Here’s One for the Ladies …

Here’s One for the Ladies …

…from my quartet of horror stories excerpted from my short story collection, “Basic Butch, “ available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It’s called “Mind Fuckers.”

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Her college days behind her, Melanie thought she was long over the pain of the one-sided infatuation she had had with fellow soccer player Karen. That is until a call from Kar, now working in New York, saying that she was headed down to Lauderdale on vacation, made Mel hope for a second chance…

The rain had started up again and Melanie was running late. She had switched her cell phone off by mistake when she got on the Florida Turnpike at Commercial Boulevard. When she switched it back on to call Mom so she wouldn’t worry, she noticed she had a message. But first her call.

Just then, Mel hit a bump on the road, causing her cell phone to fall off the seat next to her onto the floor. She thought her five foot-ten frame would be enough to reach it but no luck, so she pulled over to the shoulder, carefully got out and retrieved the phone from the other side. She brushed the rain out of her closed cropped brunette hair and hopped back in.

“OK, Hon, but watch coming in,” cautioned Mom. “All that rain we had last night washed out the road again.”

Then she checked her message.

“Mel, thank God it’s you. I thought maybe you changed your number by now. It’s me, Kar. Listen, I’m coming down for the George Washington holiday weekend. Want to see you real bad. You can reach me at 212-565-5433. Call me, huh?”

Mel was all ready to push delete, then stopped.

She wish it were so easy

She had grown up in Ocala, Florida, to the smell of dog shit and swamp musk, on her Mom’s puppy breeding farm – small dogs only, terriers, mini-doxies, and Chihuahuas – but even this sleepy backwoods place was changing. Condos and housing developments with names only gay guys could think up dotted the road like those black lizard shit pellets on her stoop back at Grandma’s old house in Fort Lauderdale.

Mom was right. The potholes in the road onto the property could swallow up Rhode Island, but Mel went slow with her Jeep and made it fine. The endless chorus of barks made her feel instantly at home. At least with dogs, you knew exactly what they wanted when they spoke.

Feed me or watch out.

“I’m sorry, Hon, could you finish feeding the terriers? All that rain really put me behind. And I still have to start dinner –”

“Don’t worry about cooking. We’ll go to Sammy’s, it’s my treat,” said Mel, “Remember, I’m making good money now.”

“I know, I know, my daughter, the Big City junior advertising executive.” Mom patted Mel on the head. “Talking about money, those developers were around again last week. You know, they upped their offer.”

Sometimes looking at Mom, Mel, a flat-chested string bean who had gone to Florida State playing women’s soccer, often wondered if this plus-size woman really was her mother. And if Mom hadn’t been a toughy in her youth. Maybe they were right. Being gay was in the genes.

“Well, it’s your decision. You know you can always move in with me til you find something,” offered Mel.

“Look, I could have done that when your grandma died instead of having you take care of her old place. Besides, how could I leave all these noisy little bastards and the best paved roads in central Florida?” she quipped, as she headed to the shed for more Puppy Chow.

Before going out to feed the terriers, Mel instinctively went over to the pen that Mom had smack in the middle of the living room, reserved for that handful of newborn runts who weren’t weak enough to be put to sleep. And there was Squeaky, a slip of a Chihuahua, not much bigger than a dog toy, still a bit slow on his feet but definitely with more meat on his bones than the last time that Mel had seen him two weeks before. Mel had fallen in love with the little bastard and, for a moment, her mind was off Kar’s message.

“He ain’t quite ready yet,” said Mom later at Sammy’s Country Diner, reading Mel’s mind. “But I’m pretty sure the next time you come, you’ll be able to take him.”

“Karen called,” said Mel, not looking up.

“You mean, that friend of yours from your college soccer team? Thought she was back in New York.”

“She is. She’s coming down on vacation next week.”

“Hope she doesn’t plan sponging on you,” said Sally pretending to scan the menu that she practically knew by heart.

“Mom, hell, she’s making triple what I am. She’s working for some big-ass PR firm in midtown Manhattan. I’m sure if she’s coming down on vacation, she’ll be staying at one of those high priced hotels by the beach.”

“I’m just telling you, your grandma with all those extra rooms always had freeloading snowbird friends of hers she hadn’t heard from in twenty years come knocking on her door in the winter. Then one of your cousins on your deadbeat daddie’s side came down unannounced. To fix him, your grandma said O.K., but it’ll cost you room and board.”

“You’re kidding!” laughed Mel.

“No, I’m not. The word soon got out. Mildred O’Connor ain’t no patsy. But we never had to worry about that, did we, hon. Us living out in the middle of nowhere like this, close to nothing, nobody wanted to wake up in the morning to the fragrant odor of dog shit.”

The waitress came for their order.

“You and Karen – you guys were pretty tight, weren’t you?” said Mom, dead-toned.

“Yea,” said Mel, glancing out the window. “Were.”

All the way on the ride back, Mel kept replaying Kar’s message in her mind. That way she wouldn’t have to think what it might mean. When she got back, the spa service guy’s mini-van was in the driveway. Mel had left the back gate open for him and found him crouched over in the back of the spa off the patio.

“I see you got this filled up. You try using it yet?” asked the guy, a blonde body-builder type whom she realized she had seen a few times at Jocks Gym with his pretty boyfriend.

“I was, then I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea if somebody looked at it first since it’s gotta be at least fifteen years old,” explained Mel. ”My grandmother died in April and I moved in. But I remember even when I was kid how she said it helped her arthritis.”

“Well, she’s lucky she didn’t get killed,” said the guy, getting up. “I think it’s got one of those nasty shorts that only show up when the water gets hot enough. I’m going to have to order some parts before I can fix it. Just make sure you keep it off and nobody – I mean nobody – use it. O.K.?”

“Should I drain the water?”

“No, I should have the part in by next week.”

Mel had thought she would have been staying at home tonight taking care of Squeaky, but with no dog and Kar’s call still on her mind, she needed to get out. She’d wait til tomorrow to call Kar back. Maybe she’d get lucky and Kar had left the wrong callback number.

Deb’s off Wilton Drive was its usual Saturday night self. Big Packin’ Momma, who had a levi crotch that a male porn star would envy, was by the door collecting the two dollar cover. Mel sometimes fantasized her dating Mom and wondered who’d play butch. She drifted over to her usual spot in a hideaway corner of the rectangular bar and watched the Pool Pattys aim their sticks. Just then, she felt a warm hand touch her shoulder ever so gently. Mel turned around. The girl, her own age give or take, big tits, short and a little chunky but okay, was what Mom would describe as a mutt – “not a pure bred Irish girl like you” – coco-colored with long silky hair and wide Asian eyes, all made up. Not her type, but Mel smiled politely back anyway.

“Listen, you mind having a drink with me?” asked the girl almost pleading.

“Sorry, don’t drink much. I’m a bottled water addict.”

The girl’s façade smile disappeared and suddenly she began tearing up.

“I don’t usually drink much either, but my – my dog died today and I need a drink. Only I don’t want to drink alone.”

Mel instinctively grabbed her hand.

“I’m – I’m sorry. What kind was he?”

“A Boston terrier – just turned four.”

”My mother breeds terriers. Was he sick?’ asked Mel, genuinely sympathetic.

“No,” said the girl, Alisha. “Chucky was fine one minute and having a seizure the next. I rushed him down to the vet emergency center, but it was – it was too late. They said he must have eaten one of those poison toads in the backyard – goddamn Florida!”

An hour and four vodka cranberries later, Mel, who, still thinking of Kar’s message, was pissed that she had thrown away that old prescription of Prozac, thought it time to leave but almost fell over as she got off the stool. Alisha, who apparently could hold her liquor better than she had admitted, caught her by the waist.

“Listen, why don’t you come and sleep it off at my place. My apartment is just around the corner. I promise I won’t hassle you. It’s just I need somebody around tonight – that’s all.”

Mel barely remembered getting on the elevator. In fact, it was the tip of Alisha’s tongue licking her down there that woke her up. Lying on her back on the bed, Mel, who found herself naked, looked down. Alisha, who was crotched down between her legs, lifted her head from her prize and smiled.

“I know I promised, but you’re – you’re so beautiful,” Alisha whispered, moving up onto Mel so that the sweat from Alisha’s heavy breasts on Mel’s ice cones made Mel’s own nipples erect. Then Alisha smothered her with her body and lay her cheek next to Mel’s, breathing deeply but saying nothing. Mel liked her women tall and thin, but there was something comforting about Alisha’s soft, warm, ample flesh. The fingers of Alisha’s left hand slowly began massaging Mel, as Alisha guided Mel’s hand to her own source of pleasure. Soon both of them crossed into the zone of no return.

When Mel awoke for the second time, she found herself on the bed, this time fully clothed. It was after 3 a.m. She could hear water running and saw the light from what appeared to be the bathroom down the hall. She got up and walked in.

There, swallowed up by bubbles, was Alisha soaking in the tub. The stench of their perfumey scent almost made Mel gag. Alisha beckoned to join her.

“I – I have to go,” clipped Mel, holding her breath. “I’m sorry but I’m allergic to all that shit.”

“I’ll – I’ll wash it off,” said Alisha apologetically as she rose from out of the tub, bubbles and suds still enveloping her.

“No, that’s okay,” said Mel, feeling for her car keys and wallet. “I have to go.”

“But I like you!” pleaded Alisha.

“Sorry, but I really have to leave. Sorry about your dog, huh?”

“There was no dog!” she yelled back from the tub, apparently pissed Mel was leaving. “I hate fucken dogs!”

Back home, Mel took a shower, then grabbed the pillow she had pulled out of the closet for Squeaky and stuck it under her arm. One moment she pretended it was the dog, the next moment that it was Kar.

The following morning Mel called her back. Kar was all bubbly and enthusiastic and they set a time and date to meet when she was down. The call lasted all of two minutes but hearing Kar’s voice took Mel to a place in her heart she thought and hoped she had left so long ago.

Though they had barely nodded in the locker room, Mel had eyed Kar, about her height and build but with a darling, heart-shaped face that needed no make-up, right from the beginning of that last season. Kar was a transfer from Ohio State and a pretty damn good field goalie at that. Plus she was showing up Jan who thought she was Miss Hot Shit of South Florida Female Soccer. But to Mel, playing soccer as well as Kar did was only icing on the cake.

Half the women’s team took Miss Marshal for Trig. They had heard she was partial to girls, and not just because she had been an ex-jock herself. But even that didn’t help Kar who was failing famously. Maybe she was little too fem for Marshal’s taste, thought Mel.

One day, out of the blue, as they bumped into one another in the locker room after practice, Kar just blurted it out.

“Listen, Mel, I see you’re a wiz kid in Trig and I’m really messing it up. Do you think you could help me? You know, play tutor. I’d pay you –“

Jan, in earshot, chimed in. “Guess keeping track of all those mutts at your Mom’s puppy mill make you a wiz at numbers, huh?”

Mel fumbled with her locker key.

“Sure, sure I can help you,” she said, as if Jan weren’t there. “But don’t worry about money. Treat me to a movie or lunch or something. If they kick you off the team, we’re all screwed.”

For the next few weeks, Mel helped Kar who, at least, began passing her quizzes. But the tutoring was becoming torturous. Here Mel was sitting inches away from that beautiful woman with the blue-green eyes and sleek-satin face and bod, and all they did was talk numbers.

Then one night the conversation switched gears.

“So Mel, got anyone special?” asked Kar, closing her notebook.

“How – how do you mean?” Mel intentionally kept her eyes riveted to the desk.

“You know someone to roll in the hay with honey as my grandma used to say.”

“Well, it’s not easy when you’re not – not part of the mainstream,” said Mel boldly, but going no further.

“Different strokes for different folks,” said Kar without missing a beat. “I was asking because I was wondering if you’d like to take in that new Tom Cruise flick tomorrow night, you know, my little thank you for helping me out and all.”

“Sure,” said Mel grinning. “That would be great.”

The next night, Mel waited outside the Aventura Cineplex. She knew the night was one big mistake when Kar arrived around the corner with Jan – and their dates, two guys.

“So where’s your beau?” said Jan, smartly.

Mel thought quickly.

“Herb – he wasn’t feeling well.” Herb was a nerd that sat in front of her in Trig. “Looks like I’m going stag tonight.”

“Well, hope Tommy boy shows a little ass in this flick for your sake,” said Kar as they walked up to the ticket booth.

The sacred George Washington weekend, a big one for NYC vacationers, had arrived and they were to meet for lunch that Friday at Catfish Dewey’s, one of Lauderdale’s best known fish places. Mel at first didn’t know what to wear, then decided on her white slacks, low heels, and white polo. She had worn that outfit at an end-of-season awards luncheon when the soccer team was honored and remembered how Kar had told her how nice she looked.

Arriving at Catfish Dewey’s, Mel grabbed a table near the back and waited.

A few minutes later, Kar walked in. Tall, tanned, with white slacks and a white polo, collar turned up. Her combed back hair that was going premature gray in college was now one glaze of sexy white. She immediately saw Mel and gave her a smile and wave as she trotted to the table.

That one hug is all it took.

“We always did think alike,” said Kar infectiously, as she pirouetted around.

“So, how’s everything going?” said Mel, pouring a beer for Kar from the pitcher she had ordered.

“Well, actually everything’s going great. They like me, I like the job. They do pay professional bullshit artists well and I may be in for a promotion. And you? And how’s your mom?”

“Oh, Mom’s doing fine, still steeped in dog doo. I’m doing O.K., too,” said Mel, self-effacing. “I’m an advertising rep at Millers in downtown Lauderdale and the money is good but, you gotta remember, this ain’t New York – they don’t pay ad people down here what they pay up North.”

“I’m just glad I have a chance to dress down sometimes like now,” said Kar. “At work, I have to doll up, you know, like a lipstick lesbian.”

Mel was thrown by that comment but continued to sip her beer.

“But hell, it pays, the guys love me and I use it to the max,” confessed Kar. “A lot of professional women types, you know, they throw their femininity away, think they have to be one of the guys to get what they want. They forget most of these guys want some pussy.”

She smiled slyly, “And I just purr.”

“It’s been awhile,” said Mel. “Almost two years since I saw you or heard from you. Didn’t think we’d run into one another again.”

Just then, Kar put down her beer.

“Oh, so I don’t forget, I’ve got something for you,” and she reached into her handbag. It was her half of a friendship ring necklace that Mel had bought for the two of them after that first season of playing soccer together.

“Remember this?” said Kar smiling.

“I thought – I thought you said you lost it.”

“I did,” she said, “Then I was cleaning out my bookcase a few weeks ago and guess what pops out of our class yearbook.”

She grabbed Mel’s hand and lay it gently in her palm.

“I want you to have it.”

“But I bought it for both of us – you – you should keep your half.”

“No, I want you to have it – it’s better this way.”

Just then at the entrance, behind a foursome of overweight senior widows here for the early bird special, Mel saw her, then so did Kar who got up and began waving almost hysterically.

It was Jan.

Bubbly Shirley Temple blonde hair – that where’s the bubbly stopped – in lean and mean grey dress jeans and a button-down lime blouse.

Mel dropped the jewelry on the floor.

“So, how’s things, Mel?” said Jan when she reached their table. She gave Kar’s hand a quick squeeze, then leaned over and pecked Mel’s cheek. Mel could feel her face burning.

“I didn’t tell you on the phone since I wanted it to be a surprise.” explained Kar neatly. “Jan’s down here with me on vacation.”

“Oh, that’s – that’s great,” said Mel, who bit the edge of her glass like a pacifier.

“Jan works for ABC, not far from my office, behind the scenes in their sports division. She’s one of their up and coming writers, you know.”

“Great – that’s great,” said Mel, “So I guess we’re all professional bullshitters at heart, huh?” She looked at their trio of tits. All of them put together wouldn’t fill one cup of Alisha’s brassiere.

Kar and Jan exchanged a long glance as if Mel weren’t there.

Just like the old days.

The waiter, a tall, cute collegiate type in his blue Catfish Dewey’s T uniform, came for their order.

“So, know any good places to hang out?” asked Jan. We hear there’s a lot gonna on down here.”

“I’m afraid I don’t go out much,” said Mel.

“Never?” said Jan.

“Well, Deb’s,” said Mel, finally testing the waters. “It’s a few blocks from here.”

“Yea, yea, we heard about it from some friends back in New York,” acknowledged Kar.

“It has a reliable crowd most any night,” said Mel, hiding her anger behind a plastered-on smile. “You know how us girls like pool.”

“Yea, you know that pool stick – penis envy,” laughed Jan.

“No smelly, skinny snakes for me, thank you, “said Kar, suddenly edgy.

“That’s why God has to be a She,” said Jan.

“How’s that?” asked Mel.

“Because only She could create plastic – always rigid, always reliable, and always right-on. Men – well even God is entitled to a mistake or two.”

“So, you two – you’re a duo?” said Mel, trying to be matter-of-fact about it.

“Yea,” said Kar beaming back at Jan. “It’ll be three years in June.”

“Too bad we weren’t more open with one another back in school, huh,” said Jan, finally looking Mel straight in the eye.

“Yea,” said Mel. She wished she could pick up the pitcher and finish it off all by herself right there. Or better yet, pour it all over the two of them. But that would be a waste of good beer, she could hear Mom yelling.

“And you, Mel, how’s your love life?’ asked Kar.

“Pretty shitty,” said Mel. “You’re not the only professional, ladder-climbing, lipstick lesbian who needs to keep guys in the office guessing.”

Just then, a shriveled up dingy white haired lady sitting with her hunched over husband at the table next to them turned around slightly and grimaced at Mel.

“Sorry,” said Mel to Kar and Jan softly. “This place is pretty straight.”

“Fuck the old pruney bitch,” said Jan, loud enough so the woman couldn’t help but hear. No reaction from Nursing Home Nelly this time or hubby. Jan grabbed Kar’s hand.

“So, babes, why don’t we check Deb’s out tonight. The holiday weekend should make it festive.”

“We’ll meet up with you there around 9, Mel, how’s that?” suggested Kar politely.

Mel nodded, and for the rest of lunch she put what she had learned in her college sophomore acting class to good use.

As the three of them got up to leave, the old lady next to them mumbled without looking up, “You people are an abomination in the sight of the Lord.”

Jan stopped and stood her square in the face. By now they had created a bit of a scene. Jan liked creating scenes. Mel remembered once how she had beat the shit out of another team’s player for grabbing her ass at the end of a game.

“Listen, lady, if you knew your Bible, really knew your Bible,” said Jan grabbing Kar by the wrist, “You know that Christ was bi anyway. Whatya think he was doing with all those hunky fishermen and Mary Magdalene? Playing mahjong?”

When Mel had moved into her grandmother’s house a few months before, she had found Grandma’s old clothes stowed away in drawers and closets. She had thrown most of it in plastic garbage bags and had been meaning to drop the bags off at one of those Salvation Army bins but never got around it, and so they lay taking up space in the laundry room. Now, as she entered the house after Catfish Dewey’s, she immediately peeled off her slacks and polo and threw them into one of the bags she hadn’t tied up yet, put on some sweats, grabbed the three bags lying there and dumped them in the back of the Jeep. Unloading them at that drop-off bin off Andrews Avenue would be tomorrow’s first priority.

That night, Mel arrived at Jock Gym around 8:30. The place had a mix of after-work guys who were finishing their reps and a young, evening crew wanting to look pumped up for the bars. Mel usually did her work-out early, around 6 in the morning, before showering and heading for the office downtown. But she needed her work-out tonight to keep her mind on idle.

Occasionally in the morning she’d spy a forty-something girl pair doing their reps. Most times she was Jock’s token gay girl. But that didn’t matter, least of all now. She pushed herself to do an extra mile on the treadmill, lifted some light weights for awhile, worked on the abs machine, then sat at the juice bar and shot the breeze with Jimmy as he folded towels, fresh out of the dryer, for the next day’s business.

Ever so slowly sipping her protein shake, Mel watched people cross the parking lot outside, making their way to the trio of bars that surrounded the gym – two boy bars and Deb’s. She kept a watch out but never did see Kar and Jan go in or out.

When Mel got home around 10:30, sure enough there was a message from Kar on her machine. This time, without playing it back, she pushed delete. Then she went over to the spa, checked that the switch was in the on position, walked over to the laundry room where the circuit breaker box was, and switched on breaker 16.

“Sorry,” she said to Kar when she called back the next morning. “I decided to take a nap and ended up sleeping til to 2 a.m.”

“Well, we’re going to Sebastian Beach. Wanna join us?” said Kar.

“Listen, it may be warm out, but the ocean water is too cold to go into this time of year,” said Mel. “Why don’t the two of you come over to my place? We can sit around the pool and have some beers. I even have a spa. I’m warming it up right now just for you guys.”

“That sounds great,” said Kar. “Let me get Jan on. Give her the directs. She’s driving.”

Mel ran over to the Subway’s on Andrews for a few foot longs, then the deli next door for three 6 packs. Kar and Jan’s iridescent blue Saturn convertible rental pulled in just as she was feeding the frig.

The day had started out overcast, but now the sun was high in a cloudless sky, bright and hot and sweaty. Mel gave them a quick tour of the house, then handed them the tube of Walgreen’s sunscreen, SPF 30.

“Wouldn’t want you Yankees getting fried.”

Jan and Kar were wearing matching lime jogging bras and shorts.Mel decided to stay in the tank and baggy black pullovers that she slept in or wore running.

They spoke about Deb’s and Big Packin’ Momma, about people they had known from school, who might have been gay, about New York, and about how Kar and Jan were thinking of buying a condo here and playing snowbirds.

“That way we could see a lot more of one another,” said Kar all girly, as Jan wrapped her arm around her shoulder,

“You know, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you, now that we’re all out to one another,” said Mel, bringing out a third round of Bud Lites.

“What’s that?” said Kar, dabbing on more Walgreen’s.

“You guys – you know – you were already connected when you were sporting those boyfriends that night we saw that Cruise flick?”

“You mean, my beau, Jimmy from Augusta, Georgia?” said Jan feigning a Southern drawl and a gag. “All he wanted me to do was blow him. I told him, fuck off.”

“And Reynolds,” said Kar. “Hell, he was a nice guy, captain of the basketball team, pre-law, I even put out once to see what it was like.” She glanced back at Jan. “But I should have known better.”

Mel finished her beer.

“So all that lovey-dovey boyfriend stuff was just a cover.”

“Total bullshit,” said Kar.

“But, hey, that was their problem,” added Jan.

“Meanwhile, you left me out there in left field,” said Mel in a low monotone, “while all the time …”

Jan got up and walked over to the spa as Kar leaned over and gently reached for Mel’s hand. Mel pulled away.

“Gees, I’m sorry, Mel, but I didn’t think it was a big deal,” said Kar. “We all throw around a lot of crap in the beginning. I guess I was a wardrobe lessie then, you know, still halfway stuck in my closet.”

Mel lay her hands firmly on Kar’s shoulders and looked her straight in the eye but said nothing.

“Enough of all this philosophizing bullshit,” said Jan impatiently, pulling off her sports bra. “O.K. if we take a plunge?”

“Sure, sure,” said Mel, strangely drawn to the sudden sight of Jan’s small, firm breasts.

Kar picked up on Jan’s cue and casually let her bra and short fall to the patio tile.

“Want to join us?” She smiled, thrusting out her breasts, a bit more fleshy than Mel had remembered from the locker room shower, as Jan dropped her shorts.

“Sure, sure in a minute,” said Mel. “Let me get the sandwiches.”

Mel stared from the kitchen at the living room mirror, which offered a view of the spa, transfixed as Jan turned to face Kar, pressing her breasts and hips deeply against Kar’s for one eternal moment before they climbed into the tub. For a second, Mel felt a surge down in her groin, not knowing whether what excited her was Jan’s moves, or these handsome women in all their nakedness, or her longing to be as close to Kar as Jan was to her now. For a moment she was tempted to take Kar up on her offer and join them.

“How do you get the water hotter?” Jan yelled over.

Mel hesitated to answer, then, taking a deep breath, yelled back, “There’s the dial on the right. Just turn it up.”

Mel waited quietly in the kitchen, staring into the open refrigerator for what must have been five, maybe ten minutes. When the tiny bulb in the frig flickered twice, the sounds of splashing stopped.

She closed the refrigerator door and glanced over, unwrapped her chicken sub with Russian dressing, and took a few bites.

Then she grabbed the wall phone and dialed 911.

It wasn’t until Mel had gotten back from the two funerals in New York that she was able to visit Mom.

“Honey, I am so, so sorry. What a terrible thing to have happen. But you gotta always remember, it wasn’t your fault. It was just an accident. You had no way of knowing…”

“I know,” said Mel unemotionally. “I’m surprised nothing happened to grandma.”

“Mel, you know your grandmother was such a bitch, I don’t think a power line would have made her flinch,” laughed Sally.

Mel walked over to the pen in the living room.

“Can – can I take him home – you know it’s kinda lonely in that house, especially now –“

“Sure Hon, Squeaky’s all ready. I even gave him a bath.”

Mel picked up the potato sack of a dog. They exchanged looks, then she gently carried him out and put him in the back seat on the pillow she had readied for him weeks ago.

Who needed people? Squeaky was enough.

A half hour later, she was breezing along at 80 miles an hour, not thinking about all that had happened, only what lay ahead. She was just about ready to toss the two halves of the friendship ring necklace she had given Kar out the window when she felt something soft under the brake pedal.

It was Squeaky.

He had crawled underneath the seat and lodged himself right under the pedal.

She wanted to swerve over to the shoulder somehow, but she was in the left lane and traffic was heavy. She couldn’t slow down without crushing the dog, so she instinctively yanked at the emergency brake, losing control and jumping over the concrete divider right into a mile long tractor trailer.

The friendship ring necklace was still clutched in Mel’s hand when they pulled what was left of her out of the mangled mess.

Squeaky, on the other hand, was just fine.

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