Short Story: No One Does Therapy Like a Dog

Excerpt from my current novel in progress, For the Birds.

I was in the garden when Sonny’s white Ford truck pulled into the driveway. It felt like ages since I’d seen it, even longer since I’d sat inside the cab, and now his truck was in front of me like old times. I had to catch my breath as the past broadsided me, along with a flood of feelings I’d been swimming against since Sonny returned. Then I looked down at the hose in my hands and the ratty clothes I was wearing.

Taye and I had been in meetings all morning with vendors. Needing a break, I’d changed into my oldest pair of jeans, a tank top, and a blue plaid flannel shirt, and spent the last hour pulling weeds and picking ripe tomatoes and squash. My mascara was probably washed away by sweat, and my hair was falling out of a top knot. If he’d shown up an hour ago, I would have looked halfway cute. Now, I looked like I’d been rolling around in the mud. Of course he showed up now. And why? We weren’t supposed to meet until Wednesday, and I’d assumed it would be at his office.

“I’m not ready for this,” I muttered to the bees, setting down the hose and trying my best to smooth my hair.

Sonny gave a silent wave as he stepped out of the cab. I didn’t know how to act. Cold? Indifferent? Politely cold and indifferent? Before I could figure it out, Buoy jumped out of the truck, a blur of reddish blonde fur as he raced in my direction. I dropped to my knees as the golden retriever reached me. He jumped around, his tail wagging against all my tomatoes as he soaked up my love.

“Hey boy! I missed you!” I buried my face in his fur, overwhelmed by an unexpected wave of emotion as he settled down and leaned into me, panting heavily with his tail still thumping. I heard Sonny’s footsteps in the gravel, but I couldn’t look at him, completely embarrassed at how I was crying over a dog. Okay, it wasn’t just the dog. But Buoy’s sun warmed fur was the missing ingredient to every emotion I’d experienced since Sonny showed up again. Besides, no one does therapy like a dog.

“He missed you, too,” Sonny said. Why did his voice affect me so much? His accent rolled through me, and my ears burned as my tears increased. I desperately needed to sniff, but I didn’t want Sonny to know how emotional I was being. About a dog. About him. So I focused on petting Buoy until I finally felt in control of myself. As I discreetly swiped at my eyes, Sonny patted Buoy’s head as if he didn’t notice, but I knew his tells. The way he avoided my face, looked everywhere but at me while I pulled myself together. He definitely noticed. I didn’t want to give him any kind of credit, but I knew he was letting me have my moment. I was the kind of person who teared up at dog food commercials. If someone showed me sympathy, forget it. Sometimes it was necessary. Sometimes I needed that sympathy so I could feel my emotions honestly. But right now, being around Sonny, the last thing I wanted was to collapse into a vulnerable pile of mush. Did he know he had this effect on me? Did I want him to? I wasn’t sure about either. At least he knew to ignore the tears, even if we both were pretending it was about the dog.

Check out more details and excerpts about For the Birds here.

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