There he was. Big Luke.
“B-b-big Luke?” I stammer. I’m suddenly very aware of my legs not being able to touch the ground from the hybrid highchair/barstool here at the Dirty Diaper. I’m drooling a bit and I realize I’m still wearing the same Little Einsteins shirt that I wore to bed last night. How embarrassing.
“Hey, call me Luke. Big Luke is my father. Bartender, bring us a couple of glasses of your 15-year Sunny D.”
“That’s quite an order. Charlie, by the way.”
He smiles. “Oh, I’m well acquainted with you, Charlie.”
This seems an odd thing to say, but I let it slide. The bartender brings us our drinks, and I take a sip.
“That’s some strong stuff. Thanks for the drink, Luke.”
“Of course. What’s a drink between friends?”
“Well, we’re not actually—”
“It’s nothing, obviously. A mere trifle.” He takes a long sip.
“Wanna hear a story, Charlie?
“When I was your age, just a few years ago, I had two things I loved more than anything in the world—my teddy bear, Mr. Pinkbottom, and my puppy, Carson SillyPaws. The three of us spent hours together, killing worms in the backyard or trying to figure out how to rewind Finding Nemo. We shared secrets, stories, ideas, things I could’ve never told the kids at school. We were best pals. I knew Carson SillyPaws could be dangerous. He was big and I was small, and he often knocked me over, teeth bared and ears flared. But I understood that it was just his nature. I could do nothing to stop that.
“One day, I couldn’t find Mr. Pinkbottom anywhere. I looked in my room, Mommy and Daddy’s room, the playroom, the basement, lost and found at school—heck, I even asked the bus driver if he’d seen anything. Nothing. Not a trace. Mr. Pinkbottom was gone. I was crushed.
“A few weeks later, Mommy gave me my first chore. I had to clean out Carson SillyPaws’ doghouse. I trudged out to the backyard, my heart still heavy but my mind trying to move on. When I got the doghouse, Carson SillyPaws was giving me a look. I peeked inside the doghouse.
“There he was. The corpse of Mr. Pinkbottom, ripped to shreds and covered in the weeks-old crust of Carson SillyPaws’ saliva. I was mortified. So I reached for Mr. Pinkbottom out of pure sadness. Then it happened.
“He bit me. My best friend hurt me, badly. A few weeks later he was gone to a farm.”
“My gosh,” I say, breaking my silence. “What a bad dog.”
“I disagree,” Luke says, “respectfully, of course. He wasn’t the bad dog. I was.”
“Carson SillyPaws only did what was natural to him. The only bad idea was when I tried to reach for something that was already gone. I got hurt because I put my nose—or my hand, I suppose—into a place I couldn’t comprehend, a place I didn’t belong. You catch my drift?”
I can hardly catch a bouncy ball, let alone his drift. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying let it go, Charlie. Enjoying your drink?”
Suddenly, I’m feeling woozy. How much Sunny D had I drank? Luke didn’t have any.
The next thing I know, I’m in a deep, dark sleep.