I think she’s old enough to come with us on a leash. So Lydia, you’re pulling the wagon, and who would like to carry Popeye’s ashes and hold on to Tilly’s leash?”
“Can we take turns?” Curly asked.
Sammy shook his head.
“Do you not want a turn?”
“Okay, but if you change your mind, just let us know.”
It was strange going back to camp but not to our camp site.
I parked in the main parking lot, and we all got out.
I handed Freckles the small urn, and Curly took Tilly’s leash.
“Rather than carrying TJ, I’m going to put his carrier into the wagon.”
Sammy shook his head.
“He can’t go with the cats.”
“He’ll be in a separate carrier, so don’t worry.”
“You can carry him,” Curly told Sammy.
“I don’t want to carry him. Why can’t Grandma do it?”
“I’d like to have my hands free.”
“Me too,” Sammy said. “I have to grab things when I’m walking.”
“We’re not walking deep into the woods. We’ll stay on a path. This is about remembering Popeye, not hiking.”
I put TJ’s carrier into the wagon. The mother cat, Lydia, looked at him, but didn’t become aggressive or fearful.
We moved slowly, with Lydia pulling the wagon carefully, and Freckles and Curly switching leash and urn, so it took us a good half hour before we reached a clearing in the woods.
Freckles was holding Tilly’s leash, and Curly the urn.
He went to the center of the clearing, which was bare dirt, and put the urn down.
“This is Popeye. Can everybody come over to him?”
Freckles walked Tilly over.
Lydia pulled the wagon close beside them.
I went and stood beside Curly.
Sammy stayed at the edge of the clearing.
Curly took the lid off the urn.
“Popeye was a good dog. He always wanted to play.”
He upended the urn.
A little pile of ashes lay in the dirt.
He went to the wagon and took TJ out of his carrier.
He put the squirming puppy on top of the pile of ashes.
“Popeye, this is TJ. He wants to play with you.”
“Can Tilly play too?”
Lydia looked at me, and I smiled.
She and I made sure the kittens and their mom met Popeye.
Soon, humans, dogs, and cats were rolling around on the ground where Curly had put Popeye’s ashes.
While the rest of us played, laughed, and remembered Popeye, Sammy stood and watched expressionlessly.
I played too, but made sure to get pictures.
After we’d finished playing, we went back to the van for a picnic lunch.
There weren’t any tables, but we spread outselves out on the grass with the wagon near us.
“Can we go hiking?” Freckles asked through a mouthful of sandwich.
“No,” Sammy said.
“Please don’t talk with your mouth full,” I said.
Freckles swallowed and said, “Sorry. Can we go hiking?”
“We can’t go onto a complicated trail, but we can go for a walk on the paths. This will probably be our last day in the woods for a while, so let’s make the most of it.”
For a lot of reasons, I wish we hadn’t decided to go for that walk, but for others, I’m so glad we did.