by Christina Rosso
Christina Rosso is a writer and bookstore owner living in South Philadelphia with her bearded husband and rescue pup. Her debut collection SHE IS A BEAST is forthcoming from APEP Publications. Her writing has been featured in FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, Digging Through the Fat, Ellipsis Zine, and more. Visit christina-rosso.com or find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.
You Ain’t Never Caught a Rabbit, or a Deer, But You’re Still My Best Friend
Her favorite thing to chase were deer.
Black paws padding on cracked concrete, claws scraping with each step. Bubblegum pink tongue hanging sideways from her jowl, the way it always did when she was in pursuit. Sadie loved to chase—butterflies, birds, rabbits. I never saw her catch anything, but that didn’t stop her.
Our neighborhood was littered with them in the way others have garbage. Sadie’s eyes latched onto the strange yet familiar creature; it looked like a deer, yet its fur was ghostly white (my father later told me it was albino). She followed it onto Boot Road, the street that ran perpendicular to our Roselawn Lane. My face pressed to glass, I watched from the window of my bedroom. I was supposed to be doing math homework. White antlers bobbed. A buck. A blur of black. Sadie. A flash of red. Then a screeching and loud smack. A high-pitched whine. Sadie.
I ran out of the house and across the yard to the road. My father followed, calling my name. There she lay in a dark red pool. I didn’t hear the cries and apologies from the woman who had been driving. I didn’t see the deer darting off. I only saw Sadie, my beloved dog. My best friend. Her lungs rising and falling, her breath hoarse like she was whispering. “It’s okay, sweet girl, I told her. “I won’t leave you.” My eyes stung. I blinked the tears away. “I won’t leave you,” I said. “Not ever. Pinky promise.”
Sadie died a minute later. The woman got into her red sedan and drove away. I could hear her sniffling through the open windows as she started the car. My father scooped Sadie into his arms and carried her back to the house. I walked beside him, holding one of her paws. It was limp and still, and made me cry harder.
Still grasping her paw, I whispered, “I won’t leave you,” as my father washed her body in the mudroom sink. The one he used to wash me in when I was really little. Now Sadie was little, a deflated balloon.
“Where should we bury her?” my father asked me.
Sadie lay on the floor of the mudroom, her body wrapped in her favorite blanket, unmoving.
“She needs a funeral.”
His forehead wrinkled then smoothed. “That’s a nice idea, honey. We could do it down by the creek, next to the bridge. She liked looking for frogs and toads there.” His lips twitched as though he was about to smile then thought better of it.
“I think she’d like to be buried there. But that funeral won’t do. When Mommom went to Heaven she got to drive in a long black car. Sadie wants that, too.”
“Sadie wants a hearse?”
“Not a horse, Dad, a black car with a big butt.” My father sighed. He told me he didn’t think we could get a car like that on such short notice. “What about your car, Dad?”
“Yeah, it’s black and has a little butt. Sadie’s smaller than Mommom, afterall, isn’t she?”
My father’s forehead creased again; I thought he was going to say no. But then he shrugged and said, “I think that sounds nice.”
I always liked driving around in my father’s car. It was a 911 Carrera painted a shiny black with matching black leather seats. He would rev the engine and we’d fly down the curves of Boot Road. In a year, I would be too big to fit in the tiny seats in the back. But that day I fit, and so did Sadie.
I told my father we needed music. Funerals always had music. “What do you, what does Sadie, want to listen to?”
“Elvis, duh, Dad,” I said. “What’s that, girl? Oh, yeah, ‘Hound Dog.’ That’s her favorite, Dad.”
My Father, an Elvis fan since boyhood, grinned and nodded. “You got it, Sadie.”
We turned onto Boot Road as the chorus began. You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog cryin’ all the time. As we rounded the first bend in the road, my father accelerated. My body strained against the seat belt. You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog cryin’ all the time. I looked over at Sadie. Her body was no longer limp or small. She stuck her head out the open window, tongue hanging from her mouth, the tip of it blowing in the breeze. My heart swelled. Well you ain’t never caught a rabbit and you ain’t no friend of mine. Saliva flew back, hitting me in the face. I wiped it away and looked back at her. She was limp again, an empty shell. “It’s okay, girl,” I said. “I’ll never leave you. Pinky promise.”