by Thomas Lowry 12 days ago in humanity

A Novella



Written by Thomas Lowry


I don’t remember much about the day my mom and dad took me home. I was cozy in the kennel I shared with my sister, our tiny bodies caught up in each other in a way that might make even a circus performer blush. It might have been late spring, or early summer; the only evidence of the season was the small window adjacent to our kennel on the north side of the room. The window was rarely open, but when it was, fresh dewy air would slip underneath the opening, slink over and tickle my nose as I slept. I was the size of a roll of toilet paper back then, and when you’re that small the world doesn’t make much sense. It takes time to understand things right? It takes time to figure out where you fit in. What I can remember about that day, the day I met my parents is that I was very sleepy. I was so sleepy that I could barely keep my eyes open. The only voice I had known until then was hoarse and laboured, like a wire brush being scratched over rough leather. But that day, that special day, the hoarse voice was accompanied by two more voices. One was high and sweet, and the other, the one that stood out was deep, playful and warm. Even though I was so sleepy I knew that I liked that voice and I would be happy to hear it more. The deep warm voice untangled me from my sister and picked me up out of the kennel and cradled me in his hands. I wasn’t scared because well, to be truthful, I didn’t know my sister that well, and also because I’ve always been pretty independent. It’s not like I knew at the time that I was independent, if you get what I mean. It’s just a trait I have. People have different strengths and one of mine happens to be that I’m pretty independent. I’m quite happy being alone. I don’t need to be fussed over or anything. But when the warm deep voice took me into his arms I felt pretty good and was happy to be held by him. He must have liked me too because he kept touching my head. The other voice, the high sweet one, ran her fingers down my back. The voices continued back and forth for what seemed like a long time, and I was nodding off again; ready to go back to my kennel, to the warmth of my sister’s fur when it happened: instead of being set down back in my kennel, the warm deep voice and the high sweet one carried me right out the door!

I awake the next day, disorientated and fuzzy. My muscles are tight and ache from too much sleep. My mouth is dry. Where am I? Where is my sister? Am I dreaming? I open my eyes slowly, cautiously. Light fills my pupils. Not the cold harsh light of my kennel, but clean pure light, soft and fragrant. As my eyes adjust I remember what I can of yesterday… The voices, the warm voice. They took me, they took me from my kennel, from my sister, but I was happy because….My mind drifts as I take in my new surroundings. The walls are white and clean, the floor is near black, smooth and shiny. There are objects here and there. What are they?

Now that my eyes are open I see my mom and dad for the first time. They are looking at down at me and smiling. They are both tall, very tall, and beautiful, and have dark fur on their heads like my sister, but even darker. Their teeth are white and luminescent. Their faces are shaped differently than mine but I feel like that doesn’t matter too much. They seem different from each other yet still the same. The warm playful voice is my dad, and the sweet high voice is my mom. They are talking again and looking at me like something good is about to happen, or is happening. I stretch my legs and shake out my body. My dad picks me up carefully and sets me down in front of a big shiny silver thing that is almost three quarters my size and filled with clear liquid. This must be water. I remember the old voice putting this in my kennel. I stick my face in the bowl and start lapping it up like a crazy person. I’m really thirsty. When I’m older I drink slowly. There isn’t any rush right? Plus, I don’t know how much of this stuff they have and I don’t want to be rude. When you first meet people, even if they are your parents you don’t want to be rude. You don’t want to take more than you need and then come off as greedy. No one likes greedy people. I look up at my dad and he says something I don’t understand but it seems like he’s okay if I drink more so I do.

It’s been a few months since my parents took me home. I have never been so happy in my life! Everyday I learn something new and everyday my mom or dad, or both do fun stuff with me. I’m growing too. I mean, I’m really growing. It’s hard to believe that I used to be only the size of a toilet paper roll but now I’m probably at least two or three times bigger. At least. My muscles are stronger and my body can do stuff now that it never could before. My dad goes away in the day and my mom goes away at night but over the past week, when my dad comes back and my mom goes out, he’s been teaching me stuff. Like serious stuff. First, he reaches way up high, higher than I can see and grabs something close to the ceiling. I’m just starting to learn words now and he calls it a ‘pox’ or a…Well I think it’s called a pox. Anyways, it’s filled with ‘wookies,’ and wookies are like my favourite food but ten times better. My regular food is good, but wookies are way, way better. So my dad takes the wookies and sort of holds them in front of me like I can have one, but first I have to do something interesting with my body. He helps my body do these interesting things with his hand, or sometimes both hands. I don’t know why I have to do these things yet but I really like wookies so I’m happy to at least try. I get really, really excited when my dad has a wookie. So far I’ve learned how to put my bum down, to stay, to raise my paws and to spin my whole body around till I’m back to where I started. Turning my whole body around makes me a bit dizzy but my dad gets really excited when I do it, and sometimes he gives me two wookies instead of just one. I love this time with my dad and after we’re done with wookies I usually fall asleep in his lap while he watches the moving wall.

At about a year and a half I am fully grown. I can slip under the coffee table but just. My fur is fluffy, soft, and long but at the first sign of summer my mom takes the buzzing thing that I hate and shears it all off. It only takes about twenty minutes but I grumble and cry through the whole thing because it feels weird and uncomfortable and sometimes rips my hair which really hurts! I feel better afterward but I just wish there was a better way to be light and brand-new. The last year has been full of surprises. When I got a bit bigger and a bit stronger my mom and dad started taking me outside into the real world, to places I’d never been. Their favourite place to take me, and my favourite place to go is the park. The park has deep green grass that feels so nice and cooling on my feet and there are other people like me there and we can run free and talk to each other as much as we like. The park has this kind of net around it that we can’t go around so we just run within its boundaries or have chat where ever we like. The other day I met a grizzled person. He was old, like really old and his fur looked like he needed some of the good smelling goo my mom sometimes rubs into my fur, but he still had some life in him. We were talking about…well I can’t remember what we were talking about exactly but at the end of our talk he said “humans,” and then pointed his nose towards my mom, like it meant something, like it was an important thing to say. I looked up at my mom, her fur flowing beautifully past her shoulders, and wondered what the old guy was talking about. Was he crazy or was he trying to tell me something I needed to know? I guess that’s the problem with old guys, you can never tell when they are being serious or just pulling your leg. Besides learning about the outside world, I’m beginning to think that my dad is something of a sorcerer. All the interesting stuff he taught me to do with my body works whether he gives me wookies or not! It doesn’t seem fair but if he speaks the words my body does the interesting stuff anyway, wookies or not. I can’t really explain it, but I’m starting to wonder if my dad is a good guy after all. I mean, I’m sure he is, I’m just wondering where the wookies have gone. I don’t think I’m asking too much. If someone makes you do interesting stuff with your body you should get a wookie right?

Mom and Dad are always fighting these days. At first I got really scared and nervous because I thought they were fighting about me. That maybe I was doing something wrong. I can admit I’m not perfect. Any person who thinks they’re perfect is probably hiding some rotten secret. Or a bunch of them. Sometimes I have accidents and don’t quite make it outside in time. And sometimes Dad gets mad at me and even grabs me by the scruff of my neck: It doesn’t hurt, but it feels weird, like the buzzing thing I hate. So when mom and dad started fighting I thought it was maybe because of the way I was acting. But after I listened closer, I realized that it had nothing to do with me. They were just fighting with each other. I don’t understand why people who love each other fight. You think that they’d never fight, because they love each other but I don’t know. Like I said I guess I still have a lot to learn and need time to understand where I fit it. When mom and dad fight I’ve learned to hide. I don’t mean I would actually hide, like under the couch or anything (although I do like being under the couch) I just mean I would make sure that whenever my mom and dad were fighting, I would be on my best behaviour or not in the room.

Another year has passed. I have a baby brother! Mom and dad brought him home the other day. I wasn’t expecting anything special that morning, I was just having a nice nap on the couch and looking out at the big brown field behind our house. Mom and dad had left a few hours before and I was happy to just lay on the couch and watch the birds dive up and down. There’s not really anything better than having a nap with the warm sun on your face. So I was really surprised when mom and dad came back and had this little person in their hands. They said his name is Oscar. He’s bigger than I was when I was a baby but not by much. His fur is all kinds of different colours like grey and black, white and brown and he has one blue eye and one brown eye, which makes him look pretty interesting. I hopped off the couch and went to introduce myself. I licked his face and let him know that I was his big brother and that we will be happy together, that we will do fun stuff and that mom and dad are really nice. I didn’t tell him about wookies or the park or anything cause he’s still so small, but I feel like I’m bursting with stuff to tell him. Mom and dad also brought back a treat for me which I thought was strange: couldn’t they tell how happy I was just to have a little brother? I mean I ate right away, but the whole time I was thinking about the fun stuff Oscar and I will do together.

It’s winter! Oscar is really growing. We are almost the same size now but I am still stronger and better at running. I’ve taught him as much as I can so far about the outside world, about the park, about wookies, and about how dad might be a wizard. When the white stuff showed up one morning a couple of weeks back Oscar immediately went to the door and started asking me questions. I told him that it was called ‘snow’ that it’s white and fluffy and feels neat to rub against, but is also cold. He asked me where it came from and I said I wasn’t sure. I said that mom and dad might put it out the night before, so we can have fun playing in it, but at the same time that seemed like a lot of work, and mom and dad already do work stuff in the day so I wasn’t 100% positive. After I said that Oscar kind of paused like he was trying to work it out in his head, like he was thinking hard. I’ve noticed that about Oscar. He thinks really hard sometimes, too hard in my opinion. Maybe he will be different when he gets older when he’s had more time to learn. Smart people like me don’t have to think too hard, we just get stuff. Stuff just makes sense to us. I’m not trying to say that Oscar is dumb, but just sometimes he thinks too hard. You won’t believe what happened to us the other day before the snow came. Oscar and I were playing in the field behind our house. Mom and dad sometimes let us wander out there while they sit on the patio and relax. We don’t go too far and they can usually see us the whole time. So out in the field Oscar got dumb again and went way ahead of me…he had smelt something good in the grass and decided to go into it and see what it was. I ran after him cause he was getting too far away from home, too deep in the grass. When I caught up to him I could see that he was shaking, scared and kind of frozen in his place. I looked ahead, maybe ten feet ahead where he was looking and saw a person, but not like any person I’d ever seen. He was bigger than me by a lot. He was scruffy and thin. I could almost see his ribs, he was that thin. He looked mean and hungry, but not like he wanted regular food but like he wanted us to be his food. Sometimes I hear my dad talking about bad guys and the second I saw this guy I knew what he meant. This guy was definitely a bad guy. I ran ahead of Oscar as fast as I could towards the bad guy. I yelled at him in my loudest voice. I said “leave us alone you bad guy. Leave me and my little brother alone! Go back to the woods or wherever you’re from!” I was shouting so loud I thought I was going to lose my voice. I locked my eyes on his eyes so he knew I wasn’t scared and that I was really mad and serious. Eventually the bad guy turned around, like he was ashamed or something. I chased him for a bit till I was deep in the grass and knew he was far away from Oscar, and far from our house. When we got back home I scolded Oscar and told him to be more careful. That even when you’re having fun outside, you have to be smart.

Have you heard of this thing called “Christmas?” Oh man is it ever fun. A few days before dad brought a tree inside the house, which made me laugh. A tree inside the house!? I couldn’t stop laughing as he tried to set it down in the corner of the living room. Trees belong outside right? But then mom put all this stuff on it, like lights and stuff and now it looks really pretty, like it belongs inside. Oscar was sniffing all around the tree and then asking me about it and I told him that I don’t know how dad pulled the tree out of the ground, because they seem like they’re really in there. Oscar asks me about Christmas too and I told him this is all new to me. We wake up early that morning and so did mom and dad. There were all kinds of shiny interesting boxes under the tree that weren’t there yesterday and when I go investigate I see that my name and Oscar’s name are on a few of them. I wonder what they are and what’s inside of them. We have a real nice breakfast and then mom opens the interesting boxes with our names on them and there are all kinds of my favourite stuff in there. I get some nice treats, and a new blue sweater vest and Oscar got a few toys and treats too. I’m already full from breakfast but have a treat anyway. Dad throws Oscar’s toy for him and he zips around the house. Oscar, I’m learning, may in fact be a crazy person. It’s not always easy to spot a crazy person, but I’m fearful that Oscar may be one. He has too much energy and is always talking about something that doesn’t have to do with what he’s doing. Later in the day we drive across town to visit mom and dad’s people. There is lots of food, and lots of treats, and we are free to just play all day. Everyone seems extra happy and in a good mood. Nice music plays in the background and everyone is drinking this red stuff that looks like blood, but obviously can’t be. It stains their teeth red too, but seems to make them even nicer, but also kind of loud. My parent’s people have a person like Oscar too. Same kind of fur and interesting eyes. His name is Jake. Jake and I have a good chat; he tells me that he’s like Oscar and that he has lots of energy too, and is happiest when he is running or chasing a ball. He says that he often has dreams where he’s running in big open green fields, and he calls this his job. Or what his job is supposed to be. I like him and imagine that Oscar will probably look like him when he’s full grown. Oscar is bigger than me now and he plays pretty hard. He’s always running into me and banging up against me. I tell him to relax a bit, that he doesn’t have to play so hard but I’m not sure if he hears so well. He might be a little deaf along with being crazy and kinda dumb. In the evening I wander downstairs and hear voices, loud voices. Mom and dad are arguing again. I don’t know why they would be seeing as they were extra happy only a few hours earlier. At night we say goodbye to mom and dad’s people and I say goodbye to Jake and thank him for his hospitality. On the drive home I remember that I’ve been extra good over the last few weeks. I haven’t had an accident for a long time and dad hasn’t had to get mad at me. I ask Oscar if he’s been good too, and he says he has. I tell him to be extra good this week and maybe we will have Christmas again next weekend.

My ears are sore from listening to mom and dad fight. Oscar is scared, and I have to admit, I am a little too. When dad gets back from work and mom goes out to work they barely say a word to each other; they are tense and act as if they are strangers. But when mom gets back home later at night they yell and scream until it’s not really night anymore, and might as well be early morning. Oscar keeps asking me what is going on and if they are just mad at him because he ate his Christmas toy. I tell him that it’s not because of anything he’s done, that it’s natural for people in love to fight. I try to say it really convincingly to him, but it’s hard because I’m actually not sure why they yell and scream at each other. Oscar has made a point of hiding in his kennel when they are mad and these days. If I still had a kennel I’d probably go there too.

Dad sits me down and slowly tells me that he and mom aren’t going to be together anymore, that they are “separating” and that part of the separation is that I will go and live with him in his new place, and Oscar will go with mom, to wherever she is going. Oscar is my little brother and although he is crazy and plays too hard, and might be a little dumb, I can’t imagine my life without him. I ask dad if this will be forever, and I can tell that he isn’t quite sure, or if he’s sure, he doesn’t want to tell me. He says that everything will be alright and Oscar and I will still see each other, we just won’t be living in the same house. He pats my head and says not to worry, but I still care about my mom and wonder if she is going to be okay. Where will she go? What happens when parents go different ways? Just then Oscar hops onto the couch next to me and dad and I can tell he doesn’t really understand what’s going on cause he’s still so young even though his body is almost full-grown now. I lick his face and tell him not to get too scared and that when he’s older he will understand better, and that I will always be his big brother no matter how far apart we are.

Dad’s new home smells funny. I told him this the first time we walked in when we first checked it out but he wasn’t listening to me. Dad almost never listens to me, which is annoying because I have lots of smart things to say. I’m very observant. When you’re observant you have lots of things to say, all the time and it’s annoying when people don’t at least acknowledge that you are observant. After we moved in, after dad’s friends came and helped him move in his bed and the couch and his music stuff I just sort of walked around the floors aimlessly, for hours like I was lost. Like my life was over. I wasn’t hungry for a while and whenever dad would try to cheer me up with a wookie I’d just sort of avoid him. I didn’t want a wookie. I wanted my mom and my little brother back! I think deep down I was kind of mad at him like it was his fault that he and mom broke up, and that my little brother, the maniac was somewhere across town where I couldn’t at least try to make him less of a crazy person. After a few days like this I realized that I wasn’t being fair to dad and that even though my mom and my brother were somewhere across town he probably did his best and it wasn’t entirely his fault. I remembered that it takes two people to argue, not just one. My heart was filled with love for my dad again and | jumped up on the couch while he was watching the moving wall and licked his face, letting him know that I didn’t blame him and that he was right, that things would be okay again and that I would see Oscar again, maybe at the park and we would play and he would tell me about his new place with mom and I could remind him to be less crazy so more people like him.

My dad is driving me nuts! When he’s not at work he’s at his table, at the small moving wall playing music really loud. He has this thing in front of his small moving wall that is black and white, the length of his table, first white then black, then over and over again. When he presses down on it with his fingers it makes interesting sounds. Some of the sounds are really beautiful but most of them just make my head hurt. I think it’s called a ‘pinto’ but I’m not sure. I think my dad might be a ‘musician,’ a person who is good at making sounds and putting sounds together in a way that makes people happy. Unfortunately for me what I’ve found is that a large part of being a musician, if that is what my dad is, is making really bad sounds in the hopes of finding better sounds! A lot of the time I tell my dad to stop or to go back to the last sound, but as I said, my dad rarely listens to me. My dad is also buying lots of bottles of ’sauce.’ Have you heard of this? They come in tin or glass bottles, with interesting words and pictures on the sides. Dad buys these a few times a week. For some reason I think that he buys the ‘sauce’ because mom is gone. Because he is unhappy. I don’t have any good reason for thinking this, yet at the same time I’m almost absolutely sure I’m right. When I’m older I will learn this kind of feeling is called intuition. Anyway, one day I asked him if I could try some ‘sauce’ because I didn’t want to feel left out anymore and was kinda curious why he liked drinking the ’sauce’ so much. Dad got this funny grin on his face, like he knew something I didn’t. He asked me if I was sure and I said I was. Dad said ‘okay,’ and spilled a tiny amount of sauce on the floor for me to drink up. It tasted weird, like water that had gone bad, but sweet at the same time. Oh man, did I like it! I immediately understood why dad drank so much ‘sauce.’ Who wouldn’t want to feel this way? I started zipping around the room, running as fast as I could. I felt like myself only better. I was full of energy and good ideas. I really felt like talking but dad was sitting on the couch laughing at me. I didn’t care, I just wanted more ‘sauce.’ I asked him for more and he gave me one more little sip before saying ‘that’s all you get.’ That second sip seemed to last for an hour. I think at one point I bumped into the wall but it all seemed funny and okay. Afterward, when the sauce wore off I devoured all my leftover food from dinner and then fell fast asleep in the middle of the kitchen floor. The next morning my head kind of hurt and I was pretty tired the whole day. When I didn’t want to go for our regular walk after Dad’s work he laughed at me, not in a mean way but in a way like we both were in on a joke.

We are moving! It’s been over a year since mom and dad broke-up, since Oscar and I were sent to separate homes. My worst fears didn’t come true: I still see Oscar and mom on a pretty regular basis. We still go to the park at least once a week, and I still feel confident that I can “un-crazy’ Oscar. It’ll be hard, but if there’s anyone who can sort him out it’s me. Dad says that even though we are moving back to the place where he grew up, we will continue to see Oscar and mom, maybe not as much but still enough. I’m surprised that we're moving. It feels like Dad and I have just become comfortable in our new home. It doesn’t smell anymore and I wonder why just as we’re comfortable dad needs us to move. I ask him and he says because of work, that place that he goes in the day when I nap and just enjoy my alone time.

Dad’s people are nice. I’ve met them before but don’t remember them too well. The whole drive to their home on the fast road I was trying to remember their names and what they looked like so that when I got there I could make a good impression. Impressions are important right? I mean sometimes it takes a while to really understand someone but impressions go a long way. Dad says it’s nice of his parents to let us stay with them while he ‘gets back on his feet,’ before he can find a new place for the two of us. I wonder why we have to wait to go to this ‘new’ place, why we can’t just go straight there, but I don’t have any reason not to trust dad. I always have enough food and treats and water, and pats and walks and interesting things to think about so there’s no reason to complain. Before we decided to move I overheard my dad talking about his mom a few times, and how she doesn’t really like people like me, how she likes things in her house the way they are. So when we finally turn off the fast road and find the new house and go inside I meet dad’s mom again and I tell her that I’m a good boy and I won’t change around any of her stuff. You don’t have to worry about me I say. I have my own stuff and I’ll just leave your stuff the way it is.

The house is pretty full. Besides me and dad, and dad’s parents my uncle lives here too. I was kind of confused when I met my uncle again. I had forgotten that he looks so similar to my dad except he’s a bit taller and a bit bigger. His fur is the same colour as my dad’s and his voice is almost identical. When he calls me sometimes I get really confused because I think it’s my dad calling me when it’s actually my uncle. It’s not good to be confused all the time so now I have to listen hard whenever someone is calling me. I think my uncle is sort of like a musician too. The room he likes to be in has the pinto thing as well as a couple of wood things that look like pears and make interesting sounds too. I like the sound of the wood pear things more than the pinto and sometimes I slip inside his room and watch his fingers move all over the wood things. My uncle’s sounds make a bit more sense than my dad’s and don’t hurt my head nearly as much. I’m also learning that my uncle might be a bit crazy too, like my little brother the maniac. He has a lot of energy and is always chasing me around the house. My dad has always played with me but my uncle plays hard like Oscar. I don’t mean he runs into me or bangs me up or anything, he just loves to play and for long stretches at a time. Sometimes he sings too and I sing along with him. I’m not a great singer and neither is he but, man we really have fun. My uncle has also taken me to all kinds of different places to meet new people and to just, well, explore. There’s this forest that we go to sometimes on the side of a mountain. The air is so fresh and clean, the earth is dark and rich and the trees are tall and reach up to the sky. They look like an artist put them there, like they’re part of a humongous painting. Whenever we go to the forest the first thing my uncle does before we leave the place with all the cars is put me on my leash. I ask him why and he says ‘bares.’ I don’t know exactly what bares are but they don’t sound nice and I imagine they are bad guys, like the bad guy I had to chase away in the grass to keep Oscar and me safe when we were little. When we go to these interesting places my uncle is always talking to me. He never stops talking to me! So we have really nice chats and he appreciates that I am observant and smart. I like this about him. I’m not trying to say that I like him more than my dad, he’s just different. They’re like really different people in almost the same body. My uncle also introduced me to my most favourite treat. It’s white and cold and creamy and sometimes we get it after walking in the woods. I don’t know if the woods and the treat have anything in common, but they seem related. The first few times we got it I just had a few nice licks but the next time I couldn’t control myself, and I took a huge bite like a crazy person. It tasted so good I don’t even remember swallowing. After I took my big bite my uncle laughed and said it was his favourite treat too. Besides the sauce and wookies I can’t think of anything better. I don’t know what else to say I just really like my uncle and I know he must like me too.

One morning about a few months after we’d been staying at dad’s peoples’ place, dad told me that he had to move. I got really excited. Finally, dad and I in a new place just for us! I jumped off the couch and went to grab my stuff. I told him that it wouldn’t take me long to pack. I went to go downstairs to grab my stuff but before I could he grabbed me and set me back down in front of him. He was looking at me hard, like he had something important to say but didn’t know how. He took a couple long breaths and said the ‘he’ was moving and that unfortunately his new place didn’t allow people like me. He said that my uncle would be looking after me until he could find another new place where I was allowed. I got real mad. What’s so awful about me? Why are these new place people so mean? I’m observant and smart and independent, and I’m small; it’s not like I take up a bunch of space. And I don’t have much stuff. Did the new place people think I would get in the habit of drinking too much sauce? That I would always be bumping into walls? Like that was something I did on a regular basis? Dad left me alone for a few minutes to calm down. When he came back he told me it wouldn’t be forever, just temporarily, and that my uncle was an okay guy and would take good care of me. Well yeah I know my uncle is a good guy I said, but I really don’t like the new place people, whoever they are. Dad agreed with me but also said not to worry, and reminded me that my uncle knows my favourite treat, and that he would tell my uncle to get it for me more often, and it was okay if I took a few bites and not just a few nice licks.

I’ve noticed that time is starting to do weird things. The older I get the faster it seems to go. It was just Saturday, and now it’s Tuesday. What happened? What was I doing during those days? When I was little I remembered everything I did the day before, even the week before; every day seemed like an eternity, but in a good way. Like the days were split up into all these wonderful moments that my head could understand and remember. There were nap moments and walk moments and playing moments and more nap moments. There was christmas and my birthday and other fun days that seemed to go on and on.

It’s been almost two years since my dad went to live in his new place, the place I wasn’t allowed at on account of the mean people. Man, has stuff ever changed since then. I have so many things to say that I don’t even know where to start, but I’ll try. I’m living with my uncle in the woods! Not the same woods with the pretty painted trees and the bares, but still a forest, or at least a place with lots of trees and bushes, dirt roads and mountains. We moved out of dad’s parents’ place awhile ago and live in a small cabin next to a run-down building that looks a bit like a barn. We have to walk almost five minutes on the dirt road to get to another house. That’s how far in the woods we are. I was a bit sad to leave dad’s parents’ home but excited to go on a new adventure with my uncle. Dad’s parents were really nice to me and took care of me on the occasions when my uncle wasn’t around. Dad’s mom, it turns out is a very caring special person. She might not like people like me too much but she didn’t act that way at all. She always made sure I had everything I needed to be happy, and didn’t seem to mind walking me either. Before me and my uncle left for our cabin in the woods I gave her a big kiss and said thank you for feeding me good food and also that I was pretty sure I hadn’t moved any of her stuff around so she didn’t need to worry. So I’ve been living with my uncle for so long now that sometimes I forget he’s my uncle. The other day we went to the new park, a long trail that snakes itself around a thin shallow river, and I met an interesting person who was as white as the snow I like, but really fat like all she ate was wookies, all the time. She was really nice though. We started chatting and she asked me how long I’d lived in the forest and if my dad was a good guy, and I had to catch myself and say, yes, he’s very nice, but he’s my uncle, not my dad. My dad is my dad, and my uncle is my uncle, right? To be honest I’m not so sure these days. I haven’t seen my dad very much over the last year because he’s had all kinds of crazy stuff going on in his life, so I don’t know. For one, he’s not even living in his new place anymore. He lives with his new girlfriend and his new girlfriend’s friends in town, miles away from the woods. My uncle takes me over there some weekends for a visit and to drink the red stuff and stay up late and play games. Dad’s new girlfriend is tall and pretty and has dark fur like mom but seems like a different person on the inside: mom is pretty quiet and dad’s new girlfriend is well, not quiet at all. The last time I was there whenever she could, she would pick me up and hold me. I don’t mind being held, but when it’s not my idea I don’t like it! So she kept picking me up and finally I’d had enough and I just jumped out of her lap and said ‘hey, stop trying to be my mom!’ I said it loud too, louder than I meant to. I was almost shouting. Everyone heard me. I looked up at her pretty face and she looked sort of sad and I felt real bad. I realized that she was just being nice and trying to get to know me and she knows she’s not my mom. Next time I see her I will let her hold me, so she knows that I like her anyway, even if she’s not my mom and that we can still be friends. Speaking of my mom, she’s having a baby! A baby that comes from her belly, from another guy who’s not my dad. Mom said they met each other in school years ago and then fell in love again. I don’t know about this guy but I sure hope that he doesn’t like to argue with mom like dad did. The craziest part is that Oscar is coming back to live with my dad! I’ll get to see him more often again. Mom doesn’t think Oscar will be good around the baby and of course I agree. Oscar is still crazy and has too much energy and is always telling me about these strange dreams he has where he’s chasing white things that look like clouds in fields of long green grass. He keeps saying that this is his job like Jake, and why he likes to run all day, but I keep telling him that ‘jobs’ are just for the bigger people who look after us and that he’s still crazy.

My uncle has been extra busy over the last few weeks. I feel like he’s preparing for something. Like my dad, he has a new girlfriend too and says that she’s coming to live with us in the cabin soon, and that she’s funny and beautiful and that I will like her. He spends the afternoons with long pieces of wood, cutting them up and then putting them back together in interesting ways. He builds shelves, and then a bed and a wood thing that goes behind the bed that makes it look extra pretty. He does a pretty good job for someone who hasn’t been buzzing wood for that long. The bed he makes fits our bedroom perfectly, but I wonder where his girlfriend is going sleep when she finally comes because I like to stretch out when I sleep and sometimes I snore.

My uncle was right. When his girlfriend shows up a few weeks later in her big shiny white car I’m happy to meet her. She is tall like my uncle and is always smiling. She smells really good, like flowers. Her smile is pretty and her fur is the darkest I’ve ever seen, almost completely black, and hangs off her shoulders in an interesting way. I have to admit I’m pretty picky about people, but when I do like someone I like them right from the start. And I definitely like my uncle’s girlfriend, even though she talks in a funny way that makes it harder for me to understand her. I ask her where she’s from and she tells me she’s from ’Straya’ and that it’s on the other side of the world, across the oceans and that it’s literally the furthest place from here, and that it takes almost three days to get to where we live in the forest from where she grew up, from where her people are. I ask her if it only takes three days to get here why she wasn’t here sooner, and that if she had been she could have been able to help my uncle with the wood buzzing stuff. She laughs and says that she’s been living and working in a different part of this country, and as far as wood buzzing goes that’s something my uncle does to show he loves her. That night we have a big fire outside. A fire that’s so high I’m afraid it will touch the stars, and set them on fire too! I can tell that my uncle is extra happy now that his girlfriend is here. He keeps giving her pats and kisses. Like my dad, my uncle really likes drinking the sauce but tonight he drinks less so I’m sure he is extra happy.

I’m almost seven years old now. I know that because my uncle told me after I’d had an accident the other day. I still have accidents from time to time, but my uncle is more relaxed about it than my dad. He usually doesn’t get mad, he just looks at me and says stuff like ‘my bad’ or ‘I should have let you outside sooner.’ But the other day after my accident he got a bit angrier, angrier than he usually gets, and said ‘you’re almost seven now, this shouldn’t be happening.’ I was pretty embarrassed and went and hid under the couch until he left for work. He’s right though, I am almost seven now and shouldn’t still be having accidents. I’m a big boy and big boys shouldn’t be having accidents. I knew then that I had to get myself under control, that I couldn’t have any more accidents. The problem is, well my problem now other than my accidents is that my teeth hurt. My mouth feels gross, like it can never be clean again, no matter how much water I drink. Some of my teeth feel kinda loose too, like if I bit down on something too hard they might fall out. When my uncle got back from work I finally work up the courage to tell him about my teeth. He pushes my mouth apart with his fingers and has a look. I hate having my mouth opened but know that my uncle has to have a look. He looks over my teeth for a moment and then says ‘fuck,’ a word he uses sometimes that I’ve learned means things are pretty bad. He has a tense back and forth with his girlfriend then he gets on his phone. He calls someone and I’m sure that he’s talking about me. Three days later my uncle drives me into town to the woman who does teeth stuff for people like me. On the way to town, on the fast road, my uncle tells me not to worry too much, that he’s taking me to a lady who will help my teeth feel better, that she will know how to make my mouth feel normal again. When we get there, she has a quick chat with my uncle while I look around. Her place is small but brightly lit, and the whole place seems like it was designed for people like me. There are pictures of my people on the walls, and toys everywhere, and neat spots where I could imagine having a nice nap. After talking to my uncle the woman gives me a wookie then has a look at my mouth. She tells my uncle to have a seat in the ‘exception’ area, and that she shouldn’t be too long. The woman gives me lots of wookies then sort of sits down next to me on the floor. She has a bunch of stuff next to her that look like toothbrushes except that they are slimmer, made of metal and sharp. They shimmer in the light like forks covered in dish soap. She puts one of the toothbrushes in my mouth and pushes hard against one of my teeth. I jump back and cry out in pain! Why are you hurting me I say? What kind of person gives you wookies and then hurts you?! The lady looks at me strangely, like she’s trying to work something out in her head, like my little brother the dummy does sometimes. Her whole face was scrunched up like a big giant question mark. She opened my mouth again and said ’oh my.’ Instead of trying to put more metal toothbrushes in my mouth, she picked me up and brought me back to the exception area, where my dad was sitting, reading a book. The woman says something to my dad and he says “Are you sure?” and then ‘I understand,’ and then ‘thank you for your time.’

We leave and then drive back home in silence. When we get on the dirt road that leads to our cabin, my uncle gives me some pats and tells me we’ll sort this out, and that we’ll get my teeth fixed so they don’t hurt anymore and my mouth doesn’t feel so gross.

When I wake up, my uncle is there looking up at me. There is another man too, the man in green clothes. I try to remember who he is, I definitely know him, but I’m so sleepy and foggy that I can’t concentrate long enough to put a name to his face. My uncle strokes my back and talks to me in his softest voice, asking me how I am. I try to say that I’m sleepy, and foggy and that my mouth feels strange and numb, and three times its normal size, but the words just don’t come out. I slip back into sleep.

I don’t remember much of the last month. I know that I was sick, on account of my teeth, and then got better, after my uncle told the man in green clothes to pull them out; but now I am sick again. I don’t feel like doing any of my usual stuff. I don’t want to eat, and I don’t want to play, and I don’t want to walk. I just want to lay in my bed and sleep as much as I can. When we first got back home after my ‘sugary,’ I was feeling okay. Sure my mouth felt weird and sore, but it finally felt clean again, so that was a big relief. My uncle started feeding me a spoon with peanut butter on it a couple of times a day, which seemed strange. I know the man in green clothes gave my uncle some medicine for me, and I like peanut butter, but I was sort of wondering why my uncle wasn’t giving me my medicine. How am I going to getter better if I don’t take my medicine? Two weeks after my ’sugary’ I started to feel awful again. It’s not my teeth now, it’s my whole body. I feel exhausted and weak, like my muscles aren’t strong anymore. I have lots of accidents because I can barely make it to the front door. My uncle gets on his phone again and the next day we go to a new place, not far from the dirt road and our cabin. The lady there looks me over carefully. She feels my muscles, looks in my eyes, and does this weird thing with my bum. She says she’s going to take my ‘blood and my urine,’ and see if she can figure out why I’m still sick, especially after my teeth being brand new again. She takes me into another room and pokes me with a sharp thing, not any bigger than a long sliver of wood and then asks me to pee a bit. I try my best to pee for her, because I know she’s trying to figure out why I’m still sick. Afterward, my uncle talks to the lady. She tells him that she’s not quite sure why I am still sick because the tests didn’t show anything strange. My dad picks me up and storms back to the car. I’ve never seen him this angry before. On the way he says bad words under his breath like “fucking vets are bullshit!” and “fucking license to print money.” As we drive home I remind my uncle that the lady is like the man in green clothes, who was a pretty good guy and helped my mouth feel better. My uncle thinks about this for a bit then says ‘yeah, I guess you have a point there.”

I’m not getting any sicker, but I don’t seem to be getting any better. I still want to sleep all the time, and I still don’t want to do any of my usual stuff. My uncle keeps picking me up every day, like I’m some kind of metal weight, the kind that makes big peoples’ muscles strong. He tells his girlfriend that he can feel my bones pressing through my skin. I tell him my bones have always been there but I think what he meant is that they are easier to feel than normal. He says since my ’sugary’ I’ve lost too much weight, and that that might be the reason why I am still sick. I can tell my uncle is really worried about me and his worry makes me worried too. I tell him that maybe if I sleep long enough I will feel better. That maybe all I need is more rest. He says that I’ve been in bed for days and that what I need to is eat, and eat right now. He brings me special food that comes in a tin, that is rich and creamy, food so delicious that if I weren’t sick I would devour in a split second. He sets me in front of my food bowl and demands that I eat. He says ‘eat, Bleu eat!’ I try to, I really do, but I still am not hungry and would rather sleep. I slink away to my bed. My uncle puts away my food bowl the sits down on the couch, his eyes lost in thought. My dad shows up at the cabin later one that week. My uncle tells me that he’s spoken to my dad, and that my dad and his girlfriend are going to watch over me till I’m better. Dad’s girlfriend doesn’t have to go away to work at the moment, so she’s free to watch me all day, to care for me and help me recover. My uncle hugs me and says that he will come visit me next week and will call in the week to see if I am making any progress.

If I were well, going back to my dad would make me really happy. He’s known me since I was little and he picked me out with mom when I was only the size of a toilet paper roll. I know my uncle loves me very much, but my dad is my dad right? He’s moved again since I last saw him: we have to drive on the fast road for a while before getting to his new place. I fall asleep on the way but wake up just before we arrive. Dad’s new place is close to a long, slender lake and is a bit in the forest too, like my uncle’s place. After we park, my dad’s girlfriend takes me into her arms and carries me up the stairs to their apartment, and then to my bed. I spend most of the week in bed. My nose is really stuffed up now and it’s becoming hard for me to breathe. I can’t see that well anymore either, like there’s a film on my eyes that’s blocking me from seeing normally. Oscar comes and checks on me all the time. He asks if I am doing any better and if I want to play. I tell him I still don’t feel that well and I don’t really feel like playing. He asks me why I’m still sick, and I say I’m not really sure, but maybe we can play tomorrow. He tells me that dad’s new place is huge and that he’s so happy because there’s so much room for him to run and chase balls. I ask him if he’s found any of the ‘white clouds’ he’s seen in his dreams and he says no but he’s allowed to run outside for as long as he wants and that is almost as good as chasing the white clouds. Dad’s girlfriend is always checking on me too, and I know she’s not mom, but she’s really nice and sweet and I still feel bad for getting mad at her that time. She pats me and brings me food and asks how I am doing and if there is anything she could do to make me feel better.

My uncle comes to visit the next week. I hear his voice first, and then the familiar sound of his weight climbing the long staircase up to the apartment. I want to go say hi, but I’m still too tired and am not breathing well. He says hi to my dad and my dad’s girlfriend and then comes over to my bed. He hears how laboured my breath is, sees the snot covering my nostrils and just about punches a hole through the wall behind me. He picks me up and starts shouting at my dad and my dad’s girlfriend. “He can barely breathe! I thought you said he was doing better!” He says more stuff too, mostly bad words. Oscar is whining and my dad looks frozen in his place. My uncle slips his shoes back on and carries me down the stairs, out to his car. Before I know it we are back on the fast road. I wonder where he’s taking me but I’m too tired to really care. We pull up in front of dad’s parents’ place. My uncle takes me inside to show me to his parents. ‘Look at him. Look at his nose he says, There’s snot everywhere and he can barely breathe. Look at his eyes, it’s like he has cataracts.’ I don’t know what cataracts are but they sure don’t sound good. My dad’s parents ask my uncle what happened when he took me to the vet. He says that they couldn’t find anything wrong with me, that all the tests were clear. My dad’s mom has a closer look at me. My uncle asks ’Is there anything that you can do?’ When I was living with dad’s people I found out that his mom is a real sorceress. I’m not sure if my dad is actually a wizard, but his mom is definitely a real sorceress. It’s her job. She gives sick people potions and then they get better. My uncle once told me a story of a rabbit he and dad had when they were little kids. Dad stepped on the rabbit’s head by accident while they were playing basketball inside the house. The rabbit stopped eating and moving altogether and would just shake and twitch, like it might die any minute. But mom gave the rabbit some medicine, some potion, and slowly, the rabbit got better and better until he was brand new. My uncle reminds his mom of the rabbit and then asks if there are any medicines or potions she can make for me. She thinks for a minute and then says yes, there are a few things she can make for me. My uncle looks relieved, like all his stress has been momentarily washed away. After a few long hours at dad’s parents' place my uncle drives me back to my dad’s with the bottles of medicines and potions his mom made. When we get back there, after we climb the long stairs to the apartment, my uncle has a chat with my dad and his girlfriend. He says he’s sorry for losing his temper, that he just wants me to be well again, and that his mom has made some medicine and potions for me. He explains how to give them to me. My uncle kisses me and then sets me back in my bed. As I’m falling asleep my dad slips a clear tasteless liquid onto my tongue. I swallow by reflex, then fall asleep.

It's hard to say how long I’ve been back living with my dad and his girlfriend. My sickness has made it hard to concentrate on simple stuff like the seasons, but I’m pretty sure it’s been much less then a year but more then a couple of months since I first arrived. The other day, when I was outside having a pee I could tell that summer was over; I felt a cool fall breeze ripple gently across my fur. I’m still getting used to this new place that’s hidden off the main road and as I said, is sort of in the woods like my uncle’s place. The property has more then one house and is pretty spread out so there’s lots of space and interesting places to go investigate. My dad and his girlfriend grow weeds. That’s where they go away to work. Remember the Christmas when my dad brought the tree inside the house and i couldn’t stop laughing until mom made it pretty? Well, I laughed a bit when dad told me he grows weeds. I asked him why he doesn’t just go into the forest or even someone's backyard and take as many weeds as he wants? People are usually pretty happy to give you their weeds. I haven’t ever heard of someone saying ‘hey, don’t take my weeds.’ But he said that the weeds he grows are special and take a lot of care, and that after they are cut down and dried out people like to put them in pipes and stuff and smoke them to feel good and funny. After he told me this his job made a little more sense and I told him that from now on when we go for walks in the woods I will be on the lookout for special weeds for him to cut and dry so we can get more money. I told Oscar to look out for special weeds too and he asked what I was talking about and I remembered that he’s still a bit of a dummy, and not really observant like me, and that he's just obsessed with running all day, bringing balls back to dad and telling me stories of white clouds in his dreams. I haven’t been able to un-crazy him yet but now that we’re back living together I can try if I want. To be honest I kind of actually like him just the way he is. There are all kinds of people out there so I guess it’s okay if my little brother is a bit crazy and a little bit dumb. I’m learning that sometimes the traits that you first hate about someone are the things that you come to love about them the most.

It’s almost impossible to believe, but those potions and medicines that my dad’s mom the sorceress gave me have made me pretty much brand new again, just like the rabbit. My strength has come back, I’m hungry again and my dad says I’m talking way more than I have in months. It took a long time but I’ve put back on all the weight I lost as well. My eyes still aren’t clear but they aren’t so bad. I can still see okay and I really shouldn’t complain. I’m lucky to be part of a family of wizards and sorceresses, otherwise, I might have died. More than anything I am just happy to be myself again. The other day my dad and his girlfriend drove into town to say hi to his parents and my uncle. My uncle visited me a couple months back when I was still pretty sick but when he saw me this time, oh man, he almost fell off his chair. He couldn’t believe how well I looked, how healthy I was. He picked me up and could tell I was pretty much my old self again, except for my eyes. He was so happy I thought he was going to cry. He just kept hugging and hugging and hugging me until I had to finally tell him ‘hey I love you too but can you put me down now please.’ He laughed and asked if I wanted some wookies. I asked him if he had some of the cold creamy stuff. He said he didn’t but we could go for a car ride right away and get some. While we were driving to the store he told me that he was ‘back in school,’ and doing lots of interesting writing stuff for his classes. He said was writing a story about me, about my life, about my experiences. I asked him what writing was and he said it is like the moving wall, but with words. When we got to the store, my uncle bought me my own cold creamy stuff and we just sat in the car for a few minutes, enjoying our treats. Afterward I asked him how my mom was doing and he said he’d run into her a while back and that her baby was healthy and that she was happy with her new guy.

I’m almost eight years old now. I still like having long sun-drenched naps, I still want to think about interesting stuff, and I still hope that maybe one day all my family can get together. My mom and dad, who raised me, my uncle, who is my best friend, my dad’s mom, the sorceress, who gave me potions that cured my illness, my dad’s girlfriend, who is not my mom, but cared for me every single day I was sick, my uncle’s girlfriend who gave me the best scratches with her long nails, and my brother Oscar who is a little dumb and a little crazy but who I still love anyway.

Thomas Lowry
Thomas Lowry
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Thomas Lowry

Currently a student. Love to write. I have a background in film scripts but I have recently written a novella and a couple of short peices.

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