A short story by Mary M. Isaacs.
“Hey, John! C’mere! Dobby’s got something treed!” Alex ran across the big backyard to the old oak tree near the fence. The dog was standing on his hind legs with his front paws on the tree trunk, barking loudly. “What ya got, Dobs?” He looked up through the branches but couldn’t see anything. Just then, there was a rustling above him and an acorn came flying down, almost hitting him. “A squirrel, huh? Good dog!” Dobby kept looking up and barking as he jumped around the bottom of the tree.
Alex yelled over his shoulder, “John! Get out here!” He searched the ground, looking for a good throwing rock. All he could find were acorns; he knew they were no good for throwing INTO the tree. Then Alex remembered his jacket pockets; he always had something useful in his pockets. He dug around in them. Sure enough, there were a few rocks, just the perfect size and weight for throwing. He looked back up through the branches and thought he spied a grey squirrel tail overhead. He took aim and let fly with a rock. It whammed into the tree right near where he’d seen the tail; there was a loud scrabbling sound as the squirrel jumped out of the tree and raced along the fence.
“Yeah, Dobby! We sure chased that squirrel away!” He sat down on the ground and rubbed the dog’s head. In no time the two were rolling around on the ground, Alex laughing and Dobby licking his face endlessly.
After a few moments, Alex stood up and brushed himself off. He looked at the upstairs windows. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he shouted, “John, you missed it! We got that squirrel without you!” He started back inside while Dobby lay down to rest in the shade. As Alex came through the back door, he peeled off his jacket and tossed it on the back of the kitchen chair. “John, you shoulda been there!” Alex called out, as he ran up the stairs. His brother was always missing the fun…
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“Alex, where did all this dog hair come from? Was there someone with a dog in your office today? Or did one jump on you on the way home?”
Alex came down the stairs and entered the kitchen. He looked over her shoulder; sure enough, there was brown dog hair all over his jacket. He grinned, “I was outside playing with Dobby.”
“Dobby? Who’s Dobby?” She asked him as she tried to brush the hair off the fabric.
He frowned slightly. “Dobby, my dog–actually, he belongs to me and John.”
She stopped what she was doing and faced him directly. “John? Your brother John?”
“Yeah, Dobby’s our dog, John’s and mine. I was just in the backyard, playing with him. We chased a squirrel out of the big oak tree.”
She glanced out the window at their small patio and then got a peculiar expression on her face. “Alex…your brother John died when you were both in grade school. You told me that before we got married. And we don’t have an oak tree–or a dog. ” She gestured out the window as she continued to look at him.
Alex stared at his wife. What was she saying? He turned towards the window. All he could see was a cinder block wall and a metal patio table with two chairs. He looked back down at the dog hair on his jacket. It was the same color as Dobby’s; he’d seen that too many times to be mistaken. He took the jacket from her hands and, after some thought, searched the pockets. He felt something in one pocket and pulled his hand out.
Sure enough, it was a couple of rocks–just the perfect size and weight for throwing.
Story by Mary M. Isaacs, copyright 2021; from her newest collection of short stories. To enjoy and support works by Ms. Isaacs (a long-time reader and camouflaged commenter at iOTWr) visit our left-hand sidebar and click on the image of the book, Hair of the Dog. She has five volumes available at present.