Pets aren’t family members.
Snooky is a dog. Snooky is my pet. Snooky wasn’t there when I was learning to walk, or ride my bike. Snooky didn’t teach me how to read, or sneak me a half cup of spiked eggnog behind the couch when my mom wasn’t looking. Snooky wasn’t even born until I was well beyond puberty.
But Snooky also doesn’t give a shit about money, or houses, or suntans, or whether or not we remembered to bring home 1% milk instead of 2% milk from the store because the 2% tastes cheesy.
Snooky wasn’t there when I was in the hospital.
Snooky didn’t show up till after. When I was finally discharged, and my mother and my sister fought about who had to drive me home while I sat there in the wheelchair, one fingernail digging dirt that wasn’t really there out from under another fingernail, contemplating pretending I was in a drug-sleep again so that maybe they’d stop pretending they thought I couldn’t hear them and we could just get out of there because dammit the fluorescent lights hurt my eyes. When my mother had hugged me and wished me a safe trip home (because she’d used the ultimate maternal argument-bomb of “I gave BIRTH to you both…”) and hurried out the rotating glass doors, leaving my sister to nearly dump me out of my chair before she figured out how to kick free the brake and push me out to the car. When she got me back to my apartment and stood there on the sidewalk staring at the half-flight of stairs down to my basement apartment and muttered something about how I should get the super to put in a ramp or something, and fell on her ass under the chair in the process of wrestling me down them and don’t think for a moment I didn’t hear her cursing as she stomped back up, then down again to dump my purse in my lap, leaving me to fumble out my keys and lurch through the doorway myself.
When something else lurched, in the darkness, scraping against the cheap linoleum floors. Snooky showed up then, bolting in through the open door out of nowhere, barking and snarling and snapping. I was muzzy and muddled, trying to get my chair turned around, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t enough light coming in the open doorway to let me see the body that fell to the floor, one tendon shredded off the back of the ankle. I would have been able to see if it was bleeding, but it wasn’t. It reached out, exhaling, and grabbed the edge of the doorway to pull itself forward and out onto the cement landing, leaving nothing in its wake but a weird slaughterhouse stench and Snooky, little white ball of dirty barking fluff, barking like she thought she was an Irish Wolfhound protecting her ancient home. Damn little thing got her paw up on the door, her weight enough to push it closed but slowly, as I watched the figure roll on its side, remnant of a face leering.
The door clicked gently shut. A moment later there was the sound of footsteps, followed by a thud, and screaming. My sister, I knew that scream. It usually sounded angrier.
I waited until Snooky stopped growling at the door before rolling close enough to try to open it; it was nearly night, but I could see my luggage. Duffle bag, really. I could see the dark pool that looked like it had waterfalled down the steps. I saw Snooky, darting out to sink her teeth into the bag and dragging it, ruffing muffledly through the fabric, into the apartment.
Snooky’s always here, now. Growls at the door sometimes, or leaps into my lap when we hear steps and screams. Sometimes I open the window, and Snooky darts out, coming back with a bagged loaf of bread that hasn’t yet gone over thanks to preservatives, or a can with a missing label. One day Snooky spent the whole time dragging back scrap wood, and then a packet of nails that must have come from one of the buildings that had been starting to get renovated before I went in the hospital.
We keep to ourselves, Snooky and me.
This was written as part of the 31 Things In 31 Days project, being run on the page of the same name on Google+. For more information or to participate, go there.
Day Two’s prompt: