“Whew, sure is hot.” Archie sighed, wiping his bangs out of his face. It was his last day of summer before he headed off to Wisconsin for college. Even now, he couldn’t really believe he was going to Wisconsin, the cheese state of all places, for school. Touring it had been okay, and he was looking forward to seeing what a cooler climate was like, but other than that, he was trying to make the most of his last day of summer.
His popsicle dripped on his hand, reminding him to make haste before the frozen treat fell off the stick. Archie switched hands with the popsicle, and as he tried to find the right angle to lick the drippings off, he felt something warm and wet licking his own hand.
“Gyaah!” He yelled, jumping in place. His popsicle fell from the stick with the sudden movement, and the stray dog that had been cleaning his hand dove for it, happily lapping up the remains. The dog looked to be a mix of a Husky and a Saint Bernard, meaning it was enormous and absolutely covered with mottled brown-gray fur. He smelled as if he had been in the heat all day, but he didn’t particularly seem to mind.
“Gross dog, I hope you’re happy.” Archie scolded, but deep down he was amused. It was too hot to be upset. He could always get another popsicle later.
As the dog finished the melted popsicle, Archie knelt down and started petting the dog, looking for a collar or a tag as he did.
“You must be from around here, if you’re this friendly.” Archie mused grimacing as he pushed aside thick fur to find an orange collar fastened around the dog’s neck. After fiddling with it a bit, Archie found the tag and read aloud,
“Sirius.” The dog gave a loud, happy bark and began wagging his tail with excitement. Archie laughed and stood up, surveying the dog with his hands on his hips. The dog grinned at Archie with his tongue out, and Archie grinned back.
“Well I’ve always wanted a dog, but seeing as you have a collar, it looks like you belong to someone. Do you know the way home boy?” Sirius only barked again, the volume causing Archie to cover his ears, and fell hard onto his side, showing his stomach and obviously begging for belly rubs.
“Jesus, you only have one volume, don’t you, and it is LOUD.” Archie laughed again, squatting down and generously rubbing Sirius’ belly. The dog’s fur was soft, but Archie felt as though Sirius was giving off extra heat in the already sweltering summer day. He quickly gave up petting Sirius, stood up to wipe his sweaty hands on his board shorts.
“Right, well not only do I need another popsicle, but you should probably head home. Your owner needs a leash or something. Do you know how to go home boy? Go home.” Archie said encouragingly, pointing his finger in the general direction of the street he could see from his porch. Sirius gave another two of his absolutely ear shattering barks, and though Archie felt that Sirius had understood his command and was finally heading home, he also felt compelled to follow the dog to make sure he reached his destination safely.
Archie ran inside his house, careful not to trip over the suitcases and boxes of his stuff that littered the hallway, lying in wait for his move to Wisconsin. He grabbed a water bottle from his fridge, and raced back outside to find Sirius waiting for him a couple paces away. Sirius gave another loud bark of joy before turning around and heading off, Archie at his heels.
Sirius loped down the street happily, and Archie didn’t personally mind escorting him to his home. He enjoyed walking around the neighborhood for a change, Sirius setting a leisurely pace as Archie absentmindedly took in his surroundings for what felt like the last time.
Archie was snapped out of his sentimental thoughts by Sirius’ deafening bark. He whipped his head around just in time to see Sirius bounding out of sight, his tail disappearing into some neighbor’s backyard. Archie picked up the pace to follow him, thinking maybe and heard a splash accompanied by screams as he walked closer.
“Oh that’s not good.” He moaned, breaking into a sprint. Archie skid into the backyard just in time to see Sirius happily swimming laps in the neighbor’s pool as a bunch of girls that looked to be Archie’s age hopped out.
“Ugh! Is this your dog?” One of the girls cried at Archie. He took in her angry expression mixed with disgust, and stifled a laugh as her intimidating demeanor was stunted by the fact that she was dripping wet from head to toe.
“Uh, no, he’s not my dog, I’m trying to find his owner actually. He has a collar but it doesn’t have any phone number on it.”
“Whatever, just get it out of my pool! You’re ruining my pool party!” the girl snapped, crossing her arms and stomping her foot in the puddle she was creating.
“Chill out Chelsea! This dog is cool!” One of the girls shouted, and Archie looked to see this one girl still in the pool, holding onto Sirius’ neck and letting him pull her around as he continued to swim. Archie’s heart seemed to give a loud thump in his chest as their eyes met; her smile was charming, and her long brown hair floated gracefully around her in the water. Archie walked towards the pool as if in a trance, his eyes never leaving her laughing face.
“This your dog?” She asked as he approached, her smile never fading.
“No, but I am looking for his owner. At least, I was until he decided to interrupt the party you guys were having here. Aren’t you a troublemaker!” Archie exclaimed, this last aside to the dog. Sirius gave a floppy grin, while the girl in the pool shrugged.
“It’s fine. I actually was about to leave. I’m Natalie.” She said, raising her hand out of the water. Archie grabbed it, intending to shake, when Sirius suddenly decided it was time to take off again. Archie had just grabbed Natalie’s hand, and was subsequently pulled harshly into the water, as Natalie still had a firm grasp on Sirius’ collar. The collar was wrenched from her grip by the amount of turbulence Sirius was causing in his attempt to leave the pool, and subsequently she and Archie were left floating in the pool as Sirius climbed out. Sirius trotted happily towards the four other girls who had exited the pool, causing them to shriek once again as he sprayed them all with the water left in his shaggy coat.
“Nice, real classy Sirius!” Archie yelled. He was not thrilled to be unceremoniously soaked in front of what he was considering to be the girl of his dreams. He looked over at her and said,
“Yeah I’m fine, I was already wet. How about you?” Archie sighed.
“I’ll dry off. I should probably get back to finding his owner.”
“Wait for me to get my stuff, I’ll come with you.” Natalie said, pulling herself out of the pool as Archie watched. Sirius’ bark once again shook him out of his stupor, and after a couple minutes of struggling Archie joined Natalie and Sirius on the steaming concrete.
They left the party without so much as a look at the other girls, and Natalie struck up the conversation as soon as Sirius had taken the lead.
“So this isn’t your dog, but your following him around?”
“More like escorting him to his final destination. I just told him to ‘Go home’, and it seems he knew the command, or at least, y’know, I thought he did until he crashed your pool party.”
“Again; no hard feelings about that. It was literally the worst pool party ever. Like yeah there was food, but all they wanted to do was sit around and talk about boys and college.”
With a jolt of guilt Archie remembered that he was supposed to be spending his last day of summer preparing to leave for Wisconsin the next day.
“Oh that does kinda suck.” Archie said, quickly trying to get his mind off his departure. “Um… are you going to college?” He asked lamely.
“Yeah, I’m going somewhere in middle-of-nowhere Nebraska, actually. I’ve been trying not to think about it, hence me hanging out with the girls at the pool party. Chelsea is also going, and I thought I might try to make friends so I know someone there. I think she’s really only interested in the sorority life though.”
“Oh, yeah, I’ve been doing the same actually. I’m leaving tomorrow for Wisconsin.” Archie replied with a sigh of relief. He and Natalie really weren’t that different.
“Hence following the dog?” Natalie smiled at him, shielding her eyes from the sun. Archie was struck again by how pretty she was, this time with a twinge of sadness that they were headed to different schools soon.
“Yeah, something like that.”
The sun started to set as they continued to follow Sirius, talking about school and their futures and what they thought they might be doing next summer. Archie was just about to get the nerve to ask Natalie for her phone number when Sirius barked, and went bounding away towards a tall woman in a summer dress.
“Oh no,” Archie moaned, and he set off at a sprint, with Natalie following right behind him. As they got closer though, they saw that the woman was petting Sirius excitedly and cooing at him in a baby voice.
“Aren’t you a good boy? You know who’s a good boy? You are! That’s right! You are!”
“Uh, ma’am, is this your dog?” Archie asked cautiously. The aura she gave off was intimidating. Her skin was dark, but complemented by the pastel of her dress and the bright red lipstick she wore. She had curly hair cropped closely to her head, and her gaze was steely and intent.
“Yes, Sirius is my dog.” She said, her voice suddenly dropping an octave as she dropped the baby voice. Her voice was authoritative, but very warm as she smiled at them.
“Have you two been watching him for me?”
“Something like that.” Natalie breathed, and Archie just nodded his head in agreement. He was glad that he wasn’t the only one in awe of this woman.
“Well, I really must thank you, he likes to wander. Thankfully, he always finds his way back.”
“Alright, well we’ll just leave you two then. Have a good rest of your evening, ma’am.” Archie stammered, doing his best to smile casually. His hand reached reflexively to the back of his head, as if trying to smooth back his flat hair even more. The woman’s smile just grew with amusement, as if she was used to this kind of reaction.
“Please, just call me Sopdet. And if you ever need a favor, look out for Sirius again. He always knows where to find me.” Sopdet then gave a sharp whistle, calling to Sirius.
“Come on boy! Time to go home.” Sirius gave two loud barks in response, in what Archie perceived as his way of saying goodbye to them. Then, in a trick of the fading light of the sun and the summer heat, they vanished behind a heat wave, as if Archie had blinked.
“Uhhh, okay.” Archie said, turning to Natalie. “Do you think we just experienced something… unnatural?” Natalie’s smile had slackened into a surprised look, her eyebrows high on her forehead.
“Beats me, although Sopdet does sound familiar. Did you see how hot she was though?” Natalie asked, gesturing with her thumb in the direction of where Sopdet and Sirius had gone. It was Archie’s turn to be surprised, his stomach jolting with embarrassment.
“What! Uh no, I mean-”
“I’m just kidding! Come on, you can walk me home, and then maybe we can exchange dorm addresses or whatever.” Natalie said, turning away from Archie in the direction of her house. Her hair had dried into a pretty, wavy shape, and Archie could almost swear she was blushing as hard as he was as he caught up to her pace. And even if things with Natalie didn’t work out done the road, there was one thing Archie was sure about:
This had been the best way to spend his last day of summer.