The small pup gnawed a hole in the sock

by Henry E. Powderly II

It was a clear, balmy summer day. A dense, foggy wind blew around him, gluing him to the wicker chair on his front porch.

He'd been ten years in the same job, in a stuffy cube, his only joy when he came home for lunch, since the office was just a few miles from his house.

When his coworkers headed out to the same old delis or chain burger shops, he drove home, warmed leftovers in the microwave and ate in peace. During the summer, he loved it best when he brought his food outside and ate it on his front porch, sitting in his wicker chair, watching Northern Flickers horde seeds from the bird-feeder, behind a curtain of humidity, nibbling away.

It was only a month ago that he'd gotten a puppy for his kids, a doughy pug named Beets who he'd walk around his yard while his food overcooked in the microwave. He'd bring Beets out on the porch with him, fasten the leash to a leg of his wicker chair and scratch the dog between its eyes, in between bites.

Each day he pampered the dog longer, his lunch lasting an hour, or an hour and ten minutes. All we wanted to do was bring the dog back to work with him, to tie its leash around his swivel chair. If only Beets could curl up on his lap as he sat in that cubicle, taking calls and typing messages.

Yet today he left Beets inside to whimper behind the front door as he sat in the humid heat, sipping the last of the iced tea he had made that morning

It's downsizing, not a reflection of his work, the boss had said before sending him to wipe clean his cube.

Though someone had wiped clean his computer already, and he wondered what had happened to the picture of his kids that used to fill the screen.

During the drive home he felt his toe sticking through a fresh hole in his sock.

Though he hardly remembered that drive down the snaky road that coiled around the lake he'd so often passed and stared at. He remembered the hole.

And when he took off his shoes on his porch the white-washed wood felt hot and wet under that toe, except in the spot where Beets had chewed away the paint.