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…
# # # # # # #
“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.
Wednesday. So far away from today. Wednesday. Wednesday. Wednesday. Are we there yet??? Gonna go sit in the back and read this book. Hope it’s got pictures too. Are we there yet? Hurry up Wednesday pics.
We aren’t really told the age of this couple in this excerpt, other than that he still works, but these days that doesn’t mean anything either. Senility as we used to call it, or demetia or Altzheimers if you prefer, can cause mental age regression and hallucinations of things and people well past and long gone. Sometimes these hallucinations can seem quite real to the sufferer, even to the point they have tactile sensations like they seem to actually feel a dog they are petting, for example. One description I’ve read concerning this is that its like the lights get turned up on things long past as the present is lost, and it becomes a kind of informational insanity as a lifetime of memories comes to the fore and the ability to localize them in time and space is lost. That’s as good a description as any.
That said, senility doesn’t typically yield physical manifestations; however, it would not be impossible for someone in a mental fog to play with some other dog and pick up stones and forget they did so in “the present”. Schizophrenia, too, is not unheard of in the nursing home.
Of course we could be going a different way, where he walks into the literal past when he goes into the backyard, becoming his 10 year old self in the process. Without more context, its hard to tell.
Good thing it was dog hair and not blonde hair tho. Women generally don’t accept supernatural explanations for THAT, dead brother or no…
@SNS You came to valid reasonings , however , fungal sourced explanation may be at the root. You know . . . śhròòmś.
How about a Science Fiction/Twilight Zone/Fantasy type explanation for the story? It’s fun.
This Dog. IT keeps coming back. Thank You God.
I don’t care how you look at it….
Even when memories and reality collide there is an astronomical number of US that have lived and loved the greatest years this country has ever offered.
It has been so fantastic and memorable that we absolutely want to extend it to our children, your children and every child that has the opportunity to be blessed by the freedom from want.
Are we there yet? Also . . . Claudia. Back brace? Does it work? Details. Why a brace? been AFK.
Had back surgery in May. Brace keeps me from moving it in a wrong position to injure the rods and screws in my spine before they fuse together properly. Works fine unless I don’t follow surgeon’s order (no lifting, bending, twisting until x-ray shows they healed). – Claudia
This story brings a tear to my eye. Imagine experiencing those wonderful times of innocent childhood that you loved so much and wish you could be back there again. Or even a fantasy place that makes you so happy.
Willoughby, Next stop Willoughby!
Thank you, Claudia!!!!
Here’s my theory: Something bad happened to John as a child. Alex may or may not have been directly involved, but the two stones are a key component. Dobby barking up the tree and Alex throwing a stone up there means something. Was John in the tree, and did Alex accidentally hit him with the stone and fell out? Is the present day jacket with the stones in it kept as a reminder to him? And he has recreated/revised the story in his mind about the rustling in the tree being a squirrel?
Nice story. Most of you who have seen my Mystique in the pet gallery know she’s a fuzzball from tip to tail. Hair everywhere.
I reframed a old 5th Army portrait of the Ft Sam Watchtower the other day, the CG gave me it at retirement. Took my time, oh so carefully. When I was done and flipped it over, a long hair was stuck to the border matte.
I was so pissed until I realized that hair will be so precious to me after she crosses that Rainbow Bridge someday hopefully years from now.
Hug em tight, everyday, they are the Lord’s greatest gift after Jesus and they love us the same way he does. 100% without resevation or conditions, and with total sacrifice if need be.
The hair stays…
Interesting take, @stirrin .
My Story is very long with lots of pictures, moving and still. Music, grooving and chill. Moving, near and far. Adventures, high and low. Toe to toe, wait for Go. Here and there. Everywhere.
@the author August 6, 2022 at 5:42 pm –
Are you THE author or just one that you play on iOTW?
I play all sorts of games on iOTWr, but I am also THE author of the short stories. Thank you for the interesting comments.
p.s. don’t confuse me with others who have the same purple avatar.
@”the author”, aka Mary Isaacs – thanks for sharing. Was I close? Will you reveal the real meaning?
There were other interesting comments, too—SNS and Mary Hatch, for example. I like to see what other people think.
That is all.