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Sad Bedtime Fiction

From his windowsill, House Dog was anticipating his companion’s return from work for the second day in a row. His bowl had enough food for another day; the water fountain was half full, and the home was otherwise empty. House Dog kept a watchful eye for the familiar brown loafers. He periodically noticed The Stray, though he was a vagrant, arousing disturbances every now and then, too clueless to remain unseen. Each time, House Dog’s gaze turned away from the commotion the filthy, emaciated creature caused. He had seen him up close once. They had locked eyes, and to House Dog’s bewilderment, The Stray still had a tail wag in him.  House Dog did not return the gesture from his moving car, piercing through The Stray with severe eyes.

Yesterday, he wouldn’t dwell on The Stray’s ordeal of the day either. From his observatory, unconcerned, he saw The Stick mercilessly mistreat The stray. Over and over, she landed on  the fellow’s back. His crime: circling the stall of the street food vendor. 

“Get away!” yelled The Stick with each blow. “Don’t even think about stealing from us!” The Stray cowered away until he settled under a parked car. House Dog briefly watched him in his hideout rolling his back against the cooler spot of the asphalt. Unaffected, House Dog turned his attention to the bus stop.

Today, still eyeing for his friend’s silhouette, House Dog heard The Stray quarreling with The Trash Can by the butcher’s shop. 

“What’s it to you if I eat some meat scraps from the bags you hold?” pleaded The Stray.  

“Not on my watch!” replied The Trash Can ferociously.

Desperate, The Stray showed his teeth and soon found himself surrounded by a gang of muscular Trash Cans threatening to shred him to pieces. He retreated, well aware of being without a pack of his own.

Undisturbed in the least by the latest incident. House Dog’s thoughts drifted to the oddity of his own situation… His housemate’s lengthy absence … His food supply was now gone … Water would soon follow. Even more strange was the raucous to and fro of people clearing the apartment that preceded the foreboding silence filling up the now-unfurnished rooms. What possessed him to let those strangers take away everything, even House Dog’s beloved chaise?

House Dog pondered and pondered until the fourth day when he heard a voice coming from below the window ledge. He was laying on his side by then, weakened from hunger and thirst. Every once in a while, he’d lick his achingly growling underbelly. 

So, when the wind carried The Stray’s voice up to him, he thought to himself for the very first time that lacking was quite a cruel predicament. He was hearing things and that was undignified in his book. 

“Hey, you up there! You don’t look too good.” insisted The Stray. “How can I help?” 

House Dog came out of his stupor, peered through the glass and bitingly retorted, “What could anyone like you possibly do for me? Who said I was in trouble?”

Unfazed by House Dog’s hostility, The Stray continued, “I’ve been in your shoes … That man will not come back. Take it from me, the sooner you learn to take care of yourself, the better.” 

“Take it from YOU! Take it from YOU!” sneered House Dog, “How dare you speak to me? YOUR kind disturbs the peace … harbors vermin … YOU aren’t much to even look at! Everyone goes out of their way to unsee YOU!” 

“I’ll admit, I have let myself go. It is hard out here for the likes of me. Nothing about my life on the streets is appealing, but I am alive, which is a better prospect than dying from fits of grandeur.  Starvation and a steady flow of abuse are nothing compared to a slow death in a golden prison. That, sir, is what awaits you,” The Stray calmly replied. 

The pain in House Dog’s lower abdomen stopped him from putting The Stray back in his place. He shouldn’t have engaged in any exchange with him in the first place. He’s always prided himself on befriending upstanding, flealess citizens. Besides, he needed to conserve the little energy he had to greet the man of the house when he’d walk through the door. He dozed off. He slept and dreamed of beef-flavored delicacies, purified water, trips to the salon, the obstacle course at the private country club, and more from the good ol days. 

On Day seven, House Dog came to. He recognized upon barely lifting one eyelid that he was in pretty poor shape. At the street level, a voice kept begging passersby to rush to someone’s rescue. 

“Will anyone please help? He’s still with us I tell you. The man abandoned him, but he’s still fighting.”  

Pedestrians, lamp posts, vehicles, shopkeepers, and the whole lot of an entire neighborhood ignored The Stray. The few who stopped on their track, did so only for seconds, before their eyes became shrouded with unease at the sight of the messenger, overshadowing his plea.

House Dog’s suffering subsided quickly, leaving room for a faint of gratitude for The Stray. Despite his state of delirium, he knew he’d need all the help he could get to make it through. The Stray would have to use extreme measures.

As if they were of one mind, The Stray jumped atop a snoozing truck who, startled from his nap, propelled him to the fire escape next to House Dog’s window. 

“I’m here buddy,” said The Stray reassuringly. He frantically banged on the pane, not realizing House Dog couldn’t do much beyond just hearing him.

The Stray then threw his entire body against the glass until it gave in.

The landlord appeared from the top floor to see about the turbulence and a crowd had gathered on the street below.

“What are you up to down there? If I get my hands on you…”

“Is he pulling someone from a fire?” a voice asked.

“Fire!”

“Fire!”

“Someone, call the firefighters!” another proposed.

The Stray had pulled House Dog out by the collar and was weighing how to get them both to the street without breaking a bone. Again, he started begging for help.

A firetruck suddenly turned the corner. Two firefighters had reached them in no time. They were brought to safety, fed, and cared for until the captain declared the building free of any fire risk.

Angry faces turned towards the would-be hero and victim. The Stray knew too well the disdain they held. House Dog weakly attempted to make a case for himself. 

His - “I don’t know this guy” - “My Housemate is missing” - “Never, ever, have I been …” - fell on unsympathetic ears.

Soon, the anger of the onlookers turned into scorn then laughter when a firefighter began blasting them both with water.

The Stray and House Dog on his heel scurried away into an abandoned shed.

“This is our home now,” announced The Stray. “You will sleep over by …”

The words faded into unbearable nothingness  as House Dog took stock of his new dwelling littered with empty oil cans, random household items, his ‘rescue’, the facial expressions of those who once respected him; he revisited it all, except his close brush with a painful death. 

“I have never been so humiliated in my life. You have cursed me to a life of misery. For that, I won’t forgive you … EVER.”

To that, The Stray settled on the dirt floor for the evening, pretending to be hopeful for far better days in the company of House-Dog-No-More.

MORAL:

Often, a person’s best intentions (such as saving one’s life) will not earn the gratitude of the favor’s recipient.

April 15, 2023 02:30

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7 comments

16:19 Apr 18, 2023

Natacha, this was a very real life lesson, and your choice of the House Dog and Stray were excellent. I like to think the Stray has enough morals that the House Dog’s response wouldn’t change whether or not he saved him. It says a lot about a person who chooses kindness or the right thing, even when their actions won’t be appreciated. Well done!

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Natacha Bertrand
21:10 Apr 19, 2023

Thank you Hannah! The Stray certainly represents how we ought to be or treat one another....not to be preachy.

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Wally Schmidt
20:30 Apr 16, 2023

Superb analogy for the haves and have nots in this world and how easy it is to slip from being one to the other. Always love a story with a moral and you did a nice job on this. Welcome to Reedsy Natacha! Hope you find your writing tribe here. There are a lot of good authors waiting for you to share your work with and theirs with you.

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Natacha Bertrand
16:14 Apr 17, 2023

Thank you for the warm welcome Wally! I am pleased that the analogy stood out for you since the indifference towards the have nots is a topic I gravitate to.

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Wally Schmidt
20:30 Apr 17, 2023

It's an important topic and I wish more people would write about it, but I am glad that YOU do. It is hard to read about and even harder to write about since the writer needs to be mindful of their tone and choosing pups as stand-ins was a good device here.

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Mary Bendickson
21:00 Apr 15, 2023

Witty personification of all the characters. Hopefully House Dog will learn gratitude someday. Welcome to Reedsy.

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Natacha Bertrand
03:52 Apr 16, 2023

Thank you! I am certainly grateful for your feedback.

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