SAFE PASSAGE by Sharon Dale Wexler

Even though I know where the missing part of the toy gun is, I won’t tell. They haven’t asked. They ask each other but not me. Even if I tell them it’s under the kitchen table, that won’t be the end of it; they won’t settle down and sit at the table for the meal.

The dog smells like a boy on a camping trip. The breeder promised to deliver at three. Safe passage. Once inside, right away, the dog squatted on the floor. 

The boy was only here every other weekend and, therefore, never showered. At first, the dog was supposed to be mine. But because I gave in, reluctantly, going along with the deceit, the dog only is mine when the boy’s gone. I was the only one the boy wouldn’t miss if I were missing. But before his father would buy the dog, I agreed. 

The dog was my garden of Eden. Before Dude arrived, I knew no wrong. I didn’t know what badness I was capable of. We are all looking to the dog for comfort we couldn’t find in food, TV, or our body. 

The boy went on walks to the sewer, to sneak smokes, where the weeds grew higher than the house. See what you made him do, we’d fight over who cleans the dog’s vomit. We bonded by talking about the dog, worrying about its appearance and health. We had to be home soon because it’s almost time to feed the dog. 

Dude waits at the door to be able to be let out. I can hear him breathing behind the door, and there seemed to be a special relationship between us. His breathing on the top step and me thinking whether or not he would be safe from the boy let out. I don’t mean to infer a relationship that was not there something supernatural unless it was there. For instance, if I said Dude find the leash and the leash was missing from its usual place in the drawer, and I couldn’t find it, Dude would push me to the garage where I could find the leather strap hanging on the door opener. 

The only noise in the house was from the dog barking to go out.

When the boy is over, I sleep in the room with the dog but cannot fall asleep. The dog can’t find a comfortable place to lie down.  I tried getting the dog to sleep in the bed. He circled around my side first; the father was sleeping on the other side or sideways with a pillow over his eyes. 


Sharon Dale Wexler’s teaching and writing have been awarded fellowships from The Cullman Center Institute for Teachers, New Visions, and The New York Times. Her fiction has been published or is forthcoming from Ginosko Literary Journal, New World Review, Addiction/Recovery Anthology, Madness Muse Press, and Promethean. She is a graduate of the MA Writing Program at City College of New York, The University of Florida and has studied with Gordon Lish.
 

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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