I finished the last two volumes of The Sandman, The Kindly Ones and The Wake, which deal with the death and rebirth of Dream, and then dreamed I of masks.

I seem most often to write of personal matters when someone has died.

We expected the cat to go. The young woman we did not.

Midnight lived nineteen years before he acquired cancer of the jaw. He survived happily for some weeks, taking painkillers in his food and sleeping outside on warm nights. Two days before his passing we saw him wandering the neighbourhood, walking along the flower beds tended by the septuagenarian woman next door.

By then he had stopped eating altogether. My wife used a syringe to keep him hydrated, because he experienced difficulty taking in fluid. I left work early on Thursday. A friend of my wife's joined us at the veterinarian's. He went quickly after receiving needle to leg. This is not poetic metaphor; the light left his eyes. But he'd grown old, and he'd had a life which unfolded as best it could.

I still expect to see him, momentarily, when I wake or return home.

Autumn has arrived, on calendar and in fact. Yellow and red leaves dot the green and fall to be crunched underfoot. My next-door neighbour approached me in my yard. "I have some news," he said.

They were younger than we are, a couple in their thirties. They lived and he lives in the small yellow house down the street. She had health problems about which I never asked. We shared reading interests, classics and contemporary stories, science fiction and fantasy and comix. At parties we often spoke at length. She always seemed happy, a light in the neighbourhood.

On Saturday she had a stroke and died. Or rather, her brain ceased functioning. They're keeping her on life support until the organs can be harvested.

Next door knows them better than we do. His wife sits at their house now, alongside family who've flown and driven in, from Newfoundland, from Toronto. He said he'll keep us aware of matters.

I do not expect life to be fair, but I'm always appalled when faced with the fact.








A couple of weeks ago at a charity silent auction, my wife bid on and we won two hand-painted slate stepping-stones, for our garden, bearing symbols for hope and dream.

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