by Amanda Leduc
In the face of the unspeakable, a family find their relationships irrevocably altered. How can one trust, when even the blameless can be blamed? How can one forgive, when what one needs to hear will never be spoken?
JEFFREY IS IN CHARGE of the dog now. Karen used to be in charge of the dog but she can’t do it anymore because the dog talks too much. So Jeffrey’s the one who calls Owen, and the day before he and Karen are supposed to leave for their week at the bed and breakfast, Jeffrey’s little brother drives up to the house in his new Toyota and loads Tusker into the back.
“Hey buddy,” Owen says. He muscles a hand across Tusker’s cold nose; the dog barks, lunges his face forward into Owen’s shoulder. The dog loves Owen. The dog loves everybody.
“I’ll put the food in the truck,” Jeffrey says. They’re in the driveway, talking. The air is cold and crisp. “One scoop in the morning. Half a scoop at dinnertime.”
“I remember,” Owen says.
“He might not eat much the first day,” Jeffrey continues. “He doesn’t like it when we’re gone. He should be fine by the second day, though.”
“We’ll be okay,” Owen kneads another hand around the golden’s jaw. The dog growls happily in response. “Max and Ellie can’t wait to see him.”
“What about Tina?”
Owen shrugs. “Tina doesn’t mind the dog. You know that.”
Jeffrey thumps a half-full bag of food up onto the truck bed. “I know. But it means a lot.”
“Jeff, it’s not a problem. Really.” Owen claps him hard on the shoulder. “If you keep saying that I’m going to get annoyed.”
“How’s Tina?” Jeff asks. Tusker has left Owen and is standing back by Jeff now, subdued, quiet. He knows the truck. He knows what’s coming.
“She’s fine. Worried about you.”
“We’re okay,” Jeff says automatically. “Karen’s booked a suite. It’ll be fun. Relaxing.”
“Sounds like it.” Owen claps him on the shoulder again, and then whistles. Tusker looks from Jeffrey to Owen, cocks his head.
“It’s okay, buddy,” Jeffrey says. He bends down—his knee cracks loud enough that you can hear it on the driveway—and scratches the skin beneath Tusker’s collar. “We won’t be long. And you’ll see Max and Ellie! Lots of fun.”
Tusker puts a paw up against Jeffrey’s heart, looks at him. The throb of Jeffrey’s guilty blood strong under his paw. He doesn’t say anything, not to Jeffrey. Then he turns and jumps into the truck.
“Jesus,” Owen says. “You’re not dying.”
“He’s a soulful dog,” Jeffrey says. They close the truck cover together. “He believes the best in people.”
about the author
AMANDA LEDUC's stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The Rumpus, The Puritan, Found Press, Big Truths, PRISM International, Prairie Fire, Crossed Genres, ELLE Canada, Tincture Journal, Little Fiction, and other publications across Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia. She was longlisted in both Fiction and Non-Fiction categories for the 2014 edition of CBC's Canada Writes. Her novel, THE MIRACLES OF ORDINARY MEN, was published in 2013 by Toronto's ECW Press. She lives in Hamilton, Ontario, where she is at work on her next book.
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