Rocky used to be the best dog ever. My Mom used to be married to my Dad. Now Dad is in Jamaica with Aunt Sandy. Mom said Aunt Sandy is dead. I said, no, I’ve seen pictures of her lately with Dad in the Caribbean. Mom said, she’s dead to me.
We live in two rooms over a dry cleaning shop. And now, so does Rusty. Mom’s boyfriend thinks he’s a renaissance man, but he’s a shoe salesman with bowling issues. He used to be a bowling ball salesman with shoe issues, but as Rusty says, he’s evolved.
Rocky and me were inseparable since he was a puppy. Until Rusty moved out of his Ford Econoline and into Mom’s room, Rocky used to follow me to the fishing hole. He’d run alongside when I rode my bike. He gets excited by the noise playing cards woven through the wheels make. When I broke my arm jumping off a swing, Rocky knew I was hurt. He’d lay his head down on my cast. There never was a more loyal dog.
Rusty started carrying a baggie of ham pieces in the pocket of his jean jacket. Everyone knows Rocky is hopelessly addicted to pork. Rusty calls my dog nicknames, like “Cochise,” and “Ole Yeller.” He scratches the scruff behind Rocky’s ears. I hate it.
Once the ham bag comes out, Rocky forgets that I’m his person. He runs right over to Mom’s boyfriend. When we’re by ourselves I tell Rocky he’s too smart for that, but he looks at me like he doesn’t have a clue. He really isn’t as smart as I thought.
Mom says I’ll like Rusty better if I give him a chance.
Mom says Dad isn’t coming back because of something called extradition laws.
Rusty asked if I wanted a new bike, and a nice ten-speed, not a piece of crap Schwinn one-speed that Rocky runs beside. He calls me “Sporto,” and “Champ,” and “Killer.” I hate that.
I’m never going to like him. Him and Mom think I’m asleep when they have Alone Time. I’m not asleep. I just don’t want to talk about it. Sometimes a man has to be a man, Rusty says.
Rusty watches Jeopardy on TV and shouts the answers out while I’m trying to read books. When he’s right, Rusty says, “Golden.” He sits there slipping Rocky ham and whispering things in Mom’s ear that make her giggle and smack his shoulder. It’s gross.
Mom says we can become a real family or else I should move out on my own.
I tell Mom that I’m fifty-five years old, and now isn’t the right time yet. Some people desert their families. Other people, you can count on them forever and ever.
I thought Rocky was loyal, but I was wrong.
Dad’s postcard had a picture of white sand on the front with Come to Jamaica!! written on it. He forgot to write anything on the back except our address.
Todd Mercer of Grand Rapids, Michigan won the first Woodstock Writers Festival’s Flash Fiction contest. His chapbook, Box of Echoes, won the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press contest and his digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, is forthcoming from Right Hand Pointing. He’s a multi-year judge of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards and Independent Publisher’s Poetry Book of the Year Awards. Mercer's poetry and fiction appear in Apocrypha & Abstractions, The Bactrian Room, Blink Ink, Blue Collar Review, The Camel Saloon, Camroc Press Review, Cease, Cows, Cheap Pop, Dunes Review, East Coast Literary Review, Eunoia Review, Falling Star, 50-Word Stories, The Fib Review, Gravel, Kentucky Review, The Lake, The Legendary, Main Street Rag Anthologies, Melancholy Hyperbole, Misty Mountain Review, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, theNewer York, One Sentence Poems, Postcard Poems and Prose, Postcard Shorts, Right Hand Pointing, River Lit, The Second Hump, and Spartan.