I looked up at the stately stone building and smiled to myself. It’s been weeks since I last visited alone. I climbed the few steps in front and entered through the huge double doors. He stood there, looking at me. Waiting for me. My heart started beating faster in anticipation. I had been longing for this meeting.
I walked down the aisle until I was right in front of him.
I sat down.
He smiled at me.
I smiled back.
After a few seconds of silence, he urged me to talk to him.
“It’s been quite a while,” I began. “I’m sorry we weren’t able to have a conversation for weeks.” I looked at him and saw that he had forgiven me. He always does that. He forgives me so easily that I must have abused his kindness without knowing it.
I looked away from his face, feeling the grief. “I still miss him, you know.”
I felt his expression sadden.
“Don’t get the wrong idea. I know you’re taking good care of him. It’s just that I miss waking up every morning with him lying on the bed, right beside me.”
I faced him and smiled, a little wider this time.
“He likes sleeping on my bed a lot.” Then my eyebrows furrowed. “Although sometimes, he prefers my parents’ bed.”
I looked at my hands, clasped on my lap.
“He thinks like we all do. He probably believed he deserved his own bed since he had his own clothes, his toys.”
My head snapped up, a thought crossing my mind.
“He likes rubber ducks, plastic balls and plastic bottles. Does he still like playing with those?”
The man in front of me said without words that yes, he still does.
I relaxed and nodded, feeling assured that someone I love is safe and pampered even if he’s no longer with me.
Another important thing came into mind.
“Oh! I forgot to warn you. You can’t let him go anywhere near your shoes. He likes biting off the straps and shoestrings. He got used to playing with the old slippers we gave him as a toy and he must have figured all shoes are part of the set.” I shrugged. “There’s only one pair of slippers he won’t destroy.” I gave my listener a small smile. “My younger sister’s old, blue slippers. Every morning, he kept on hiding it from my sister that we eventually decided to give it to him. Until now, that pair is still good and usable.” I gave a soft laugh. “Whereas, some of our several hundred-peso pairs can no longer be worn because of a ripped off strap.”
“Hmmm, if you come to think of it, he only takes interest on our shoes whenever we leave him alone in the house. I think that when he sees us all taking our shoes from the racks, he realizes that we’re all going away and leaving him behind. We would close the front door, wait for him to look at us through the window—barely able to see us because he’s too short—and we would all say with a wave of our hands: ‘Bye, baby! See you later! Bye, bye!’”
I held my chin between my fingers, thinking.
“Do you think destroying our shoes is his way of letting us know he doesn’t want to be left alone?”
A helpless look crossed the face of the person listening to me. I guess he hasn’t gotten any better than I am when it comes to understanding my old buddy. But then, with that confusion is another expression telling me that yes, that’s the way he understood his new friend.
“I know he hates it when he’s alone. When it’s just the two of us in the house, he makes sure I am always in his line of sight,” I am starting to feel my heart lighten. “He feels it when I am about to stand up from where I was sitting and he would stand too, ready to follow me wherever I feel like going.”
I smiled and my companion grinned as well.
“Sometimes, he would lie just in front of the bathroom door to wait for me to come out.” I laughed this time. “I would always forget that he does that and I would often step on his tail or trip over him. He would yelp in pain and shock and I would cry out in surprise too; then I would lean down, call him to come over and I would pet him and tell him I’m sorry. I know he’s forgiven me when his tail starts wagging and he starts pushing me, telling me he wants to play.” I ended with a broken voice.
“His favorite game is fetch. You have realized that now, haven’t you?” I saw his agreement so I continued: “He likes it when you try to tease him with an object, usually a bottle, and then you throw it for him to take back to you. What’s weird is that, yes, he’d go back to you, bottle in his mouth, but he wouldn’t give it to you freely. You’d have to threaten and wrestle it out of his mouth. He liked it that way. And if you don’t throw it away immediately, he’d growl at you, telling you to move it.”
I looked at my sole audience and saw his knowing smile. They must have played fetch several times already.
“I miss playing with him.”
My friend looked at me with compassion and I almost broke out in tears.
I was silent for a few moments, trying to calm myself.
I looked around.
There were other people in the building and I felt lucky no one bothered with me.
I guess everyone has their own issues to deal with.
There was an old woman near the side doors kneeling down in prayer. A man was in the corner clearly trying to stop himself from weeping while he talked with the man in front of me. A middle-aged husband and wife just entered, both of them looking happily at the bundle in the woman’s arms.
How do you listen with all of our stories? I asked my friend silently, knowing he heard me. He answered me with an encouragement to continue with my own narrative. I hesitated, knowing my concern is far less important than all of the problems these other people in here have. The man I was talking to wouldn’t take no for an answer and told me with his smile that he wants to hear the rest of my story.
“My dad brought him home from his office in a box. The entire family’s reaction was: ‘What the heck? He looks like an alien!’ Really. He was that ugly. We wanted our dad to return the young pup to where it came from but my dad said no, and my younger sister said it is okay for him to stay. There were arguments. The brown alien look-alike got out of its box, explored a little and found sanctuary behind the group of several gallons of water located near our kitchen. He squeezed his small body between the gallons and the wall until we can no longer see him. Apparently, he liked the dark.”
My listener had smiled at the alien reference and had gotten excited to hear more about his new playmate. I was ever so willing to share.
“We never taught him how to climb the stairs. But ever since he was small, he hated being alone. He sees us all going upstairs at night and he would always stay at the foot of the stairs to listen to us telling him good night. At the time, he didn’t know how to climb. And then, without us noticing, he had finally learned how, with the help of my dad. Soon enough, he started sleeping in our bedroom— with the air conditioner on.
“He knows when it’s time to sleep. My mom would call him over to the kitchen and tell him it’s time to wash his face and feet with a wet towel.” The person in the other half of the conversation stared at me, clearly amazed at how much we spoiled the brat we call a dog. “He also knows we aren’t sleeping yet, when he enters the bedroom and finds how hot it is inside. He always expected to enter a cold bedroom.”
I laughed, realizing that indeed, we spoiled him much.
“He also likes eating what we eat. Sometimes, I think he wants to have his own place at the table. He’s rude too. He’s not like the other dogs that wait for their masters to drop food on the floor so they could eat. My old pal would try to stand and lean on the table, trying to reach the food on my mother’s plate. He would even use his nose to tap my mother’s hand, telling her to give him some of what she’s eating.”
I felt more laughter coming out of my mouth.
“Yeah, he’s a glutton like that. Even the vet said he’s obese for his height. He gained a kilo every week. We had to moderate his food intake but we found him too adorable to lessen the food we place in his dog bowl. He’s the kind of mongrel you see in the streets with short limbs and long bodies. He doesn’t look like a mongrel, though. We made him too fat. So much so that despite his small body, he ends up making us bowl over in pain when he gets too excited and jumps on us when we’re sleeping on the couch. He doesn’t usually care when he hurts us. He knows we’ll forgive him anyway.”
My companion seemed pleased with what he heard.
“There is only one thing he’s scared of. It’s the Mickey Mouse hotdog-shaped pillow that my dad had hit him with when he got too naughty and scratched my dad’s skin. My dad didn’t know that the pillow’s zipper pull tab was at the other end and the small metal hit our dog’s face, making him cry out in pain, run over to my younger sister for comfort, his tail between his legs. Since then, he hides under the bed whenever we try to threaten to hit him with it.”
I saw my listener’s disapproving look and got a bit defensive.
“Now don’t get us wrong, we only threaten him when he gets too naughty for us to handle. We never actually hit him with it, anyway.”
He still looked disbelieving but he let me continue.
“There was a time we considered giving him away. He wasn’t used to being outside and we were having a hard time cleaning the house after he makes a mess and keeping him from ripping off the seams of our sofa’s seat covers whenever he got angry with the arrival of our tricycle drivers. My dad sent him off to a new owner and we all thought it was good.
“But no more than two days have passed and the new owner called us and said that our dog had stopped eating, drinking, peeing and pooping. This made our entire household worried and we decided to take him back even when it was the middle of the night. When he came back, the first thing he did was rush to his own toilet to do his business. We were all stunned when we realized that he didn’t want to pee and poop anywhere else but in his own toilet. Because of that, we never got to give him away. And he went on in his habit of destroying our shoes and sofa whenever we leave him in the house.”
We laughed at how exhausted I sounded when I said that last sentence. I can still recall how my dog seemed to have created a mess with my family’s life when I caught a sight of my watch and realized I had been having this conversation for more than an hour already.
It’s time to go.
I looked at my friend and in his eyes I saw that he wanted me to ultimately say goodbye to my old friend who can no longer be with me.
“I guess I just have a few more things to say.” I felt something pull at my heart. “As I’ve told you, he’s a mischievous pet. So can you promise me that you’ll be patient with him?”
I saw him nod so I continued: “He acts all tough and scary, like a guard dog, but he’s really quite a coward and is afraid of the most bizarre things. He’s scared of the vacuum cleaner, the hair dryer and even the floor mop. I hope you’re there to comfort him when someone tries to scare him with those.”
My chest began to tighten with emotion.
“Tell him we miss him. We miss how he wakes us all up in the morning by stepping on our stomachs and licking our faces.”
A tear slid down my cheek.
“We miss how he gets so animated when someone in the family arrives from an outing, or school or the office that he sometimes pees from excitement.”
A hiccup escaped from my mouth.
“We miss how he would suddenly get so energized and run around the house at a certain hour every night. We never really figured out why he does that.”
I laughed and cried at the same time.
“Tell him we—” Another hiccup. “Tell him we miss singing lullabies for him.”
I gave up the pretense that I’m not crying.
“We miss hugging him, kissing his forehead and even wrestling with him.”
I looked at the man in front me and said with all my heart: “Give Chocolate my love, will you? He was our baby, our friend, our guardian. He was the pet that had been closest to us and we will always treasure him in our hearts.”
The man probably saw my grief and he was fast to reassure me that he will pass on all of my messages. How he memorized them, I wouldn’t know. He showed me a smile that must have calmed the millions of people who had asked for his comfort, and I slowly felt my burden lighten up. I know he keeps his promises so I started to wipe my cheeks with my hands. I stood up, dried my tears some more, took a deep breath, smiled and said: “Thank you.”
With that, I said goodbye and turned my back to leave.
When I reached the foyer, I swear I could hear my dog’s happy bark.
Cheer up! My dog’s alive and running. I just thought I could use his “death” as a theme for practice writing. Right now, Choco’s on a barking contest with our neighbors’ dogs over the black cat that passes by our houses every day.
When I finished this, I hugged Choco and said sorry for killing him in my story.
Anyway, most of the things in this short story are true though I apparently exaggerated some. I hope you enjoyed reading this and I’m sorry if I made you cry or depressed.
Is there anyone here who can make a “book cover” for this particular story? Wattpad and inkpop suggests book covers even for short stories and poetry and I really don’t want to use the default images. Thanks in advance!
I also have another ongoing project so if you’re bored and you want to hate on the world and other people, go and bash the first six chapters of my novel, “A Playgirl’s Secret Diaries”. (inkpop and wattpad)