Authors: W. Bruce Cameron
“Right, that makes sense.”
“Why do you do this? You always have to argue.”
They were both silent for a moment. “I’m sorry,” Trent finally said. “I was just looking out for you.”
“It will all work out; I promise.”
“But, um, go past my driveway, okay?” Clarity said. “Don’t pull in.”
The car stopped. Clarity picked up Rocky and passed him up to the front. My brother and I looked at each other. Rocky wagged his tail, his ears back. I had a sense that this was good-bye, that we were going to be apart, now. That was okay, because our fates were always for people to decide and Clarity had decided she needed me and that was that. Going with her was what Ethan would have wanted. What wasn’t okay was that Rocky was a front-seat dog and I wasn’t, except that Clarity opened the door and we got out together, so there was no more car ride for me anyway.
The car drove off. “Okay,” Clarity said. She sounded a little worried. “Let’s see how quiet you can be.”
She set me down and we approached a house. Some dogs had marked the bushes out front, but they were old scents—there was nothing to indicate there were any other dogs here. Clarity picked me up and carried me swiftly inside, up some stairs, down the hall, and into a bedroom.
“Clarity? Is that you?” a woman called from in the house.
“I’m home!” Clarity yelled. She jumped on her bed with me and started to play. Then she froze as footsteps came down the hall.
“Molly! Shhhh!” she said. She thrust her legs under the covers, raising her knees, and shoved me into the tented space. I sniffed her feet as I heard a door open.
“Ta-daa!” a woman’s voice sang out. I knew that voice: it was Gloria, Clarity’s mother.
“You bought a fur?” Clarity said, sounding angry.
“You like?” Gloria responded. “It’s fox!”
? How could you?”
I decided that the game was for me to get out from the covers. I started to climb toward Clarity’s head, and her hand came in and pushed me back down.
“Well, it’s not like I killed anything. It was already dead when I bought the coat. And don’t worry, I’m sure it was what you call it, free-range.”
“Until they trapped it, you mean. God, Gloria. You know how I feel about this.”
“If you feel that strongly about it, you don’t have to wear it.”
“As if I ever would! What were you thinking?”
“Well, I’m sorry, but I need it for my trip—Aspen is the only place left where you can wear a fur without feeling guilty. And, well, probably France.”
“Aspen? When are you going to Aspen?” Clarity’s hand kept me pinned. I struggled to get out.
I was thinking, we should go shopping tomorrow, just the two of us.”
“Tomorrow’s Monday. It’s a school day,” Clarity said.
It’s just a day.”
Clarity’s legs kicked out from underneath the blankets, which settled softly down on my head. “I need a yogurt,” Clarity said.
I popped out from under the covers, but it was too late—Clarity was leaving. “I hate it when you wear those shorts,” Gloria was saying as Clarity closed the door. “They make your thighs look so heavy.”
Alone on the bed, I quickly determined that the floor was far, far out of range for my little legs. Whimpering my frustration, I paced on the soft blankets, taking the time to sniff deeply at the soft pillow. There were some toys on the bed and I chewed on these a little.
Then the door opened. Clarity was back. I wagged and licked her face when she bent down to me, a sweet milk scent flavoring her breath. Is there anything more glorious than licking someone’s face until she giggles?
When Clarity carried me outside, she shoved me deep inside the shirt she was wearing, to keep me warm. She praised me for squatting in the yard and fed me little pieces of cold, salty meat. The flavor was so strong it burned my tongue.
“I’ll get you some puppy food tomorrow, Molly, I promise promise promise. Do you want more ham?”
That night I slept in the crook of Clarity’s arm. She stroked me with her hand, whispering to me, “I love you, Molly. I love you.” I drifted to sleep with her hand still touching me. The day’s activities had left me exhausted to the point where I didn’t get up once during the night. Clarity woke up when the sun was barely out, putting on her clothes and carrying me with an odd carefulness out to do my business, speaking to me in the barest of whispers. My little bladder had been painfully full. Then she carried me down some stairs to a basement.
“This is my special space here under the stairs, Molly,” she whispered. “I called it my clubhouse. See? There’s a pillow for you, and here’s some water. You just have to be quiet, okay? I’m not going to school, but I have to leave for just a bit. I promise, though, that I’ll come back soon. Meantime, don’t bark. Be quiet, Molly; be quiet.”
I sniffed the little space, which was so low that Clarity had to squat. She handed me some more of the cold, salty meat and petted me in a way that I knew meant she was planning to leave me, so when she abruptly withdrew, sliding boxes to trap me in the space, I nimbly darted out.
“Molly!” Clarity hissed.
I wagged, hoping she understood I didn’t want to be in the small space. I felt that I’d made my feelings clear when we’d been at Jennifer’s house—I wanted to be with Clarity. She picked me up and pushed me back in and this time I wasn’t fast enough to keep the boxes from blocking my exit. What was she doing?
“Be good, Molly,” Clarity said from the other side of the boxes. “Remember, stay quiet. Don’t bark.”
I scratched at the boxes, but Clarity didn’t return and I eventually gave it up. I took a brief nap and then found a plastic toy to chew for a little bit, but once I had to squat in the corner the little space under the stairs lost all its charms for me. I yipped, wishing my voice were stronger. Even with the small enclosure bouncing my barks back at me, they sounded tiny and pathetic. Nonetheless, once I was barking it seemed like a good idea to keep it up.
I paused, cocking my head, when I heard someone moving around upstairs, but there was no indication that Clarity or Gloria was coming to my rescue, so I started up again.
Then I heard the unmistakable sound of the door at the top of the stairs opening. Footsteps came toward me, and when they were directly overhead I barked as loudly as I could. Someone was in the basement.
I thought it might be Clarity, but then I heard something strange: a human yowling, somewhere between crying and wailing. It was an awful noise, a noise of pain and perhaps fear. What was happening? I stopped barking, a little afraid. A strong scent—flowery, oily, and musky—flowed into my space from behind the boxes.
Overhead I heard the front door open and shut. There were footsteps and then I sensed someone else standing up at the top of the stairs.
“Gloria? Are you down there?” It was Clarity.
Still the mournful wailing continued. I was silent—no human had ever made a sound like that in my whole life.
Footsteps came rattling down the stairs. “Gloria?” Clarity’s voice called.
There was a loud scream—“
” I recognized Gloria.
Clarity screamed, too.
I whimpered—what was happening?
“Clarity June, you scared me to death!” Gloria panted.
“Why didn’t you answer? What were you doing?” Clarity asked.
“I was singing! I had my earbuds in! What are you doing home? What’s in the bag?”
“I forgot something. It’s, um, dog food. We’re having a food drive at school.”
“Do you really think it looks good to give dog food?”
It’s not for the people. It’s for their dogs.”
“You mean to tell me they can’t afford to feed themselves, but they have dogs? What’s this country coming to?”
“Are you getting laundry? I’ll help you fold,” Clarity said. “Let’s take it upstairs.”
They went up the stairs, leaving me alone again.
I was really, really hungry.
Clarity did come back, and I was as glad to see her as I was the bowl of food in her hand.
“She’s finally gone. Oh, Molly, I am so, so sorry.”
I buried my face in the bowl, crunching the food until my mouth was dry and then drinking as much water as I could hold. Then Clarity took me out into the backyard, where the sun was shining and bugs were singing and the grass was fresh and warm. I sprawled out, rolling in sheer joy, and Clarity lay down next to me. We played tug-on-a-towel for a few minutes, but I was exhausted from barking all morning and when she picked me up to cuddle me to her chest I immediately fell into a deep sleep.
When I woke up, I was back in the small space. The second I yipped, though, I heard running footsteps and then Clarity shoved aside the boxes. “Shhh, Molly! You need to be quiet!” Clarity said. I thought I understood what she was saying: when I wanted her, I needed to bark and then she would come.
She let me play in the basement and she fed me more food. When I needed to squat on the cement floor, she cleaned it up and wasn’t upset that I couldn’t yet hold it until I made it outside. She hugged me and kissed me up and down my face, pure adoration flowing from her with such power I squirmed with happiness.
We played and played until I was sleepy. She even woke me up that night to wrestle in the cool air of the backyard, all the bugs gone silent. It was so much fun to be outside when everything was so quiet!
The next morning there were loud noises from upstairs, plus I heard Gloria’s voice: “Would you please turn down the music?” I barked and scratched at the boxes that were blocking my exit, ready to get upstairs to play with Clarity.
When I both felt and heard the vibration from a door slamming I quieted down, trying to figure out what was going on. Was I alone again? No, there was still someone upstairs; I could hear walking. Then there was a sigh of air as the door from the outside to the basement opened. The boxes slid away and I jumped out and into Clarity’s arms, my heart leaping with joy. Time to have more fun!
“You have to be very quiet,” she told me. She carried me out into the backyard and through a gate and then set me down and we went for a walk and then a car ride (front seat!) and then to a park to play all day. We were mostly by ourselves except for a woman with a small black dog named Get Back Here Milo. The black dog ran right over to me and I blinked and sank to the ground submissively, aware that as a puppy I needed to let Get Back Here Milo see I was no threat. “Get Back Here Milo!” the woman called over and over. The black dog pushed me roughly over with his snout and then Clarity reached down and picked me up, holding me the way Jennifer had when she’d fed me the strange milk.
When Get Back Here Milo left, Clarity set me down and played with her face close to mine. I was so happy I yipped and spun.
“She leaves tomorrow,” Clarity said to me. “I just need to keep you hidden one more night and then she’s gone for a week. Can you go without barking tonight?”
I chewed a stick.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do, Molly. She’ll never let me keep you.” Clarity grabbed me and gave me a fierce hug. “I love you so much.”
I felt the affection pouring off of Clarity, but I was really focused on the stick at the moment, so I didn’t do much more than just wag my tail.
I was disappointed that when we got home Clarity took me right down stairs and placed me into the small space under the stairs, sliding the boxes back. I voiced my displeasure with a volley of barks and she appeared instantly.
“I need you to not bark, okay, Molly? My mother will be home any minute.”
She slid the boxes back. Truthfully, I was tired from playing all day, so I settled down for a nap. I woke up, though, when I heard the front door slam. “I’m home!” Gloria’s voice boomed through the house. “Wait until you see what I bought at Neiman’s!”
Though I had been smelling and hearing Gloria for a few days, I hadn’t yet had a chance to greet her. I thought she would probably be as glad to see me as Clarity had been. I yipped a couple of times and then waited, but all I heard was talking. I barked some more and then got the expected results when the door opened overhead and footsteps came down. Clarity shoved the boxes aside.
Please be quiet.”
Clarity fed me and took me inside her jacket down the street and then we walked and walked. It was dark and cool by the time we returned. Clarity pushed me back into the small space.
“Okay. Go to sleep, okay, Molly? Go to sleep.”
I tried to slip out as she was pushing the boxes back across the entrance, but I wasn’t fast enough. She ran up the stairs, which rattled, and shut the door and then it was quiet.
I slept a little, but then I woke up and remembered I was all by myself. I whimpered. I knew that upstairs Clarity was probably lying in her bed, feeling lonely because I wasn’t with her, and that made me sad. I knew she thought that I liked to lie on the nice pillow under the stairs, but actually I wanted to be with her. I barked. There was no response, so I barked again, and then again.
“Clarity! What’s that sound?” Gloria shrieked. I heard running, and then the door at the top of the stairs opened.
“I think it came from down here!” Clarity shouted. I wagged my tail as she came down the stairs. “Go back to bed, Gloria. I’ll take care of it.”
“It sounded like an animal!” Gloria replied.
I heard Clarity moving around on the other side of the boxes. I scratched at them. I heard Gloria walking through the house and then I could sense her at the top of the stairs.
“There it is again!” Gloria hissed. “It’s a dog; there’s a dog in the house!”
Clarity shoved the boxes aside and I tumbled into her arms, licking her face. “No, it’s … Oh my God, it’s a fox!” she yelled. “Stay back!”
“A fox? What? Are you sure?”
“Foxes do bark, Gloria,” Clarity said.
“How did it get in the house? What’s a fox doing here?”
“The basement door must have blown open in the wind. It probably came because it smelled your stupid coat.”