Man’s Best Friend by Kathy Jeffords

“I should get a job,” I blurt. “We need the money.”

Michael kisses me on the forehead. “I have you. I have the baby. That’s all I need.”

Zippers barks.

“Okay,” Michael amends. “We’ve got each other. We’ve got the baby. We’ve got our dog. That’s all we need.”

“Bella’s eighteen months old. I was supposed to take six weeks of maternity leave, not quit.”

“You love being a stay-at-home mom. We’re fine.”

We’re not fine.

“Have a good day, you two,” he says. “No digging in the backyard while I’m at work.”

“I swear I won’t.”

Michael winks. “I was talking to Zippers. I just don’t understand why he’s started the digging.”

***

Five minutes after Michael leaves, there’s a tap on the back door. I open it and pull Scott in. His strong hands grip my hips. He backs me against the wall. His mouth finds mine in a way Michael’s has forgotten how to. His hands get tangled in my hair.

I pull away, realizing I didn’t close the door. Zippers slipped out.

“Zippy!”

Scott’s hand caresses my neck. “Just leave him out there.”

“He might dig under the fence and escape. Michael would never forgive me.”

“Babe, the dog whines outside the door. It’s a buzzkill.”

“Would you rather him come in and watch?” I arch my eyebrows.

Scott groans. Then he gives me that look that makes my knees weak. “Master bedroom?”

“No.”

“One day, I’ll convince you.”

Probably. But today is not that day.

I bring Zippers inside. He whimpers when I shut him out of the guest room.

I spend most of my time with Scott trying to ignore the guilt, trying to ignore the fact that I might love this man who is not my husband.

***

“Come with us today,” Scott says, buttoning his shirt. Since the weather has turned cooler, he’s been walking Zippers for me.

“What?” I ask.

“I have something to show you.”

“But Bella. I can’t leave her alone.”

Or take her on a stroll with my lover.

“We’ll be gone ten minutes. I’ll call your cell. Leave it in the nursery. We’ll take mine so we’ll hear if she wakes up.”

With a kiss, he persuades me.

***

We sneak out the side gate. A wall of shrubs conceals us as we make our way into the woods behind the neighborhood.

Zippers trots ahead of us, as if he knows the way.

We walk until the path ends.

“Let’s go back.”

Scott holds up his phone, the call still connected. “She’s fine. Sound asleep. Besides, we’re here.”

In front of us is a trench, wide and deep.

Zippers yanks at his leash, trying to get to it, causing me to nearly trip over a fallen limb. Scott steadies me.

“What is this?” I ask.

Scott grins at me. “A grave. For Michael.”

I recoil. “What?”

“I trained Zippers to dig,” Scott says. “Saved me a lot of manual labor.”

Zippers wags his tail, proud of himself.

  • : Flash Fiction

Comments

  1. del richards

    ooooo! my kind of story! Good idea too. Poor Michael!
    It is pedantic of me to say, but I was always told to put a comma after ‘X says, ‘ when that person continues the conversation immediately afterwards ‘I trained Zippers to dig’, Scott says, ‘Saved me a lot of manual labour.’ – so that it becomes one sentence. Do you think that makes it run more smoothly? That applies to the first line too.
    I admire the way you kept this so crisp and in the same tense. And those short sentences sound so realistic.
    Excellent title and use of prompt.

  2. Susan O'Neal

    My kind of story too! At first I worried something awful was going to happen to the baby because your misdirection was so good, but your ending was just perfect. Funnily enough, I was taught to punctuate dialogue exactly as you have done, whatever works, huh?

    My favourite line is “Would you rather him come in and watch?” I arch my eyebrow. Poor Michael….

  3. Chantel

    Love this piece. You had me all the way to the end. The direction in which you took the story is very well-written. Well done. In my opinion, in this piece of dialogue: “I was talking to Zippers. I just don’t understand why he’s started the digging.” I would leave out the part where he says ‘I was talking to Zippers.’ Everyone knows that already, including the characters. The humour is more effective without it too. Still point out the strangeness of the digging though. It’s necessary foreshadowing. I hope that makes sense. Great work. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Amrita Sarkar

    Oh God! I am reading some really intense stories this month. I believe there is a direct relation between a shorter word count and intense fictional pieces. I sort of felt bad for Michael right from the start. But when the story ended, I kind of wanted to rush to him and let him know what was in store for him. That’s the flow of your story – crisp and smooth. I really want to know what happens to Michael though. Have you considered a follow-up? 🙂 Enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. K McLain

    Nice twist! Not what I was expecting, but really enjoyable the way it lured me in. I also like that you left unresolved your narrator’s reaction to Scott’s proposal–it worked to leave a lot of things unsaid in this story, especially given the word count. Great job!

  6. cmschneider1418

    Loved the twist at the end! Such a wonderful story, very clear and the imagery was great as well! You did a lot with the limited word count! Great read, I’d love to know what happens next.

  7. Sue Maynes

    Definitely not the expected ending. The casual light-hearted way Scott plotted Michael’s death added to the chill of the ending. A fully fleshed story in the 500 words!

  8. Gold

    Yes, good twist at the end, totally unexpected. Good read. I consulted Grammerly for the question of an interrupted speech –
    You can do both, “I trained Zippers to dig,” Scott says, “saved me a lot of manual labour.” (but you will need the saved with lower case s if you are to have it as an interrupted sentence, or leave it as it is, which is fine in your piece.