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Stuffed Dogs

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I just sat there and looked at the dead basset hound. My eyes were dry but I was filled with the most desperate sense of grief. Not for me, not for my dead dog, but for the boy who was about to lose something more than what laid out flat and unmoving before me. Ways to fix it, ways to fix it, I rambled in thought. I was a fixer, or at least I tried to be. Though, there are some things that will break and splinter into many pieces, irreparable, like a marriage.

I took it upon myself to bury Flash in the backyard. My mom would hardly notice, I was the one who fed the dog and took it on a walk every afternoon. Flash would’ve been starved for affection if it hadn’t been for George. I would watch them play in the backyard where my little brother would take Flash to the imaginary world of a seven year old boy. I knew George wasn’t very fond of reality, where parents fought and dogs died. Poor George, he would be heartbroken. I decided to drive to the store and get him a present before he got back from painting class. Hopefully, it would cheer him up.

I got into my mother’s car; she wouldn’t make her way out of bed for several more hours. I headed for the toy store a few minutes from my house. I walked down the aisles of brightly colored toys and stuffed animals. Down the third aisle I stopped in front of the basset hounds. There was one identical to Flash, it could have been his twin, only shrunken and stuffed. I quickly bought the tiny dog and sped home. I walked inside to the empty crate where Flash would usually be waiting for George when he came home. I placed the toy on top of the empty crate. I hoped the new friend would help me break the news.

I waited anxiously for the telltale sound of George’s carpool. To occupy the time I worked on some of my college applications. They seemed precious, each having the idea of a faraway place attached to it. In the midst of writing an essay, I heard the doorbell melody echo throughout the house. It was strange for George to come to that door. I glanced through the peephole and saw the distorted image of a bearded man looking down at his shoes. I opened the door.
“Dad,” I said questioningly.
“Hannah,” he took a step into the house and hugged me. I didn’t like to be hugged, and I pulled away shortly.
“Come in, I guess,” I said sarcastically as I made a sweeping hand gesture towards the inside of the house. He followed me to the kitchen and I poured him a glass of water. “So what are you here for?”
“Oh come on Hannah-Banana, I wanted to see you.” I cringed at the use of the pet name he used to call me. I used to feel so special when he used it, now I wondered what he would call his other daughter.
“It’s nice to see you, too, Dad,” I said with hardened eyes, not letting them fill with the pain I was feeling. We sat there for a couple minutes. I started making myself a sandwich; he watched me for a bit but then started walking around the house. I heard him rifling through the closet in the hall. “What are you doing?”
“Oh, just looking at some old stuff,” he put the lid on a box and picked it up. I saw the labeling on the box and my throat constricted.
“Please just go, Dad.” He looked down and gave a small nod. He walked out the door with the box labeled Baby Clothes.

A little while later, I heard George come through the back door. “Hey Hannah,” he called with paint all over his face. He ran straight to Flash’s crate. I walked over, ready to tell him the news. I looked at George’s face; he looked at the empty crate and into mine. He faltered for a moment before he exclaimed, “Flash!,” and grabbed the stuffed dog off of the top of the crate. He ran outside with the toy. I watched him through the back window. He played with the stuffed dog for rest of the afternoon. Although I knew it was probably unhealthy, I was glad his best friend didn’t have to die. That night when George went to bed he placed “Flash” at his usual sleeping place, the foot of his bed.
For weeks it continued, I tried the best I could to go along with it. George still had me pour dog food for “Flash” every day, which would always disappear by the time I checked it later. Even my mother, with dark circles under her glassy eyes, made an effort to pet the stuffed animal when she found her way downstairs.
Later in the week my Dad came by again. He and my mom talked quietly upstairs for a very long time. Only my Dad came back down the stairs. He picked George up and put him on his back. George laughed, glad for the attention. I watched the scene. This wasn’t a real family, the parts we played. My Dad was whispering something into George’s ear. He pulled away and looked seriously at George. George’s face changed somehow at whatever my Dad had told him.
“Dad, what’s going on?” I asked.
“I got a job offer in New Jersey, Marie and I are moving.” He explained. Before what he said had registered, I watched as George dropped the toy basset hound. He walked over to the back window and stared unmistakably at the freshly dug mound in between the trees. He looked back and forth between the mound and my father. His usual wide-eyed expression ebbed away as he said goodbye.




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