Story #16 by Matthew Sharpe

photo: Matt Gunther

photo: Matt Gunther

Sarah was stunned when she sat down across from Todd on the patio of the Mexican restaurant. He had seemed so kind, articulate, introspective, and handsome on his internet dating profile. She tried not to judge, but she wanted to go out with someone who knew to wash his hair, hands, and t-shirt before a date, and someone who, as he was reaching out to shake her hand, would not say “Oh fuck” when his phone started to ring, answer it, and proceed to get into a screaming fight with his ex-wife that everyone on the patio could hear. The busboy poured water in their glasses and Todd yelled into his phone, “So you’re telling me that Gina and the dog are at my house right now and you just left them there so you and that idiot can go to a movie?” He slammed the phone down on the table. “Unbelievable,” he said to Sarah. “Unbelievable indeed,” she wanted to say, and get up and walk away from this maniac, but the waiter came and asked for their appetizer orders. “The shrimp diablo,” Todd said, and Sarah said, “I’ll have the same.” “You realize,” Todd said, “I’ll have to leave in ten minutes and go sit at home with my daughter, Gina, and the dumb dog my ex-wife got her. Shit!” Todd looked off away from Sarah and frowned. She couldn’t move. They sat like that till the shrimp arrived. Todd ate his with his grubby fingers. Sarah didn’t touch hers because she was a vegetarian. The last spicy shrimp in his mouth, he said, “I forgot to bring money so I’ll need you to pay for this. I have to get out of here now, I can’t wait for the check.” Sarah put cash on the table—there wasn’t even, as on other occasions, another Sarah looking on in horror going “What are you doing?” Todd was walking away. He turned around. “Are you coming or what?” Sarah got up and they walked the ten blocks to Todd’s house. Todd opened the front door and went right to the back of the house. Sarah went to the living room and sat on an ochre Swedish couch. The house was a recently renovated mid-century modern, sparely but comfortably furnished, a child’s colorful drawings on the walls and the fridge, and everywhere photos of Todd and a beautiful, happy girl, frolicking in the countryside or at the beach, smiling, laughing. He emerged half an hour later in a clean dress shirt and slacks, hair just washed. “My daughter’s asleep, and I’ve behaved abominably. I hope you’ll allow me to make it up to you. There’s a great French bistro around the corner, I can order and the food’ll be here in fifteen minutes. In the meanwhile I’ve got a first-rate pinot noir and a lot of apologizing to do.” Sarah nodded her head. “I just have to check on the damn dog in the back,” Todd said. He walked out of the room. Another half an hour went by. In came the dog, an Irish Wolfhound twice Sarah’s size. His name was Dolf. He nuzzled her face with his whiskers, and rested his shaggy, powerful jaw on her shoulder as she scratched his ears and neck. Todd staggered in, the bottle of pinot noir in his fist, three-quarters of it gone, and said, “I’m ready to start apologizing now, though I haven’t ordered dinner yet. Let me just order dinner.” Dolf leapt on the couch and pushed Sarah toward Todd by wedging his enormous body between her and the cushion she’d been leaning on. She stood up. “All right, Todd, I’m going, and I’m taking Dolf with me.” “But my daughter needs that dog!” “No she doesn’t, having a dog is too much for her now, it’s too much for all of you. Thank you, Todd, for an important evening. I really mean it, I’ve learned a lot.” He sat down heavily on his couch and put his head in his hands. Sarah waited by the front door while Dolf pressed his paws into Todd’s knees and licked his face. Then the dog turned his head and gave Sarah a meaningful look. “Oh, all right, Dolf, you go out back and sleep one more night in your little house, and I’ll sleep in here with daddy,” she said, beginning to undress.

Very short stories r us:

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