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by Tyler Barry about a year ago in dog
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There are only so many things that can turn around a hopeless boy on a breaking thread. Soon, the darkness decides to open up some light to him.


He wasn’t one who often dealt with the soreness of his limbs after hard work. Hard work.. As if it was even close to being a physically gruelling activity. It was nothing short of a slight strain. But as the next hour curled around the longest finger upon his school-age wall clock, his arm seemed to ache like no other. Each word seemed to take more energy out of him than the last, a bead of sweat forming from his cheek as he monitored the pain that overcame him. The pain, at least, was familiar-- he had just never felt it so physically. To such an intensity that he felt a sickness overwhelming him.

He didn’t have many words left. They seemed to be running out, and though it was the limit he had initially hoped for, there was nothing like actually being able to look at the paper and see what had been in his thoughts for so long, finally written. The words, his words, they weren’t to ever be read by his own eyes again. He was to drop it off with his parents and never look back-- each feeling being truly expressed in that final send off he so kindly had blessed them with. He didn’t have to. But he did.

As he inched to the ending of his story, footsteps were monitored in the hallway past his closed door. He covered the paper with a nearby black book that he impulsively opened upon hearing the footsteps stall outside. The door, without a knock, peeled open. An aged and rounded face covered partially by wavy brunette hair hung within the gap that had been created, her lips sunken as they pursed before speaking. Her voice was something that would linger in an empty room, a moment that is stuck within a harmless space.

“Sweetie,” She coarsely expressed, already off the bat having some sort of reactive tone to her words-- something that caused the boy to stiffen; expecting the worst. “can I come in?” And the worst seemed to be closer and closer to really coming his way. Maybe if he hadn’t anticipated it, it wouldn’t have come. But he couldn’t exactly take it back now.

He hovered over his decision within the few seconds he had before responding. Then it came, “No,” and went. He didn’t want her to come in. Not now, and really? Not ever. He liked the world behind his closed door.

She seemed to dial back as her face changed, holding the door open still so she could at least keep talking to him. “I have to talk to you about something important. Not even if it's important?” She pleaded, pushing him in the direction that she wanted him to go in. The only thing he blessed her with now was the shaking of his head. To which she just took as a reason to continue her tangent in the doorway instead, then. “Your grandmother passed. Her house burnt to the ground. She forgot to turn the oven off. Something caught fire. All of her things are gone.” She ended her tangent with a breath-- and when he thought she was done, he went to speak, though it seemed she had more to say. “Except her money and the fucking dog.”

What once was a chest full of sloshing and surging emotions seemed to empty completely with one strong breath out. A sigh, perhaps. Though, if it was of relief or sadness wasn’t even something that the boy could quite analyze himself. He didn’t approach it in the moment, because he couldn’t keep the feeling of his chest and the knacking of his brain at the same pace as his fastened heartbeat. “Why are you telling me?”

She gave him a baffled look before immediately refuting his question, “I’m your mother. Why wouldn’t I tell you about this?”

He shook his head, making the shortest moment of eye contact with her before looking away once more. “You usually don’t tell me anything. Why are you telling me this? Why does it involve me?” He was right; there was a specific reason that she was telling him this. But he just couldn’t pinpoint why she was avoiding it so heavily.

She almost seemed to growl, her distaste already so seenly growing as their conversation progressed. “She left her money to you. 20,000 dollars. Lucky you. I don't care about the dog, but if you want that little shit you can have him too. We were gonna put him down anyways.” It was almost as if she was forcing it onto him; but his heart had already spoken for his future actions.

“Where is he?” He almost interrupted her last few words with how urgently he let his words escape past the barrier of his teeth.

She shrugged. “The house?”

Of course. It was the least he expected out of her, yet she still couldn’t even begin to reach the level it shallowly sat at. No one had retrieved the dog, and left it to fend for itself. He hated the initiative his heart jumped to conclude with, but it was as if it had grown its own pair of legs as he stood up, leaving the paper shunned underneath the leather-covered black book on his desk-- as he then promptly left, pushing past his mother with little care.

In comparison to how long it felt to write his note, the drive to his grandmother’s destroyed home was notoriously quick. He didn’t speed, and there was nothing that would have accelerated past the difference in time. The world seemed to speed up against the grain of such hopelessness while there was such an urgency for this sweet creature.

Though the time began to inch into hours as he searched around the home, it still did not seem as long as writing that letter. He didn’t count each second or step, he didn’t worry over the state of his shoes, he didn’t pay mind to the stench of rotting, burnt wood. The only thing on his mind was that dog.

That dog. That was the only thing left of his Grandmother. Through her life and suffering, she had many companions. Though he believed that this dog was her platonic soulmate. The bond they shared was special, and he always wished he could find a sidekick of his own that loved him so unconditionally. His Grandmother; she was a brute of a woman, but she was always there for him. When his parents seemed to dissipate into the energy of the air surrounding him, she was there. She was always there. And the dog was there for her. As she got older and more forgetful, things became harder for them.

Through and through, he searched. But he was simply brought back to the settling debris of the home. The broken wood and shattered machinery and glass; the smell that he wouldn’t pay mind to. Burnt clothes and lingering furniture-- he found him.

The small dog was shivering beneath the remains of his owner’s bed frame, ash now seeping into the pores of his skin as it settled beneath his fur. His body seemed to be riddled with burns and scrape, red spots painfully visible at the ankles. The pads of his paw were bleeding-- scraped off and blistered. He was in such obvious pain, and the look that was given to the boy upon finally noticing that he was there… it was nothing but saddened eyes that hoped but could not accept that hope. The boy understood that fear.

But he would wait hours here for this dog, he would lay in the ash with him and keep a comfortable distance. He would wait until safety overwhelmed the dog’s senses; he would wait until the poor soul knew that no one would ever leave him again. Nothing would hurt that dog.

He swore it to himself. Nothing would hurt that dog.

“Sigmund,” It was a whisper, but the dog heard. His head lifted slowly from his crossed paws upon the ash. Eyes kept brutal contact with the boy-- contact that was not broken as the boy slowly moved to wrap his arms around the small animal. Sigmund flinched, thrashing in the slightest as he jumped up and piled his feet backwards. The eye contact still did not break. “It’s okay. I promise you. It’s okay.”

Sigmund offered nothing but a whimper. He cowered, back legs almost so violently shaking that it verged on the intensity of a seizure. His tail tucked in between his legs, so far up to his stomach that the boy could barely make out a tail. His eyes were red-- and it looked as if he had been crying for the past three days straight. It was something that the boy so easily mimicked in the moment.

He held out his hand. He kept it lingering in the air until the dog chose his time of comfort. He did not falter.

In time, Sigmund took it upon himself to sniff the skin on the palm of the boy’s hand. He inched around his fingers and up his arm.

It was the first moment that Sigmund dared to break eye contact.

The boy sighed in relief. Sigmund had kept sniffing in that moment, slowly getting closer and closer to the boy’s entire body. When he finally did gain that extra special closeness, he first backed his body up between the boy’s legs-- so his back would be comfortably against something. Meaning, nothing could make way to come up behind him. Sigmund was shown the same palm before it went up to stroke his head, running through his fur and passing ash despite its complications.

“You’re safe with me. Your Momma was smart, even if she was forgetting. She left me everything-- and that means that you’re gonna be perfectly fine. That means we’re gonna be okay.” His lips touched against the top of Sigmund’s head as he spoke, kissing it before pulling away-- wiping the ash from his cracked lips.

He hoisted the shivering dog into his arms and stood. Holding him close, he offered him one more whisper. “Let’s go get help.”


About the author

Tyler Barry

I am an avid writer and have been in the writing game since I was very young... I hope to be able to share my expertise with more people.

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