Yoshi hated being old. Her joints and the rest of her body were stiff and sore with age. She slept a lot, so at times it wasn’t too bad, except when she woke and had to rise after many hours. It was difficult to get her legs to cooperate. She’d slip on the hardwood floor or even on the ramp to the back yard.
Yoshi missed her sister, Phoebe. One day, many ears ago, Phoebe went to the vet and never came back. She understood. Phoebe had been very sick. Phoebe wasn’t really her sister, not by blood. She couldn’t be. She wasn’t even a dachshund, but a basset hound. However, they shared the same colouring, the white and reddish brown dapples. They were inseparable. They were sisters.
Sometimes, she would see her in her dreams. It was like Phoebe was coming to check up on her little sister, making sure everything was ok. Lately, Yoshi could see her every time she closed her old weary eyes.
In Yoshi’s vivid dreams, she was young again. Phoebe was prancing her stubby basset hound legs across the hardwood floor. “Yoshi, come on. Let’s go. I heard there’s some cat food on a neighbour’s porch, just waiting for us.”
“But how will we get there? We’re fenced in.” Yoshi asked.
“Oh, but I know a way out. Come on!” Phoebe turned around and ran out the doggie door cut into the wall by the front door. Yoshi shrugged, looked around a moment, and then followed her.
She walked down the deck to the ramp leading to the back yard. She found Phoebe by the chain link fence. Phoebe pointed her nose at a hole she dug. “We can get out right here.”
“I dunno, Phoebe. I don’t really like it out there. Besides it’s cold.” Yoshi looked up at the sky for a moment, looked back at Phoebe’s face. “It looks like it’s gonna rain.”
“Oh come on, Yoshi, we’ll have fun and cat food!” Phoebe exclaimed.
“I know, but how will we get back?” asked Yoshi.
“We’ll come back the same way we left, right through here.”
“Phoebe, you’ve said that before. We got lost.”
“Oh, Yoshi, don’t be so scared. We’ll get back okay. Quit worrying so much.” Phoebe rolled her eyes.
Yoshi looked up at the clouds. “I dunno…”
“Come on. Just think of the adventure.”
“I am, Phoebe. That’s why I don’t wanna go.”
“Come on, Yoshi. You want me to go by myself?”
Yoshi shook her head.
“So, come with me. If you don’t, I’ll go and eat it all. You won’t get any.”
Yoshi sighed. “Fine, Phoebe. I’ll go, but only because I don’t think you should go alone.”
Phoebe smiled. “Good.” She crawled through the hole. For a moment, Yoshi thought her sister might get stuck. Somehow, she managed to wriggle through, scraping her large belly against the dirt. Once on the other side, Phoebe turned around and looked at her little sister through the chain link fence. “Come on.”
Yoshi looked around the yard behind her. Secretly, she hoped HE was watching. She didn’t really want to go, but she felt she should, just to make sure Phoebe didn’t get into any trouble. Phoebe was her adopted big sister, after all. Still, she hoped to be rescued from yet another one of their uncomfortable adventures.
Yoshi never had any fun outside their yard. Phoebe was the one who enjoyed escaping. Most of the time, they got lost. Or that one time Yoshi tried to sneak back from the neighbour’s yard, and couldn’t find the hole. She cried for hours before HE finally heard and walked around the block to the house behind theirs. When he called her, she came running, so happy and relieved. HE just laughed and carried her home.
She was sure this time wouldn’t be any different, but she slid through the hole, a lot easier than Phoebe. “Ok. Where are we going?”
Phoebe grinned. “Come on. Just a few houses down the street. I can smell it! Can’t you?” Phoebe then put her basset hound nose on the ground, following the traces of food perfume willowing on the frail spring breeze. Yoshi took one last look at the Fence. She shook her head, and took on after her sister.
Once they found the cat food, they ate every last crumb. Then, they wandered from house to house, searching for more food, feeling their bellies bulge closer and closer to the ground with each savoury bite.
Eventually, Yoshi looked up and realised she had no idea where they were... “Uh, Phoebe? Where are we?”
Phoebe looked up, face covered in cat food. Then, she went back to guzzling. In between vacuum cleaner bites, she mumbled, “Who cares?”
“Phoebe, I want to go home.”
“Why? We’re having fun.”
“I’m not. It’s getting colder, and I think I felt a couple rain drops on my back.
Are you coming?”
“Nah, I think I will hang out a bit more.”
“Ok, Phoebe, but only if you’re sure you’ll be fine.”
“I’m sure, Yoshi. I’ll be along soon.”
“Ok, then.” Yoshi watched as Phoebe turned away and followed her nose down the street. Then, she walked the other way, as the first drops of an April storm flayed themselves on her back. “Crap.” She didn’t know where she was. So, she wandered the gravel street, hoping to find home as her fur was drenched with the evening spring.
Yoshi was thankful when HE found her, drenched, whimpering in the rain her white and brown fur splattered with mud. She remembered how her high pitched whine echoed out of her body. Her tail wagging rapidly in excitement, when HE opened his car door, picked her up, and placed her on the passenger seat. HIS voice calm and soothing.
Once they arrived home, HE brought Yoshi into the house to warm up. Then, HE left to find Phoebe.
By the time HE finally did, the rain had stopped. Phoebe told her later that some kid had her on a leash, giving her a walk. When HE stopped his car and confronted the kid, he told HIM he had found her. HE thanked the boy, and took her home.
HE spent most of the evening inflicted further injustices upon them, warm baths as he scrubbed the lovely stinking mud and grit from their short white and brown bodies.
Yoshi continued to dream, smiling faintly in her sleep.
Sometimes, she saw Phoebe as a shadow moulded by her fogged eyes, a slight imagined presence beside her. Other times her presence seemed as real as the kibble in her mouth.
Fourteen years. Yeah, she was old. She spent her days wandering the house on stiff arthritic legs, or sleeping. She could no longer run or jump on the furniture like she did as a puppy.
Yoshi slept on as the stench of the dish soap perfume still clung to the tips of her whitened fur. HE had found her lying in vomit on her doggie pillow bed in the living room. HE woke her as HE took the pillow away, washed her small fragile body in the kitchen sink. Then, HE wrapped her up in a towel as he sat on the couch. HE cuddled with her, comforting her, whispering how much HE loved her. HE petted her head, and kissed her long nose as her foggy eyes drifted once more between the waking and the dream.
HE found her a small box, and placed a clean pillow in it before laying her down, blanketed beneath a thick dry black towel. She looked up at HIM, smiling her thanks as it instilled warmth into her skin.
Then, she went back to her current dream.
Hours later, she heard her name called. She stirred for a moment before settling back to her cheeseburger dreams. She heard her name called again. She opened her eyes as HE picked her up. She flicked her eyes down and saw Phoebe looking up at her, her tongue hanging from her canine grin.
“What, Phoebe?” Her voice still slurred from her long nap.
“Yoshi! My god, I’ve missed you.” Phoebe called.
“I’ve missed you, too.” Yoshi jumped from his cuddling arms to the hardwood floor, feeling more energetic than she had in years.
“Do you wanna go on another adventure with me?” asked Phoebe.
“Not especially. It’s too cold for that shit. You know I was never all that into them, not like you.”
Phoebe shook her head laughing. “Oh, you’ll love this one.”
“Nah, Phoebe, I’m good where I’m at.”
“Yoshi. Come on. I have a line on some Cheetos. I know you always loved them.”
Yoshi laughed. “True. And you always loved anything that could be eaten.”
The reunited sisters laughed together.
“But really, Phoebe. I’m good. I just don’t want to leave HIM.”
Phoebe looked up. “Yoshi, you already did.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Look behind you, love.”
Yoshi turned around, looked up at HIM. She saw her own head drooping, her dangling tongue dangling from her aged mouth, eyes slightly open. She looked back at her sister.
“But, Phoebe, I don’t want to leave HIM yet.”
“These things happen.” Phoebe looked up at the wall clock. 6 pm. “It’s time. We need to go.”
“But I don’t want to.”
“Yoshi, it’s too late for that. Look.”
Yoshi looked at HIM. She watched as HE realised what happened. Tear track grief marks tattooed his cheeks as he bent over her, sobbed her name.
Phoebe looked at her with sympathy glowing in her brown eyes. “Yoshi, I know. Sometimes, our bodies just give out. I wasn’t ready to leave HIM, either, but I was too sick. He made that pain stopped when HE made the choice for me, one of the best things HE ever did. It was time, no matter what I wanted.”
Yoshi’s lips convulsed as doggie tears burst from her own eyes. “But Phoebe…”
“No buts, Yoshi. Let’s go.”
Yoshi nodded. She took one last look at HIM holding her limp body, a body that didn’t match the youth she felt in her bones. “Ok, then.”
Phoebe nodded, too, as she placed one paw on Yoshi’s back. “I promise it’s the best thing, sweetie. By the way, I met another one of you. A dachshund, I mean, only she’s reddish brown. She says she knew HIM when he was young. Have you ever had ice cream? No? You’ll love it. My god, it’s so cold, but so delicious. She knows this old German man who adores her. He is always giving her ice cream, burgers, hot dogs, and all sorts of other goodies. She says that next time she visits him, she’ll bring both of us along.”
Yoshi stopped listening to her sister’s yammering. She couldn’t find the joy that Phoebe wanted. She took one final glance and watched as HE wrapped her old worn out body in the blanket she loved since puppyhood. Then, Yoshi followed Phoebe out the doggie door one last time.
Nathan Tompkins is a writer, and editor of NonBinary Review, living in Portland, Oregon, though his heart will always be in North Idaho. His work has appeared in many publications including Dirty Chai, Crab Fat Magazine, Full of Crow, and Menacing Hedge. He is the author of four chapbooks, the most recent of which are Lullabies to a Whiskey Bottle and A Song of Chaos.