From the patio, Sharee asked, “Doesn’t he ever bring the thing back?”
“Yeah,” said Ray. “When he’s killed it dead enough.”
He drifted back to sit by Sharee. She said, “You want a pop?”
“Yeah, that would be good. Mine are on the right side of the door on the second shelf of the fridge.” He said it out of habit, as if her errand here wasn’t the thing preventing him from just going in and getting it himself. Like anybody else had beverages in the fridge anymore.
While she was inside, the ball appeared over Ray’s shoulder, soaked with slobber. The dog’s head soon followed.
“God, he’s big!” Sharee returned and handed Ray his cola. “Why is he looking at me like that.”
Ray took the can in one hand and used the thumb and index finger of the other to collect the ball, which was peeling into three parts. He held it out. “He wants you to play.”
Sharee took the ball much in the same way that Ray had offered it, between pinched fingers. “Drooly beast, isn’t he?” She threw as best she could without slinging wet dog spittle all over the two of them. Moose hurtled off again.
Ray said, “She almost done in there?”
“I think so.” Sharee looked at her phone and showed Ray the blank text screen.
Moose skidded back to the patio to plop the ball directly into Sharee’s lap this time. She moved her cell phone out of the slobber zone and wiped it on her shirt.
And then Julia was standing in the doorway behind Sharee, and Ray half rose out of his chair. Sharee looked over her shoulder. “Hey woah, you’re supposed to do your thing inside and…”
Julia said, “I knew I shouldn’t have come when he was home. I can’t.”
Sharee said, “You can’t what?”
“I can’t do this. I can’t stand it. I can’t listen to him out here playing with our dog and pack up my things and think of never coming back here again.” She was talking to Sharee, but she was looking at Ray.
Ray wanted to say she should have thought of that a week ago. He wanted to say it was a little late for can’t. But Moose was dripping all over Sharee, and the sun was too hot, and instead Ray said, “Then don’t.”
“Do you mean that?”
“I guess I do.”
She came out onto the patio then, and Ray got up and reached for her. But before he got there, Moose’s big head swiveled, and he clattered past Sharee and the ball to stand on his hind legs and lick Julia on the face. “I missed you too,” Julia said. “Now get down and get out of my way.” She shoved the dog gently back to all fours and Ray pulled her into his embrace.
“Moose,” Sharee held up the ball and pitched it across the yard. The dog yelped and chased after it while the people turned and went inside to start unpacking boxes.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.