“You are going to absolutely love Australia.” I said as I packed Jimmer’s crate full of wonderful things to eat for his journey. Danny, Jimmer and I were all sitting in the kitchen. “There are kangaroos, and koala bears, and crocodiles…and they are always having barbeques and walkabouts.” Jimmer watched me with interest, his ears perked up and his stubby tail batted against the floor. “Australians are hilarious, too. They say things like, ‘that’s not a knife, THIS is a knife!’” And I laughed so hard tears came out of my eyes. Jimmer barked happily, so I quoted more lines from Australian movies. This was the most fun I’ve had in months.
His crate was now packed full of bones, chew toys, rawhides, dog food…I even included a huge jar of Costco peanut butter, without the lid.
“Okay, hop in, Jimmer! Don’t eat all the food at once, now.”
Jimmer bounded in and I locked the crate. I wrapped it with several layers of brown paper and lots of packing tape, making sure to poke plenty of air holes. Danny watched all of this with a perplexed look on his face. He looked up at me with his big liquid eyes. “Da?” he said, patting the box.
“Yes, Danny, the dog is going on a trip!” I said.
I wrote TO ANYWHERE IN AUSTRAILIA with a big red marker. I stood back and looked at it for a moment, wondering if I should add anything else.
Oh yes—THIS SIDE UP, with arrows. Then I lugged Jimmer to the car and went back to get Danny. We were off to the post office.
“Does this parcel contain anything fragile, liquid, perishable or potentially hazardous?” The postal woman asked.
Let’s see, I thought. Fragile? Yes. Liquid? Yes. Perishable? Eventually. Potentially hazardous? Definitely.
“All of the above.” I said. The woman slapped all kinds of placard-looking stickers and stamps on the package.
“Da?” said Danny, pointing to the box. He was in a baby carrier on my back, looking over my shoulder.
“What about insurance?” asked the woman.
“No, thank you.”
“All right then, it comes to $100.00, please.”
I gulped. But was my peace of mind worth it? Yes, it was. I handed over my card.
“Da! Da!” said Danny with both arms outstretched toward the box.
“Cute baby.” She said. She handed back my card and slapped on a couple more stickers and stamps. Then she said, “Hugo, will you give me a hand with this box?” A big man came out of the back and picked up the box.
“DA!” cried Danny, panicking.
Hugo took the box away. I turned around and walked out of the post office pretending not to notice my son who was arching his body back toward the counter and screaming, “DA! DA! DAAAAAAAAAA!”
On the drive home I reasoned with myself. Had I done the right thing? Of course I did. I did it out of compassion for Jimmer. He was suffering. He wanted to go to Australia. I could see it in his eyes. Jimmer will be happier there. He’ll find some Australian farm where he can chase chickens and sheep—do what he was bred to do. I took a deep breath. It is all for the best. There was no other choice. Okay, there was another choice, but I get queasy around blood.
By the time we got home Danny was calm again. I knew it wouldn’t take long before he’d forget. The girls would eventually get over it, too. But what was I to do about Scott? The thought of Scott’s reaction made my stomach churn. And what was I going to tell him?
Surely not the truth.
I cleaned out the laundry room where Jimmer’s crate had been. I wiped the muddy paw prints off my kitchen floor. I threw the rest of the dog food in the garbage, and I had just burned Jimmer’s chew toys in the fire pit and was washing my hands when I heard Scott’s car pull up in the drive way. My body went numb. He was home earlier than usual.
Through the windows I saw him walk into the back yard. “Jimmer!” he called, “Jiiiiiiii-mmer!”
What was I going to tell him? That Jimmer ran away? That he had been stolen? That he had contracted a disease and I had to bury him quickly in the back yard before he contaminated anyone? There seemed to be nothing I could come up with that sounded believable.
Outside Scott was holding a Frisbee, looking around, still calling out to Jimmer.
Meanwhile I stood at the kitchen sink like a zombie. I could feel the black sludge of Misery filling my body. Invisible chains were wrapping around my ankles and wrists like Scrooge’s friend Jacob Marley. What a wretched, wretched person I am! He must never find out the truth or he’ll never forgive me!
Scott was standing on the porch, the sun was shining in his hair making him look like Angel Gabriel. I had just sent away Angel Gabriel’s dog. I am a bad, bad person.
I slowly dried my hands and walked outside.
“Hi Scott.” I said, doing my best to control my natural instinct to run berserk down the driveway and never come back.
“Hi Chelsea.” He said. “Where’s Jimmer?”
Yes. Where is Jimmer? Probably somewhere over the Atlantic, by now, I guessed.
I took a deep breath. “Jimmer is…gone.” I said.
Now, when someone tells your pet is “gone” it is different than if someone tells you a person is “gone.” When a person is “gone” it usually means they are “gone to the store” or “gone fishing.” Not so with pets. Gone is gone. Gone is done. Gone is forever.
Scott knew this, so when he looked at me his eyebrow twitched. “Gone?” he asked. “What...what do you mean?”
I felt weak. I can’t take this. This is too much. Please, Earth swallow me! Please Lightning, strike me down! Please Birds, peck my eyes out!
I gripped the side of the house to steady myself. There was really only one thing to say.
“Scott.” I said. “I sent Jimmer away.”
There. I said it. It was the truth. I know it was not the complete truth, but that was as far as I could go at the moment. At least I was able to admit that I was to blame. Baby steps.
Scott just looked at me for a long time. The corner of his mouth trembled a little and then he looked down at the Frisbee in his hands. The Frisbee that would never touch Jimmers lips again. He sniffed. I just knew that Scott’s heart was breaking. I had sent my husband’s best friend to Australia. I am the worst wife in the world.
Scott heaved a sigh. “Let’s sit down.” He said calmly. He sat down on the steps and looked up at me. I wiped a tear from my eye and sat down beside him.
“I know it hasn’t been easy for you to have Jimmer around.”
I didn’t say anything. I am wretched. I have no right to speak.
“You have a lot of things to worry about here at home, and throwing a dog in the mix must be stressful.”
“But…it’s okay.” He said.
“What?” I asked.
He put his arm around me. “It’s okay.”
I was astonished. You mean you don’t want a divorce? I didn’t say that, though.
“He’s just a dog, Chelsea. He was fun to have around, but at the end of the day, he is just a dog.”
Tears poured out of my eyes and I hid my face in my hands. “You really are Angel Gabriel!” I tried to say, but it just came out in sobs. Scott patted my back.
“I’m so sorry.” I said when I was able to speak. “I just couldn’t handle it anymore.” The truth again. Oh, the truth feels so good.
“It’s okay.” He said. “I just hope the kids will be okay with it.”
“Yeah,” I sniffed.
We were silent for a while. Then Scott said, “Hey, did we get a package today? I ordered a flag for the boy scouts.”
“Ah…a flag?” I asked.
“The boy scouts are doing a culture merit badge and they’ve decided to have an Australia night. I’m supposed to provide decorations, so I ordered a flag.”
“Yes. Did it come?”
I nodded as my mind slowly worked this out.
Scott leaned back and stretched his legs, crossing his ankles.
“Hey, and I found out something interesting today," he said.
“What’s that?” I asked, still disturbed about the flag.
“Did you know that Australian Shepherds aren’t really from Australia?”
“Yeah. They were actually bred here in America, but they are called Australian shepherds because they used them to herd Australian sheep off boats and the name stuck. They aren’t Australian at all.”
“They aren’t Australian at all.” I repeated.
My head was buried in my hands.
“What?” I mumbled.
“Do you want to play Frisbee?”
THE ENDClick here for the Epilogue