Lucas had something I never had. He had brothers.
Gunther called, and for a moment, Lucas’s black mood lifted.
“It’s good to hear your voice, brother,” he said. “I’ve got sad news, and I’ve been wanting to talk to you?”
“It’s Otter,” he said, his voice catching. “No, not sick. Worse? Like the worst.”
They talked for a while. Lucas’s voice gained some strength as they shared memories of the very good cat, but when the call ended, he lifted his head and howled, more mournful than I’ve heard any of the pups howl, ever.
I did my best to help out. There was always so much that needed to be done, and Lucas was hardly in any shape to resume his typical chipper attitude towards the housekeeping tasks.
He thanked me. Even broken-hearted, this boy’s polite.
“It’s all right, Lukie!” I replied. “You eat! Leave the rest to me!”
I looked into the household financial records. The saving were slowly chipping away. The amount Lucas’s mediocre paintings brought couldn’t cover the bills. There was enough for the near future, but I was thinking of the long run.
I could help with that, too, I realized, opening a Word Doc and beginning to type. “Six Pups and a Cat,” I wrote, “by Lucas Munch.”
I knew I made a great ghost writer, and I had hopes that, with any luck, this book would be a best-seller. Its profits would funnel back into the household account.
My writing was interrupted by happy barking. Out back, Chloe and Dustin played pounce.
I’ll pounce you! Chloe barked.
Not if I pounce you first! yapped Dustin.
You’re cute when you’re pouncing! Chloe said.
Oh, no, you don’t! barked Dustin. You’re not going to distract me with flattery!
My heart jumped a happy skip. Would these two become mates?
But when the game ended, they sat, back to back, looking into the darkness.
Poor Dustin! Otter was such a good friend to him.
“It’s OK, White Lightning,” I said. “You’ll get your spark back again.”
He only whimpered in reply.
Dustin took the slow march to the line of graves, and Chloe followed. They cocked their heads, as if they were counting each and every headstone.
“There you are, you two!” said Lucas. “I’ve been looking for you.”
Dustin raised his head, his white tail wagging.
“You know?” said Lucas. “One thing makes it easier? It’s friends. Friends and family? You and Chloe, you’re friends already, but if you wanted, you could become family. Do you think you would like that?”
Dustin wagged his tail harder.
“Gunther told me you could use a hug.” It was Wolfgang, who wrapped his brother in his arms and squeezed. “You’ll be OK, little brother.”
“I know,” replied Lucas. “I’ve got you?”