A piece I wrote for my final manuscript in Imaginative Writing last semester. This is a short story about a boy who makes an amazing discovery while riding home on the bus with his mother.
I remember being five. It was a wonderful time. There were no bills to pay. Almost every day was like the weekend—even when I was in school. Momma didn’t have a car; we caught the bus wherever we went. It was always exciting. The buildings grew larger each time I saw them. Skies were blue through the rainclouds. Under every frown was a smile waiting to be liberated. Momma was often tired from work but that was no matter ‘cuz I could always make momma smile.
I could always make my momma smile.
But when I was five, I made the boldest of discoveries. I could do times tables, I could read books all by myself. It was I that found out that light bulbs could die and be reborn if you changed them. It was I who stumbled across new music on the radio we had at home (by accident) when I knocked it over. The best findings were accidental. I found the stash of candy my mother hid from me, and I decided not to take a piece. I was majestic, noble; I commanded response beyond that of a child. The bus was always the most interesting, though. It was always different, even when we rode the same one. Like being in a zoo, but every day they brought in new animals. So many different kinds of people.
It was there that I met Clarice.
Clarice was a dog. “A Lab,” my momma told me after she said a word that I couldn’t pronounce. I didn’t know why they let animals on the bus, and I stared at the “Lab” like a rare treasure. No, she wasn’t a treasure. Not a beast to be conquered. She looked nothing like the monster under my bed. Besides, dogs always liked me. And this one was so calm, even though the bus was bouncing like an earthquake and there were people talking and chatting like birds in the morning.
“That’s right,” A woman replied. The woman was sitting in the chair above where the Lab lay on the floor. “Her name is Clarice.” The woman was old, with wrinkles. Her speech had a strange drawl to it and her eyes were not-quite looking at me, though in my direction. I knew that she was speaking to me.
I said what came to my mind. “she talks funny, mom—”
“Shh!” momma said. Momma almost never told me to shush.
“No. No, it’s alright,” the woman said. “Been nearly deaf since birth. Nearly blind, too.”
I didn’t know what that meant. But since mother had told me to shush about it before, I asked something else. “…can I pet Clarice?”
The woman shook her head. “No.”
“See, child,” momma said, “leave her alone.”
“She’s working,” the woman said.
Most intriguing; the buildings outside no longer mattered. This dog was the most awesome thing! There were so many questions. “How’s she working?” My voice was distressed. I still didn’t understand so many things about her. “She just layin’ there.”
“She my assistant dog,” The woman said. “She helps me at home and when I go out. She’s my eyes and ears since mine don’t work too good. Even—even a nose sometimes.” That drawl made it hard to understand, but momma explained.
“Clarice helps her do things that she can’t do by herself. She’s been trained to be her best friend. Clarice takes care of her. A little like how I take care of you.”
“Oh,” I said. I still didn’t understand how that worked. Did Clarice dress that woman? Make her cereal and stuff like that? But I had a rumbling in my stomach at the time that told me asking those questions weren’t a good idea. As though she read my mind, she said, “I work hard to take care of you. Clarice works hard to help her Master take care of herself.”
“See—see,” The woman said. “There’s a note on Clarice’s—harness. Look.”
I read the word on the material Clarice’s back was covered in. “Please don’t pet me…while I’m working.” I smiled because I read it almost without pausing the whole time.
“Good,” my mother said, ringing the bell for our stop.
But it was hard not to pet her. Clarice was smiling at me. I guess it was that training she had but she looked so kind and nice, like harmless person. I really wanted to touch her. I never forgot about those eyes. I couldn’t. They were more caring and compassionate than any other person I met after that. They reminded me of momma.