This month I thought I’d share with you a short story I wrote about 18 months ago. It subsequently appeared in Quill and Parchment, an online e-zine. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Joe is sad today. He sits and taps with his fingers. He stops tapping for a moment and says something aloud, which I don’t comprehend—I understand maybe 200 words, mostly commands, and sentences are outside my understanding. The concept of “opposable thumbs,” which he once told a friend is what leaves Man inferior to the lower life forms, is beyond me. When he asks me if I want to go for a walk, it’s “walk” I respond to. I look up from where I’m laying, at Joe’s feet, to see light flicker across his face as he goes back to tapping.
Earlier, while it was still dark outside and before he started tapping, he stared into the light and said, “Another rejection letter. I’m a slave to the whims of others.” I don’t pretend to know what that means, but it made Joe sad. He sighed and put fire to one of those sticks he sucks on without ever eating. I don’t like those sticks; they make me sneeze. He sipped from the cup on his desk—I can smell its bitter scent—sighed again, and began tapping. I find the sound pleasing because it brings Joe contentment.
I can sense Joe’s moods as easily as I can detect my favorite smells—grass, bacon (another word I know) and Joe’s scent. The woman who used to come around no longer does, and I sense from Joe sadness in her absence, but also ease. They often raised their voices at one another, which left all three of us unhappy.
Joe finds the smelly sticks soothing, and the steaming liquid in the cup, which he pours from a larger container in the kitchen, leaves him feeling more alert. He calls them his muses. Still, there is an underlying sorrow to his mood this morning, despite the tapping, which usually leaves him feeling good. He stops tapping to sip from the cup, and he puts the stick between his lips; I watch its end glow and smoke rises lazily from its end. Joe leans over to scratch me between my ears and then goes back to tapping. A moment later he stops and, looking into the light, eyes moving from side to side, says something I don’t understand. Then he sighs and says, “Shit,” which is one of the commands I know. I’m confused because I’ve already been outside.
Joe gets up and takes his cup with him to the kitchen. I follow him and as he pours more liquid into his cup, I sit salivating, and stare at the door behind which he keeps my treats. A moment later the door swings open and Joe reaches in to get me a Milk-Bone—another word I understand. “Good girl,” he tells me, “you’re so easy to please.” Then he scratches me between my ears before leaving for the den and more tapping.
I don’t know why Joe is so sad. I wish he could be more like me. I’m happy with my morning shit, a walk, a tummy scratch, fresh water in my bowl twice a day and food in my dish, along with the occasional Milk-Bone and table scrap. I’m happiest when Joe takes me to the park and lets me run free among all the wonderful smells. I wonder if Joe would be happier if he had four legs and could run free with me.