I hobble up the driveway holding Mary’s arm & leaning on that old collapsible black cane I never thought I’d have to use again. A week ago this life was nothing but intolerable pain, but now it’s rather wonderful again. Raymond, goofily delighted that we’re strolling slowly thru the dark, lopes on ahead, barking merrily: Make way! Make way! — an all but moonless night in which we have stepped out to look at Mars, just past the driveway, over the Tecate hills, huge & glowing in the eastern sky, & closer to the Earth than it has been in slightly under sixty thousand years. — No, Mary shakes her head, it can’t be Mars. That thing’s too bright . . . too big. Then, peering at it through her birding binocs, tells me that she’s certain what it is I’ve been admiring up there is just another border-patrol chopper hovering above the canyons between here & Mexico, chasing down some band of hapless campesinos working their way north. — No, it’s Mars all right! I’d recognize it anywhere! I say authoritatively, as is my wont, & pointing with that hollow cane of mine to where it gleams — as bold & asymmetrical as any of those feverish-looking asterisks I scribble in the margins of my books, marking passages that seem absolutely right or marvelously put, & worth (O sweet & foolish dream) returning to some day when I have time — I patiently explain to her that Mars is just where it’s supposed to be: straight up the driveway, past Coyote Holler Road, where we ourselves are standing, looking east. Gleeful, tail awag, Ray hunkers down & looks east too, expectantly, while I — inspired at last & flourishing that hollow wand of mine, as Johannes Kepler might himself have, centuries ago — trace, among that intricate vast circuitry of stars, the constellations of Krokidium (the bloated frog) & Balthor & Valdubius, exactly where they’d have no choice but find themselves this time of night above the planet Earth, up in the August sky. Mary, dutifully impressed, takes my arm & heads us back, suggesting that for all we know there’s not a single one of all those stars that even has existed for a million years. Ridiculous! I bellow. If they don’t exist just how the hell could we be looking up at them?! To which she mumbles something that I won’t repeat, & kisses me, & slips her arm around my waist, & says it’s nice to have me home. I wince, & hobble eight or ten more feet, & look up at the sky for one last time, & tell her just what any self-respecting star might well have said if it could speak: Honey, you can’t believe how glad I am I still exist.