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The Yellow Tennis Ball

Max's visit to the park is disrupted when he learns about the colour green.

By Natalie McCPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 4 min read
The Yellow Tennis Ball
Photo by Tatiana Zanon on Unsplash

Rover stood proudly, surrounded by admirers in the middle of the park.

“Green? You can actually see green?” Gizmo asked loudly in his high, squeaky voice. It prompted a shush from the edge of the park.

“That’s right. Green,” Rover replied. “As clear as day.”

Max stood away from the group, still too shy to approach after two months of park visits. He listened closely, looking at the ground and pacing.

“How?” Shelby asked, a glowing curiosity in her eyes. “When?”

“This morning I saw it for sure,” Rover explained. “But all day yesterday I thought I saw it here and there. The first time was one of those lights that flash above the road.”

“But how?!” Shouted Gizmo, frustrated that he wasn’t getting answers. That did it. Gizmo was quickly scooped up and hastily carried away from the park.

Max hoped to see him again tomorrow. He was too shy to approach the other park regulars, but the more he saw them, the closer he felt to being able to make friends. Looking at the group, he knew that it was a good opportunity to socialize and join the pack. But the thought of fawning over Rover repulsed Max. He wished that, by then, everyone would be done talking about the colour green. He shuffled around, within earshot of the crowd, but keeping his distance.

“What does green look like?” King grumbled, his jowls muffling his deep voice.

“Like blue, but different,” Rover proclaimed. “I don’t know why no one else seems to be able to see it. I probably get to because I’m a pure breed.”

Rover basked in the attention. His long, bright red hair gleamed in the sunlight. It always did, Max noticed. Max looked down at his own sandy brown hair and the dirt crusting around his feet. He was glad this wouldn’t warrant a bath and thought to himself that Rover’s beautiful shiny hair must mean he has to get bathed a lot.

I wouldn’t want hair like that if it meant getting baths all the time, Max told himself. It soothed a little bit of the anxiety building inside him.

Max was bumped aside as Winston zoomed by as fast as his little legs could carry him. Instantly, a yellow tennis ball flying through the air caught Max’s eye. His body tensed up to chase after it, but realizing that it was Winston’s ball, he restrained himself. Seconds later, Rover broke into a sprint, leaping over his fans, and easily surpassing Winston to get to the ball. Rover picked up the ball and took off with it while the crowd chased after him, leaving Winston in their dust.

Looking at Rover’s long strides, beautiful hair, and graceful speed made Max feel frustrated. He didn’t understand why, but that anxiety within him flared up, making him want to both disappear and pick a fight with Rover. For a moment, he considered chasing Rover down and attacking. But he knew he couldn’t do that. First, because he was half the size of Rover. Second, because it would mean his new family would probably send him back to the shelter. Max had been getting more comfortable with them, but still often worried they’d abandon him like his old family.

I wonder if it’s because I’m not pure bred, Max thought. He was a mutt through and through, and everyone could tell by looking at him. Clumpy hair, dull brown colour, and awkward proportions made dogs like Rover turn up their nose at him. Or at least, Max was sure they would if he approached them.

A thought burrowed into Max’s brain. He wished he was a pure breed. My old family would’ve kept me, he decided. I’d be as fast and popular as Rover. Maybe I’d be friends with him too. People wouldn’t be afraid of me. And I’d be able to see green. In that moment, all of these thoughts felt as true to Max as anything.

Max stared at Rover, who was convening his accolades around him again.

“It’s bright green,” Rover informed the others. “Not yellow, like you might think.”

That drew gasps. If something as important as a tennis ball wasn’t actually yellow, what else were they all missing? Max looked hard at the tennis ball at Rover’s feet.

See it, Max urged himself. He blinked, then again, squinting and clenching his jaw. See green. He felt the weight of abandonment, of others’ fear of him, of the year he spent on the street chasing rats and scavenging for food in garbage cans, of the nights he still spent sleepless and anxious and woke up snapping at his new family.

While Max and the others looked at the tennis ball, transfixed, Winston finally caught up. Pushing through the crowd, nudging others aside with his broad shoulders, he lumbered up to the ball, picked it up, turned around, and trotted away.

The others dispersed, seeming to think little of it and returning to their own activities. Max stood there, his muscles tensed, his eyes wide, and his heart pounding. It felt like he was about to attack or be attacked, and he didn’t know why. He breathed heavily and broke into a run, going nowhere as fast as he could. He ran in circles around the park, darting around obstacles and feeling the warmth of the dirt and sand under his feet. The noise of his breathing, of his heartbeat, and of everything around him clouded his mind, building up the turmoil in his soul.

Suddenly, a whistle pierced the air, stopping him in his tracks. He instinctively turned his head to the other end of the park. Max saw the face of his new mom. She was smiling, laughing, and calling him over.

The anxiety emptied from Max’s mind and his heart warmed. As he ran over to his new mom, his tail was high and wagging. She patted him on the head and spoke to him. Max didn’t know what she was saying, but he knew it was sweet.

As they walked back to his new home, Max decided he was better off not being a pure bred anyway.


About the Creator

Natalie McC

Writer/editor/third thinger

My dream is to write something that will rival my one Google review that somehow got 10k views.

I'm on Letterboxd

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