The front door was standing open when I arrived at Dad’s house, his truck in the driveway. I don’t remember that ever happening before, but then I can’t remember the last time he had asked me to come over either. He isn’t here. There were three notes on the dining room table; our names scribbled across the front in old-man font, one for me and one each for my sisters. I wondered if he had called them too. I walk through his house with the unread note in my hand, looking again for my father. Opening the back door, I walk out onto the porch, Dad’s favorite place. He’s not there. I sit in the old bentwood rocker and begin to read—
Son, you came. I knew you would; you were always the one to check up on me. I didn’t mind, but I didn’t need you to. After your Mom died, I told you and your sisters I would be just fine; but you kept coming anyway, making up some excuse. But son, I always knew the real reason you came.
It’s kind of funny, or as you would say, ironic. Today you have no idea why you are here. So, sit down, you can use my favorite chair (I’m not going to need it anymore), and I will tell you one last story while you wait. Story-time like when you were still picking your nose, playing with toys and watching purple dinosaurs on the TV. Boy, did you love story time. You sisters... well, not so much... but for you and me it was a special time. Every Friday night I would sit on the edge of your bed and make up a new story or tell you or retell an old one. All week long you would pester me to tell you a bedtime story, but I always told you to wait until Friday. You hated waiting back then. A good kid, but lacking patience. That was you, son. Here I am making you wait again. I hope you’ve gotten better at waiting. It’s important that you be here when it happens.
I remember how you always had to make up one more character, so the story belonged to you. “It’s our story,” you would tell me with a sly smile. Even the three bears became four bears. I laughed so hard when you told me it was their long-lost cousin. You were a funny kid.
Listen son, my neighbor killed my cat.
I know you are thinking, what cat. To be honest with you, and you deserve that for being the one to come today, it wasn’t my cat. The damn thing just started hanging around all the time. It was a tabby, the color of the morning sun. She had lost an eye somewhere along the way and had a slight hitch when she walked. One morning, I walked out on the porch and there she was just mewing and moving like it was her place. When I tried to scoot her away, she looked at me with that one good eye and curled up in front of your Mom’s rocker. The next morning, there she was again. She’s greeted me every morning since... that is, until my neighbor killed her.
You know, I never fed her a thing, table scrap, leftover or store-bought kitty food. I think she was a hunter. I saw a bird’s feather peeking out of her mouth one day, but she was a wily one, wouldn’t let me get a good look to be sure.
I never gave her name, just called her “Cat”. She seemed to like it.
Now she’s “Dead Cat”.
I’m sorry I didn’t tell you any of this before now. You were a little surprised when I called you and asked to come over on a Sunday; you know that’s my day to be alone. No company, no Sunday dinners or church gossip. Just a beer and a football game; you always respected that, and I appreciate it. But son, it had to be today. I need you to wait here, and you will understand why soon enough.
Let me get back to my story—
I’ve told you about that son-of-a-bitch neighbor of mine. He’s just a mean cuss. You know how they say people’s pets, their dogs, sometimes look like their owners? That shithole neighbor has a dog that looks nothing like him; but it is mean as hell, just like his owner. I’ve heard the way he talks to his wife and that boy of his. He treated his stupid dog better than he treated them.
I guess that’s why he got so mad at me for calling the dog catcher. I’ve told him, politely mind you, he needed to keep his dog out of my yard. I don’t think that mutt could take a shit unless he was doing it in my front yard. Son, you know how I care for my yard; it’s always the best in the neighborhood, lean and green. I mow it before it needs it and water it every day; just enough to keep it happy. And a big old pile of stinking dog shit just doesn’t fit.
Two weeks ago, I walked out to get the morning paper before sitting down with Cat and a cup of coffee. And you guessed it, that damn dog had dumped right on top of the headlines. And he was laying up under my truck getting away from the morning sun as if he belonged there. I was madder than a wet hen. I picked up the telephone and called the dog catcher right then. Had to lie a little, told the lady who answered the phone the dog was acting aggressively towards me. I can’t even get to my truck, I cried, and I can’t miss my doctor’s appointment. Well, maybe it was more than a little lie, but it worked. The catcher was there in less than fifteen minutes. About the same time, that asshole neighbor walks out his front door and sees the catcher putting his dog into the truck. He cusses like a drunken sailor and plants his fat ass in front of the dog catcher’s truck, refusing to move unless his dog is released. Turns out shit-dog didn’t have a license or proof of any shots. I bet it must have cost him more than a few bucks to get that dog out of the pound. But he did.
The next morning, I walk out to get the paper and there’s the neighbor's boy standing in my front yard with his fat little pecker in his hand, pissing all over my crepe myrtles. Can you believe that? When he saw me, a look of fear crossed over his face like I’ve never seen before, son. His daddy was standing on his porch with a big shit-eating grin on his face. I looked back at the boy and was ready to say something to him when I saw tears running down his face and piss running down his leg. I knew his old man had put him up to it.
I ain’t ever understood how a parent can mistreat a child, and I sure hope I never treated you or sisters in such a way that would make you go tinkle on someone’s private property. I know I didn’t always give you kids everything you wanted, but I sure tried to give you everything you needed.
You don’t need this, son. Waiting in your old man’s house with more questions than answers. If you feel the need to leave, I guess I wouldn’t blame you. But if my figuring was right, you won’t have to wait much longer.
I didn’t say anything to the boy. I gave that asshole neighbor my best kiss-my-ass look and went back about my business. Everything has been quiet since that morning. I ain’t even seen that dog of his. Lord only knows where he’s doing his stuff.
Yesterday morning I found Cat dead. She was hanging from the fence with a piece of old rope wrapped around her neck. From the other side of the fence, I could hear that dog sniffing the ground as I untangled her and took her down. I dug a hole over by the maple tree and buried that one-eyed tabby. I thought about calling the police but digging and sweating stimulated my thoughts in a different direction as it is apt to do.
It was a year ago to the day we buried your Momma. Good thing she isn’t here, she wouldn’t like my thoughts.
That’s my story, son. You need not add any characters to it. I imagine if you’ve waited as I asked you, more will be coming before you know it.
I read his note three times, walking around the house after each hoping to find some clue as to what was going on. In the backyard, there is fresh dirt turned over by the maple tree. I didn’t get too close to that. I found a stepladder in the shed next to all the old Christmas boxes. Propping it against the fence, I looked over into the neighbor’s backyard. I heard the dog whining but didn’t see him at first. I saw another mound, like the one Dad had buried the cat under. This one was much bigger. There was a shovel lying on the ground and next to that the dog with his lead laying on his paws and whimpering like he lost his best friend.
The sun will set soon and all I can do is sit here and wait for Dad’s story to come to an end. I thought about calling my sisters but that would lead to questions I can’t answer, and two more people waiting to see how my Dad’s story ends.
A couple of minutes ago I heard sirens. They sound close.
I wait. Sitting on the back porch in Dad’s favorite chair…