“Slippers!” Frank’s voice boomed from the living room.
Max bounded up the stairs and fetched the disintegrating footwear from the bedside. The two year old Golden Retriever’s rough, matted fur got caught on the guitar stand on the way out. He stopped and slowly shimmied his way out of the snag. Making Frank angrier by knocking over the beloved guitar would result in something Max didn’t want.
“Thanks a lot,” muttered the old, wrinkly man. “Now go away.” Max stood waiting to get a pat of appreciation, a rub of gratitude, maybe even half a smile. He wagged his bushy tail once. He never gave up hope.
Max retreated into his favorite place under the steps where he couldn’t be reached. Frank couldn’t hurt him there- physically, anyway.
Frank had always treated Max with utter disregard. His daughter Mollie had gotten Max as a puppy so Frank wouldn’t be alone. Mollie taught Max everything he knew.
Frank had love for only one thing- his roses. No one else was allowed near them. Beautiful pink, white and red buds sat nestled in perfect pots lining the kitchen windowsill. As the sun set, Frank sat and admired them. “Goodnight, my babies,” he croaked as he carefully stood up to get ready for bed, taking extra care not to brush any of their leaves with his robe’s long sleeves.
Max whimpered. His food bowl was completely empty and he brought it over to Frank to fill up. He hadn’t eaten since this morning and his stomach ached. He glanced at the roses and wondered why they got fed, but he didn’t.
“You already ate today!” snapped Frank. “Go to sleep and stop whining ya stupid animal.”
Max sat and stared at Frank, eyes sad, ears down. Frank plopped into bed, rolled over and promptly started snoring.
Suddenly Max sprung from the cold floor and ran into the kitchen.
Frank awoke. He felt uneasy. What was that sound? Carefully he pulled the blankets back, being as quiet as possible, and stepped out of bed. His steps were slow and steady, and finally he pinpointed the sound. It was coming from the kitchen.
Max turned around and stared at Frank, colorful buds, leaves, and pots littering the floor, leaves hanging out of his mouth. Frank gasped and grabbed his chest. He fell to the floor. Max licked up another rose bud and swallowed it.