I was almost weak kneed with relief to find all the animals
still on the property when I got back. I really don’t know what I
would have done if any of them had been gone. Especially Reason. Duo…
did not need that right then, but I wouldn’t have had a clue how to
go about finding them or getting them to come back with me.
Water had not been a problem, since all the dishes were full
of rain, and from the looks of things, some enterprising dog had found the
left over pizza on the table and they’d all helped themselves. The
house… was a damn mess; mud tracked all over the place and all the
pizza boxes pulled off on the floor and demolished. The dogs had all come
out into the yard to bark at me when I’d pulled in, but there was
evidence that they’d all three made their muddy little selves at home
on the bed and the couch.
I’d have cheerfully nailed the lot of them to the damn
wall if not for the memory of them curled around Duo’s body in the
rain. I had no doubt that I probably owed them his life. If he’d been
out there alone… I really just don’t want to think about how
things might have turned out.
I fed them all first, thankful that I’d noticed where
Duo had gotten the dog food the day before, because I never would have thought
to look for it in the trash can. I used the food to get the dogs the hell
out of the house, and then I spent the next three hours cleaning. There
was still no electricity and everything had to be done by hand. Starting
with hauling the water in to wash with. Thankfully the blanket that Duo
had left on the couch had taken the brunt of the damage in that quarter,
saving the worn old upholstery. I stripped it and the bed too, and just
piled it all in the bathroom until I could figure out how Duo did his laundry.
The trash I gathered and sat by the back door, not sure how that was dealt
with; I had a feeling that a nice little trash truck did not come around
once a week for pick-up like it did back home.
Everything I did only served to drive home how Duo had been
living for the last eight months. It felt like he’d deliberately made
his life as hard as possible. Had he been punishing himself? Even unconsciously?
I just couldn’t get over the changes in him… couldn’t
quite follow the flow of logic that had led him to where he’d ended
And… honestly, it kind of hurt that he’d had no
more faith in us than that.
I just couldn’t work out whether we deserved any faith
As Duo had instructed, I let Reason into the house for the
night, though the other two objected with pathetic whines and scratches
at the door. I ignored them; it was going to be enough of a pain getting
Duo’s ‘walking white carpet’ cleaned up enough that I
could deal with him being indoors.
The beast was surprisingly docile for an animal that size,
and more or less did what he was told when I figured out the proper commands.
‘Knock it the hell off’ didn’t get much of a reaction,
but ‘no’ seemed to work pretty well. It took a lot of trial
and error before I managed words, gestures, and finally a bit of pushing,
that ended with him in the bathtub. He gave me a rather mournful look that
managed to convey that he knew what being in the bathtub meant, and wasn’t
overly excited about the prospect. I actually kind of felt bad for having
to use buckets of cold water, but it was all there was.
It was more work getting the stupid dog clean than it had
been the entire rest of the house. I just wished I’d known ahead of
time about that damn shaking thing. I had a lot to learn about dogs. The
bathroom… I left to drip dry, as there wasn't a dry towel left in
the whole place by the time we were done anyway.
I prayed to God after two hours of brushing, that we would
be home again before the damn animal needed another bath, because I had
every intention of hiring a professional to do the job. I’d come off
search and retrieval missions and not been as tired as I was by the time
I was done. It was no damn wonder Duo had seemed so worn down.
Afterward, the dog followed me around as I finished up for
the evening, looking at me as though he were asking me where Duo was. I’d
not known that animals had… moods. But if I’d ever seen depression,
I was looking at it in the drooping ears and tail. In the weirdly accusing
look of brown eyes. It moved me to pat his head and tell him, ‘He’ll
be home soon, boy.’ It made me feel kind of stupid, but garnered me
a half-hearted wag of a tail.
I had thought I would sleep badly for the brooding and thinking
part. I had not thought I would sleep badly for the sharing of the bed part.
It was an extremely long night, and the morning was a whole
I was half afraid of letting Reason out of the house at all;
he’d been apart from Duo for several days and Duo’s fears that
he might go looking for his master worried me. I wasn’t sure what
in the hell I could do if the dog just walked off. But even I knew that
animals had to go to the bathroom, and I very much wanted that part to happen
outside as much as possible. I risked it, in the end, and than had to employ
some creativity to lure him back in the house. He wasn’t, as Duo had
predicted, happy with being shut in, and I could only thank whatever deity
it is that watches out for dumb animals and even dumber pet sitters, that
the cats got along with him. Later I would worry about what kind of condition
the house would be in when I got back. Even in the short time that I’d
been around Duo, I could tell that Reason was very important to him, and
I’d be damned if I let anything happen to him, no matter how much
cleaning I ended up having to do.
But God, I wished that damn vet had decided to dump a Pomeranian
on Duo instead of dog-zilla.
The horse took longer to deal with than I had anticipated,
and I ended up getting away a bit later than I’d planned. I think
the true depth of Duo’s living conditions really hit me when I realized
that I was looking forward to getting to the hospital where I could get
something to eat from the cafeteria. I only wished they had a damn community
shower too… I’d have used it.
It takes the better part of an hour to get to Twin Forks when
you’re obeying the speed limit, and I did obey it since I felt like
I’d used up my luck in that quarter getting Duo to the hospital. So
I got there not when planned, but about a half an hour after visiting hours
had started. I suppose there’d been a bit of anxiousness on my part,
not sure just how things were going to be, but the last thing in the world
I’d expected to find was Trowa Barton sitting on the side of Duo’s
Go to Chapter fifteen:
back to chapter Thirteen
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