Lover Falls (everyone loves a puppy)

Lover Falls

I could not have imagined the inflection point that was just ahead when I pulled out of the driveway with my girlfriend and seventeen-year-old daughter on the way to take delivery of my Boston Terrier puppy, Tempo. There were no indications that the fork in the road was going to be so dramatic and complete. We headed towards Lockhart, Texas, home to some of the best barbecue in the state. It was all shits and giggles on the one-hour drive. The music was bopping and the conversation was minimal.

At some point, my girlfriend decided she wanted to open the moonroof of the car and she struggled with the single-button control. I made some dumb remark and helped her open the lid to the expressly hot and humid air outside. My daughter’s long hair began swirling and we decided to close the top again.

At the dog farm we met the dental-challenged young woman who was eager to show us where Tempo was born, what her parents looked like, and how the dog runs at the back of the shanty had several breeding pairs. “Yeah, her mama’s about tapped out. This might have been her last litter,” she said.

My daughter held the 10-week-old Tempo as we toured around the somewhat horrifying property. My girlfriend had gotten unusually quiet but I was enjoying the moment, the new pup, and the excitement of the jumping and barking dogs who were eager to greet us through the fencing.

My daughter sat in the back with Tempo as we headed back to Austin. My plan was to take the entire circus to see my dying brother, who was in Hospice at my mom’s house. I thought a little puppy love would cheer everyone up. About ten minutes from town my girlfriend started texting.

It was a fairly new car, so the smart dash kept dinging as the texts arrived from the woman in the seat next to me. She didn’t speak. The music continued with Tay Tay belting out something about Trouble.

“You don’t have to come with us, if you don’t want to,” I said, sensing she was involved in some unspeakable crisis. She was jammed up against the far side of the car as if she was planning on jumping out. “I can let you out back and my house.”

She and I got out in front of my house. I gave her a big hug and whispered, “It’s okay. We’ll be back in an hour.” I didn’t look through the texts she’d sent me for another hour or so. I said to myself, “I’ve only got the bandwidth for one crisis at a time, and at the moment that’s my dying brother.”

I got home with Tempo to discover she had taken all of her things out of my house, leaving an obvious trail of open drawers and open closets. A few days later, as we were trying to unravel the freakout, she would tell me she went to Walmart and applied for a gun license. In that moment I went from being a lover to a cheerleader.

“This is bigger than both of us,” I said. “I’m happy to pay for a counselor if you need help.”

Read more Short-Short Stories from John.

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