“No. Absolutely not.”
“But Daaad.” Amberly’s shoulders drooped, and she frowned, her bottom lip jutting out.
“No buts. We are not getting a dog.” Amberly’s dad, George, shook his newspaper from where he sat in his favorite recliner.
“Why not? There were some puppies outside the grocery store today. They were free, Dad.”
“I don’t care if someone pays me to get a puppy. They are loud and destructive, and they pee and poop everywhere.”
“I can train it!” Amberly’s long, curly hair shook with the force of her exclamation.
“Said every kid who ever wanted a puppy. I know what’s going to happen as soon as we get a dog. I’ll be the one taking care of it.”
“No, I’ll take care of it. I promise.” Amberly clasped her hands in front of her face. “Please, please, please!”
“Amberly Jones, stop it right now!” George put his newspaper down with a loud crinkle. “We are not getting a puppy. End of discussion.”
Amberly’s eyes began to well up, and her eyebrows drew down into a deep V. She dashed out of the living room, down the hallway, and into her bedroom, slamming the door behind her. George shook his head at his daughter’s outburst and raised the newspaper back to eye level.
“George, don’t you think you could have handled that a little better?” Amberly’s mom, Helen, stood in the kitchen with her hands on her hips.
“No. Amberly needs to realize that no amount of begging is going to get her a puppy. We don’t need one.”
“But you know how much she wants one. You could have at least been gentler.” Helen turned to the stove, turning on a burner below a large pan. She moved to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, but the short strand slipped out a few moments later. Helen was still getting used to the short but freeing bob cut.
“Yeah, and if I were gentler, Amberly would have thought she could get away with asking for a puppy again, at some other time.” George’s eyes didn’t leave the newspaper.
“You are one stubborn man. Now get in here. I’m not making breakfast by myself.”
“But…” George shook the newspaper in front of his face.
“Don’t make me ask again.” Helen said with a pointed glance and a raised eyebrow.
George sighed and folded up his newspaper before laying it on the coffee table in front of his recliner. “Coming, dear.”
Helen was cracking eggs into a bowl and whisking them up with milk. She poured the mixture into the hot pan and stirred, adding a dash of salt here and a sprinkle of cheese there. George had left the living room and now stood to Helen’s right, heating up a cast iron skillet and laying strips of bacon on it.
“I don’t know why you insist on my helping you in the kitchen. You’re such a good cook.”
“Because I don’t like cooking bacon. It’s too temperamental. And look at you, you’re so good at cooking bacon.” Helen smiled while George laughed. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, the coarse hairs of his greying stubble catching on Helen’s own hair. Helen reached up to smooth her hair back into place.
“Admit it. You just miss me.” George laughed again when Helen rolled her eyes.
“Yes, of course I do. The living room is so far away from the kitchen.” She made a point to turn her gaze to the living room, which was in full view of the kitchen, thanks to the open floor plan.
A door down the hallway creaked open, and a bleary-eyed Cameron shuffled towards the kitchen. He slid into one of the bar stools that faced towards the kitchen and away from the living room, and rested his head on his outstretch arm.
“What was with all the noise a few minutes ago?”
“What noise?” George asked.
“The loud voices, the slamming door, the loud exaggerated sobs from Amberly’s room.”
“Oh. That would be the sound of your father crushing your sister’s delicate dreams of owning a puppy,” Helen chimed in.
“Good job, Dad.”
“We do not need a puppy.” George waved the tongs he was using to flip bacon toward Cameron.
“I don’t know. I think it would be kinda nice to have a puppy.” Cameron yawned and scratched at his messy hair, leaving one strand sticking up. Cameron was on a rebellious streak and refused to allow a pair of scissors anywhere close to his precious hair. George assured Helen that Cameron would grow out of it.
Helen turned off the burner underneath the eggs and poured a cup of coffee, placing it and some cream in front of her sleepy son. Before she turned back to the stove, she smoothed down his wild hair with a pat.
“If you want a puppy, that is going to have to be a fight you pick with your father.”
“It’s far too early for arguing.” Cameron clutched the coffee mug in his two greedy hands and blew on it before taking a sip. He scrunched up his brow. “Ew!” He unscrewed the lid of the cream and poured it until his coffee went from murky black to almost snow white. He took a sip. “Much better.”
“And that’s the last of the bacon cooking. Who’s going to get Amberly?” George asked, widening his eyes at Helen. She rolled her eyes and made her way down the hall to Amberly’s room.
“Amberly?” Helen knocked twice on the door. “Breakfast is ready.”
“I’m not hungry.” Amberly’s whine slipped out from under the door. Helen cracked the door open a bit.
“But Daddy made bacon. You love bacon.”
“If Dad made it, then I don’t want it.”
Helen worked to suppress her chuckle. “Well, there’s eggs too. I made them. I promise, Daddy didn’t touch them.” There was a pause from Amberly, and then her head appeared in the crack of the open door.
“I don’t want to speak to him. I don’t even want him to look at me, OK?”
Amberly crossed her arms and stomped down the hallway and into the kitchen. She hmphed at George before swiveling away from him, nose in the air, and grabbed a plate. She looked longingly at the bacon but instead heaped a mound of eggs on her plate before making her way through the kitchen and into the dining room. A still-sleepy Cameron had wandered his way over to the table with a full plate and a half-full mug.
“I hear you tried to get Dad to let you have a puppy.” Cameron smirked before he shoveled a forkful of egg into his mouth.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Amberly pushed her eggs around her plate.
When Helen and George sat down at the table, Amberly made a big show of turning away from where George sat.
“Mmm. This bacon sure is good.” George crunched on a strip of bacon, leaning in close to Amberly.
“I’m not talking to you, Dad.”
“But there’s sooo much bacon left. Who’s going to eat it all?”
“Dibs.” Cameron shot up from his seat and dashed back into the kitchen. Helen and George shared a look.
“Sweetie, look. Look at me please.”
Amberly breathed deeply, let out a loud sigh, and then turned to her dad, still frowning. “I just don’t think you’re ready for the responsibility of a dog. I know that eleven seems really old to you, but you’re still very young. What if we got a fish?”
“Fish are not the same!”
“I know that, but I’m sorry. We aren’t getting a dog, and you need to change your attitude about that.”
The rest of the breakfast was finished in silence. As soon as Amberly was finished eating, she put her plate in the sink and went back to her room, shutting the door a little more softly than before.
“Look, Mom, the puppies are still here!” Amberly tugged at her mom’s sleeve.
“Yes, dear, I see that.” Helen grabbed a shopping cart and wheeled it towards the entrance to Sidwell’s Grocery Store. It was the beginning of the weekend—the weekend after Amberly’s puppy meltdown—and she needed to buy more groceries.
“Those poor, poor puppies. All alone in this world. Without a family.” Helen looked down at Amberly, who quickly averted her eyes and hid a smile behind her hand. Helen knew what her sneaky daughter was doing, but she couldn’t help but look back at the puppies all crowded in a cardboard box and whining. They did look really sad. And cute. But George had said no, and Helen was determined to stick by what her husband had said.
“Someone will take those puppies home, and they will be very happy with their new families.” Helen gripped Amberly’s hand and strode past the box and into the store.
“A puppy would be very happy in our home.” Amberly mumbled.
“Hey, George. How was your weekend?” Peter, George’s coworker, leaned over the cubicle divider, coffee cup in hand.
“Oh, you know, same as last.” George pushed back from his computer and rubbed a hand over his face.
“Amberly still pushing the puppy angle?”
“Listen, George. I wanted to talk to you about that.”
“About what?” George raised his eyebrow at Peter.
“About the whole ‘absolutely no dogs’ rule.”
“Yeah. And what about it?” George gave Peter a look, not liking where this conversation was going.
“My wife found a puppy yesterday and, well, you know how she’s allergic to them.”
"No.” George pointed a finger. “Absolutely not. I am not taking the dog for you.”
“Oh, come on, George! It was left on the side of the road like garbage.”
“Bring it to a shelter.”
“I’m not asking you to keep the dog. I just need you to watch it until I can find another home. Sherry would kill me if I dropped it off at a shelter. Says they’re inhumane.”
“If I bring the dog home Amberly will never let it go. I can’t do it, Peter. Ask Rodger.”
“Can’t. Rodger already has a dog. Remember? Hank the tank? That dog would eat this little guy for a snack. Come on. I’ll owe you one.”
George pinched the bridge of his nose and sucked in a sharp breath. “Fine. But you are gonna have to be the one to pry the dog from Amberly’s hands.”
Peter cracked a wide grin. “Thanks, man. You’re the best. I’ll bring him by after work.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now get out of here.” This dog is going to be the death of me, George thought.
Ding! The doorbell rang, and George dashed to be the one to answer it. In the doorway was Peter, holding a little rat of a dog. Its ears were larger than its head, and it had short, scruffy brown fur.
“Are you sure that’s really a dog?” George asked as Peter handed it over. George held it out in front of him by its armpits, leaving its back legs dangling.
“Ninety percent sure,” Peter answered as he reached out to make George hold the dog correctly.
“Is there still time for me to say no to this?”
“Nope. I’ll call you once I have a family for it.” Peter dashed off the front porch and into the safety of his car.
George looked at the puppy’s face. “You are not staying.” The puppy cocked his head and licked George’s nose. “Strike one, Mister.” George wandered back into the house and towards the living room, where Amberly sat on the couch. Her eyes widened to the point where George feared they might pop out of her head.
“Daddy! Is that a—”
“This is strictly temporary. I am doing a favor for a friend. This puppy is not staying, and I need you to not make a big fuss when it’s time for him to leave.”
Amberly had dashed off the couch and was pulling the puppy from George’s hands before he could even finish his speech.
"Yeah, Dad. Totally!” She set the puppy on the floor and giggled as he nipped at her fingers. Helen watched from the kitchen.
“She didn’t listen to a word I said, did she?”
“Not a single one.” Helen reached up to kiss her husband. “You know that she’s going to cry enough to fill the ocean when the puppy has to leave, right?”
That night, Amberly sat on the floor with the puppy. Because the family couldn’t pry Amberly away, they ate dinner with her in the living room and watched a movie. The puppy dashed away from Amberly’s grasp and lunged at the footrest of George’s recliner, managing to get only its front feet on it.
“I think Sid wants to sit with you, Dad.”
“Sid?” George asked as Amberly scooped the puppy up and shoved it onto his lap. “No, no. Get him off of me.” George pushed lightly at Sid, but he wouldn’t budge. He had cinnamon rolled himself up tight on George’s legs.
“Yeah. That’s what I named him.” Amberly sat back down, making no move to take Sid back.
“Why did you name him? We are not keeping him.”
“I know. But he needs a name while he’s here. You can’t just keep calling him ‘it.’” Amberly raised an eyebrow.
“It’s a bad idea to name him, sweetheart. I just don’t want you to be too hurt when he has to leave.”
“I’ll be fine.” Amberly turned back to the TV, and George shared a look with Helen.
George spent the rest of the week dodging Sid’s affection. Sid quickly learned how to jump onto the recliner and sat with George every time he was in it. Sid followed George everywhere. He even curled up beside the door whenever George was in another room with the door shut. He sat under George’s seat at the table and slept on George’s shoes by the front door.
“This dog is like glue!” George pointed to Sid, who was once again curled up in his lap.
“You have to admit, it’s kind of cute.” Helen smiled at the pair.
“It’s not cute. It’s annoying,” George said while gently patting Sid’s head.
George spent the next week denying that he was showing affection to Sid.
“Dad! Stop dropping food on the floor,” Cameron hollered from where he sat at the bar.
“I’m not doing it on purpose! It just keeps rolling off the cutting board.”
“I’m going for a walk!” George announced to no one in particular.
“Again?” Amberly asked.
“My legs are feeling a little stiff.” George replied.
“Are you taking Sid again?”
“Yeah. I need to wear the little guy out. I’m tired of him waking up with so much energy in the mornings.”
Thursday evening, George came home from work very tired. He plopped into his recliner and leaned it all the way back. Sid hopped up, and George automatically scooped him up and plopped him on his chest. Sid snuggled in, tucking his head under George’s chin. Amberly wandered out from her bedroom and found the two of them passed out. George was snoring.
“Mom! Look!” Amberly whispered.
Helen looked up from where she sat reading a book and smiled at the sight of her husband and the dog he “hated.”
Friday evening, George came home after work, kicked his shoes off at the front door, and listened for the clicking of little toes on the hardwood floor. They didn’t come.
“Sid? Where you at, boy?”
“Honey? Is that you?” Helen came around the corner, wiping her hands on a dish towel.
“Yeah, where’s Sid?”
“Oh, Peter came by a few minutes earlier. He said he found someone to take Sid.”
“He did what?!” George brought a hand up to his forehead and looked down at the ground—eyes darting left to right—as though his gaze alone could bring Sid back.
“This is a good thing, right? I thought you didn’t want the dog.”
“No. No, no, no, this is not OK. Who knows what kind of family Peter has found? What if they abuse Sid? Amberly!” George sat down and yanked at the laces of his shoes before shoving them onto his feet. “Can you go get Amberly? We need to go right now before it’s too late.”
“Go where? You don’t even know where Peter is going.”
“Then I can call him in the car. Just get Amberly and Cameron and let’s go.”
Helen shook her head at George but headed for Amberly’s room. She knocked once at the door before letting herself in.
“Dad just found out that Sid isn’t here.”
Amberly looked up from where she sat playing with some dolls. “How did he take it?”
“Horribly. He wants to go on a rescue mission to save Sid from the abusive family he might end up in.”
“When do you think we should tell him about Peter?”
“I don’t know. I kind of want to see how far Dad will go to save Sid.”
“But didn’t you say that Peter and Sid were just down the street?”
“You’re right. I did say that. I guess we should tell him now. You better give Peter a big hug when you see him. Without Peter you wouldn’t have a dog.”
“You’re a schemer, Mom.”
“Where did you think you get it from?” Helen raised an eyebrow at Amberly, and she scrunched her nose in reply.
“I knew you were up to something the moment I saw Dad holding a puppy. He looked exactly like one of the puppies I saw at Sidwell’s.”
“Helen!” Helen and Amberly looked to the door where George could be heard from. “Have you gotten the kids yet? Let’s get this show on the road!” Helen and Amberly shared a smile before hurrying out to calm down a very panicked George.