Rubber Chicken

[dropcap]I [/dropcap]saw him staring out at the bay. Mid-to-late-twenties. He had his knees drawn up into his chest, like he had a metric ton on his mind.

I opened the truck door, Ellie Mae bounded out. All legs. She lives to play in that bay. I tossed her rubber chicken far into the water, she swam out to it, scaring away every fish for miles.

“Pretty dog,” he mumbled.

It was an understatement, but I let it slide.

“Don’t tell her that,” I told him. “Her head’s big enough already.”

Ellie Mae emerged from the water with the toy in her mouth. She dropped it on the shore next to him.

He looked at it.

“You’d better throw it for her,” I advised. “She’s liable to have a nervous breakdown.”

He hurled it. Ellie tore out after it.

After a few more throws, the young man opened up to me. Turns out, he was from South Carolina. His fiancee had dumped him to marry his best friend. It made my stomach sting. It was a beach wedding. He wasn’t invited, but drove down anyway. Showed up with a gift, but didn’t stay for the ceremony. He traveled ten hours just to give the happy couple a food processor.

He almost worked himself up into tears.

Ellie dropped her rubber chicken at his feet again, then sat down. Dripping wet. She drilled her big eyes into him.

She didn’t give a cuss about weddings or food processors.

Ellie Mae only cared about that toy.

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