Thinking the worst was over with my dog bite, what happened later that summer with Twinkles exceeded it. One afternoon, my mom and I put Twinkles in the Chevy Nova, and drove to Dr. Green’s, the vet, in Oakmont. I winced as Dr. Green withdrew a vial of blood, went outside for about ten minutes and then returned with a grim face. He pulled up a metal stool, adjusted his lab coat and his glasses, then told us that Twinkles had Distemper, a fatal dog’s disease.
“That was why she isn’t romping around the yard anymore,” my mom said.
“Twinkles isn’t eating her food much either,” I noted, wondering if I’d contract Distemper from my dog bite the previous Spring. My mom only shook her head.
“No sweetheart,” Dr. Green said, “You’ll be fine.” I wished I wasn’t. Twinkles did not deserve to die and maybe I did, but I kept that to myself. Everyone felt sad that day, including Mom, Dr. Green and Twinkles. Grocery shopping was called off: we’d have spaghetti-o’s from a can in the pantry, Mom told me. When we got home to our too stuffy house, I dragged myself upstairs, closed my bedroom door and rocked back and forth on my heels. At dinner I prayed while supposedly saying grace that Twinkles wouldn’t die, that there’d be some kind of miracle.
When nothing changed and Twinkles didn’t get up anymore, I crawled into her stuffed circular bed in the kitchen and curled up with her. That’s where we stayed for the afternoons while my mother glanced over from her list-making and cooking. Then, about a week later, my mother and father, who’d come home early from work and hadn’t bothered to change out of his white shirt, wrapped Twinkles in a blanket and said they were going back to Dr. Green’s office. I had to stay with my girlfriend and her mother across the street. They tried to distract me with playing cards, but I kept an eye out the dining room window. “Where’s Twinkles?” I yelled, as my parents’ Chevy pulled into the drive. Her head hadn’t popped up from my mother’s arms.
“She’s gone to heaven,” my mother said, her voice wobbling, and her handkerchief wadded up in her fist. I ran over to the family car which now seemed like a UFO and looked under the seats, inspecting them for clues. I couldn’t believe Twinkles was gone. Just like a TV mother, mine tried to walk me toward the house. My insides slumped. Heaven, wherever that was, was too far away. Some bottom had slid out and tremors shot through me, a free-form drop.
My dad was carrying the crocheted blanket they’d wrapped Twinkles in, draped around him like a kilt. With all my strength, I linked my arms around his legs, breathing in the scent of the imperfect Beagle puppy who understood everything about me and my anxious inner life. I knew this: She too, was a gift that had been taken back for no reason, just like the phantom birth mother I’d sensed before. This time with Twinkles, I was older. I vowed not to let go of her.