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Apr 24, 2020

General

The sound of a car door slamming, followed by an engine starting, pulled me out of the house. I looked toward the fence and called out, “Frank, you there?”


No response. I came to expect as much, though I wish that wasn’t the case. It’d been nearly a week since the last time Frank had come out to join me, and I was beginning to worry we’d never play again. I walked toward the fence, feeling the sun in the empty sky beat down on me as I left the shade of the patio. The closer I drew to our shared fence, the stronger the smell of freshly cut grass became. I peered through the pickets of our wooden barrier, greeted only by a lone lawn mower.


I raised my voice again, this time sticking my pursed lips through the crack. “Frank!” I pulled my mouth away, quickly replacing it with my right eye. Still no movement.


When I was younger, Frank would be quick to respond, bounding towards my voice. At times like that, I almost forgot he was the older one. He was usually out on the grass long before I had woken up, finished my breakfast, and cared to exit the house. We weren’t allowed to leave the confines of our properties to visit each other despite being right next door, at least not without our parents around, which is why we took to passing snacks and small toys back and forth between the slits of the fence.


“Max,” I remember him saying, “that’s not the toy I want. Pass me the other one.”


I’d drop whatever I was carrying and pick up another toy to pass through the crack. He’d laugh and shake his head, pointing to another toy beside me.


“The other, other one!”


Dropping the second toy, I’d reach for the third one only to have him joke that it still wasn’t the one he wanted. In the end, the toy he wound up accepting from my side would be the original one I tried to pass him. It was a game he liked to play, thought it was funny. And well, I have to admit, I guess I enjoyed it, too.


Frank’s absence caused a rush of nostalgia to drift back to me in waves. Things I may have found annoying at the time didn’t feel as annoying now that I was experiencing life without them. If only I could go back to the days when Frank and I would nap next to each other—of course with the barrier between us—and I’d listen to his heavy breathing from the other side. Oh, how I longed to hear it again. Now, it felt too silent.


I walked down the line of our border, calling his name every couple of steps. Every lack of response I received edged me to call out again. My pace quickened. I found it odd that I hadn’t seen his parents around, either. Usually, they’d be out during a day like this—a day that neither of my parents were working—and especially with the sun shining so brightly. In fact, I swear I heard Frank’s dad mowing the lawn earlier as I drifted in and out of my midday nap. I ran back to the front yard and peeked through the slats again, confirming my suspicions. The lawn mower was definitely left out with no one else in sight.


“Mom!” I yelled, running toward the house. “Dad!”


Something was off. Sure, I hadn’t seen Frank in a while, but for his parents to be gone, too? Frank’s dad wasn’t one to leave the lawn mower out unattended. He always had a spot for everything and when something wasn’t in use, it needed to be put away in its proper home. Even Frank’s toys were stored in a special box labeled just for him, unlike mine which were scattered throughout the yard or hidden in the garden for treasure hunting at a future date.


“Mom! Dad!” I barked, louder this time as I ran inside searching for someone.


I found Mom in the dining room, sitting before her laptop, typing away. I tugged on her pant leg, trying to coerce her toward the door.


“Max, not now.” She batted me away with her hand.


“Something’s wrong with Frank and his family. They’re nowhere in sight! Frank’s dad left his lawn mower on the lawn and I haven’t seen Frank for days.” I pulled harder.


“Okay, okay, up you go.” Mom finally stopped working for a moment long enough to pick me up and sit me on her lap. She gently stroked my back in the way she knew I loved. It calmed me down a bit and I relaxed in her arms. “There’s a good boy.”


“He’s probably just lonely,” Dad called from the living room, “since Frank’s been sick and all.”


I tensed up again. Sick? Frank? For as long as I knew him—which was my whole life—Frank never showed any signs of illness. Every time I saw him, he’d always be joking or playing with me. How could he be sick? No way, I wouldn’t accept it. I shook my head in defiance.


“It’s true,” Mom insisted. She had returned her attention to the screen but must have noticed my reaction. “The Sanchez’s have been keeping him in the house to better monitor him. Doctor’s orders.”


“Well, he is getting up there,” Dad stated, “won’t be long now.”


That was it. That was all either of them had to say about Frank before they returned to their respective tasks. And I was to simply accept it? Wanting to demand for more information, I squirmed within Mom’s arms, but she continued to stroke me, easing my restlessness. Maybe Frank actually is sick and that’s why he’s staying inside, so he can quickly recover. Maybe Dad was right and it wouldn’t be long before Frank returned to playing with me outside. Yeah, that must be it. I closed my eyes.


#


My mind drifted back to the last time Frank came over to visit my side of the fence. I think it was maybe a couple months ago? It was one of the few times both our parents were home and in each other’s company. The sun was high and the smell of barbeque hung in the air. Frank and I had just finished running around my house chasing each other, until Frank suggested we stop. I’m sure he was getting tired of being caught by me every time since I could outrun him for days.


Now I was showing him the best treasure hole in the backyard. Technically, he already knew where it was, but he regularly forgot despite me revealing it every time he came over.


“What do you think happens if no one comes to dig up the things you’ve buried?” he asked in between wheezing breaths. He seemed more out of breath than usual that day, but I had just chalked it up to our game of tag.


I contemplated for a moment before answering. “Nothing happens. They stay there.”


“Nothing?”


“Nothing.” I confirmed.


“That’s kind of sad, don’t you think?”


“I guess so?”


He firmly sat up and looked me hard in the eyes. “Think about it. You bury all these goodies and the only one who knows they’re there is you. But if something happens and you can no longer dig up your favourite toys, they just continue to sit there, unloved. Forever.”


“Sure, I guess.” I chewed on his thought. “But I think I’d definitely dig up all my toys before I couldn’t. And I’ll take them with me if I ever need to leave. That way they’ll still be forever loved.”


He laughed, but it seemed to hurt, so he stopped and just smiled. “How about this?” He threw down his favourite toy in my open stash before us.


“What are you doing? That’s yours!” I exclaimed.


“We exchange one of our favourite toys with each other. This way, if something happens, at least a toy from each of us can still be loved even if we can’t love them ourselves.”


Despite the crazy nonsense this guy was spewing out, I chuckled. Perhaps he was onto something. In any case, I handed him my favourite raccoon squeaky animal. “Deal.”


#


It was well passed dinner by the time Frank and his family returned home. Their lawn mower was still waiting in their yard, ready to greet them. My parents and I were just returning from our evening walk when they pulled in.


“Evening, David. Getting home pretty late, eh?” Dad called out as Frank’s dad exited the driver’s side door.


Frank’s dad could have looked better—well, he certainly couldn’t look any worse. Heavy bags hung beneath his eyes as he slowly raised his head to look at Dad.


“Jesus,” Dad exclaimed under his breath.


No more words needed to be exchanged between the pair. Mom rushed over to the passenger side and helped Frank’s mom out of the vehicle. The two opened the back seat and struggled to lift something.


Finally, I saw him—well, just his head anyway. It was Frank!


I howled in excitement, running up to the women, sniffing at my friend.


“Max, stop it.” Mom pushed me aside. “Sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into him.”


Frank’s mom smiled. Her eyes and nose were red. “It’s okay.” She knelt down and scratched my head. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? You want to say goodbye to Frank?”


Wait a minute.


Then, I saw him as Mom helped pull the rest of Frank out of the car. His tail drooped behind him and he couldn’t lift his head without his mom’s help. His breathing was slower and lighter than I’d ever heard it before. Each breath was accompanied with a light squeak of escaping air as he struggled to keep a toy in his jaw. I’d never seen him like this. He looked at me and stared, blinking every few seconds. This was one of his jokes, right? Tomorrow he’d be able to join me outside again. That’s why he was inside all week, so he could rest and get better. I nudged my face against his, trying to understand the punchline.


The raccoon in his mouth squeaked one last time.


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33 comments

Zilla Babbitt
13:16 Apr 25, 2020

You asked me to read, to here goes: I love how you capture the friendship between the two dogs in just two scenes or so. I also enjoy the idea that being a oh-- or human-- doesn't matter in this story, it's the friendship that matters. There are just a few instances of telling not showing that should be changed. For instance: but it seemed to hurt, so he stopped... a telling sentence. You could change it and say: he winced and bent his head, then stopped laughing and just smiled. A pretty easy change but it involves the reader's imaginat...

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Tammy Tsang
19:52 Apr 25, 2020

Thank you Zilla for taking time to read and comment on my short. I am honoured!! Good catch, I missed that instance of telling instead of showing. I like your example suggestion of the sentence rework! I'll be sure to be more careful in the future to give audiences more opportunities to imagine something instead of telling them what to imagine!!! It is hard! It's so easy to tell something in a story and we all make that mistake some time or another! Thanks again, looking forward to submitting more!

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Zilla Babbitt
15:21 Apr 30, 2020

Of course!

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Cam Croz
18:48 Apr 24, 2020

Nice! I love the dog ending! its so adorable and heart wrenching! My attention was held throughout this story. There was always something to wonder about. (what is happening to Frank) All in all you did a great job! Keep up the good work!!!

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Tammy Tsang
01:57 Apr 25, 2020

Thank you for reading my story, Cam! I'm glad you enjoyed it and took the time to comment as well!

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00:41 May 12, 2020

A touching story! Initially I thought these were two little boys, but I guess they're dogs. It was sweet how they traded toys

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Tammy Tsang
08:08 May 12, 2020

Thank you for reading, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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Safala Bista
06:44 May 01, 2020

This, was a rollercoaster. I first thought It was a friendship between two kids and I couldn’t figure out until later that it was about two dogs. But now, I am surprised that I missed it. Everything makes sense. Beautifully written, beautifully played. The way you captured the emotions of the two friends and their friendship. The scene where Frank gave his toy to Max and the last scene when Frank left the world, both had me in tears. I love, love your work so much. Honestly, I have no words to describe how it made me feel. Magnificent. Just ...

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Safala Bista
06:44 May 01, 2020

This, was a rollercoaster. I first thought It was a friendship between two kids and I couldn’t figure out until later that it was about two dogs. But now, I am surprised that I missed it. Everything makes sense. Beautifully written, beautifully played. The way you captured the emotions of the two friends and their friendship. The scene where Frank gave his toy to Max and the last scene when Frank left the world, both had me in tears. I love, love your work so much. Honestly, I have no words to describe how it made me feel. Magnificent. Just ...

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Tammy Tsang
07:02 May 01, 2020

Hi Safala, thanks for your wonderful words! I am glad that you enjoyed the story as much as you did and that the ending sat with you so well! Thank you for taking time to read my story and commenting on it!

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Safala Bista
07:36 May 02, 2020

It was my pleasure. I was actually hoping that this one would win, because I loved it so much.

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Tammy Tsang
17:44 May 02, 2020

Yeah, it's an interesting system because it's "like" based. Unless one actively networks through the other stories, it's hard to get likes from people just stumbling across your story. However, the ones with the most likes are the ones at the top of the list, which helps them get more exposure and garner even more likes, spreading the gap. Additionally, I noticed some people who submit for the following week have their new stories available on their profile... meaning, their new stories can also gain likes prior to the contest even starti...

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Safala Bista
07:25 May 07, 2020

Hmmm... really? I am kind of disappointed, to be honest. I thought they read all the stories and then chose a winner. On hindsight, I should have expected this to go like any other online contests. However, you saying that some of the authors even have their works for a prompt on their profile even before the contest starts is disturbing (for the lack of a better word). This would take the attention from a lot of deserving writers.

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16:20 May 07, 2020

I know, right? I totally agree with you!

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Tammy Tsang
06:55 May 08, 2020

Yeah, it is disappointing that this contest is set up the way it is. But it does seem to stress more on the community aspect of it. I did come across another contest via an Instagram ad (which is how I came across Reedsy) which seems to have a more traditional judging system. You can check it out here: https://avatars.inc/ The way to maybe get around other authors already having their work up is to simply post up your work and just continue to edit it throughout the week. Others can still read and like your story, plus you can still edit ...

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E. Christian
00:40 Apr 30, 2020

I love how you subtly showed how the main character and his friends were dogs. I got the sense at the end that the main character didn't fully understand how sick Frank was, which heightened the sadness of the ending.

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Tammy Tsang
04:59 Apr 30, 2020

Thank you for reading my story and taking a moment to comment! I'm glad you enjoyed it and that the ending (and Frank's naivety of the situation) hit!

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Roshna Rusiniya
08:56 Apr 29, 2020

This is a bittersweet and heartbreaking story. I really liked the way you wrote it from a dog’s perspective. Very well executed. Great job. Keep writing!

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Tammy Tsang
10:34 Apr 29, 2020

Thank you for taking time to read and liking my story! I'm glad you enjoyed it!! :)

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Clyde Roan
20:24 Apr 28, 2020

This is so sweet and sad! Stories told from the perspectives of animals are difficult to write convincingly, but I loved this and I thought it was very well executed. I especially enjoyed the complexity of the relationship with regards to the age difference and Max's childlike understanding of his friend's declining health. The only suggestion I would make is that you could expand upon the moment that Max realizes Frank is dying. It was so heartbreaking and I think maybe the process of Max coming to that understanding and what that will m...

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Tammy Tsang
00:12 Apr 29, 2020

Hey Clyde, thank you for taking time to read and comment on my story. It means a lot!! Thank you for the suggestion. It was something I was struggling with at the end, too. I shared the story with some friends last week before submitting online here. One definitely helped me strengthen the ending. (The current final line wasn't the original final line. But I'm glad his notes helped it pack more punch than what it originally was.) I do agree that the ending of Max's realization and understanding could definitely be fleshed out! Thank...

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17:02 Apr 24, 2020

Tammy this story is so sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. You gave just enough description that I was able to picture everything from the fence to the neighbors front yard. I think my only note would be that I was a little confused on how old Max was versus how old Frank was. While I was reading I got the impression that Max couldn't be much older than five or six. Whereas I felt that Frank was like twelve or older. However, there's a scene in which Max talks about how he has a box labeled with his toys. Max then goes on to say th...

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Tammy Tsang
01:56 Apr 25, 2020

Thanks, Stephanie, for taking time to read my story and give me your thoughts! I can see how the confusion can take place regarding age. They do act like children and Max's parents treat him like a child which solidifies that. However, I hope that the reveal that they are both dogs helps clarify the way they act and are being spoken to. Frank is supposed to be an old dog with the heart of a young one while Max is most definitely a younger dog. In the story, though, I did not say that Max has a box labeled with his toys. He explains tha...

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04:48 Apr 25, 2020

You're welcome! Thanks for clearing up the toys in the box. I'm glad your friend convinced you to keep the last line as the last line. It is very bittersweet and that's why I love it. I look forward to reading more of your stories in the future! Good luck in the competition! Fingers crossed!

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Tammy Tsang
06:28 Apr 25, 2020

Thank you! Good luck to you for future stories!!

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22:49 Apr 25, 2020

You're welcome! Thank you!

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19:02 Jul 31, 2020

Hey, amazing job! ~Ⓐⓔⓡⓘⓝ (ℙ.𝕊. 𝕨𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕞𝕚𝕟𝕕 𝕔𝕙𝕖𝕔𝕜𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕠𝕦𝕥 𝕞𝕪 𝕞𝕠𝕤𝕥 𝕣𝕖𝕔𝕖𝕟𝕥 𝕤𝕥𝕠𝕣𝕪? 𝕋𝕙𝕒𝕟𝕜𝕤!

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17:00 May 06, 2020

Wow! I loved how it was about animals! I loved reading this story and I would greatly enjoy if you kept on writing. You are an awesome writer!!! :)

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Tammy Tsang
21:03 May 06, 2020

Hi Johanna, thank you for such kind words! I hope to continue writing as well! I've actually just finished a short for a different contest, but hope to come back to reedsy soon! I hope you can continue to write as well! Keep up the creativity!

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22:25 May 06, 2020

Thank you! Do you know any contests that you can submit poetry? I'm a big poetry fan... also, if you have any time, could you please read my new story "Listen"? You always give such great feedback, and it always improves my writing! ;)

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Tammy Tsang
06:51 May 08, 2020

Unfortunately, I don't know many poetry contests. Perhaps do a google search? One of my writing friends found a bunch of short story contests/online publications he submitted his work to by searching online. I only came across Reedsy from an Instagram ad. I also came across another contest (https://avatars.inc/) from an ad as well, which has a different marking system. Seems to be an actual judge panel which will read all the stories. For sure, I'll stop by and give your story a listen, I mean read! Ha ha!

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12:19 May 08, 2020

lol. :)

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