Loyalty After Death

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story written about a girl coping with the death of her grandfather.

Submitted: May 10, 2011

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Submitted: May 10, 2011

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Loyalty After Death I stood resolute and emotionless, watching as my grandfather slept in an old wooden rocking chair in front of our box TV that buzzed persistently. The scent of tobacco and peppermints lingered around him and I realized in that moment that my affinity for tobacco had been in part due to my grandfather. Over the past few years or so, I heard my voice grow raspier as packs of cigarettes were tossed beneath my bed. The smoke drifted around my emaciated body that never looked quite feminine enough, just as it had drifted around my grandfather’s shriveled body as he mumbled stories of Indian women and their ability to make a feast out of nothing at all. I continued to look at him. I stood under whelmed by the prospects of being a year older in a day, drifting calmly into my seventeenth year of life, or maybe it was my eighteenth, it was easy to loose track of things like that out here. “Pa?” I said bending down to look him in the eyes. He didn’t move. I bit my lip and felt his arm for a pulse. I quickly pulled my hand away, shocked by the unnatural cold that my grandfather had turned to over the past hour or so. I stood back up and looked down at him shaking my hand trying to get rid of the freezing feeling I had in the tips of my fingers. “Mom?” I said quietly. It didn’t take much volume to call her over. “What’s wrong?” She asked as she walked towards us, wiping her hands on her already dirty apron. I just continued to stare at my grandfather, her dad, who had lived with us always. Finally she stood beside me and swiveled slightly so she too was looking at him, all wrinkled in his chair. “He’s dead,” I said blankly. My mom stood still for a moment before she bent down and felt his neck for a pulse. She pulled her hand slowly back, and looked at him unblinking. “ Dead as a doorknob,” She said. My shoulders dropped as I turned to face her. “Kind of a weird thing to say don’t you think?” I asked. She shrugged. We stood in silence for a few minutes watching her dad not breathe. “We should have a proper funeral,” I said. She walked out of the room without a word but came back a few minutes later with a cracked ceramic jar with a lid that didn’t fit. She stood beside me again and opened the jar, holding it towards me so I could peer in. “7 dollars,” I said and she put the lid back on the jar. She bit her lip. “I suppose we should just put him downstairs in the icebox then, at least ‘till the rain comes and we can bury him outside.” I cringed at the thought of putting my poor withered Pa in the icebox. I didn’t say anything though; it wasn’t like my mom would understand anyway. Instead, I pivoted where I stood and walked straight to the door without a word. My mom didn’t call after me. I climbed the short wall of our house and perched myself on top of our roof, which was made of red, clay tiles. I peered out into the distance where there wasn’t much besides the little chain link fence that separated our house from the rest of the dry, cracked land. Apparently there were some more homes a few miles away but I’d never seen them. I leaned back and stuck a cigarette between my lips. I didn’t light it. The sky was turning a dusty orange and I sighed thinking about my grandpa who my mom was surely trying to drag downstairs that very moment. He was a nice man, one of the only people I genuinely liked. He was afraid of the dark, I am too I guess. At least he was company during the night. We both slept during the day, worked during the night. Chit-chatted about things, he told me stories of his childhood, which had existed just a few miles away from where he died. Night began to set in but it was still as hot as if it were mid-day. I could feel the hairs around my face stick to my skin. I pulled my hair up into a ponytail to alleviate some of the heat. Before the sun went out completely I climbed carefully off of our roof and walked straight away from our house without looking back. The cigarette wobbled precariously on my dry lips. I walked for about an hour until I got tired and out of breath. I sat down on the side of the road and lit my cigarette, inhaling deeply and looking up at the sky, which was a deep, dark blue. There were no stars. The road beside me was dirt and I had yet to see a car or even another living soul on it. The land around me seemed endless and disappointing. I leaned back resting my hands behind my head, staring up at the blanket of black above me. Out of nowhere a bus came chugging along the road. I stood up and looked at it curiously. It stopped a few feet from where I stood and I walked towards it unsure of what I should be feeling. The air in the bus was only slightly cooler than the air outside, but the driver seemed friendly enough, a full-toothed smile plastered to his cleanly shaven face. He had black hair that fell, unintentionally, into his eyes, and he wore a blue collared shirt that had the name of the bus company written in cursive where the breast pocket should have been. “How much?” I asked, squinting my eyes at him. “$2.17.” He said back. I stuck my hand in my pocket and felt around. “Do you have change for a $5?” He nodded. I handed him the bill, he made change and handed me the remainder. I would have asked where we were going, but it seemed irrelevant. As long as the direction was away from where I was, I would be content enough. I walked to the back of the bus, supporting myself against the seats as the driver put the bus back into drive. It was empty besides the driver and me but I decided to take the last seat in hopes of discouraging any polite conversation with him. I leaned my head against the window and watched outside as we moved past the unchanging landscape. I didn’t sleep; it was too dark for that. I pulled the stop string about 6 hours later, when my limbs became sore from sitting so long. The bus driver pulled over and opened the door. I walked down the steps and looked around. Not much had changed. I watched as the bus driver sped off and I was left alone at a fork in the dusty road. I bit my lip and looked both ways. There was nothing in either direction, so I took the nearest path to the right and began walking. I walked for about an hour, waiting for the sky to lighten all the way. I smoked another cigarette and then another and finally fell by the side of the road, exhausted. Both sides of the dirt road were lined with tall husks of corn and so I looked around, unsure of what I should do. Eventually I climbed inside the wall of corn, walked a few more minutes before plopping down on some dry land and falling asleep in the heat of the morning. I woke up when something hard hit me in the head. I sat up slowly and looked around to find an orange lying beside me. I palmed it curiously looking around for a tree or some evidence as to how this orange had landed on my head. “Over here,” I heard a man say. I turned around to find a man wearing off-white overalls and a green ball cap. He took the hat off and rubbed the sweat off his forehead. He bit down on something hard and I could smell the faint, familiar scent of peppermint. I looked around and saw that besides this man who stood beside me, our only company was miles and miles of corn too tall to look over. “Where did you come from?” I asked, standing up and wiping my legs clean of dirt. “I should be asking you that,” he said. I shrugged. He just stared at me for a moment. “You hungry?” He asked. I nodded. “Over here,” he said, waving me towards him. I walked towards him cautiously. When I stood beside him he turned and disappeared into the corn. I followed. A few minutes later we reached an inexplicable clearing in the land. Instead of corn the land was a perfectly manicured lawn of green grass. It stretched for a few miles in every direction. On top of the grass were row upon row of trees. I walked slowly to the tree nearest to me. It was plump and green and had big, round, red things sprouting off of its branches. “Here you are,” he said, picking some fruit from the trees that surrounded us. I bit into it. I didn’t know what type of fruit it was, but it was juicy and sweet and my bite marks filled with thick, red syrup. “Where are we?” I asked looking around at the oasis. He was shoveling now, a new hole where I assumed another tree was soon to be placed. “The orchard.” I looked at him questioningly but he didn’t notice. “Do you guys get a lot of business out here?” I asked, wondering if the reason I had never heard of this fruit before was because of where I lived or where he lived. “Hardly any now a days,” he said, stopping his digging for a moment to readjust his hat. “I’m out here for the old man who runs the house a few miles up. He’d die if the orchard didn’t exist anymore. His daughter pays me to take care of it.” I nodded in understanding. “Interesting setup,” I said, taking another bite of the odd fruit. I could feel my heart beating quickly and my eyes widen with alertness. I looked at the fruit. “What is this exactly?” I asked. He looked at the fruit in my hand. “That?” He asked, resuming his shoveling. “That is an energy berry. The old man engineered it himself. You looked tired I figured it would help.” I nodded and thanked him under my breath. I stood up then, rocking back and forth on my feet uncomfortably. “I guess I’ll get going then,” I said finally, “I wouldn’t want to disrupt you.” The man smiled and waved me off as if to say I wasn’t disrupting him at all. “Thanks for the fruit,” I said trying to smile. “Take some with you, why don’t you?” He said and he pushed a few more different colored berries into my hands. I nodded, “Thanks,” I said, smiling with only my lips. I turned around and began fighting my way out of the dense corn that surrounded the orchard. I walked through the cornfield for what seemed a lifetime until I finally hit the comforting pressed dirt of a road. I looked both ways up the road; there wasn’t anything there. I turned right and continued walking, glad I had accepted the extra fruit, seeing as my skin was blistering from the heat and my feet were swollen from walking. I took another bite of fruit, lit another cigarette, noticed I was getting low on both and then continued walking. I fell into a trance by the sound of my feet crunching against the gravel that lined the road. The monotony of the landscape quickly made time disappear so I don’t know when it was that I almost walked directly past the little diner that came out of nowhere. If I hadn’t heard the ring of a bell that swung on the door of the diner I suppose I would have just kept walking. As it was, though, I stopped and looked at the building, which stood alone in the middle of the desert. There were three or four people sitting at the counter of the diner. Eating something, drinking coffee. I went inside, too hot to continue walking. I sat down at the counter and pulled out the remainder of my money. I had a little less than three dollars left, I needed $2.17 for the bus ride back, leaving me with 66 cents for food. I bit my lip and put the money back in my pocket. The waiter came over to me and took the pencil out from behind his ear and supported a notepad with his other hand. “What can I get you?” He said. I could hear my stomach growling. “Can I work for food?” I asked. The man sighed and then looked me up and down. He must have taken pity on me, with my scrawny size, and dirt-encased skin, because he nodded. “What do you want to eat?” He asked a little less friendly than before. “Do you have any fruit?” I asked already craving the berries that I had run out of a few miles back. He shook his head. “Only sticky buns,” he said, “best in the state.” He pointed to a certificate hanging on the wall that looked about as official as my mom’s ceramic jar passing as a bank. “I’ll take a sticky bun, then,” I said, clutching my stomach, which was rumbling ferociously. A few minutes later the man came back holding a plate with a steaming, sticky bun about the size of my face. I ate it quickly without pausing for air or water. The man came back over when I was licking my fingers and tossed an apron my way. I nodded and tied the apron around my neck, grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and went to the booths lining the window of the diner. I worked for an entire day, taking a break twice to eat another two sticky buns. Most of the men and women who came in were truck drivers that were tired and irritable, claiming that the past six hours of their drive had been the most uneventful, most tiring drives of their lives. I nodded in agreement, not really feeling the desire to argue back or even really listen. They all ordered something different, but they all got the same thing. When closing time came I washed my hands and stood beside the manager as he counted the money from the cash register. He was shaking his head and mumbling to himself. “The food industry is dying I’ll be the first to tell you.” He said as he looked up at me wagging his finger. “I doubt we’ll be able to stay afloat much longer.” I leaned against the counter and felt a pang of pity for the man. He was aging, probably 60 or so, he had gray hair lining his head in a halo, and still the stub of a pencil behind his ear. His eyes were gray and his hands were calloused from having worked a hard day. He reminded me of my grandfather who was now stuffed inside an icebox waiting for the afterlife to fetch him. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever considered expanding your menu?” I asked. He looked at me surprised, pointing back towards the certificate. “Not once. This is how my dad did it, this is how I do it.” I nodded and turned to wash down the tables. “Besides,” he called after me, still apparently defensive about the suggestion, “we are so far out here in the middle of nowhere it would be impossible to get the ingredients to make anything else.” I paused and looked up at him. “What about fruit?” I asked. He looked at me and laughed a wheezy, coarse laugh that made me shift uncomfortably where I stood. I had heard my grandfather bellow a similar laugh just a few days prior and I felt a wave of panic wash over me, certain that it was only a matter of time before the diner owner would drop dead and be shoved inside an icebox like my Pa. “Fruit?” He said, “out here? Now that certainly would be a treat.” I proceeded to tell the man about the orchard with the fruit that would surely energize the truck drivers passing through, and would certainly cause a boost in the diner’s revenue. He nodded intently the whole time until finally he asked where this orchard was. I thought about this a long time, there wasn’t much to go off of in hopes of giving him accurate directions. We walked outside and I pointed down the road in the direction I had come from. “If you like,” I said, “I can lead you there.” He looked out down the road as if it was so far off he had never even imagined his life would take him there. Finally he nodded, “Sure,” he said, grabbing his jacket. “Let’s do it tonight. We don’t have much time before we go belly up.” I shrugged. We got in a green pickup truck that rattled nervously as it moved down the road. The radio fought to make music through the static and we rolled down our windows and let the warm, night air, breathe within the cabin of the truck. We drove for about an hour or so before we hit the fork in the road and I told him to turn. We drove another twenty minutes, squinting our eyes against the dark until I told him to pull over, not because it looked familiar, but I felt like this was the distance I had traveled before. It was quite dark now, and as we fought our way through the corn field to get to the orchard I thought that there was no way the man in the overalls would be out so late. I hesitantly pushed my way through the growth of corn, turning my head every few feet or so to make certain that the diner owner remained behind me. His eyes were wide and searching and I could tell he was rethinking his decision to trust me. Eventually I cut through one last stalk of corn and stumbled onto the immaculate grass that surrounded the orchard. “Well I’ll be darned,” said the diner owner, looking around and wiping the dust out of his eyes. I walked around, silently looking at the trees. While crossing through the rows of the trees, I tripped over a narrow log and stumbled down onto my knees. I looked around and saw the farmer sound asleep on a little red air mattress, snoring comfortably with his head swaddled in his arms. I stood up slowly and picked an orange from the tree above me. Only now I knew it wasn’t really an orange. I gently tossed it at the farmer’s head and he slowly came about rubbing the spot on his forehead where the berry had hit. “It’s you.” He said standing up and rubbing his eyes. He said this rather matter-of-factly as though he were always expecting me to return to the orchard. I led the farmer to the diner owner and sat down in the grass sucking on a cigarette as they talked business. Finally the two men shook hands and the diner owner led me back to the truck and drove me back to the diner. On the way he told me that the farmer had agreed to do business with him and the first shipment of berries would be over first thing in the morning. The diner owner seemed to exist in a state of utter bliss and I smiled with him. He promised to let me continue to work at the diner for as long as I pleased if I agreed to manage the fruit transactions with the orchard farmer. I agreed because I really had nowhere else to go, and without my grandfather to keep my mind preoccupied at night I had to find something to keep me busy. I went to bed as the sun rose on a sofa in the diner owner’s living room. I woke a few hours later when the heat of the day was at its peak. I walked to the diner to find a place that hardly resembled itself from the day before. Sometime during the early morning the diner owner must have made a sign, because in the front of the diner hung a wonderfully well done banner that simply said: “now serving fruit,” as though fruit were nothing short of a revelation in this part of town. The diner was full to the brim with truck drivers who had been told about the berries from friends who had stopped by only a few hours earlier. The diner owner was smiling the whole while and serving all the men and women with the utmost joy. For a week I stayed in the dinner helping the owner sell fruit and sticky buns. On the seventh day I woke up and told the owner I must be going because I had left my family days ago. The owner didn’t argue with me but nodded as though he understood. As I left, the owner of the diner handed me a wad of money. “You deserve this,” he said. “Thanks for your help.” I looked down at the money but didn’t count it. I simply nodded. I walked out of the diner and continued down the dirt road leading away from the orchard and the diner. I counted the money in solitude, realizing that the $200 I held was the most money I had ever seen. I walked for nearly seven hours undisturbed. The diner owner had given me a few berries for my trip. Eventually I reached a town that consisted of one street and only 6 or 7 buildings in total. I turned into the first building on the left hand side that had a sign carved in wood that said “trading post.” The room was musky and made entirely of a dark wood. There was a glass counter that held a few beaded things that I could just barely make out. From the ceiling were seemingly hundreds of different sized dream catchers. I heard someone cough behind me and I spun around to find a large, brown-skinned woman with wooden sandals and black hair that fell past her waist. “Can I help you?” She asked and I looked around uncomfortable in my unfamiliar surroundings. “I don’t suppose you have cigarettes do you?” I asked. She stared at me silently. “No, we only sell dream catchers.” I nodded as though this made complete sense to me “Right,” I said, walking towards the door. “Thanks for your help then.” “You don’t want to buy a dream catcher?” She asked, offended. I turned around and looked up at the ceiling. I shook my head, “I don’t really sleep, so it seems pointless to buy a dream catcher.” The woman looked at me for a moment and then suddenly burst into tears, kneeling down against the heavy wood floor. I looked around, feeling awkward and unsure whether I should stay or leave. I walked up to the large woman on the floor and patted her back as sympathetically as I could. She reminded me of the Indian women my grandfather had told me about, and I felt instantly close to him as I patted her back in rhythm to her sobs. Through her tears she managed to say, “Business just isn’t what it used to be, people don’t have bad dreams like they used to.” I thought of the diner owner who had a similar problem and the orchard owner who had problems of his own. I thought about how I could help this silly, big woman who sat crying on a stranger’s shoulder. “You know,” I said finally, “there’s a diner just down the way that serves these berries from an unusual orchard.” She looked up at me, sniffling. “The berries make people stay awake longer, so the truck drivers will be able to drive further.” She nodded her head. “If they can drive further they will get to your town by nightfall and want to rest here before continuing on their journey.” The woman nodded as though she understood. “I have noticed that the town has been fuller lately,” she said standing up, “but still the drivers get here too late and go straight to their rooms or the bars.” I bit my lip thinking, and I looked up at the dream catchers, which really were beautiful. “Have you ever thought of closing during the day and staying open during the night?” She looked at me as though this thought had never crossed her mind. “After all people need dream catchers the most during the night.” She smiled and grabbed my face between her chubby palms and kissed me on the cheek. “We will try it tonight!” she said excitedly and she left me standing alone in a shop full of dream catchers. I walked out of the trading post and headed to the bar just down the street to buy cigarettes. The owner of the bar hardly looked me in the eyes as he took my $2 dollars and handed me a pack. I walked out of the shop into the street, which was slowly crowding with truckers who were finding places to spend the night. The air was dry and I could feel the skin around my lips cracking. I tapped my pack of cigarettes on the ground so the tobacco would settle and then I took one out and placed it between my lips as I sat unnoticed on the side of the road. As night fell I stood up and walked back to the trading post to find the woman standing eagerly in the middle of the store. “You!” She said walking quickly towards me, “you must help me, I’ve already had 20 drunks tonight buying dream catchers.” She placed me on a stool behind the cash register and I watched absentmindedly as drunk after drunk came into the store in search of a cure to their terrible dreams, which were surely a result of their affinity for the bottle. On the third night the woman was ecstatic and when the morning came I stood up and told her I must be getting on my way because my poor grandfather had been locked inside an icebox. She laughed uncomfortably, obviously at a loss of what to say. As I left she handed me a wad of money and a dream catcher saying I deserved it. I looked down at the money but didn’t count it. I walked out of the dimly lit, wooden room onto the road and began walking towards the emptiness that began at the end of the street. Again I walked for hours resting every once in awhile to have a cigarette or close my eyes. About five hours later I came across a clearing on the side of the road. The road was narrow, about two feet wide, and the dirt was darker as though it had just seen rain. The air grew instantly cooler and I felt myself drifting subconsciously towards that little path clinging to the idea of somehow getting a respite from the never-ending heat. The cool air was unnatural and eerie, and I wondered if my Pa had sensed that as well when my mother shoved him into the icebox. I followed that little path for twenty minutes or so, going over a wooden bridge that merged the land over a little river. The bridge led to a lush area, which, like the orchard, seemed startlingly out of place. In the middle of the lush area was a lake that extended for roughly half a mile. The water seemed still and refreshing and I dipped my feet in on the edge, leaned back and fell asleep. Awhile later I woke up to a voice. “Excuse me?” It said. I sat up and looked where it was coming from. “Over here,” it said. I could tell from the tone that the person was quite a ways away. I kept my head rotating looking for the source. “In the lake.” It said finally. I looked to the lake and leapt up to find a man stranded on a mattress in the middle of the lake. “Hi,” he said cheerfully. “Hello,” I said looking around for someone else. He was smiling broadly. “I was wondering if you could help me to shore,” he said, “I’m afraid I don’t quite know how to swim.” I nodded, thinking that a nice dip in the lake would be nice right about now, just as the sun was beginning to set. I took both wads of money out of my pocket and laid it on the ground next to my cigarettes and dream catcher. I took off my shirt and folded nicely on top of the money. Then I took off my shorts, my shoes and socks. I turned around to find the man dangling his feet in the water waiting patiently as I got sorted. I walked into the lake and began swimming once the water was about waist deep. I swam to the mattress that sat floating on the surface of the lake and once I reached it the man extended a hand and pulled me up to sit beside him. “You’re really quite a good swimmer,” he said and I laughed because I wasn’t, but it was nice that he thought so. “How did you get out here?” I asked and he clapped his hands together and threw his head back smiling as though it really were a truly funny story. “Sometimes when I come home late from the bars my wife puts me asleep on this mattress. Usually it just sits on the shore but on especially windy nights, like the last, I often find myself waking up beside the fish.” I laughed and looked down at my feet, which I dragged in and out of the cool water. “Usually she comes and gets me by noon, when she knows I’ll be sober, but this wouldn’t be the first time she’s forgotten that I’m here,” he said. “Well, should I help you back, then?” I asked and he nodded enthusiastically. I crawled across the mattress and stuck my feet in the water and began kicking like a propeller for our makeshift raft. Eventually we reached the shore and he leapt off the mattress and began dragging it out of the water. I walked beside it slowly, panting and tired from my work. I sat down on the ground, pulled on my clothes and put a cigarette between my lips. He stood beside me wringing out his shirt, which had become thoroughly soaked in the process. “Really,” he said, “I’m immensely grateful, truly, thank you.” I nodded and smiled, struggling to light the cigarette. He reached out his hand to pull me back up to standing position. “I feel terrible that I can’t offer you anything. I’m afraid money is a little short at home.” I waved him off to tell him that I didn’t want money, but I was unable to get even a word in. “My wife, though, she’s a wonderful cook. She probably has dinner all prepared, why don’t you join us?” I bit my lip and looked towards the horizon where the sun had almost disappeared completely. I looked back towards the man who was standing eagerly, watching me, his smile not diminishing in the slightest. “Sure.” I said and he clapped his hands feverishly and led me through the forest across the bridge to a little red house that stood alone. When we walked inside we were instantly met by the smell of a home-cooked meal and I admitted to myself that my food source had been seriously lacking as of late. Once inside the man’s small house, his wife and a kennel of dogs, roughly six or seven puppies, greeted us eagerly. The man kissed his wife and introduced me as the girl who saved his life. The woman was blushing, obviously embarrassed. I tried to say a few words but I was too distracted by the puppies trotting around my feet. I watched them nervously as I attempted to walk to the kitchen without accidentally kicking one. We sat down to dinner and the man never once stopped talking not even to swallow his food. For the most part I sat and smiled, nodding my head on occasion. At the end of the meal I stood up and told the man and woman how pleased I was to meet them and I assured them that were I ever in this area again, not that I really knew where I was, I would definitely come and visit. The man led me outside where the air was much cooler than it had been since I left home and I thought perhaps the seasons were finally changing. He continued to apologize for not having any money to give me saying that he felt “just terrible, truly awful.” I tried to sound as though I didn’t care but the night was lingering outside and I could feel myself growing tired with the conversation. I backed out of the house slowly, nodding and smiling at the man who still continued to talk. As I was about to turn to leave he called out to me and I stopped and looked at him. “Take a puppy,” he said excitedly, and he pushed one of the little black and white pups towards me. I shook my head and told him no, he didn’t have to do that. “Oh, don’t be silly, I insist!” he said and he placed the puppy in my hands. The little dog was soft and warm and lapped my cheek with its little pink tongue. I smiled and thanked him before I turned and disappeared into the night. The dog and I, we walked all night until the early morning when we laid down on the side of the road and fell quickly asleep. The little dog lay on my stomach and bobbed up and down with my breaths. A few hours later a gentle rattling above my head woke us up. I squinted my eyes looking at the sky, which was perfectly blue and cloudless. The sun had come back this morning full force and I could feel the sweat already appearing on my skin. Just in my line of sight was a man who smiled a toothless smile. He had a long gray beard that simply flowed into his matted gray hair. His skin had turned to a leather like consistency and was brown and wrinkled in a way that showed he had spent most, if not all of his life baking his body in the sun. He wore a long tattered shirt that covered a pair of surprisingly well-kept, white linen pants and he smiled at me eagerly as he sucked on a peppermint candy. “Anything to spare?” He asked jingling the cup in front of me. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, repositioning the puppy in my lap. “Sure.” I said and I reached into my pocket where my money from home still remained. I counted out exactly $2.17 cents, figuring that if it were enough to get me this far it would be enough for him. He smiled again. “Thank you,” he said. “It’s much appreciated.” I nodded, turning my lips up into a slight smile. “Cute dog,” he said as he reached down to pet the pup on the head. The dog looked up at him, tilting his head to the side and flopping its tongue out of his mouth. “Thanks,” I said, rubbing the dog tenderly. “What’s its name?” He asked. I looked at the puppy and considered his name for a moment. “Dog.” I said. The man laughed and patted the dog again. “A dog named Dog.” “A dog named Dog,” I repeated. I stood up slowly; still adjusting to the heat and the little puppy stretched beside me and then flopped down on the ground and rolled over as though it were expecting a belly rub. Dog and I continued down the road side by side, squinting our eyes against the sun. Within a few hours we were both exhausted from the heat and laid down on the side of the road for a rest. This time I woke to Dog’s persistent barking at a bus idling on the curb in front of us. I picked up Dog and walked up the stairs of the bus where a rush of cool air took us in eagerly. I paid the man $2.17 and walked to the back of the bus and sat down placing Dog on my lap where he curled into a tiny ball and fell asleep. I stayed on that bus for what seemed a full day until the driver stopped and called from the front that we were at the last stop. I peered out my window where the sun was barely rising and nodded my head. I stood up slowly, carrying Dog with me and walked out of the bus sighing because after it all I had ended up where I had begun. I sat Dog down and he walked beside me dutifully. We walked in a straight line for about a mile until we saw a small, dilapidated house with a cracking, red clay roof. I walked into the house where my mom was cooking breakfast as though nothing were out of the ordinary. I sat down at the kitchen table without a word and my mom set a plate of eggs in front of me and a small plate on the floor for Dog. We all ate in silence. At the end of breakfast I pulled out the money from the diner and the trading post, which had accumulated to $500 minus the few dollars for bus fare and cigarettes. “Is Pa in the ice box?” I asked. My mom nodded as she took a sip of coffee. “I’ve got the money for his funeral.” I said and sighed because my grandpa was a nice man and he didn’t deserve to be put inside an icebox.


© Copyright 2018 Owen Brooks. All rights reserved.

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