General Fiction posted December 4, 2016


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potlatch animal prose 600 words

Bubba and Patch

by LIJ Red

Kelli never really came to Earth. She came to the fringes and peeped and went away. When she lost interest, after seven years, and they slid the tiny pale body into the furnace, scarcely a thimblefull of ashes came out for the delicate silver urn that her mother placed on the mantle.

The brain behind the high forehead was sharp. She talked like an adult, and even read a little. Whether it was the lack of oxygen in the blood, or the endless stream of drugs and medicines, she saw marvelous things. Clouds and birds and rainbows no one else could see.

The old man's appointments at the clinic followed hers each Monday morning. As they waited, they talked about cabbages and kings and all that. They talked about the old man's dogs, Patch and Bubba. Patch was a jolly soul, a plume-tailed bird dog with spots. One big spot was a patch around his eye. Bubba was a small tan shorthaired Chihuahua with a ready bark and a foul temper.

The old man feared that they had been killed, or abandoned, by his stepchildren when they moved into the apartment in the city. He whispered that they would kill him, too, in the end. They wanted his farm to sell to developers.

Kelli told her parents that she would love to see Patch and Bubba, just once.

After some weeks, there was a Monday when Kelli's father drove her to the clinic, and she was more out of it than usual. Her breathing was an effort, her lips were blue. As they drove south on the four-lane, she stared at the morning traffic boiling around them. Once she said, "Oh, Golly." Her blue eyes were wide and the pupils were dilated. Her mother made a mental note to ask her what she had seen--later.

The old man was not dumped in the lobby by his stepdaughter as usual while she went shopping.

Kelli cried. They had killed her friend, she said.

The nurse called for him. The receptionist got on the telephone.

Then she looked at Kelli's mother, knowing that a bond had formed between the eighty-year-old and the six-year-old. Her lips formed silent words, "He's gone."

The phone rang when she hung it up. She answered, and her eyes widened.

To distract her silently weeping child, Kelli's mom asked, "You saw something on the highway, didn't you, honey?"

"I saw Patch and Bubba. They passed us up."

"Wow. Those dogs must have been doing some running."

"Bubba was as big as a horse. His paws were kicking up sparks of fire from the highway."

"Your friend may have died and they were going to take him home." the woman was glad of the opening to reveal that the old man was dead.

"I don't think so. Bubba was mad. His eyes were fiery red."

The nurses took the little girl into the back rooms for tests and treatments. Kelli asked her mother to find out about the old man, instead of staying with her. Her mother suspected the child knew how much it hurt her to watch. A very special little girl.

"Thanks for telling me about the old gentleman," Kelli's mother said to the receptionist.

"They got along so good. What a shame. But that second call--that was the cops. The old man's stepson and stepdaughter have been murdered. Hacked to pieces in the apartment where they lived with the old guy. The old man had been dead a couple of days, but they were still warm. The place looked like a slaughterhouse, the sergeant said."


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