The house we lived in had a red, "Sold" magnet stuck over the yellow tin "For Sale" sign in our front yard. I gave the sign a slap as I got home from school before hopping the fence into the back yard to wrestle with my St. Bernard, Fenway, named for the celebrated stadium the Boston Red Sox call home. "Fenway, Come here boy. Fenway. "I got down into a crouch and braced myself for an impact that didn't come. "Fen-way!"
I ran inside and asked my mom if she let Fenway in the house. She was wrapping our plates and bowls in newspaper and putting them in a box she had already written "Dishes" on with a Sharpie. She said "Of course not," and reminded me that he was an outside dog and asked if the gate was open? She said that maybe he got out.
"No. The gate was shut," I said. I was positive that it was latched when I got home, so I told her I was going to ride my bike around to look for him. I double-checked the gate before setting off on my Huffy that was a little too small for me. I went up and down our street three times before deciding to head toward the baseball diamond and then across town to the old cemetery. I asked neighbors and strangers along the way if they'd seen a St. Bernard. Nobody had seen my dog.
I pulled up to the house and my mom was out front watering her hydrangeas and said, "Oh Honey, I told you that the gate was probably open. "I looked again to find the gate now open and swinging.
When my dad finally got home from work he stepped out of his pick-up with a new Red Sox hat in his hand that he wordlessly handed me. I said, "Thank you" and put the hat on, uninterested in why I was receiving the gift. "Dad, Fenway's gone. We've gotta find him," I pleaded. He lumbered across the yard like a gangster, kissed my mom and told me to get in the truck.
I slid across the bench seat, closer to my dad, to have a better view out of every window when he asked, "Have you thought about what color you want to paint your new room? "I didn't answer but he didn't seem to notice and kept on. "There'll be a lot of new things in Cedar Springs. New room, new school, new friends," he looked at me, "new TV channels," he laughed and nudged me with his elbow. "It'll be real different at first. We're gonna have to stick together. But, I've got a good feeling about it. A real good feeling. "We drove around town – up and down each street – but we didn't find Fenway. I asked if we could check nearby Machias or even Ackley Pond but it was time for dinner.
Back home we ate chicken casserole. "No hats at the dinner table," my Mom told me and I took off my new cap, placing it on the ground under my chair.
Afterwards, as I cleared the table, she reminded me that I
still needed to finish packing up my room. I threw away the last of the paper
plates and asked if someone would take me back out to look for Fenway a little
"What did I just say? " Mom
asked, as she poured gin and tonics. "We
need you to pack. Come on. Help us out. "
"Can we go tomorrow? "I asked.
"I said, 'We'll see,'" my mom snapped and handed my dad his drink.
That night I didn't get much packed. I went right to bed, though I couldn't sleep. I kept looking at the spot where Fenway would lay, every night, snoring and farting in his sleep. I loved the disgusting noises that dog could make.
On one occasion a few years before, when I was only a pup myself, I leaned my face in next to his to listen to the rough sounds of his sleep. In a startle and without thinking, a ten-month-old Fenway woke up and snapped at my face with his sharp puppy teeth. It took six stiches to mend the wound and a visit from a police officer to determine that Fenway was fit to remain a pet in our home.
I rolled over in my bed and looked at the picture of Fenway and me in a pile of yellow and orange leaves, that I had in a cheap plastic frame on my nightstand. I touched my upper lip and fingered the tiny, almost unnoticeable scar and cried.
At around two or three in the morning I got up and emptied my nightstand drawer onto the matted carped of my room. I threw away everything from the drawer except the Trapper-Keeper that housed my baseball cards. I flipped through the plastic sheets of the binder and moved all of the Red Sox players from the front four pages to the middle where I had everyone sorted by position. I pulled the picture of Fenway and me out of the frame and tucked it between the cover and the first page before placing the binder in the bottom of one of the boxes I was suppose to fill with my things.
I spent the next three days determined, riding my bike up and down the fields near the house and through the parks in our town. I hiked the nine-mile loop trail along the Cutler Coast calling his name and I went door-to-door to homes and businesses asking if anybody had seen my dog. Each night my mom asked me how school was and I'd say it was fine. Each morning I'd throw out my sack lunch in a neighbor's trash can and set out again to spend every minute I could that day looking for Fenway.
After the third day of my search my parents were waiting for me when I got home. They were furious. Where the hell have I been? Why haven't I been at school? Why isn't my room packed? He is JUST a dog.
"I'm not going anywhere without him!" I wailed desperately. "You'll have to leave without me. "
I was slapped for talking back, and slapped again when I said that I hated them. My mother's ring had cut me under my right eye and a trickle of blood started to fall down my cheek. I touched my face and rubbed the blood between my thumb and finger as I looked at her. "Why won't you help me?"
She turned away, crying, and my father sent me to my room. "You can't talk to your mom like that, buddy. "
That night she opened my door and said that she'd, "spend all day tomorrow looking for Fenway," while I was at school. She brushed my hair with her hand and kissed me on the forehead before saying she was sorry. I never opened my eyes.
The next morning I went to school for the last time and knew she wouldn't find him.
We moved two days later. As we drove away my mother leaned over and wiped away my tears telling me that everything was going to be okay. That I was going to love Cedar Springs. "It would have been really hard to move across the country with a dog," she said.
When we stopped for gas a few hours later I said that I was
going to the bathroom but after I locked
the door behind me I wiped my eyes and threw out my Red Sox hat instead.
BIO: Jeff Marcus Wheeler holds a Masters degree from the University of Denver and is a member of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop. He is a fighter, a lover, a hater, and a liar. He is not sorry for partying. He currently lives in San Francisco with his wife and English Bulldog, Battier, and one day he'll have to throw away his Duke Blue Devils hat.