Reader's Choice Award in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
Circumstances were such that had I had to move back in with my parents. I was thirty-one. My mother informed me that the position of Son had been filled. “We promoted the family pet to Offspring,” she said, “renamed him Bill.”
“Bill” is a six-hundred-pound grizzly bear.
“The Pet position is open,” she said. “We miss the long walks after dinner. It might be good for you.”
Options limited, I had to accept.
When I arrived I found Grizzly Bill living in the guest suite, smoking cigarettes out back, watching television.
“You’ll have the kennel,” my mother said.
It’s a large kennel, granted, but it’s in the backyard. It’s full of old blankets and half-chewed stuffed animals.
From the kennel I can hear Grizzly Bill playing my guitar, breaking strings. He’s chumming around with the neighbour’s daughter too. He can’t believe his luck, I bet. The envy of his buddies in the Strathcona Valley!
I wake up at six in the morning. I have to go to the bathroom. And I can’t go on my own. “Them’s the rules,” my father says.
He takes me up to the boulevard in the rain, watches me dig around. “Go on, do your thing. I got the bag. You signed up for this.”
I do my thing. Then go chase after a passing dog, sniffing its rear. We go back inside. I eat Kibbles ’n Bits out of a bowl on the kitchen floor.
Meanwhile, Grizzly Bill sleeps in, gets up when he wants to, and reads Hemingway.
Most of the time I just sit on the old white love seat waiting to be felt sorry for: eyes drooping, heavy sighs now and then.
When someone walks by I yell and scream, put my hands up on the window, drool, and look menacing. What have I become, I wonder?
I try to attack my ear with my foot.
“Time for a walk, Dirk,” they say. They leash me up; we go round the block, check for the mail.
Dirk is my name now.
My mother says to my father, “Grizzly Bill got a story published. Did you hear!?”
At dinner I sit in my corner by the table. I watch as my parents and Grizzly Bill eat salmon steaks and talk about “pop culture.” My father fills Grizzly Bill’s glass with Shiraz. I edge my way closer to the table. I see the piece of weathered pastrami I’ll get later.
Grizzly Bill does the dishes, picks a salmon bone out of his teeth with his claws. My mother warms butter tarts in the oven. My father taps both feet at the same time to buddha-bar Vol. 2, licking stray Shiraz off his lips.
My arm raised slightly, like a paw, my mouth open and tongue out, I wait for the moment my parents look at me and say, “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?”