Home > Take Me with You(4)

Take Me with You(4)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

“Henry,” August said. “I heard you call him by it yesterday.”

“Oh. Did I?”

“What can I do for you boys?”

“Sorry to bother you. Sir. Hope it’s no trouble. If it is, just say, and we’ll go right away. We wouldn’t’ve knocked if we thought you were sleeping. We saw your shades go up. So we knew you were awake. Hope it’s not a bother. It’s just that . . . Henry . . . my brother . . . and me, we’re just wondering . . . maybe could we play with that dog? No charge. We’re not asking it for any five bucks. We just liked that dog. And we think he liked us back.”

“I know for a fact he liked you back,” August said. “Look at him.”

He opened the door wider so the boys could see Woody standing on his hind legs—paws reaching up and raking the air—and jumping up and down. Yes. Jumping up and down on his hind legs only. Woody was half circus dog. Woody could do that.

Henry let out a light shriek that August recognized only after the fact as excited laughter.

“He’s good at that,” Seth said. “How’s he balance on his hind legs so good?”

“He’s just built for it, I guess. He can walk all the way across a room on his hind legs.”

“We’d sure like to see him do his tricks sometime.”

“Sure. Maybe when you bring him back.”

Seth’s face lightened, and only then did August realize the boy had been waiting for a yes or a no and straining under the weight of the uncertainty.

“So we can take him out in the lot to play?”

“Sure.”

August opened the door wide for Woody and gave him the simple “go on” permission. The dog scrambled out the door and jumped all around the boys and jumped up and put his paws on them and licked at Henry’s face, which he could reach by leaping.

“I like the way just that one ear on him is brown and the rest white,” Seth said.

“Yeah,” August said. “I like that about him, too.”

“How long can we keep him out?”

“Well . . . I’ll tell you what. Stay where I can see you, and if I want him back for some reason I’ll let you know.”

“Okay, thanks,” Seth said, barely able to contain his grin.

“One condition, though,” August said.

The boy’s face fell, and he stepped back as if he’d been slapped.

“Nothing bad,” August said. “I just want you to tell me how you caught him.”

“Oh, that,” Seth said, and relaxed. And began to look a bit proud. “I used my brain.”

“So you said. But you really didn’t tell me how.”

“Well. See. I noticed how every time you go for him, he runs. Even if you take a step at him. Even if you just move. But if I held still or looked the other way, he’d come closer. So I got smart and sat on the ground and turned my back on him and pretended I didn’t want nothing to do with him at all. And he just walked right up and climbed in my lap. But don’t worry, ’cause we ran him real good before I thought of it. I don’t want you to worry you didn’t get your five dollars’ worth.”

“I wasn’t worried,” August said. “You three have fun.”

August sat on the top metal step for half an hour or so, his feet on the bottom step, his elbows planted on his thighs, drinking coffee and watching them play. And waiting to feel the pain. But it didn’t come. He felt for it. Poked at it. Questioned where it was hiding. Maybe it was because he knew the boys now, and they were so different from his own son. Maybe it was because he almost wanted the pain back, and it was determined to do exactly the opposite of what he wanted.

The weather was a thing of beauty, lightly cool with no breeze at all. Over a distant mountain the sky still glowed faintly red from the tail end of dawn. He heard a scuffing in the dirt and turned his head to see Wes approach, head slightly tilted down.

“Morning,” August said. “Not too late if you still want that cup of coffee.”

“Oh. Thanks, but I had mine with breakfast. Sorry I stood you up last night.”

“Up to you. You’re the one who wanted to talk.”

“I decided . . .” And then he tailed off and stood still for the longest time, staring off into the distance like the answer was just on the line of the horizon. “It was a stupid idea,” he said, finally. “You would’ve thought I was crazy.”

August considered this for a moment, then decided he had no idea how to respond. He was curious now, but it seemed unwise to force someone’s hand on an idea that was crazy even to the mind that created it.

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