The Squirrel

For several minutes, Valerie stared at the light from her bedroom window, watching the light through the blinds stretching across the ceiling. She was trying to remember which direction the window faced, trying to remember which way the sun rose and which way it fell. Her bedside clock read five past seven in static red digits.

The house was mostly silent, only the quiet pathetic whimpering of Charlene from beneath the foot of the bed. Valerie stirred and the dog stirred. Valerie sat up and the grey head of the husky popped up to turn an apprehensive blue eye toward her.

“What day is it?” Valerie asked out loud to no one. Charlene stood up tall, head tilting as she attempted to process the question posed. “Ma?” Her voice echoed through the room and down the short hall.

No response. No movement or noise. The air conditioner kicked on softly with a click. The house was empty. It was seven in the evening. Her bedroom window faced the west, faced the cow pasture, faced the marsh. She remembered that her mother was probably at work, night shift at the bakery. She’d be gone, thankfully, until morning.

How long was I asleep?

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Morning Fog

Tim swore quietly in the gloom of the house, following behind the silently marching border collie, excitedly tail-wagging its way towards the back door. It was that strange short period of morning, when the night sky first begins to give way to deep blue while the sun itself is still too far beyond the curve of the planet to be seen. But here Tim was, inexplicably conscious, taking the dog out for her regularly scheduled crack-of-dawn-pee. It was Javier’s fault that she was like this. He was the one that instituted the early morning potty routine. It was fine with Tim when he could simply turn and grunt whenever Javi got up at four in the morning for his shift, but now…

“Keep this shit up Innie and you’ll be an outside dog soon enough.” Tim said, same as he said every morning while the dog pawed pathetically at the door. Ingrid was the stupid name Javi gave her but Tim could never bring himself to call her that. If there was anything Tim hated more than dogs it was dogs with human names. It ‘suits her’ Javi would say when anybody asked about it and he left it at that, grinning like a jackass.

Tim opened the back door and the dog shot out, a blur of black and white fur. Already, the summer morning had brightened considerably, enough so that Tim could see the thick blanket of morning fog that covered the far end of his property and the woods beyond. Watching Innie snout around for that perfect spot of grass made Tim smile despite himself. He didn’t actually hate dogs, not all of them anyway. And though he was far from pleased when Javier first brought her home, Innie had grown on him over the years. From a barky little pisser of a puppy, she eventually evolved into a nearly obedient, mature adult. That helped a lot. Tim now mostly enjoyed the dog’s presence even if it did mean being awake at such an inhuman hour.

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