Friday, March 11, 2011

Red Dress Club: Ugly as Sin

“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!


  1. I laughed softly to myself as I read this. (That's saying something, I'm at work in a stuff law office). This is such a wonderful piece. I love your use of dialogue to tell the story. And I can so see your little girl begging to keep the "dog." I highlighted and copied several different sentences to mark as my favorite before I settled on this one:
    "Watching her bathe the dog, the trappings of adolescence fell away and for just a moment, I got my baby back." Yes, and don't you remember being your daughter's age--on the cusp of womanhood, with a toehold on childhood? She's still able to have moments where she lacks self-consciousness. Hold on two those as tightly as you can. Sadly, they're almost gone. I'm sending this one to friends with daughtser. Well done.

  2. Love this: "I wanted an All-American dog, not an All-American reject." And you painted such a beautiful picture here. I felt like I was watching these two and the dog right here, from my seat on my sofa. :) Very nice!

  3. Love it, lady! As a new-ish dog owner and a mom to major animal lovers- I get it. That love, that bond that fondness that our kids feel for their animals- it makes them little again. And that's worth every last strand of dog hair that ends up on the couch!

  4. oh I laughed softly to myself too..mostly because I am a sucker too. We have a German Shepherd from the seeing eye reject pile and I love him, but god I am SO NOT a dog person.

    that said, this writing was simple, effective, adorable. I even SMELLED this doggie and it wasn't pleasant. LOL. I love how you made all those words work.

  5. I have no concrit for you. Mostly because I have tears in my eyes at the beauty of a mutt. Mostly because I have a soft spot for mutts. Also because my heart is with that mother, seeing her baby grow up and then getting brief flashes to the chubby toddler.

    What a fantastic post.

    Visiting from TRDC.

  6. I am terrified this will one day happen in my house! Great job turning something ugly into a reminder of something you love so dearly.

  7. I loved this and started laughing from the first line because I knew as you did that dog was staying.

  8. Nice work.

    I am not a dog lover but you had me sold in the end with some lovely imagery.

    Watching our children grow can be so bittersweet.

  9. "I wanted..., I wanted..., I got." I love how perspective can shift with the wag of a tail or the laugh of a child. Sometimes we find what we need from things we never knew we wanted.

    LOVED this piece, and not just because I'm a huge animal lover that missed the interview for her current job four years ago due to saving an abandoned dog and taking it to the Humane Society instead. Life happens, and in this story, it unfolds beautifully.

  10. Lovely. Such a beautiful story of that fine line between baby and young woman, and how the strangest things can blur that line. I love it!!

    Oh, and I love the "ugly tree" reference. :)

  11. So much going on here! Mother-child, girl-and-her-dog, the beauty of a grubby, lovely dog, gentle humor, wistful longing...

    So glad the little guy got to stay.

  12. This is a very cute story. I laughed as I could picture myself having a similar conversation. No real concrit. Very well done!

    Great job!



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