Home > Take Me with You(2)

Take Me with You(2)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

Woody wiggled by his left shin, whining. There was a low window, too, in the rear door. Woody could see the boys play, and he wanted out. His little docked tail quivered more than it wagged. The sound he made reminded August of the whine of his garden hose when the water was restrained by a closed nozzle.

He reached down and scratched between Woody’s small shoulder blades, his fingertips disappearing in the wiry white fur. The dog let out a yip, almost as though accidentally. As though he’d been straining to hold it in but then it got the better of him.

“Okay,” August said. “Why not?”

He opened the back door.

They were a good long way from the road. Even farther from the highway. Now, with the door open, August could hear it in the distance, the highway. Well, not the highway itself, but the cars on it. The distant drone of their travel. That sound sliced down through his chest, too. Because he was not on that highway with them. He should have been on that highway. He should have been gone. He should not have been here. Then again the word “should” repaired nothing. It definitely did not do engine repairs.

He stepped out of the air-conditioning. Into the June heat. He watched Woody blast over to the two boys, bounding up and down to chart his trajectory over the weeds. As he ran farther away from August, his image became distorted by wavy bands of rising heat.

The bigger boy’s head came up, and his face brightened when he saw the dog. Woody was the perfect dog for a kid that age. A small-to-medium terrier mix full of excitement, always up for play, happy to do tricks.

The littler boy turned to see what his brother had seen. He jumped, missed kicking the ball, and ran behind the tall boy to hide.

“He’s friendly,” August called out. “He just wants to play. He’s been cooped up inside the motor home too long.”

The little one emerged. Tentatively, as he seemed to do everything. Full of wonder and fear warring with each other. August knew the wonder would win. He wished he could communicate what he knew to this frightened boy. But that never did any good anyway. People learned by what they experienced. It mattered little what anyone said to anyone.

The small guy held a nervous hand out to Woody, but the dog jumped away again, running in a wide circle and then doubling back for another invitation. He didn’t want to be petted. He could get that much inside. He wanted to play.

August walked closer. The older boy stood straight-backed and tall as August approached. He took charge, that boy. It seemed to be his nature. There was something unusually mature about his stance. It made August’s slicing pain ease and withdraw slightly. Because the boy in front of him was not Phillip. The boy in front of him was only who he was. He was only himself.

The younger boy retreated behind his brother again as August drew near.

“That’s your rig, huh?” the tall boy asked, pointing with his chin to the rear one-third of the motor home protruding from the garage. “That’s a real nice rig.”

“Thank you.”

“Nice dog, too. Is he a Jack Russell terrier?”

“Maybe part. I’m not sure. He’s from the pound.”

“What’s his name?”

“Woody,” August said, and Woody’s ears twitched.

“He do any tricks?”

“Lots of them. But right now he’s feeling cooped up. He wants to let off steam. Tell you what. I’ll make you an offer. If you can catch him, I’ll give you five bucks.”

“He won’t come when you call him?”

“Oh, no,” August said. “That’s not it at all. He’ll do whatever I tell him to do. But that’s his favorite game. When kids try to catch him.”

The tall boy’s eyes grew lighter. “Hey, Henry,” he said. “Five bucks. What do you think?”

They took off in pursuit of the dog, zero to full kid speed in seconds. Woody ran a wide, delighted arc, looking over his shoulder as if laughing.

They would never catch Woody. So it wasn’t really fair. If they ran him until he was happy and worn down, August would offer them the five dollars anyway. Otherwise it was just a mean trick. He wandered back into the mechanic’s garage, because it hurt to watch children play. Despite the fact that he’d been doing so on purpose for some time.

About ten minutes after August took a seat on the stack of tires, the mechanic pulled his head out from under the hood. He looked at August as if he had something to say. But if so, he never said it. Instead, he lit a cigarette, took a deep drag, then blew the smoke out again, watching it as if transfixed. As if he’d never seen such a thing before.

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