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A boy, ten maybe twelve, no older, listens to his mother describe the couches she has listed for sale in the paper to someone over the phone. “You really got to like gold because this couch has a matching love seat and they’re both very gold.” She laughs again. “The other couch?” She seems to have forgotten about the third couch. “Yes, the brown couch. That’s a nice one. Really comfortable. I don’t let the dog inside so there ain’t no dog hair.” The boy is sitting on the brown couch, the couch he’s never found comfortable because the pillows are so large in the back they nearly shove him off the couch.
“The lady says she’s leaving her house in ten minutes,” the mother tells her son. “I warned her this place was a mess, everything boxed up. Hell, we’re moving. I hope she buys the couches. They’re cheap enough.”
The boy doesn’t say anything. He walks outside to where the dog is tied up to a doghouse. He wonders what kind of dump they’ll live in when they move to Arizona.. “Came here to marry your worthless father,” she always reminds him. “Piece of shit. I know I shouldn’t talk like that about him, but sometimes you just gotta call a spade a spade.”
Once, when his dad was storming out of the trailer, the boy mumbled, “Good riddance, turd,” and his mother threatened to wash his mouth with soap. “That ain’t no way to talk about your daddy.”
The boy sees the blue car pull up their driveway. Rita stops the car, not sure if she wants to continue after seeing the dog barking and yanking his leash as far as it goes.
Seeing the trailer, the dog tied to the short leash, she remembers when she used the online dating service Plenty of Fishes. It should have been called Plenty of Rednecks. Her “date’s” truck wasn’t working so she offered to pick him up. He had five filthy beagles stuck in a tiny pen filled with dog crap. When he noticed she was picking a flea off her leg, he said, “You should’ve worn your flea collar on this date.” That line really cracked him up. She knew he had used that line on other women. “Hey, what about our date?” he screamed after she got back in her car and simply drove off. Ever since her beagle Petey died, she had been dogless. She could handle the fleas, but seeing his sad beagles was too much.
The boy’s mother steps out of the trailer and ushers Rita toward the trailer, far away from the dog. The boy sits on the gold couch and listens to his mother tell the wonders of the couches.
“It’s got a matching love seat in my bedroom,” she tells Rita, pointing to the gold couch.
The idea of a love seat being in her bedroom makes Rita feel slightly depressed.
“I think I’ll give this reclining chair to whoever buys the couch,” she says pointing to the raggedy chair.
Rita feels sickened at the prospect of taking the gold couches and the freebie chair.
“Let me think about it. I’d have to find a friend who’d let me use a truck,” she says inching out of the trailer. The dog barks, yanking on his leash, looking even more pitiful than the couches and chair.
“She’s not coming back,” the boy says.
“You don’t know that, Mr. Smarty-pants. She’s thinking about it.”
“Damn,” Rita curses to herself, pulling back up the driveway. “You selling the dog?” she asks the boy.
“For real?” he asks, knowing his mother would just leave the dog on the leash when they head to Arizona. “Let the landlord deal with him,” she warned her son. “He ain’t coming with us.”
“She wants to buy Gomer!” the boy yells to his mother
“Gomer? That’s our family pet,” she explains to Rita. “He ain’t for sale.”
“Really? He’s coming with us?” the boy asks.
She gives her son a dirty look to quiet him.
“I understand. I can see he’s a member of the family,” Rita says returning to her car.
“You can have him for thirty bucks. He’s a good dog. One of the best.”
The boy remembers when he used to tell his mother that, long ago when he was a puppy, before he was tied to the chain all day and night.
Rita walks toward Gomer and he growls. She wonders why she’s doing this.
The boy unleashes Gomer and he’s unsure what to do. He starts to race down the driveway and the boy stops him and drags him to the car. Rita opens the door and he jumps in the front seat as if he’s been riding in her car every day.
“Thirty bucks,” the mother laughs. “That’s the biggest joke of the day.”
The boy knows Gomer will be better off with this strange woman than being left behind for the landlord to shoot.
“Gomer,” Rita says. He looks at her, waiting for her to say something else.
“You need a bath.” He wags his tail. She imagines him sleeping next to her bed and laughs. “Funny how things work out.”
Gomer sticks his head out the window. Even he knows how fortunate he is that his luck has just turned.
Diane teaches creative writing at University of Arkansas-Monticello,where she is also faculty advisor of Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, http://www.foliateoak.uamont.edu. She is the author of two novels: Burning Tulips and A New Kind of Music. She has been published in hundreds of literary magazines, which most recently include: Fiction International, The Rambler, Tea Party, and Arkansas Literary Forum. More info can be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~dianepayne/
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