A Short Story Written by Matt Taggart, aka -M. Taggart
Fiction: His Friend
The dog whined to go. He told him to sit and wait for him to put his boots on. It was hard to put them on. The rain had stopped and the sun was now shinning. He could hear the frogs.
The dog turned in circles. He opened the front door and watched his friend run from the deck, into the front yard, and then to his truck. The wind had blown all morning from the southeast. It made for a driving wind that wore on you. He remembered how this wind would ruin their day when they’d planned to be outside. At first it was fine. Especially when they were young. But then they were not young and it was not fine. When they were young they would joke about the menacing blow and then later in life they would simply say it was blowing again.
His friend hung his head out the window and his tongue was out. Kids would wave at his friend and sometimes his friend would pull his tongue in with dignity while they passed by. He would watch from the corner of his eye to see how long it would be before the tongue was again in the wind.
The entrance to the park was nice because American flags were hung on each side. When the dog saw the flags he’d pull his head inside the cab to watch him steer and be sure he’d do the right thing. As soon as he turned into the entrance the dog would again place his large head out the window.
There was one more vehicle in the large parking lot. He scanned the soccer fields and the walking track to see where the owner might be. Sometimes children were in the soccer field and his friend would like to go there first. There weren’t any children in the soccer fields. There was a girl walking on the track.
‘Are you ready?’
The dog spun in the passenger seat.
‘Give me a minute.’ He pushed the truck door open. His legs were stiff. He slowly made his way around the front of the truck to the passenger door. His friend rushed from the truck and ran toward the girl.
The dog stopped and returned, ‘She doesn’t know you and you might scare her.’
They walked in the opposite direction.
She watched the truck park and saw a large dog that looked like a German Shepherd jump from the passenger seat. She thought the dog wanted to see her. She wanted to pet the dog but the man had called him back. Now they were walking in the opposite direction.
She walked on and thought about her work and then didn’t want to think of work. The track was a mile long loop and she hoped she might see the man with the dog soon.
The track circled around the soccer fields and then a cluster of trees. He could see the girl who was walking quickly. His friend was pushing the pace. ‘Leave her be. She doesn’t know you. And, look at me. I’m no fine sight.’
The dog pushed on. He watched his friend work the edge of the woodland and smell to learn. She was close enough now to see the shape of her face.
‘Can I pet your dog?’ She called.
He stopped walking. He had thought of putting his friend on his leash. ‘If you’d like.’
‘What’s his name?’ she asked with a large smile.
The dog waited. He had heard everything but needed now for her to ask.
‘Come here, Friend.’ She was excited to finally pet him. The dog hesitated.
‘Oh, go on. Go see her.’ And the dog tore off.
She bent her knees and slapped them lightly to welcome him. She pet his head and told him he was a good boy. The dog leaned into her.
‘He’s a good one.’ He said, ‘We’ve had him since he was a puppy. He’s only two now.’
‘He’s very sweet. I wanted to pet him earlier when you let him out of your truck.’
‘I thought you’d be scared. I called him back.’
‘No. Not me. I grew up with German Shepherds. I trained them.’
‘They really are a good breed.’
‘And good with family.’ She said.
‘This one’s name isn’t really Friend. That’s why he hesitated. We had two more. I know it sounds like a lot. We had two more and then one passed. That was when this one had just joined our family. He was sad, but didn’t know much about it. Then, the other passed and my wife took it hard. She told me I better take care of this one because she was going soon too. That night she sat in her chair with this one at her feet. She died the next morning. So now, I have him and I don’t see many people and he’s good to me.’
Tears rolled from her eyes to her nose and then to his friend.