Momma burst into my bedroom, an accusing look on her face. “Billy, you take Brutus out yet?”
“Billy, when we got that dog, you promised me you was gonna’ take care of him.” Momma began enumerating my sins upon her fingertips. “You was gonna’ feed him. You was gonna’ walk him. You was gonna’ pick up his doo from the yard.”
I rolled onto my stomach; returned to my video game.
“You mark my words, child. You gonna’ come back as a dog in your next life. Then you’ll see what it’s like.”
I grinned. Momma didn’t like talk of hell and sin.
“After I finish this game.”
Momma grunted. “You don’t start taking care of that dog, Billy, I swear I’ll take him to the pound. Let someone responsible take care of him.”
“You can’t take Brutus to the pound, Momma. No one in their right mind would adopt that crazy dog. He’d just…They’d give him the needle, Momma.”
“Wouldn’t be my fault, now, would it?” Momma nodded and crossed her arms.
I rose from the bed and went to the garage for the leash. Brutus skittered into the kitchen and began whirling around in circles. He barked twice and continued spinning.
Momma laughed. “Looks like he’s tap-dancing out a message in Morse code on them yellow tiles. When’d you feed him last, anyhow? He’s acting hungry, too.” Momma crossed the kitchen to Brutus’s water bowl. “That poor dog. Nothing to drink, neither. Billy, it’s the middle of summer, what are you thinking?”
I snapped the leash on his collar and headed out. Despite the dark, it was still hot outside. I yanked on Brutus’s collar to speed him along down the sidewalk.
When I returned, Momma was sitting on the living room couch, a pile of mending beside her, the eleven o’clock news on low in the background. “Night, Momma.”
She glanced up, pulling the needle through the fabric of the shirt on her lap. “Good night, son. See you tomorrow.”
“Brutus!” Momma’s voice was livid. She shook her finger at the mess on the floor. “I told that boy you was gonna’ pee on my new rug.” She looked around the house. “Now where did that boy get to, anyway? Billy? Billy!” She shook her head. “I got me a lazy son, is what I got, Brutus.” She snapped a leash to the collar around my neck and gave a tug. “I’m taking you to the pound. See if I care if you get the needle.”
I braced my front legs.
Momma pulled. “Oh, no you don’t.” Momma dragged me across the yellow tiles and out the front door. She hauled me into the front seat of her Chevette. She backed out of the driveway and slowly drove to the pound, determined tears streaming down her cheeks the whole time.
And as hard as I tried to tell Momma it was me; it was Billy who sat beside her, my words came out as a series of of strangled and desperate barks.
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