This story is for Turn-a-trope Tuesday, a challenge laid down by Mark Baron. This weeks prompt was Verbal Tic Name. (Think Yeah Yeah from Sandlot – that’s the one that resonated the most with me and helped me move forward) I’m not sure I turned it on its head, but I had fun with it. I’ve wanted to do more Sammy adventures and this gave me the perfect opportunity. If you want to read Sammy’s debut, you can do that here.
Coming in at 998 words:
Gruff the Rat
I’m a good girl. I’m a good girl.
It’s my mantra these days even though I’m feeling less good, more confused and purposeless. My only real purpose is sitting by Mom, loving her and giving what I can.
We were supposed to go running one morning, but we didn’t, even though I waited by the door staring at my leash, futilely wagging my tail. Then she disappeared for what seemed like forever. The other humans didn’t spend much time at home either and I spent a lot of time with my head in my paws waiting by the door, occasionally twitching my tail and moving my eyes back and forth.
Now she’s home, but she’s on the couch a lot and we don’t go running anymore. She seems to need comfort so I spend a lot of time by her side or at her feet. She tolerates me and occasionally says things like, “I’m sorry, Sammy. I know you miss running.”
A lot of other humans come and go. I pretend I understand their conversations, but really I only understand a few words, like my name.
“How’s Sammy holding up?”
“You know, I think she’s depressed. Can a dog be depressed?” Mom rubs my head and I lick her hand, my tail wagging back and forth. “It might be some time before I can take her running again, and I keep forgetting to have the kids walk her. Even then, it’s just around the block. Hopefully getting another dog will be good for her. She needs the company and I don’t like seeing her like this.”
“That’ll probably help. Are you planning on getting another Lab?”
“No. A neighbor’s sheepdog just had puppies a few months ago and we already picked one out of the litter. We are going to pick him up tomorrow.” Mom is petting me but she bends to lift my muzzle and stares into my eyes. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you girl?”
I let my tongue hang out and my breath is coming fast, my tail picking up speed. I don’t know what she’s saying but I love it when she looks in my eyes.
If I’d known then what was going to happen, well, I don’t know what I would have done. It’s not like I have a whole lot of power here. To be honest, when the gray ball of matted fur shows up, I’m curious, sniffing and licking him. The thing barely moves and doesn’t really change things much, at first.
They start calling him Gruff because that’s how he barks, I kid you not. The first time he lets out a little “gruff” sound it takes so much energy, it almost knocks him off the couch. All the humans say “Awwww” and laugh as if they’ve never heard anything like it before. I let out a bark, full-throated and deep, to show the humans and the intruder how it’s supposed to be done, but they all shush me.
I look at Mom, stung, but she has her face in the fur ball and doesn’t see me.
I try to be a good girl, but I can’t help but think that Gruff the Rat doesn’t have anything on me. I have velvety, chocolate brown fur, I hardly shed and I pee outside where dogs are supposed to pee. I am also named after something sensible – Samus, the female warrior from a thing called Metroid. At least, that’s what Mom tells other humans when they ask.
Gruff is named after his bark (how dumb is that?). He’s pretty rough around the edges with weird splotches of black haphazardly strewn over his long gray fur, but not in the cute Dalmatian sort of way, and his eyes are mismatched. He looks more like a rat than a dog, thus the name I’ve given him.
Things go from bad to worse when he gets a little bit bigger.
I’m just walking through the kitchen on my way to my favorite spot when all the sudden Gruff bites down on my tail and I am carrying an extra little fur ball across the room. I swat my tail as hard as I can and he goes sailing through the air, landing underneath a chair. I look at Mom to see if she will do anything to stop the madness, but she laughs. Laughs! Can you believe it?
Things like this happen all the time. The Rat invades my space, wrecks my peace and fiddles with my sanity.
When I finally manage to make it to my favorite spot, I’m just soaking up the sun letting my eyes glaze over and my lids start to droop when the rat gets all in my business, shoving his muzzle into mine, sniffing and licking. I swat at him with my paw and he answers with a bounce and a “gruff” and starts at it again.
But here’s the thing. It doesn’t take long before he actually starts to grow on me. There’s just something about the level of cute he puts out that seems to have an invisible string attached to my heart and the more he yanks on it, well, you know.
Once he settles down after bugging me to the point I growl in warning, he curls up next to me and we spend a few hours dozing. When we go outside, he reminds me what it’s like to have a friend to play with. He chases me and I chase him. I have to be careful, though, because his paws aren’t quite up to speed yet. While he’s bouncing through the grass, running from my exuberance, he misses a step and skids face first into the grass forcing me to quickly change direction before I barrel into him.
He’s a lovable little thing. He’s torn my world in two and rebuilt it into something else entirely, but I’m starting to think it isn’t such a bad thing.
I’m a good girl, after all.