by Race Garber
My parents wouldn’t let me get a dog. They said I wouldn’t take care of it. They wanted to know if I’d feed it, walk it, not tape wings to its back and throw it off the roof to see if it would fly. I tried to tell them that I’d fed my two hamsters and three goldfish I used to have; that they hadn’t needed to be walked, but I had given them a wheel and a spacious bowl.
So if those were the three things a dog needed, I’d managed two out of three already. And that was was still like a C, and I shouldn’t be punished for being average.
Besides, it wasn’t my fault. The hamsters hadn’t really tried that hard. That was the problem there. And the goldfish…I think the flippers threw off the wings. I knew how to fix the problem, if my parents hadn’t stopped buying me goldfish.
But my parents weren’t very reasonable. I told my dad that it wasn’t fair, that he had a dog when he was a kid. But all he said was that he had, that it was buried in my grandparents’ backyard, and that if I had a dog, he didn’t think I’d dig the hole for that either.
He was wrong. I loved digging holes. Besides, my grandparents’ house was boring and I really wanted a dog.
My dad had named that dog “Sparky,” which I thought was a stupid name. I didn’t have a better one, not right away. But when I was duct-taping the bones together, it came to me.
Skelly was a really good dog. He wasn’t good at fetch or sitting or anything. He was pretty much always playing dead. A lot of people made fun of me or screamed when they saw him.
But he was a good dog. I didn’t have to take him out all the time when he had to go to the bathroom. It was easy to hide him from my parents (who still wouldn’t get me a dog!) because he didn’t need to eat. And he was so good about flying lessons. He didn’t need a soft landing like those lame hamsters, or water to breath like the fish. He never once whined or spasmed or started to decompose when I had to tape a limb back on.
The thing about life, though, is the best moments of life are just that…moments. And Skelly was probably too perfect for this world. He was a loveable dog. He got along with children, even when they screamed or wouldn’t pet him. He never bit anyone. And he never barked or growled at other dogs.
Unfortunately, other dogs were not as nice to Skelly. Maybe it was because he was too friendly, that he wouldn’t stand up for himself. Maybe it was because he was made of bones. I guess I’ll never know.
What I do know is, the first time I took Skelly to the dog park was also the last time I saw him all together.
I remember I almost cried when it happened. I felt my eyes tearing up.
But then I realized that nothing lasts forever. Skelly was a good dog. Skelly never demanded anything from me. I think what Skelly wanted most was to make others happy. So when I saw how happy Skelly had made all those other dogs, I knew this was what he would have wanted.
I kicked a stone most of the way home, clutching a string I’d used for a leash, still dragging a collarbone. It was the only thing left I had of Skelly.
Every place I looked, it reminded me of some great memory I had with Skelly. So I just kind of drooped my head, trying not to see anything but the ground.
My parents were really excited when I got home, but I was still sad. I couldn’t tell them why, couldn’t tell them about Skelly, on account of them saying I couldn’t have a dog. I knew they’d be sore at me if they find out I went behind their backs.
But then I heard it. My mom walked into the living room, some metal rattled, and I heard a high-pitched yip. When the puppy rounded the corner, I was really happy again. I felt guilty, what with losing Skelly that same day, but I think Skelly would have been happy for me.
My parents said that I had been so well-behaved that week, that I hadn’t been bothering them, or trying to light stuff on fire, or stealing my dad’s coats and hats to put them on sticks outside the windows of people’s houses at night so they thought someone was stalking them. They said they realized I had grown up, that I was being responsible and ready for a dog.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed at first because it was a puppy. It seemed like a puppy would be more work. He bounced around a lot and my mom made me clean up when I got him too excited and he peed on the floor. But then I realized a puppy was a lot lighter than a normal dog, so I probably could use smaller wings. I went straight up to my room to get the tape.
Under a variety of job titles and post-nominals, Race has written public speeches, court decisions, and formal pleas for (varying degrees of) justice. His work has been widely distributed, most often under the names of or on behalf of his previous employers. Breaking that trend, he is happy to have been published in f(r)iction, Tethered by Letters Quarterly, and on this humerus website.