The writer's group, at the Seniors' Center, wrapped up at eleven. I was thinking about stopping at Starbucks for a morning coffee when I heard: "I like Pope Francis. He says dogs have souls." Kathy's voice. She had her hands folded on top of the conference table. Her powder-blue cardigan curled around her shoulders.
I paused. "You're kidding?" I raised a brow and chuckled.
"That's what the Pope said. And did you know there's no more Purgatory or Limbo?"
"Yes, there's only Heaven or Hell."
"So, it's up, or it's down?"
"That's right." Kathy raised her chin. "I'm a lapsed Catholic."
"So am I. Hope you're right about Purgatory. I hate to think of being stuck waiting to get a get-out-of-jail card to pass. Go!"
Kathy flashed a smile.
"Gotta think about what the Pope said. Sure, as hell, I don't want to go down." I chuckled. "See you next week." I walked out of the classroom.
Kathy loved to write stories about growing up a Catholic and how, as an adult, she challenged some of the teachings, especially birth control.
Another week rolled around.
At nine on a rainy Wednesday morning, I walked into the room with ten copies of my story.
Donna, the group leader, passed around the sign-in sheet. I signed next to my name. I noticed that Kathy, usually one of the first to arrive, had not. Although I didn't know her well, I did know she rarely ever missed a meeting.
Soft talking. No laughter. Something was wrong.
"What's going on?" I glanced at Donna.
"Kathy died Saturday. She went to bed and never woke up." Donna wept.
After the meeting, while walking toward Starbucks, I thought about Kathy and the fleetingness of life. Then, a mangy dog crossed my path.