Dogsbodies – Can dog sitting Grandma’s Labrador bring teen siblings Luke and Harriet closer or blow them apart – short story
Teen siblings Luke and Harriet have never quite got on. You know how it is, he tells her she has a moustache, she punches his arm with her sharp knuckles, that kind of thing. Can dog sitting Grandma’s Labrador bring them closer or blow them apart – a short story about teenagers coming of age.
Part 1 – Dog Duty
On a sleepy suburban tree lined avenue a teenage girl is hurrying along as quickly as her gigantic heels will allow. In her wake her slightly older brother, all saggy jeans and a fringe that covers half his face, is practicing skateboard tricks.
She turns to berate him, interrupting him mid trick, “Hurry up Luke, we’re late and it’s your fault, as usual.”
Unhappy about the interruption to his practice, Luke skates up behind her and taps her heels together making her stumble.
“LUKE you loser,” shouts Harriet and punches him hard on the upper arm.
She screams, turns and runs away, wobbling on her precipitous heels. He throws his board down and skates after her. She scoots into the driveway of an old detached house up to the door and rings the bell frantically. In the kitchen of the house an old snoozing dog wearily opens an eye.
Luke skids up to the doorstep and is just about to exact retribution when he is interrupted by the door being opened by a frail but spritely old lady wearing a coat and hat and wielding a formidable black umbrella.
“Ah, there you are darlings. I thought you were never going to get here.”
“Sorry Grandma. Yeah well SHE had to change fifty million times before we came out,” whined Luke in halfhearted mitigation.
“At least I change my clothes,” said Harriet snootily.
“You’re hideous,” sneered Luke.
“loserazoid,” spat Harriet.
“Muzzie,” returned Luke, holding two fingers under his nose.
Harriet whacks him solidly on the arm with the point of her knuckle. A car horn sounds in the Avenue, sparing Harriet from brutal retaliation.
“There’s the taxi,” said Grandma. “Now be good. Remember, walkies three times a day, I’ll see you in a week. Bye darlings bye bye.”
“Bye Grandma, enjoy your cruise,” said Harriet
Grandma gives Harriet a slobbery kiss and turns to go. Harriet pulls a disgusted face and wipes her cheek with the back of her sleeve. Oblivious Grandma looks sternly at Luke and then to a heavy looking trunk just inside the doorway.
“Dude,” says Luke grudgingly and picks up the trunk.
“Thank you darling,” said Grandma kissing him on the only cheek exposed to the air, and turning on a sixpence hobbles down the driveway wiping her cheek with a clean white handkerchief that had been stowed in the sleeve of her coat in obvious anticipation.
Luke scowls at Harriet as he has to lug Grandma’s heavy trunk to the taxi. In turn she sticks her tongue out just as Grandma turns to wave. Luke laughs as she gets caught out and makes the ‘loser’ sign to his fuming sister.
Part 2 – Sleeping Dogs
Next morning, Harriet peers into the bathroom mirror squeezing a spot and obsessively checking-out her moustache. Satisfied it is invisible enough for a public appearance, she finishes her ablutions with a hefty spray of Grandma’s expensive scent and slouches out onto the landing fastening her fleecy dressing gown over her pink elephant pyjamas.
She stops outside Luke’s bedroom, “Luke”.
“LUKE,” she shouts
“Luke, you loser. You’ve got to walk the dog with me.”
She bangs on the door.
With no reply, Harriet sulks off to the kitchen. She struggles to pull on her pink wellies and takes a dog lead from a wall hook.
“Walkies, come on boy.”
The dog doesn’t move.
“Walkies, come on, time to get up.”
The dog still doesn’t move.
“Come on, you’re worse than my lazy loser of a brother.”
She bends to stroke him. He doesn’t move. She jumps up in a fright and screams.
Luke hears the scream and opens his eyes wide in fearful anticipation. Moments later his door bursts open and Harriet leaps on top of him.
“Whoa dude,” he pushes her off roughly.
“It’s dead, it’s dead. What are we going to do?”
Part 3 – A dogs dinner
Harriet crashes down the stairs and back into the kitchen with Luke trailing unenthusiastically in her perfumed wake.
“He’s still not moving Luke, do you think he’s just a heavy sleeper, please tell me yes.”
“Give me your make-up mirror dude.”
“This is no time to check your stupid fringe.”
“Shut up and give me the mirror hideous.”
She roots in her cavernous bag and hands him the mirror. Luke holds it next to the old dog’s nose.
“Oh yeah, dog’s are afraid of their own reflections, I knew that.”
Luke shakes his head in disbelief. “There’s no breath man, the breath fogs the mirror – see.” He breathes on the mirror and it fogs up.
“Well I was only joking about the reflection. So what do we do? Wait I know… I can do this,” she desperately scours around the kitchen in a mad panic.
“Yes, got it,” she hauls the Yellow Pages from the cupboard under the phone and a well manicured index finger slips down the Vet’s column.
“How do you know which vet Grandma uses?” asks Luke as he takes a marker pen from his jeans pocket and draws a moustache on a photograph of Harriet that is perched on Grandma’s sideboard.
“I don’t know, does it matter?.”
Luke shrugs and sulks over to the fridge, takes a bottle of milk and has a long swig. As he wipes his milk moustache on his sleeve he sees a vet’s card tacked to the fridge door with a magnet. The card reads “Home is where your dog is”. He offers her the card.
She snatches it off him, “loser.”
“You’re welcome, hideous.”
Harriet nervously punches the numbers into the phone.
“Hello, can you help me, I think my Gran’s dog is dead and I don’t know what to do,” she takes a deep breath of relief at hearing a sympathetic voice.
“You can call and collect, oh brilliant.”
“How much? Three hundred!” she nearly drops the phone.
“No way dude,” says Luke.
“Will it be cheaper if we bring him in?” she asks, “One hundred and fifty, right, okay, where are you?”, she snatches the pen from Luke and writes the address on the back of his hand. “Okay. Twelve thirty, no problem, thank you,” she ends the call.
“A hundred and fifty big ones, you must be kidding me. We could just put him in the bin,” said Luke heading for the garbage bin.
“Sometimes I really hate you,” sneered Harriet.
“Okaaay well we could bury him in the garden.”
“He’s not a goldfish, you moron.”
“You can’t be serious about taking him to the vet?”
“You think Grandma will keep you in her Will if I tell her you put him in the garbage?”
“Okay okay we’ll take him, but like the dude is huge, and like this place is the other side of the city.”
Harriet’s top lip begins to quiver and she slumps into the kitchen chair, head buried in hands.
“Oh man,” sighs Luke, knowing this is a battle he’s not going to win.
Part 4 – Thrown to the dogs
In the loft, Luke drags a huge old leather suitcase from the top of a wardrobe. It dumps dust all over him.
While Luke is struggling to get the case, Harriet is in the bathroom straightening her hair, making her face orange and checking her moustache in the mirror…again.
Luke drags the case into the kitchen, checks his big fat watch and tuts. He is just about to shout upstairs when Harriet eventually appears looking as if she is dressed for a night out.
“Why do you always have to take so long Sumo?” sneered Luke.
“Shut up Luke. I can’t just go out in anything. Someone might see me.”
“No one cares. Okay, you have to help me here.” Luke bends to put the dog into the suitcase.
“Eeuwe I’m not touching it. It’s dead. That’s well creepy. And my nails aren’t dry yet.”
“And you wonder why everybody hates you.”
Luke stoops over the dog and lifts him with a great deal of puffing and panting into the suitcase.
“Effort!”, he gasps, but the old dog fits in the case, “he’s in, let’s do this.”
The kids lug the old dog down the avenue to the bus stop. As they wait for the bus an wizened old man with an equally wizened little terrier dog joins the queue. The dog sniffs the suitcase suspiciously then cocks its leg on the case. The kids don’t notice and as the bus arrives they squeeze themselves into the already crowded space. Luke heaves the dampened case into the bus luggage rack and realizes his hand is wet. He sniffs it suspiciously and at the same time notices the small dog looking innocently at him.
“Oh man, dogs suck,” he moans to himself and wipes his hand on Harriet’s back. She turns frowning but Luke just makes the ‘loser’ sign to her so she digs him in the ribs with her elbow making him wince.
They arrive in the city centre and Harriet wobbles smartly off the bus leaving Luke to struggle with the heavy case and his skateboard.
“Hey a little help here would be good you know,” puffed Luke.
Harriet ignores him and struts off trying to make out he is not with her. Luke’s grimace turns to a grin as a bright idea pops into his tousled head. He dumps the suitcase on his skateboard which begins to trundle down the slight incline unassisted. He gives Harriet a dig to draw attention to his handywork and doesn’t see the kerb coming. The skateboard bumps down over the kerb, the suitcase falls off and the lid bursts open rolling the dog onto the road.
“You idiot. Can’t you do anything right,” she screams at him.
“Shut up hideous its not my fault.”
Luke is just about to punch her in the arm again when passers-by stop to look. One of the onlookers is already taking a picture on their phone and a Police Officer is heading their way.
“Get the stupid thing back in the case you moron, everyone is looking at me,” squealed Harriet in a panic.
Luke hurriedly shuts the lid on the dog but in his haste leaves the tail sticking out.
“The tail, the tail idiot,” she squeals pointing at the furry flag hanging from the case. Beside herself with embarrasment she takes it out on her flustered brother by kicking his saggy assed backside as he bends to put the tail back in.
“That’s it. I’m sick of you. You think you can do better then do it.”
Luke jumps on his board and zooms off through the crowd of shoppers.
“Luke, come back here, you can’t leave me with a dead…”
“Is everything alright miss?” said the Policeman looking suspiciously at the case.
“A dead heavy case.”
“Erm. Oh, yes. I’m sorry. It’s my loser of a brother, has left me to carry my case on my own. And it’s er, very heavy,” Harriet smiled and fluttered her long false eyelashes.
“Well you can’t leave it here. Where are you going?”
“The er, the Underground.”
“Its just round the corner miss. I can help you.”
He picks up the suitcase and walks off. She teeters along after him.
“You are right it is heavy. What have you got in here a dead body?”
Part 5 – Sick as a dog
Harriet struggles with the heavy case through the Station, stopping several times to get her breath. As she comes down the last step onto the platform, one of her slender heels finally gives-way under the combined pressure of herself and the old dog and she stumbles gracelessly onto the platform, just managing to stop before the platform edge. Out of breath and slightly disheveled, she sits down wearily on the case to wait for the next train and wipes away a solitary tear of frustration and self pity.
Meanwhile, back in the High Street, Luke is squatting on his skateboard in the doorway of a closed down shop, reflecting guiltily on his sister’s abandonment, when a man walking a Golden Retriever pauses next to him to light a cigarette. Disturbed from his reverie, Luke looks up into the knowing eyes of the Retriever. The dog offers Luke a large shaggy paw, “Oh man, I’m such a dumb ass.” The dog nods, as if in agreement.
Harriet is squashed into the corner of the train compartment trying her best to look inconspicuous, but can’t help checking out a good looking young man standing in the swaying crowd of passengers. He catches her eye and she looks quickly away and surreptitiously checks her hair in the half reflection of the window. As the train rolls up at her stop the passengers pour through the doorway ignoring Harriet struggling with the heavy case. As she steps onto the platform and the handle breaks and the case drops to the platform with a heavy thud that is drowned out by Harriet’s squeal of anguish. To her massive relief it stays shut. She stoops to pick it up.
“Do you want a hand with that?”
Harriet, flustered and upset, looks up to see the handsome guy she’d been eyeballing. Flooded with relief and embarrassment she can’t quite believe her luck.
“Wow… er I mean okay, yeah, thanks.” She flutters her long false eyelashes and he smiles, confidently.
Shoes in hand she tiptoe’s carefully onto the escalator and the Good Samaritan follows dutifully with the case. “This is a dead weight. What have you got in here?”
“Oh er, it’s just, er,” she struggles to find a plausible answer under the steady gaze of the handsome stranger.
“I’m a student, yes, a student, and I’m er bringing all my stuff home,” she stammered, looking away so he wouldn’t see her blush.
“You know, books, lap-top and all that. All heavy stuff I’m afraid,” her cell phone vibrated and gave her an excuse to change the subject, “sorry, that’s my loser of a brother,” she turned away to check the text message – “Hey sorry I lost it dude, wait for me, I’m on my way.”
Harriet distracted by her anger for Luke’s petulance, carries on out of the Station, texting him back, hitting the keys ferociously with the sharp ends of her false nails – “2L8 loser ur not needed now!!!”
She savagely stuffs the phone back in her bag and quickly reajusts from anger to a conniving smile. She is about to wheedle the stranger into carrying the dead dog to the vet’s for her, but then stops dead in her tracks. The interruption has allowed the fact that she’s told him a lie to sink in. With no alternative but to carry the case herself, she turns to thank him, “It’s very kind of you to help but…”
There is no one there, the Good Samaritan has vanished!
In disbelief, she turns back in to the station thinking she may have missed him among the the passers by, but there is no sign of him. She begins to panic and runs out of the station into the street then stumbles as her ankles are tapped.
“Hey hideous, you’ll never guess. I’ve just seen a dude getting on the train with a case just… like… ours.”
Harriet slumps against the Station wall, a small tsunami of tears washing a wall of mascara down her orange cheeks.
“Whoa dude. Hey. Look.”
Her nose begins to join in the general southward flow.
Luke offers his sleeve as an absorbent olive branch, “Hey, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have left you.”
“Grandma will never forgive me,” she sniffled.
“No problem. You know. I’ll just tell her I lost him. She already thinks I’m a loser.”
She gives him a long moody look then the corners of her mouth lift in a weak smile, “loser.”
Harriet punches him in the arm and runs.