Here’s a short story I wrote using 4 different key phrases.
“Babe, it’s not going to happen.”
George bit his lip trying not to lose his temper with his little six-year-old daughter, Aubrey. “Because, I said so.”
“But, Daddy!” She stomped her little foot, her golden curls bouncing. “You promised I could have a dog..”
“I promised you could have a dog … some day. Today is NOT that day.” George looked at the pitiful creature lurking behind Aubrey’s back. Not till hell freezes over, he thought to himself. Out loud he said, “Not in a midnight moment.”
Aubrey just stared up at him, unblinkingly, her baby blue burning holes of guilt into his soul. Ever since her mother had left them, she’d been uncomplaining, taking over some of the household chores as much as she could – dusting the coffee table, even insisting on making him supper one night a week. That generally turned out to be peanut butter sandwiches and potato chips, but George never complained. Not once. She was all he had left in this world.
He looked again at the animal his baby daughter protected. It was huge, probably infested with fleas. George snorted as the animal sat down for a good scratch. Definitely infested with fleas. It had obviously seen better days, his ribs were poking through his wiry fur, his eyes sad and dejected. It looked like some kind of enormous terrier, or a mutant schnauzer.
“His family is probably looking for him.”
“And how do you know that?”
“I asked everyone in the neighborhood, and nobody knows who he is.”
Geroge sighed again. Between his daughter’s baby blues and the dogs …well…hang-dog look, he was losing ground fast.
“I promise I’ll take care of him, and walk him every day and…”
George rubbed his hand down his bristly face. There was no way his daughter could walk a dog this size, he outweighed her by a good fifty pounds, and that was when he was half-staved. When the animal filled out he’d be a good 120 pounds.
“this just isn’t a good idea, punkin.”
Obviously she could feel a weakening in The Force. Her smile shined even brighter, her wide blue eyes sparkling at him even more. “Mommy would have liked him.”
Oh now that arrowed straight into his heart. His beautiful wife, Anne, died almost two years ago of breast cancer. He still caught his breath every time Aubrey looked at him in a certain way, in a certain light. she was the exact likeness of his beautiful Anne. He could almost hear her saying, in that calm, certain voice of hers, take this dog. He’s the one.
With a sigh, and a slight catch in his throat, he brought Aubrey to him in a tight hug.
“You’re squeezing me Daddy.”
George pressed a soft kiss on her downy cheek, and set her free. “Ok, we can keep him, but -”
With a squeal, like only little girls can do, Aubrey latched her arms around his neck, pressing a smacking kiss against his cheek. Then turned and did the same thing to the dog. First things first, that dog was getting a bath.
“His name is Michael.”
“You’ve named him already? And Michael? What kind of name is that for a dog?”
“He told me that was his name.”
Ohhhkaaayy. “Well, Michael needs a bath. We’re going to need some flea shampoo from the store, so we’ll just put Michael in the garage,and when we come back we’ll give him a bath, and give him the rules of the house.”
“Michael wants to go with.”
Pigs might fly before the dirty Michael got into his truck “I think he’d best stay here, and when we come home he’ll be so excited to see his new shampoo. It’ll be a surprise.”
Manipulating a six-year-old really wasn’t that hard.
Manipulating a six-year-old when she looked up at him with her mother’s eyes was harder than he thought.
“We’ll put him in the back.”
“Michael, will you promise to sit in the back?”
George watched unbelievingly as George pressed his whiskery face against Aubrey’s, almost like he was whispering in her ear and let out a soft woof. Now that was a neat dog trick.
“Michael said that would be fine.”
Clamping his mouth shut, George led the pair of them out to the truck. Michael hopped agiley into the rear bed, lying down next to the cab, and he buckled Aubrey into her car seat. It was only a few blocks to the department store, and Aubrey sang ‘How much is that doggie in the window’ for the entire trip.
Once there, Aubrey checked in with Michael, assuring him they’d only be a few m inutes. The dog lay still, seeming to almost nod when he finished listening to Aubrey’s assurances, then lay his head back down on his massive paws, closing those sad and beautiful brown eyes.
Aubrey grabbed George’s hand, skipping towards the entrance of the store. “He’ll need dog food, and a leash, and shampoo and…”
Geroge nodded his head, agreeing mindlessly to whatever Aubrey was prattling on about. He grabbed a shopping cart, picking up the required items, even throwing in a bag of Milk Bones. Had it only been a few hours ago that he was worried about Aubrey’s withdrawn behavior? Now she was chattering on about Michael, her eye aglow as he hadn’t seen then in too long now. Perhaps Michael was a bkessing in disguise. A big, hairy disguise.
George paid for the merchandise and headed back for his truck, Aubrey’s hand tight in his, bags in the other. When they stepped nearer to the truck, Michael must have sensed Aubrey, and stood up to woof. Aubrey’s hand tore from his, as she raced across the kot to her beloved pet.
“Aubrey!” George yelled, the bags of groceries dropping unnoticed to his feet as he chased after her. Michael leapt from the bed of the truck at the same time, running furiously in their direction. A squeal of tires and….it was all over in a hertbeat.
George fell to his knees next to Aubrey, scooping her into his arms. She squirmed and wriggled free, frantically calling for Michael. The big dog lay on his side, one leg bent unnaturally, whimpering in pain. Aubrey ran to his side, heer own scraped palms and knees unnoticedd in her concern for the animal.
“oh my god, I didn’t even see her!” a red haired woman jumped out of the car and ran to George’s side. “Is she okay?” She knelt next to Aubrey, asking her a few questions, checking her legs.
M”My daughter is fine. A few scrapes. Do you jknow a ve in the area? We have to save Michael.” The woman was alreadt examining the dog, her sure smakk hands gentle on his wounded leg.
Michael looked at her with absolute trust.
“I’m a vet,” she opened the back of her SUV that was blocking the parking lot. “I’ll hold his leg steady, you lift him in.”
Seconds later, both vehicles wee speeding to her office. Michael eas deliately unloaded, and put in the xray room. Aubrey eatched silently. “He’ll be okat, sweetheart.”
“I know,” she said with the absolut confidence of the young. George wasn’t so sure.
They sat quietly in the waiting room, listening as various machines kicked on and off, beeping and blinging. Other staff walked though at various times, somber looks on their faces. at some point, one of tghem said, “Don’t worry. Dr. Espinoza is one of the best vets in the state.”
Gerorge was shocked out of his stupor to reakuze he’d not asked the doctors name. he brushed back Aubrey’s curls, and trh elittle girl took his hand in hers. “Don’t worry Daddy. Michael will be fine.”
Amused at being comforted by his own daughter, George finally began to take stovck of the situation Aubrey was fine, just a few scrapes that one of the other nurses as had cleaned up and put Snoopy bandaids on. He awas still trying to shake the fear of almost losing her, that could simply not be borne. It wasn’t the good doctors fault that Aubrey had dashed into the path of her SUV, but somewhere, somehow, it tickled in the back of his mind that he had watched a miracle when Michael had literally pushed Aubrey out of the way on the oncoming vehicle and taken the blow for himself. That was what was frying his brain circuits. That’s what – if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes – he’d never believe. Michael had a home for the rest of his life with Aubrey. George would see to it.
“He’ll be just fine.”
George and Aubrey looked at Dr Espinoza, her surgical mask pulled down around her neck, her glorious red hari tucked under a surgical cap.,
“Can be see him? CAn we?”
George held out his hand, and shook hers, while tousling Aubrey’s golden locks with his other. “Thank you doctor. I can’t tell you how grateful we are.”
“please, call me Rochelle.”
A small light lit it’s way through the black tunnel that was George’s heart. A genuine smile lit his face as he held Rochelle’s hand a bit longer. “Rochelle.” He nodded to himself. A new beginning for them all. It was time.