“We are NOT keeping it.”
“Please?” Myra’s hazel eyes begged.
A dog, she called it, though it hardly resembled one at the present moment. Its ears were torn, tail crooked, and fur caked in mud. Mud that also caked my daughter’s new dress and freshly cleaned kitchen floor. The “dog” snuffled and ran a pink tongue over its nose.
“Did that thing just eat its boogers?” I asked in disbelief.
Myra snickered. “It’s a dog, Mom! Isn’t he adorable?” She pressed her dirt-streaked face to his and was rewarded with sloppy kisses.
I fought back the urge to vomit.
We’d wanted a dog for some time, but my heart was set on a Black Lab or German Shepherd, the sturdy farm dogs of my youth. I wanted a large dog with glossy fur and excellent breeding. Not only was this dog’s parentage a mystery, he was small, crusted in filth, and looked like he’d hit every branch of the Ugly Tree on the way down.
I wanted an All-American dog, not an All-American reject.
“Where did you find it?” I asked, trying to keep my voice even.
“In the park. Another dog was attacking him and I saved him!” she said proudly.
“You got between two fighting dogs?” I gaped. “Myra, that’s dangerous!”
"Mom, he would’ve been torn to bits!” she argued.
“He already has, if you didn’t notice.”
“Don’t worry, once he’s cleaned up a vet can fix it!”
“He’s ugly as sin! Nothing can fix that!” I protested.
Ignoring me, she carried the dog to the sink and filled it with soap and water. I rolled my eyes and set about mopping the floor. Patience is a virtue, I reminded myself.
After a few minutes, I snuck a peek at Myra’s progress. She sang softly as she scrubbed, and I paused to watch.
A ray of sunlight caught on the flaxen highlights in her hair and dust motes swirled in the air. I smiled, remembering the word Myra used for them as a toddler: fireflies. She would jump and clap her hands trying to catch them, leaving me in tears from laughing so hard. Now on the cusp of adolescence, the buds of breasts beginning to swell under her clothes and baby fat melting away, my chubby toddler was a young woman.
Bubbles zoomed skyward as the dog slipped in the water and he snapped at them. Myra laughed, that deep belly laugh I rarely heard these days, and I should have known then that I’d lost.
Watching her bathe the dog, the trappings of adolescence fell away and for just a moment, I got my baby back.
I wiped a tear away and sighed, startling Myra. The pre-teen mask snapped back into place as she watched me warily.
The dog’s tongue lapped at my fingers as I examined her handiwork. His sparkling white fur was dappled with black patches. He didn’t look half bad now that he was clean, but he would need some work. I cupped his face with my hands and stared into liquid brown eyes that mirrored my own gratitude and love. How could I refuse him when he’d given me something I thought lost forever?
“I think Waverly would be a good name.” I said slowly. “To match his tail.” I gently ran my finger over the kinks and he barked happily.
Myra stared openmouthed.
“You mean I can keep him?!” she shouted. She swung the pup in her arms, flinging water across the kitchen. “Hooray! Mama says you can stay!”
I’m such a sucker, I thought. But it was worth it.
Word Count: 600
This post was written as part of The Red Dress Club. This week's prompt asked us to write a 600 word maximum piece about something ugly–and to find the beauty in it. Feedback is much appreciated!