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Susan hated looking out at the terrace where Wendy lay panting in a tiny rectangle of shade. The temperature hovered in the high 90s every day and it was still only June. At least there was the pool. Mark didn’t want Wendy inside. Said she shed hair all over everything. And he was
hard on her when she messed up her training or peed excitedly whenever he relented and let her in the house for a few minutes. Dogs should work for their keep, he said, not lay around as spoiled pets.

Susan had to admit she had a problem. More and more she enjoyed seeing Mark leave on his hunting and fishing trips. Then Wendy stayed inside and slept with her. She still shed, but didn’t pee indoors when they were alone.

And it wasn’t just Wendy. The real problem was that Mark could not relax and live in his own house, a dream house that always looked like something out of Architectural Digest or House Beautiful.

It had been over two years since their storybook wedding at Escondido. Yet she still felt like an interloper. He complained if she rinsed two lunch plates and left them in the sink. Everything has a place, so we need to put it there, he said.

But Mark had been supportive when her son died of an overdose in Phoenix. Her ex, ever the bastard, had done nothing with their son’s ashes for six months. Mark wanted to confront him, but she was afraid of Mark’s temper. After seeing Dr. Oz’s show about anger genes, Susan was
convinced Mark had one. No need for testing. Several times, she’d seen his anger go from zero to sixty in zero seconds, but it still shocked her every time it happened.

She picked up her son’s ashes while Mark was hunting birds in Chile. She put the top down on the Beemer and drove to the coast with Wendy in the passenger seat. They walked along the same beach where her son had played long ago and she scattered his ashes in the rolling waves.

Back home in time for dinner, she made herself a Salade Nicoise and opened a chilled Pinot Grigio. She fed Wendy bits of tuna from her plate. Afterward, she left the dishes on the table and finished her wine on the sofa. Wendy lay quietly beside her while she stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows at reflections dancing in the pool. She watched until the sun dropped behind the live oaks lining the fairway beyond their wrought-iron fence.

She thought about puppies. When Mark returned, they would have to talk some more about another litter for Wendy. They’d already agreed this would be her last, but Mark wanted a famous sire to give him a hunter and Susan wanted only a laid back pet. In the growing darkness, she stroked Wendy’s soft coat and considered her options.


Barry Basden lives in the Texas hill country with his wife and two yellow Labs. His writing has appeared in many fine places. He is coauthor of CRACK! AND THUMP: WITH A COMBAT INFANTRY OFFICER IN WORLD WAR II and edits Camroc Press Review.


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