This is a work of fiction.
“What?!” Stacey screamed into my ear for the second time that day. I was starting to get a headache. “We lose our jobs and then he goes on a shopping spree? What did he buy and when?”
“Calm down,” I said. “All of these transactions were made before you left for Hawaii, and most are cash advances. Each one is for $1,000.”
“Okay. I’m going to see if I can change the flight. I’ll call you when I know the date.”
“Stacey, wait—” But she was already gone.
As I went back inside, I wondered if one of the boys could have taken cash from the credit card, but no, they were too young to have thought of doing that. I decided not to ask them about it.
I went into the living room and found everybody except Sammy.
“Have you seen Sammy?”
“I think he’s talking on the phone,” Curly said.
“Where? In his room?”
I checked which room was his and went upstairs. I knocked on his door.
“It’s Grandma. Is something wrong?”
The door opened and he stood there, ashen-faced and clutching a cordless phone.
Who had he been talking to?
“Are you okay?”
He shook his head.
“Is this about Popeye?”
“About your mom?”
He shook his head and said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Oh, he must have had a fight with Kristin.
He walked past me and went down the stairs.
As I followed him, I hoped he wouldn’t burden Freckles or even Curly with whatever they’d argued about, but would come to me.
We were all quiet on the way to pick up Popeye’s ashes.
When we arrived, the place was very busy.
An awkward young man who mumbled his name picked up an urn and then almost dropped it.
“Th-this is P-popeye,” he said.
“Thank you, sir,” Curly said, taking the urn and smiling tenderly. “He was the best dog ever.” The young man retreated and Curly said, “Can we . . . take him to camp?”
“Oh, yes, that’s a great idea. Let’s go back to the van for a few minutes. I’d better call before the office closes and check if we can stay longer.”
I didn’t tell them their mom was trying to change the flight. If she and Chuck came home early, the kids didn’t have to go home right away.
Ten minutes later, I sighed and put my phone away.
“Sorry, they’re all booked up next week. We can stay until Monday morning, but then we have to go to your house or mine.”
I turned around in my seat and looked at them. The boys were listening, but Lydia was looking at something. I followed her gaze and saw a man carrying a cardboard box and a woman holding what I thought was a puppy.
“I think those people are probably taking their pets to the kennel while they’re away. This reminds me, um, your mom asked me if we would go and get a dog. She said coming home to a house without a dog would make her very sad.”
I looked at Curly, wondering if he was going to be upset, but he nodded.
“Would you like to wait until we come back from camp?”
“I don’t know. Can we take a new dog to camp?”
“If we’re careful, yes.”
The people walked toward the building, but went around the corner to our left.
Where were they going? It was impossible not to see the sign for the kennel.
“Yeah,” Curly said.
“I’ll check on my phone to find a place where we can adopt a dog.”
I searched for animal shelters nearby, and was surprised to see the address for the kennel, but with a different unit number.
I opened the door and we all got out.
We went around the corner of the large building and found an entrance.
We all walked in and heard a lot of barking and meowing.
The man and woman were at a counter.
“He’s old enough,” the woman was saying. “I’m sure he is.”
“He looks about two weeks old,” the middle-aged lady behind the counter said. “He shouldn’t have been taken from his mother.”
“That’s news to me,” she said. “Anyways, I can’t deal with him. Thanks.” She turned around, half-smiled at us, and left.
Without her body blocking the counter, I could see a cute puppy squirming on the cheap laminate.
“What kind of dog is he?” Curly whispered.
“A Labrador Retriever.”
“What’s his name?” Freckles asked.
“She didn’t say.”
“Whose dog is he?” Curly said.
“We’ll call around and see if any of our foster families can take him.”
The man holding the box cleared his throat.
“Sorry,” the woman said to him. “How can I help you?”
“My girlfriend’s father’s allergic to cats, and if I want to visit them, I can’t be covered in cat hair.”
He looked sadly at the box in his arms.
“Lydia just had kittens, and I don’t think they’re old enough to leave her, so I can’t find homes for them yet.”
He put the box down carefully.
“Could you see if anybody can foster them until they’re old enough to leave their mom?”
“Yes, of course.” She opened the box. “Have you named the kittens?”
“No, I couldn’t bear to name them.”
Lydia looked longingly at the box.
The woman said, “Four females and their mom, all calicos.” She smiled sadly at the man. “You’re correct, they still need to be with Mom. With her, it’ll be easier to find somebody to care for them as she’ll do most of the mothering.”
The puppy made a sound.
“Can he be our dog?” Curly asked.
“Do we need special training to look after him?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said. “You need to feed him formula, but it’s not too much different from caring for a baby.”
“Please Grandma, can we have the kittycat with my name?”
“No,” Sammy said. “Mom doesn’t like cats.”
“She’s never had one,” I said. “I had them growing up, but when I got married, we didn’t get any pets. May I take the kitties? I have my own house if their parents don’t want cats.”
The man smiled at me.
“I’m Trevor. I’d be honored if you’d look after them. I’ve had Lydia for two years, ever since she was a kitten herself.”
“We can’t have both,” Sammy said. “Dogs eat cats, and Mom wants a dog.” He grinned triumphantly at Lydia.