Trevor went up to the doghouse first. He put his hand on the cage door and looked in there. He turned around and he looked so sad. Tara got next to him and looked, and she started crying again.
Cal looked in there, and shook his head. Then I looked. It was too much for me.
The boy hopped off the bed. He paced around the bag in semi-circles. The Chummy on the back of his shirt sneered at me. Hey, kid, he’s right behind you. Right there in the closet. We gotta look ahowt fah ah own.
The tyrant tapped the bag with his foot, then put his hands behind his back and rocked. He whispered something about apple juice.
Then he dropped down to one knee. I couldn’t see the bag. Chummy thrust his beak out at me like a witch’s fingernail.
A woman’s voice screeched from the hallway. “What is this? What happened?” The cat tensed. The boy backed away from the bag until he bumped into the bed.
“What happened here? Who did–” It was the mother, screaming from someplace in the hallway. The boy ran out of the room. My bag remained. Had he opened it?
“Cal…get up here!” The bird blasted its hell sirens again. “Shut up. You stupid—shut up Hemmy!”
From a distance, the husband: “The hell’s goin’ on up there?”
“The lamp—I can’t—the lamp. It’s broken.”
I slinked across the room. The bag was upside down and caved in. I flipped it. He hadn’t opened it. But would the brat mention it to his parents? I grabbed it, then returned to the closet.
The bird’s screams jackhammered through the crack in the closet. So did the mother’s. “Ah, look at this. Blood on the—I can’t believe this. Cal. Cal! Turn off that damn game and get up here.”
Then I realized that the hallway carpet wasn’t the only blood billboard. Standing in the middle of the bedroom was the cat, my blood blaring all over its white fur.
The voice got louder. “Cal, get up here. Mac! Where’s Mac? Mac, you come here right now.”
The cat started to hobble toward the closet.
With her back to the bedroom, the mother appeared at the doorway. Short hair, red as the bricks on their house, and dampened by Houston heat.
Three feet in front of the closet, the cat stopped. It looked back at the woman and licked its side. The thing looked like it just got done rolling around on a Civil War battlefield.
She mumbled, “Where is he?” At the back of her neck, the hair tapered and bent to the right, just like the bottom of Texas. Or a tornado.
The cat tottered closer. Two feet.
I opened the closet and the door made a sifting sound. The woman had something. Long and thin and red. She started to turn toward me.
I scooped up the cat. Electric red, dangling from her hand.
The cat and I slipped back into the closet. She turned back toward the hallway. I made it.
“Hi Mac.” Her voice was calmer. The red thing shwicked as she twisted it around her hand. She put it behind her back. “Come here, boy. Come on.”
Mac, tail flapping and tongue hanging, bounced up to the doorway. She yanked him into the room, then let the red thing hang again. She slammed the bedroom door and I closed the closet door.
More shwicking, then it dawned on me: The red thing was a licorice rope, in a plastic wrapper. A crack and the dog yelped.
“Bad dog. What did you do, you stupid idiot dog? Huh? What did you do?”
Mac’s whines sounded like a squeaky tricycle.
“Stupid dog you broke her lamp.” Another crack and yelp. “Her light bulb?”
I cracked the door. Mac lay on the carpet, his ears folded down.
“Broke the bulb. And the carpet. Dummie. You might’ve ruined it. Ruined the carpet. My carpet!”
The bedroom door opened a bit, then the husband slipped in. He wore a red Astros cap, and held a yellow extension cord.
The dog, shaking, whimpered and backed up.
He twirled the end of the cord. “My turn yet?”
“No, not now.” The woman grabbed a handful of the dog’s side and it howled. She walked to the door. “Get out of my sight. Get out. Out!” Mac dashed out of the room.
The husband ran the cord through his fingers. “We gotta teach him some discipline. I’ll teach him some discipline.”
She said, “What about the kids?”
“I’ll do it in the garage. They won’t hear. I’ll turn the music on.”
“Fine. But do it tonight, after they’re in bed.”
“All right. I’m starving. Let’s go eat.”