Writers (in order): Alyssa Tang*, Joel L, BN, Lilia Vine*, Nina Li, Irene Tsen*, Sophie*, Surya Saraf, Mariarosa Cerritos. Editor: Ms. Wilson.
Every summer, our month-long excursion to the tropics is capped off by a weeklong stay at our small cabin in the mountains. It’s a simple thing: a squat, rectangular landmark where the trees thicken and the roads turn to dirt. My favorite part has always been the quaint veranda with vines curling up under a makeshift drape of spare curtains and a solemn rocking chair swaying with the wind. It’s perfect. However unremarkable and indistinguishable from the rest of the neighborhood it is (except for, of course, that lonely veranda), that’s what it is to me: perfect. It is perfect to me because it reminds me of summer. It reminds me of summer with me, you, and that neighbor’s dog.
It was a long time ago, but I remember it clearly. The dog had lived with the neighbors for years, but you had paid him no heed and he certainly paid you no love, yipping as we walked by each morning.
That all changed one day while it rained. They’d forgotten to bring the dog back inside the house, and he had stood there at the door, pawing at it wistfully. We were in your living room when you decided to take pity on it. The neighbors were livid, of course, but by then it was too late. We had fallen in love with it. We met him again the next morning in the yard, crouched in the shade of the lone tree to which he was tethered. At the end of the week, the neighbors trusted us enough to let us walk it, and at the end of the month, he stayed at your house when they went away for a weekend.
At the end of the summer, the neighbors moved away, taking that little white dog that had stolen our hearts with them. We missed him of course, but life went on. We went to different schools in the fall, you going to tenth grade, I to the ninth, and pinky-promised to keep in contact. Even so, we drifted apart without the little white dog, the glue of our friendship, to hold us together.
It was the summer before college when the dog came into our lives again. He wasn’t alive, but newly dead behind the path of our tires.
It was then that we realized that we had never known its name, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that he was dead now, by us nonetheless, completely and utterly lifeless.
Right before we hit it, he was running towards us as if he knew who it was driving. It truly was weird to think that the dog recognized us no matter where we were. Whether we were lounging by the veranda or driving down the road, he came hurtling towards us with that same enthusiasm he’d always had. It made it seem like we were connected way beyond just being neighbors in the mountains at the cabin.
It was almost as though there were some memories that were blocked about both the dog and us…
I remember you frantically stepping out of the car, cursing. I was crying, realizing what you had done behind the wheel.
“You hit him! You hit him!”
I pushed open the car door and my heart stopped. He was gone. The dog that we knew for so long, that I had just seen you hit with our car, was gone. You and I stood there in disbelief, staring at the empty road.
Seconds passed before we looked at each other in confusion. Not a single trace of what we had seen remained on the road, nor did a single speck of blood indicate the incident. It was impossible that both of us hallucinated the same thing, but we couldn’t deny reality.
The next day, we regrouped and searched for answers. The owners must have moved back to this neighborhood. We hoped finding them might explain what had happened.
We couldn’t outright tell them we had killed their dog, of course. So you and I sat down in their living room; our plan was to ask after the dog (and our neighbors, but to a lesser extent) had been since our last encounter years ago.
“Candytuft?” the wife asked, her eyes agape and the color of her face draining. “He… Well…”
“He just disappeared one day,” her husband interjected, finishing the dreadful sentence for her. “The only child we ever had, gone. Some days, I can’t sleep.”
The wife looked up mournfully. “I can barely eat.”
They must have been expecting indifference to the news, but it had the opposite effect. Our hearts dropped, and we loved Candytuft more than ever. Candytuft, the pristine white dog whose fur was as fleecy as the petals of a candytuft, was robbed once again. Guilt for what we had done entwined our hearts like the vines on that beautiful veranda, strangling our friendship.