by Ross Glover
Bubba circled his bed next to the driveway. The arthritic pain in his joints kept him from easing his body onto the ground, and he fell with a grunt. Soon the warm sun would take the ache away. He had no sense of time except for day and night, but this is where Bubba always kept watch for the boy to come up the driveway. His eyes were dim with cataracts, but there was nothing wrong with his memory. He long to hear the boy shout, “Bubba, Bubba. How you doing?” He still felt the hugs and the petting.
Jim. Jim. That name echoed in his brain. Jim, that’s what the man and woman in the big house called the boy, and he knew the name as well as his own. For a long time now the woman had not called, “Jimmee. Jimmee. You and Bubba come to supper.”
Once the man said, “You miss Jim, don’t you, boy?” He didn’t understand, but perked his ears when he heard the name.
The man and woman were loving and kind to him. He returned the affection, but it was not the love he held for the boy.
Jim always gave him a bone with a piece of delicious meat. His mouth watered when he thought about the bone. Now, Bubba ate soft food, because his teeth hurt when he tried to gnaw on a bone. He couldn’t run or jump, and his sense of smell as well as his hearing had left him. And yet, he had no concept of aging and tried to do all the things a dog does but couldn’t.
Bubba dozed in the warm sun and dreamed. He ran across the pasture, jumped and caught Jim by the brown coat sleeve. He wrestled Jim to the ground and dragged him along the grass. Jim grabbed Bubba, pulled him down and rolled on the ground. They both scrambled up and chased each other through the pasture to the creek. Bubba barked and woke up.
“Is he okay?’ the woman asked the man.
“He’s dreaming. Let’s leave him be. He has a hard time getting to his feet.”
Bubba pretended to sleep until he heard them walk away. He was glad. It took too much effort to wag his tail.
“Maybe we should put him to sleep. He can’t control his body functions, and the arthritis hurts him every time he moves. It would be the humane thing to do,” the man said.
“Don’t even think about it. You know he’s waiting for Jim to come home. He’s no trouble for me. If I have to carry him to his post, I will. Let him wait,” the woman said.
The old dog wasn’t aware they were discussing his fate. If he had known, he would have tried to run away. Nothing would stop him from seeing Jim come home. He remembered Jim’s scent. It was a pleasant clean smell. He thought of the jeans and the brown coat. The woman put Jim’s old brown coat in his bed on the back porch. When the weather turned cold, he relaxed in front of the fireplace. That’s where Jim read his book.
Bubba thought about the creek. Many times he hunted for Jim along the stream and in all their hiding places, but the boy was never there. After he began to stumble and fall and could hunt no more, he laid and waited for the boy by the driveway.
The urge to make water come upon him. With great effort he got to his feet and wobbled over to a nearby tree. He fell trying to raise his leg and then squatted like a puppy. He whimpered when pain shot through his body and only a few drops of urine hit the ground.
He curled up in his bed by the drive and continued his watch. After the pain subsided, he slept and dreamed again.
The rabbit jumped out of the bush, and Jim shouted, “Get him boy!”
Bubba ran flat out with his ears pasted against his head, but the rabbit zigzagged across the field and got away. He slowly walked back to Jim with his head down and his tail between his legs, ashamed of his performance. But it didn’t matter. The boy knelt and hugged him.
“You’re a good dog, and you’re my dog, Bubba. Let’s go play along the creek.”
This brought a smile to the dog. He found a turtle on the creek bank and called Jim with a loud bark. He was reward with a great hug. He loved this boy and would never leave his side.
Jim grew bigger. Bubba could no longer dragged him along the ground, but he was still the boy he loved. Even then, the two wrestled and played and went for long walks. The dog loved him more and more.
Bubba remember the first time the boy left home, and he took up a guard post by the driveway. When the boy came back, nothing changed. Jim still had time to hug and pet him. They played and wrestled until Jim left again. But he came back. He always came back.
One day Jim came home in strange clothes. The pants and shirt didn’t smell like denim and didn’t have the good feel of blue jeans. The boy stayed home a short time before he said goodbye again,
“Be a good dog, Bubba. When I get back we’ll go down to the creek and find us a turtle.”
That was a long, long time ago, but the old dog knew when he came home he would keep his promise. Bubba woke with a start. He stared down the driveway through dim eyes and saw the boy dressed in a checked shirt and blue jeans. It’s Jim. He’s come home. Bubba jumped up and ran to him. The pain in the old dogs legs was gone, and he could see as good as ever. He barked, furiously wagged his tail and prance around, Jim. The boy knelt and hugged him.
“Bubba. Bubba, my faithful old friend. You knew I’d be back, didn’t you. Come on. Let’s play in the field and go to the creek.”
Bubba followed him through the pasture and down to the creek.
The man and woman found Bubba at the entrance to the driveway.
“Old Bubba finally gave up the waiting for Jim. I’m glad. His suffering is over,” the man said.
“He could hardly walk. How could he have gotten all the way down here?” the woman asked.
“Look at his tracks. He was chasing something.” the man said.
“Bubba was almost blind. How could he see anything?”
“Maybe went after a strange dog. He always protected his territory.”
Category: Fiction, Short Story