I don’t know what’s wrong. They used to play with me all the time. They used to pat my head and talk to me. Now they don’t look at me at all. What did I do?
Mom looks down, the way I do when I’m sad. She sits in the chair and looks at a bone in her hands. My bone. She knows I like bones. It must be for me. Can I have it? She won’t give it to me. She just stares at it. She just looks sad.
I wag my tail. Please smile, Mom! Look at me! I can take the bone. You don’t have to be sad now. I put my head in her lap. She still won’t move.
Dad comes down the stairs. I walk to him, but he walks right by me. Dad, what did I do? Was I bad?
The girls walk in the room. They have a frame with them. It has small girls just like them in it, and a dog too. They’re all sad when they look at it now. They used to laugh when they saw that frame. Please laugh. I don’t like when you’re sad. I like when you smile and pat my head and scratch my side when I lay down. I like when we run and play and swim. But they don’t want to do that now. I must have been bad.
Wait, I hear my name. What do they say? They all sit on the floor. I walk to them and sit down to hear.
They say they miss me. How can they miss me when I’m right here? They talk of how I was sick and it was hard for me to walk. Was I sick? Now I can walk. Now they talk of when they took me to the vet. Yes, that’s right. My heart hurt, and Mom came to see me. I was still with the vet when it all went dark. So how did I get here?
I know now why they’re sad. I was bad, sort of. I left them when my heart hurt too much. But I came back.
My heart still hurts when I see them all sad. Please, talk of good things. I know I have to make them smile. I walk to the box Mom left on the stand. I try to push it with my nose, and it falls on the floor. The top falls off, and small frames spill out in front of Mom. She gets scared, but Dad picks one up, one with the dog and the girls in the pool. He starts to smile. He starts to laugh.
They all grab a frame. I can see them smile now. I hear them laugh. The frames make them think good things. That’s what I want. I wag my tail, the way I do each time they laugh. I know they’ll be fine. Now they’ll smile when they think of me.
I see a light. I know I have to go to it. Not yet, though. First, I look at them all one more time. Then I lift my head up and bark. I don’t bark much, but I feel I should now. I can tell they heard me. They look up from the frames, and they smile. I walk to each of them and lick their face. I know deep down they can feel me.
This short piece is based on What If? Exercise 52: “Practice Writing Good, Clean Prose”. The exercise is to write a short story using only single-syllable words, the objective being to develop a consciousness of word choice and learn to avoid writing flowery prose. The story I wrote is told from the perspective of a dog who has passed on, but doesn’t realize it until she spends one last day in her family’s presence as a ghost. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!
Dedicated to our beloved family dog, a gentle and loving chocolate Labrador who literally had a big heart. Though she passed away a few years ago, her memory will stay with us forever. We love you, Hershey!