The Back Forty, Ch. 1.4

Mary Anne's house

Sasquatch had clown feet. He practically tripped over them as his puppy vigor and scatterbrain led him all around the house, poking his nose into every nook and cranny, and there were plenty of those. Madeleine, Cain’s mom, put together a house that was almost regal in its simplicity. Every room was open to the rooms on either side by great open walkways and there was plenty of well-placed decorum that Sasquatch would get to rooting behind a tall indoor tree, then turn his attention to one of the crevices in the immense brown leather sofa in the family room, then get distracted by the large stone fireplace in the living room and spend a minute or two sniffing around in there. Then he would remember there were people around and come barreling into the kitchen, partitioned off from the other rooms by waist high oak walls with the middle third open between rooms.

“Your father and I knew you had always wanted a puppy.” Madeleine beamed as Cain and Tanny sat on the floor nuzzling the dog in turns. Then, Cain raised his head from the puppy and looked at his parents.

“I never said I wanted a puppy.” Even as a child, Cain had learned from his father to be reserved and guarded with expressing his feelings. He remembered saying “Oh look at that puppy” once when he saw one in town, but the boy had said it the same way he would have said it would be nice if his sister raked the leaves on Saturday instead of him or if the family had spaghetti for dinner.

“Oh come now,” Colin, his father, said. “Every boy wants a puppy.” Colin’s chauvinism was always well hidden, to the point where his mother didn’t even seem to acknowledge it anymore. At seven-years-old, Tanny was certainly too young to recognize it either. Besides, she was too busy squeezing her arms around the squirming puppy until he finally got loose and went tearing around the house again, revisiting each corner and the new smells of the mahogany floors and bookshelves in every room.

Cain thought the whole scene was surreal. His mother had never shown the least bit of interest in the Brockfield Labs when they and the Brockfields, their closest neighbors who lived a quarter mile down the road, walked by the driveway. Madeleine always made a point of waving to them as they passed and they waved back, but he was sure she wouldn’t so much as ask as to borrow a cup of sugar from them even if she needed it. His father rarely showed much interest in anything except his job and his grill in the back yard, let alone a dog. Cain eyed his father, who stared back at the boy as if the brief conversation was now over. The puppy-to-be-named had sprinted back into the kitchen and Cain had resumed scratching his chest, looking back at his father suspiciously every few moments.

“What will we name it?” Tanny broke the tension with the grace that only the lilt of a little girl’s voice can.

“Well, how about Lady?” Madeleine said as she knelt on the floor and called the puppy to her by tapping the floor. He wiggled his butt over to her and flipped onto this back to accept a belly rub. For the first time since Cain could remember, his mother genuinely smiled a big, toothy smile.

“I think Cain should be the one who names it, don’t you?” Colin asked

“Yes, I suppose he should. Since it will be his dog,” Madeleine said quietly, submissively. She resumed scratching the puppy’s belly, leaning her face over the puppy’s to accept a bounty of puppy kisses. Cain had never seen his mother express this kind of physical love to any other living creature. She always had hugs for him and Tanny, but she was awkward and stilted when she did it, like embracing a child was a tedious chore she wasn’t familiar with at all. With the puppy, Madeleine seemed unguarded and open. Cain could tell it was going to be his mother’s dog. But his father had charged him with naming it. Case closed. He thought for a minute, searching for a name that his father would approve of.

“How about Yeti?” Cain said, thinking back on book he had checked out at the library in town called Fantastic Creatures! The book had chapters on all the creatures of folk lore from Chupacabra to the Loch Ness Monster. He knew his father would approve of any name that came out of a book.

Tanny frowned. “I don’t like that name,” she said. “Yeti’s are gross.”

Cain wondered if Tanny even knew what a Yeti was, then remembered his mother extolling him to be nicer to his little sister. “Okay, how about … Titan? Y’know, like that big lizard in that movie we saw last week. The Kraken.”

“Titans are too big,” Tanny said with a frown. This wasn’t going the way his sister wanted.

“This little guy is going to be very big,” Cain’s mother said. “The nice lady we got him from said he will be as big as a house!” Madeleine poked Tanny in the belly and Tanny giggled. Cain relied on his mother for about two moments per month where she showed tenderness and playfulness towards him and his sister. The puppy must have brought one of those moments to the fore. Cain smiled a little at this, then pulled his attention away and back to his father who had loosened his tie.

“How about … Sasquatch?” Cain offered, pulling a random name from his book again.

“Good. Sasquatch it is then,” Colin said with a quick nod. Cain could see that his father was less interested in the dog’s name than he was in closing the book on this moment of sentimentality. “Madeleine, a drink,” he said as he turned and walked into the living room. He sat in the stiff leather chair next to the sofa and unfolded his New York Times, shielding his face.

“Cain, why don’t you and your sister take Sassy outside for a little walk while I get dinner started?” his mother said and rose to go into the kitchen. And just like that, the adorable little behemoth that was Sasquatch became his mother’s dog with the horrible nickname Sassy. The name stuck.

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