He put the book down and shook his head.
“It’s got a dog on the cover. I don’t read books that’ve got a dog on the cover.” He shrugged a little, hands sliding into the pockets of his overalls. “Thanks anyways, Ma’am.”
Then he turned and strode out of the library. He hesitated by the old railing and then continued on to where his bike leaned against a wall.
The ride back home was punctuated by distant baying, sharp barks, and bird song. He let the bike fall on the grass in front of the small house and jogged inside. It was quiet. Music played on the radio in the kitchen where his mother laughed and joked with his older sister while they made dinner. Somewhere out the back, the roar of an engine said that his father was working on the truck again. Instead, he went to go grab the .22 from his closet. He didn’t want to be around all these cheerful people.
“Where are you headed?”
“Just out the woods, Mama. I’ll bring back some squirrels, a’right?”
He was deep in the backwoods, far enough that it would take the big bell hanging by the back door to get his attention from the house. That was when he heard the sound. It was like a whimper or a whine. He set his rifle down by a stump and crept forward to investigate. There it was, a ratty little thing near the waterline. It was a puppy of uncertain parentage, soaked and shivering. The boy knelt and frowned, picking the puppy up by its scruff.
“You’re sure a mess.” He hesitated and then sighed. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up and I’ll drop you off somewhere.”
The puppy started trying to lick his face the moment the boy pulled him closer.
“None of that now, you ain’t my dog.”
He picked his .22 back up and held the pup close, making his way back towards the house.
“Pup ain’t gonna make it, son.”
The boy glared up at his father.
“He will. And then I’m gonna take him and see if anyone needs a dog.” Once again, the wriggling pup was trying to wash the boy’s face. “He ain’t mine, that’s for certain sure.”
“Whatever you say, boy.”
The dog was big enough to jump onto the bed now and had flopped himself across the boy’s pillows.
“Get down, Ra-”
Ranger. He stopped. He couldn’t do this. Not again. Not another dog. But the eager to place pup was washing his hands and dancing at his feet.
“Alright, you can sleep on the bed with me. But you still ain’t my dog.”
“Scout! Dammit, where’d you get to?”
The dog barrelled out of the brush, barking excitedly as he ran towards his boy.
“There you are. Come on, we’re goin’ to the library again. You know what that means.”
He clipped a leash to Scout’s collar and the dog danced excitedly as his boy went to get his bike.