"Fur" by Jeff Hill
Author's Note: I originally wrote this piece as a creative writing assignment for Chigozie Obioma's literary movements class last fall. Now in its finalized form, the flash fiction that appears below is dedicated to him and the wonderful English department.
I’m in a hurry, on my way out the door, when I see Squiggles waddling toward me with his empty water bowl.
He sets it down, barking, “Thirsty please water now thanks.”
Then he smiles, and I reluctantly fill it from the kitchen tap, placing it next to his food bowl, also empty, but he’s about ten pounds overweight, which is pretty bad for a bulldog of his age, so empty it stays.
He slurps and slurps and slurps and then asks, “Food now please yeah?”
“I can’t, buddy,” I tell him. "I am going to be late. I can’t be late.”
He snorts and says, “Okay fine still love you bye.”
He plops on the floor and stares at me, wanting me to come over and pet him for being a good dog before I leave for the night.
“Sorry, Squiggles. You know I can’t pet you. Janie is allergic and your fur is going to get all over my nice suit. Then the night will be wrecked.”
“Give me a break,” I hear as Gordon peeks his head in from the cat door leading outside. He starts to walk toward me and I back up slowly.
“Come on, Gordon. Don’t rub up against my pants. You know that your fur clings to everything.”
The cat stops, momentarily, but I have mistaken his hesitation for common courtesy, when, in reality, he has stopped out of fear. His tail goes straight up and he is frozen.
I look at the hallway and see my husky, Jake, warning the cat and reminding him of his place in the family tree. He is motionless, he is speechless, but he simply looks my way and nods in approval, as if to say, “I’ve got this.”
I start to head out when I realize that things are going to change forever when I get back home.
If Janie says yes, she’s going to move in. Or I’m going to move out. And these guys are going to have to make a big life adjustment. The dogs and the cat will be spending a lot more time outside. They won’t be able to sleep in my bed or even in my room. They’ll feel like I’ve replaced them.
And, in a way, I will have.
If Janie says no, I’m going to have to quit my job. Or she’s going to have to fire me. She’s more than just the love of my life, she’s my boss, my best friend, my only human companion that I’ve ever considered worthy of becoming part of my family. She’ll have to cut ties entirely.
“I hope the bitch says no,” Gordon whispers under his breath, getting into pounce mode as he considers how quickly he can jump on my black suit and run out the door before Jake gets him.
Jake begins to growl, disturbing Squiggles on his way to dreamland.
Before I can even think, the kitchen is a barking, hissing, lunging pile of chaos, all three of them running frantically after one another and the bulldog yelling “Mean eat cat dumb hate!” and the cat laughing “You stupid fat piece of shit; you’ll never catch me!” and the husky growling and keeping them apart.
Then, as I glance at the digital clock on the microwave, I realize that I’m going to be late if I don’t leave right now.
“Guys!” I yell. “Stop!”
And they do. Almost immediately.
The cat is smirking maniacally. The bulldog is panting and bashful. And the husky is keeping them still, one giant paw on the head of each of them. He looks me in the eyes, licks his snout, and says, “Go get ‘em, my guy. You got this.”
Gordon slides out from under his paw and goes back out through the cat door. “You could do worse,” he mutters.
Squiggles heads over to Jake’s food dish and says “Like her good luck she’s awesome love you” between mouthfuls of food not meant for him.
And as I grab my keys and head out to the biggest moment of my entire life, I look at my best friend, Jake, as he nods in approval.