“Mommy, I don’t like the new dog.”
Elise looked at her young son in confusion. He had been clinging close to her all morning. Now she could see he was staring at their mutt, Cooper.
“What do you mean, sweetheart?”
“I don’t like this dog. I want Cooper back,” he whimpered tearfully. Elise eyed Cooper; he was curled up on the rug, sleeping, as usual. She crouched down.
“Mark, sweetie, that is Cooper,” she said gently. Mark shook his head pointedly, still staring at the dog, eyebrows drawn together in distress.
Mark scribbled on construction paper while Elise made lunch. When she came over to check on him, she noted he was using the black paper and a white crayon. Amused, she bent over to ask him if it was a zebra or a penguin, then stopped.
The white shape seemed to stare back at her with its blank construction paper eyes. It looked like a person crawling on all fours. Mark had given it fingers like long spines, the toes matching their length. Its mouth was open far too large, in an oval, and Mark was scribbling in sharp teeth.
“What’s that, Mark?” Elise finally asked, wondering what on earth her husband had been letting Mark watch. Then Mark pointed at Cooper, laying outside in the sun and panting.
Elise threw the picture away when Mark wasn’t looking.
That afternoon, Elise put Mark down for a nap. Mark put up a fuss when Cooper jumped on the end of his bed.
“I don’t want the new dog to sleep with me, mommy!” he whined, kicking at the elderly dog. Cooper gave a geriatric grumble and shifted away, then slipped down.
“Mark! You can’t kick at Cooper, he’s very old!”
Mark just pouted. Elise sighed. “Mark, this is really getting to be too much.” The phone rang. “Lie down and take your nap, alright? We’ll talk about how we don’t hit or kick later.”
As she left, Cooper lumbered arthritically onto the end of the bed again, curling up. She grabbed the phone in the living room.
“Hello, Mrs. Schulmann? This is Animal Control. I’m very sorry, but your dog Cooper was found hit by a car this morning.”
“What? No, there must be some mistake, it can’t be Cooper.”
“I’m so sorry, m’am…We identified him by his chip. I’m really so sorry… M’am… M’am?”
She screamed for Mark as the phone hit the floor, already dashing to his room.
The bed was empty.
With the help of amandaandsuch