Authors: W. Bruce Cameron
I felt a little like a bad dog, wandering free without a leash, but Gloria had set me loose, so I reasoned it must be okay.
After an hour or so of sniffing and exploring, I heard footfalls coming toward me, and a man called out, “Here, puppy!” My initial inclination was to trot right over to him, but I stopped when I saw the pole in his hand, a loop dangling from the pole. He advanced on me, holding the loop out. “Come on; that’s a good girl,” he said to me.
I could feel that loop of rope around my neck as if it were already there. I danced back.
“Now don’t run away,” he said softly.
I ducked my head and made to run past him, but he lunged and then I was twisting on the end of that pole. “Gotcha!” he said.
I was afraid. This was not right. I didn’t want to go with the man, who pulled me with his pole over to a truck. The line around my neck tightened, forcing my head toward the truck tire, and then he scooped me up and with a clang I was in a metal cage in the back of the truck.
The man turned at the sound of approaching footsteps.
It was Clarity.
“What are you doing? That’s my dog!”
The man held his hands out to Clarity, who stood before him, panting. I put my paws on the cage, wagging, delighted to see her.
“Now wait, just wait,” the man said.
“You can’t take my dog!” Clarity said angrily.
The man crossed his arms. “I
taking the dog. We’ve had complaints, and it was running loose.”
I yipped so she’d know I was right there waiting to be let out.
“Complaints? Molly is just a puppy. Who complains about a puppy?” Clarity said. “What was she, making people too
“That’s not your business. If it is your dog, you can pick it up at the shelter anytime after noon tomorrow.” The man made to move away.
“But wait! Wait! She’s just…” The tears were flowing down Clarity’s face now. I whimpered, wanting to kiss her sadness away. She put a hand to her mouth. “She won’t understand if you take her. She’s a rescue dog who has already been abandoned once. Please, please. I don’t know how she got out, but I promise you it won’t happen again. Promise, promise. Please?”
The man’s shoulders slumped. He took in a deep breath and then let it out slowly. “Well … All right, look. Okay, but you need to get her chipped and vaccinated and in a few months spay her. Deal? And then get a license. It’s the law.”
“I will. I promise.”
The game of truck was over. The man opened the cage and Clarity reached in and pulled me out. She hugged me and I kissed her face, then looked at the man to see if he wanted a kiss, too.
“All right,” the man said.
“Thank you, thank you,” Clarity said.
The truck drove off. Clarity stood and watched it go, still holding me. “Complaints,” she muttered.
As she carried me to her house, I could feel her heart beating loudly in her chest. We went through the front door and she stooped, setting me down. A piece of paper was right in front of my nose on the floor and I sniffed it, smelling the woman who had been on the porch a little while ago. Clarity picked up the paper and looked at it.
“Clarity? Is that you?”
Gloria came around the corner and stopped, staring at me. I wagged and started to go to her to say hello, but Clarity reached down and picked me up.
? What are you doing?” Gloria demanded.
“This is Molly. She’s … she’s my dog.” Clarity’s hands were trembling.
“No, she is not,” Gloria said.
“Not which part? Not Molly? Or not a dog?” Clarity asked.
“Out!” Gloria yelled.
“No!” Clarity shouted back.
“You cannot have a dog in my house!”
“I am keeping her!”
“You can’t say anything to me right now. Do you know what trouble you’re in? I had a visit from the delinquency officer. You’ve been missing so much school that they came out here to arrest you.”
Clarity set me down.
“No! Do not put that animal on my carpet.”
With all the shouting, I shied away from Gloria.
“It’s a dog. She won’t do anything, she just peed outside.”
“A dog—are you sure it’s not a
“Why? Do you need another
I wandered over to the couch, but there was nothing underneath it but dusty smells. In fact, most of the odors in the house were coming from Gloria.
“It’s going to lift its leg on the couch! I’m calling someone,” Gloria shrieked.
“Did you even bother to read this?” Clarity said. She rattled the paper in her hand and I watched alertly, wondering if she was going to throw it. “This is a summons for
you know. You have to appear in court, too.”
“Well, I’m going to tell them you are completely out of control.”
“And I’m going to tell them why.”
“Why I was able to skip so much school. You go on trips all the time and leave me without any adults in the house, including when I was twelve years old. By myself !”
“I don’t believe this. You
to be left alone. You hated the babysitter.”
“I hated her because she was a drunk! One time she fell asleep in her car in the driveway.”
“We’re not having this conversation again. If you’re going to imply that I was in any way a negligent mother then I’ll just call Social Services and you can live in an orphanage.”
I turned in circles a few times and lay down on the soft rug. The shouting made me anxious, though, and within a few seconds I was back on my feet.
“Sure, that’s how it works. You just leave me in a box on the front porch and they come by on Tuesdays to pick it up and take me to be an orphan.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Yes. You’re going to call Social Services and tell them you don’t want to be a mom anymore. So then there will be a hearing. And the judge is going to want to know where you were all last week—Aspen—and where you were when you went to Vegas when I was thirteen, and where you were when you went to New York for a
And you know what he’s going to say? He’s going to say that you need to go to jail. And everyone in the neighborhood will know. They’ll see you getting into a patrol car in handcuffs with your fur coat over your head.”
“My mother left
alone when I was a lot younger than you. I never complained.”
“The same mother who beat you with garden tools? Who broke your arm when you were eight years old? I don’t think you would.”
“My point was, I was fine. You were fine.”
“Well, my point was, they arrested your mom and they’ll arrest you, too, Gloria. The laws are a lot more strict now. You don’t have to actually send your kid to the emergency room to wind up in jail.”
Gloria was staring at Clarity, who was breathing hard. “Unless,” Clarity said in a low voice, “you let me keep Molly.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I’ll tell the judge that I lied to you. That I told you I was going to school, but actually I was skipping. I’ll say it wasn’t your fault.”
“Or I can tell him about you leaving me all the time on your little trips with your boyfriends. That’s the deal. I keep Molly and I’ll lie to the judge. If you try to make me get rid of her, I’ll tell him everything.”
“You’re as horrible as your father.”
“Oh darn, Gloria. That one doesn’t even upset me anymore. You used it on me too often. So what do you want to do?”
Gloria left the room. Clarity went over to me and petted me and I curled up on the rug and fell asleep. When I woke up, Gloria was no longer in the house. Clarity was in the kitchen and I arose with a yawn and went in to see what she was doing. A delicious odor was in the air.
“Want some, Molly?” Clarity asked me. She sounded sad, but she fed me toast. “No honey butter for you, though,” she said. “That’s people-only food.”
She stood up from the table and opened a bag and soon the air carried with it the tantalizing smell of more toast. She dropped a toy on the floor and I chased it, my nails scrabbling on the smooth floor.
“You want the lid? Okay, you can have the lid,” she told me.
I licked the toy, which had an amazing sweet scent to it, but there was nothing to eat on it. I chewed it. Clarity got up from the table and made more toast, and then more, and then more, while I happily chewed on the toy. Then she stood up. “Out of bread,” she said, throwing a plastic sack into the trash can. I wagged, thinking she would come over to play with the toy, but instead she went to the counter and I heard her open a plastic bag and then she made more toast. She kicked the toy and it slid across the floor and I jumped on it. Every time she got up to make more toast, she would kick the toy and I would chase it. I found that if I put my front paws on it I could slide on it until I hit the wall. What a great game!
“All gone. Come on, Molly,” Clarity said. I followed her into her bedroom. “You want to sleep on this pillow? Molly?” Clarity patted a pillow and I jumped on it and shook it in my teeth.
Clarity didn’t want to play, though. She lay on her back with her eyes open. I put my head on her chest and she ran her fingers through my fur, but there was a change overcoming her, a darkening of her mood. I cuddled with her, hoping I could lift her out of her sadness, but when she moaned I knew I was failing. I went to lick her face, smelling butter and toast and the same sweet, sugary tang that had coated the toy, but she rolled away from me. “Oh God,” she said softly.
Clarity went into her bathroom and I heard her making a choking noise and I smelled the sweet toast. She was vomiting again. Her head was in the water bowl, which she refreshed a few times before standing up and looking at her teeth in the mirror. Then she stood on the small box. “A hundred six point five,” she moaned. “I hate myself.”
I decided I despised that box for how it made her feel.
“Let’s go to bed, Molly.”
Clarity didn’t take me down to the basement—she let me sleep on her bed. I was so excited to be out of that space and back in bed with her that I of course had trouble sleeping, but she put her hand on me and petted me until I got drowsy. I turned around and curled up against her and, as I drifted off, her love flowed into me and my love flowed into her. This was more than just watching over someone out of loyalty—I loved Clarity, loved her as completely and totally as any dog could love a person. Ethan had been my boy, but Clarity was my girl.
I woke up later because I heard Gloria and a man talking outside the house. The man laughed and then I heard a car start and drive away and the front door of the house opened and closed. Clarity was still asleep. I heard someone coming down the hall—my time under the stairs, listening to footsteps, told me it was Gloria.
The door to the hallway was open and Gloria stopped in it, staring in at me on the bed. Her complex scents drifted into the room. I wagged a little.
That’s all she did: just stared at me from the darkened hallway.
Clarity had lots of friends who would come over to play with me and gradually I came to understand that her name was now CJ. People can do that, change the names of things, though I was still Molly. Gloria’s name was Gloria and also Mo-
Only Gloria called CJ Clarity anymore.
It worked the other way, too—sometimes the names would stay the same, but the people would change. That’s how the Vet, which was another name for Doctor Deb, was now what CJ called Doctor Marty. He was as nice as Doctor Deb, with hair between his nose and his lip, and strong hands that touched me very gently.
My favorite of all of CJ’s friends was Trent, the boy who took care of Rocky. Trent was taller than CJ and his hair was dark and he always smelled like Rocky. When Trent came to visit he usually brought my brother, and the two of us would tear around in the backyard, wrestling with each other. We would play until we collapsed with exhaustion, sprawled out on the lawn. Often I would lie panting on top of my brother, holding his leg in my mouth out of sheer affection.
Rocky was stockier than I was and taller, too, but he usually let me pin him when I wanted. When I had him down I always noticed that the darker brown of his muzzle matched the color of my legs—he was otherwise a lighter brown color. I found that as the days became warmer I could measure my growth by assessing Rocky’s—my brother was no longer a gawky puppy, and neither was I.
Rocky was completely devoted to Trent. In the middle of play he would suddenly break off and run over to Trent to be petted. I’d follow him, and CJ would pet me, too.
“You think he’s maybe schnauzer-poodle?” CJ asked Trent. “A schnoodle?”
“I don’t think so. Maybe a Doberman-poodle,” Trent said.
I wagged at my favorite name and gave CJ a friendly nudge with my nose. Ethan had called me a doodle dog; it was a special name that carried with it all the love a boy could have for a dog. Hearing CJ say it reminded me of the connection between my boy and CJ, my girl.
“Or a spaniel of some kind,” Trent speculated.
“Molly, you could be a schnoodle, a spoodle, or a Doodle, but you’re not a poodle,” CJ told me, holding me close and kissing my nose. I wagged with pleasure.
“Hey, watch this. Rocky? Sit! Sit!” Trent commanded. Rocky stared at Trent alertly, sitting down and holding still. “Good dog!”
“I’m not teaching Molly any tricks,” CJ said. “I get enough orders in my own life.”
“Are you kidding? Dogs want to work. They crave it. Don’t you, Rocky? Good boy, Sit!”
Well, I knew what that word meant. This time, when Rocky sat, I sat, too.
“Look, Molly figured it out by watching Rocky! You are such a good dog, Molly!”
I wagged at being a good dog. There were other commands I knew, too, but CJ didn’t say any of them. Rocky rolled on his back for a tummy rub and I put my teeth on his throat.
“Hey, so…,” Trent said. Rocky froze, then struggled out of my grip. I’d felt it, too—a sudden whiff of fear from Trent. Rocky pushed his muzzle at Trent’s hand, while I checked on CJ, who was smiling up at the sky, unaware of any danger.